Saga of the Carrick Stone

Concern over ancient monument

ANYONE who imagines that Cumbernauld is bereft of the treasures of antiquity is clearly unaware of the Carrick Stone.

Long before this robust chunk of rock gave its name to the area around it, it had an altogether different function which would intrigue anyone with an interest in history.

The three-foot Carrick Stone is reckoned to have been a Roman altar, used by the self-same invaders who were responsible for the construction of the Antonine Wall.

There they kept their traditions of worship alive as they cut a swathe throughout ancient Britain and indeed, the rest of Europe.

But this is not the Carrick Stone's only claim to importance.

Historians believe that it was used as a command post and rallying point for the troops of Robert the Bruce who, as the Earl of Carrick, gave the stone its name.

There is a hole in the stone where the Bruce is said to have planted his standard shortly before the decisive Battle of Bannockburn.

Times change, the stone still stands. But attempts to help ensure it is treasured for the future have failed - much to the displeasure of local residents.

The stone used to have a brass plaque explaining its history but this has been prised off by vandals.

It is claimed that the plaque was then buried in nearby wasteground and some locals testify to having seen it. But it has since disappeared, and the stone, although ring-fenced, would hardly draw a second glance from anyone unaware of its deeply intriguing origins.

Councillor Gordon Murray has written to a number of different departments in North Lanarkshire Council who are partly responsible for the upkeep of the stone but has not been given the assurance he wants that the council is honouring a duty of care which it shares with the Scottish Executive's monument keepers.

The veteran councillor said: ``The Carrick Stone has been left to the vandals. The area needs to be restored to its proper significance and have its surroundings maintained. I want to know what positive action is to be taken here. This situation has further deteriorated.

``This stone symbolises the council's neglect of Carrickstone and Westerwood. There has been limited damage in 2000 years of history but chronic deterioration within the seven years of this council's existence."

Professor Lawrence Keppie, of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum, is an expert in Roman artefacts. He has also been monitoring the situation and told the News and Chronicle there are many reasons why the Carrick Stone should be cherished and protected.

He said: ``This is the only Roman altar in Scotland that remains in the open air and in what is probably its original position. We can see that from the stone footing and the fact that it is in such a prominent position, which now seems incongruous given the fact that the area was once just fields and is now so built up."

The professor, who made a point of going to see the stone last week, went on: ``The connections with Robert the Bruce are also to be considered. This stone is 2000 years old and we owe it to the next generation to make sure that it it is still sending in 100 years time."

Carrickstone resident Joan Brown said: ``My family have been keeping an eye on the stone even before the housing development went up. There was a time you had to walk through fields to see it. Now it is more accessible and it means that people can see something of historical interest on our doorstep.

``Our granddaughter came back from America and was doing a project on the Romans at school so we took her up to see it.

``It is essential that some action should be taken as soon as possible to ensure that this interesting and significant piece of history is preserved or we are likely to find ourselves with a Carrickstone district without the Carrick Stone which gives it its name."

Cumbernauld Historical Society's President Jim Boulton said he was extremely saddened to hear the latest on the Carrick Stone.

``It is to be deplored,'' he said. ``This is symptomatic of what seems to be happening all over the place and for no apparent reason.

"It doesn't matter if there is a neighbourhood watch in the area or if someone just tries to keep an eye out. It seems to be impossible to protect items like this."

David Porch, Director of Planning and Environment said: ``While the piece of land on which the stone sits is not council property, as the planning authority we have been involved in discussions about the setting of the stone with Turnberry Homes, the company which is developing the adjacent site.

``The planning permission granted to Turnberry homes includes a requirement to specifically addressing the setting of the stone when they are devising the landscaping scheme for the housing development.

``In discussions with the developer we suggested that by moving some hedging and improving the setting, the stone would be more visible and this should help to reduce the possibility of vandalism in future."

``We will monitor the development of the area to ensure that the integrity of the stone is preserved,'' promised Mr Porch.

Officials of Historic Scotland, which keeps records relating to the Carrick Stone in its archive in Edinburgh, said that it was alarmed to hear of the stone's fate.

Their spokeswoman, Isla Macleod Cook, said``Obviously we are concerned and if the stone itself gets damaged, whoever is responsible has committed what is a serious criminal offence.

``Then you are faced with the difficult decision of keeping the stone where it is, or possibly having to move it.

``In the meantime however, we would be willing to work with the council if they wished to erect a new plaque."

Reporting: CLARE GRANT