Tinker’s Heart: Bid to save travellers’ landmark

Writer Jess Smith wants action to preserve the Tinker's Heart at Loch Fyne, which dates back to the 1700s
Writer Jess Smith wants action to preserve the Tinker's Heart at Loch Fyne, which dates back to the 1700s
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IT IS a sacred site for Scotland’s travellers where couples have come to marry and have their babies blessed for generations.

But now there are fears the Gypsy Wedding Place in Argyll, known locally as the Tinker’s Heart, could be lost to forever.

The monument, which overlooks Loch Fyne, has a history stretching back to the Jacobite wars of the 1700s when women are said to have placed quartz stones in shape of a heart in memory of their men who were lost in battle.

It is believed to be one of the last historic monuments that travelling people have left in Scotland, but there are concerns it is falling into disrepair, as the land it occupies has been given over to cattle grazing.

Jess Smith, a well-known writer on the travelling community in Scotland, now has a petition lodged before MSPs at Holyrood calling for Historic Scotland to ensure the “restoration and preservation” of the site.

Historic Scotland compiles and maintains a list, of monuments of national importance.

The heritage body continues “scheduling” to ensure monuments of historic importance are safeguarded.

Speaking of the Tinker’s Heart, Ms Smith said: “It came to be a sacred place and the travelling folk would come for miles – a young couple would get married there. In those days it was also important that young ones were blessed and this area had a sacred blessing area.

“There are loads of wishing coins in the middle of it even today – people are still going up there and throwing a penny or a pound into it. So, it has a significance.”

The site was historically a local landmark at the junction of the Hell’s Glen and the Strachar Road. But a new road was built in the 1970s which bypassed this junction and the Tinker’s Heart was effectively moved into a nearby field next to the A815, opposite the junction of the B839.

The petition has now gathered more than 800 signatures which Ms Smith describes as “fantastic” given the natural wariness that travellers have of authority.

She said: “They want their young people to be able to say ‘we are a culture in Scotland and have survived for more than 2,000 years’. It would just be a fantastic little timeline and it wouldn’t do any harm.”

Ms Smith’s petition states that the site was still used for “tinkers’ weddings” as late as 1978 and its importance as a “place of beginnings” is still understood today by couples who visit the Heart on their wedding day.

In 2008 the council drew up plans for restoration work and money was allocated to the project.

However, residents considered that the £34,500 cost was too expensive and promised to take care of the area themselves.

A spokesman for Historic Scotland said the organisation appreciates the significance of the location, and was considering it for scheduling in 2013.

However he added: “It did not meet the criteria as a monument of national importance.”

But there are alternatives to scheduling to preserve sites and the heritage body has been supporting a voluntary archaeology scheme named “Adopt-a-
Monument”, which works with the landowner and local community to improve the condition of the landmark.

He added: “In recent months, improvements have been made by the local community, who have installed a new, more secure fence and erected an interpretation board for visitors.

“By continuing to support the work of the Adopt-a-Monument scheme, we hope to find a solution for preserving and enhancing this important location.”