Traveller shrine ‘should become’ national monument

Picture: Creative Commons
Picture: Creative Commons
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A bid to recognise a heart-shaped stone pattern as a national monument to Scotland’s travelling people has been backed by a government minister.

Education Secretary Mike Russell spoke out in favour of the preservation of the Tinkers’ Heart of Argyll, a small arrangement of quartz stones overlooking Loch Fyne.

The site is said to have been used for centuries for travellers’ ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, although its exact origins, original location and configuration are unclear.

The landowner has pledged to preserve it and continue to allow access to travellers, but her efforts have fallen short of the expectations of travelling community petitioner Jess Smith and her supporter Mr Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute.

Mr Russell told Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee: “It is about time that we recognised the contribution of the travelling people of Scotland to our nation.

“Both to recognise the historic contribution they made, but also to, in a sense, reconcile that contribution into the modern day.

Tinker’s Heart: Bid to save travellers’ landmark

“This is the only physical artefact that we can associate with the travelling people.

“In those circumstances it forms a unique contribution to our heritage, both tangible and intangible.

“If I can just mention in passing the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage, passed by Unesco in 2003, came into force in 2006 and is still not ratified by successive UK governments, but an important contribution to understanding this whole issue.

“History is not just about places or buildings, it is also about the intangible, the cultural contribution that comes from all groups within the community.

“This remarkable artefact brings those two things together.

“It doesn’t matter too much whether it has always been in exactly the same place, it doesn’t matter too much that it might have had more stones in it at one stage, it is a vitally important symbol of the contribution of a very important group to Scotland.

“In these circumstances we should do everything we can to preserve it and to enhance its meaning and availability.”

He said the “monument” should be scheduled by Historic Scotland, with improved parking, significant signage and maintenance.

The committee agreed to take forward the petition and write to Historic Scotland for further guidance.