Lost medieval carvings from ancient kingdom discovered by Glasgow schoolboy

Long lost medieval carvings from the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde have been found in a Glasgow graveyard by a 14-year-old schoolboy.

Mark McGettigan, 14, who found the missing Govan Stones.

 PIC: Martin Shields.
Mark McGettigan, 14, who found the missing Govan Stones. PIC: Martin Shields.

The set of medieval gravestones was discovered in the graveyard of Govan Old Parish Church with the monuments dating to the 10th and 11th Century

They hail from the time when the area was a political and religious power centre on the Clyde and now form part of the nationally important Govan Stones collection.

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The find been hailed as the most exciting of its kind in the last 20 years that relates to the old kingdom.

Mark McGettigan, a 14-year-old pupil at Lourdes Secondary School, was helping out with an archaeological survey of the area when he made the discovery

The budding archaeologist said he was “ecstatic” after his find was confirmed as being the missing Govan Stones.

Mark said: “I was just prodding the ground to see if there was anything there and suddenly it made a noise and I realised I had hit something .

“Myself and two of the archaeologists worked out the area of the object and started to dig it out and clean it.

“I wasn’t too sure at the start what it was. But then we checked with the records and we realised it was one of the lost Govan Stones. I am extremely happy, in fact I’m ecstatic at what I helped to uncover.”

The new finds feature crosses and Celtic interlace designs similar to those on the stones housed inside the church.

The Govan Stones, most of which are now housed in Govan Old Parish Church, shine light into an obscure period of history before the nation of Scotland existed, when warlords battled for control of the British Isles and Viking long ships caused mayhem along Scottish coasts and waterways.

A total of 46 stones were found in the graveyard in the 19th century, and 31 of them were taken into the church for safe keeping.

The remaining stones were displayed against the wall of the churchyard, under the shadow of the Harland and Wolff shipyard. In 1973, the shipyard building was demolished and scholars believed that the stones were destroyed in the process.

However, it now seems likely that many of these long-lost stones survived given the recent discovery.

Professor Stephen Driscoll, the University of Glasgow’s Professor of Historical Archaeology, is part of The Govan Heritage Trust, which owns Govan Old Parish Church and the Govan Stones.

He said: “This the most exciting discovery we have had at Govan in the last 20 years. The Govan Stones are a collection of international importance and these recovered stones reinforce the case for regarding Govan as a major early medieval centre of power.

“The discovery is very timely because the Govan Heritage Trust is embarking on a major refurbishment of Govan Old, which will culminate in a redisplay of the collection.

“In the coming months we look forward to continuing this community archaeological work to locate the other lost stones to assess their condition from a conservation perspective and to consider how best to secure their long-term future.”

Ingrid Shearer of Northlight Heritage, who helped organise the community dig, said: “We’re delighted that our volunteers have had the opportunity to make such a significant discovery.

“ They’ve toughed it out through rain and snow over the past few weeks and their hard work and commitment has really paid off.

“Govan Old is the oldest churchyard in Scotland and we hope that this find will give a boost to plans for the future.”

The Govan Heritage Trust are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to secure the future of the building and its rare collection.

Anyone wishing to support the Trust can contribute at https://tghts.charitycheckout.co.uk/profile.