Building the Past
It started life as a drawing scribbled on a beermat.
An image of a museum without glass display cabinets, without boundaries. A museum with fully interactive exhibits that would teach about Scotland’s past.
Fifteen years later that drawing is becoming a reality as Duncarron a fully fortified Medieval Village situated beside the Carron Valley Reservoir and the men sitting around the table that night have become a recognised charity, The Clanranald Trust for Scotland (The Trust).
Once the decision had been made to build the village they consulted Archaeologists, Historians and Architects as to the feasibility and historical accuracy of building a village based on an 11th Century motte and bailey design. Ignoring all the obvious barriers, they then set about putting their plan into action.
Denied funding, they hired a hall, recruited friends and advertised in the local paper for likeminded people to join them. Using their background in martial arts they adapted it to medieval fighting techniques and trained their new members. This enabled them to hire themselves out as warriors and educators, any money raised initially going towards expenses and new equipment. As the number of volunteers grew they were able to put money towards the cost of the Duncarron project.
Eventually, in 2000 they obtained the long term lease of land in the Carron Valley (hence the name Duncarron) from the Forestry Commission. Now there was rent to pay, building materials to buy and diggers to hire. They needed to double their fundraising efforts. Finally in February 2008 the first log of the palisade was put in place.
From a small group of friends with a shared vision, The Trust has evolved into a large group of volunteers, including a branch in England and associated members and groups spread over the world. This allows for groups of volunteers to carry out the weapon displays, film work and education visits, while another groups concentrates on the building of Duncarron. All groups of volunteers helping each other out as and when necessary.
Now with a reputation established amongst various councils, local schools and youth groups and other organisations such as The National Trust for Scotland some applications for part- funding has been successful. However, most of this funding can only be obtained for a small part of material costs on infrastructure for specific parts of the project. The visitors welcome building, the reception which doubles as a volunteer resource centre during construction and the construction of the first longhouse frame being 3 of the part funded developments each recieveing 30% of total material cost. Over 90% of the funding is still raised by The Trust through their various educational activities or by hiring themselves out as combat performers to the Film and Television Industry. Further funding is provided by Saor Patrol The Trust’s band who both promote The Trust and put a percentage of their earnings towards Duncarron.
As of June 2012 the money raised by the Trust volunteers hard work stands at £1.8million since 1996. This does not include the millions of volunteers hours given to the overall running of the organisation and it’s Duncarron project…
To build a fortified village requires more than just money and materials and knowledge of construction and carpentry. It requires the ability to persuade people to believe in your dream, the ability to see setbacks as a learning experience and not as impassable barriers. Mostly it calls for a large amount of manpower. Therefore other groups of volunteers or professionals help. Amongst these other groups are a detachment of the Territorial Army who spend the odd weekend camping at the fort site digging ditches, building the palisade and any other jobs that their state of the art equipment can make easier.
Currently the Trust operate 4 days per week placements for Community Service and Community Payback orders. Since we started this in 2008 it has been an often challenging but very rewarding experience but for us and for the user groups.
On occasion specialised skills are required, that can not be found amongst the existing volunteer base of The Trust. At these times other groups such as The Drystone Wall Association, who built the archway entrance to the car park are called on. All the volunteers whether members of The Trust or not are encouraged to use their existing skills and to learn new ones.
While, most of the work is being carried out as authentically as possible; Duncarron is being built with one eye on modern day health and safety regulations. An extra gatehouse has been built to allow access for vehicles. Metal nuts and bolts are being used and chainsaws and other electrical tools replace the hand tools that would have been used in the 11th Century. Both the Longhouses and Roundhouses, which are being constructed off site by an expert, will be given more solid foundations than they would have had in Medieval Times.
Duncarron will have multiple roles, as well as a living museum it will be used as a venue for companies to entertain their employees or clients or for other functions such as weddings.
The film and television industries may also be interested in using Duncarron as a set. In its main role the village will be home to a variety of people from different walks of medieval society, from the chief down. The Villagers will carry out crafts and trades from medieval Scotland from metalworking, weaving and pottery to dyeing. There will also be a working blacksmith forge to produce the weapons and other tools of the time for use in the fort. Part of the Village will become a ‘Warriors Training Camp’ where members of The Trust can hone their fighting skills and members of the public see the weapons of the time in use. One of the buildings will be unfinished so as visitors can see the techniques used in its construction. With all exhibits being fully interactive it is hoped that visiting school groups, families and individuals will fully experience the atmosphere of a Medieval Village.
Special interchangeable exhibits will lead visitors on a journey through time from the fighting Celts, to an imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots to the rebellious Jacobites.