Stone Circle update, June 2014
by Duncan Lunan - 09:34 on 21 June 2014
Stone Circle update, June 2014
It’s good to see that interest in the future of the stone circle is continuing. The online petition started by Mandy Collins has now reached and passed its target of 5000. We had thought that would be the end of it, but the target has now jumped to 8000, so we’ll let it continue!
At the moment the situation is fairly good, but there are a number of issues still to be resolved. The most important is that we now have a commitment in writing from Glasgow City Council for the first time. The planning approval for redevelopment which has been issued to the architects specifies that the stones should be removed intact if possible, for re-erection at a site still to be decided. For their part, the architects are quite confident that because of the way they were put in, it should be possible to reverse the process and extract them one at a time without breaking them, despite the brittleness of the whinstone.
Current thinking is that a part of the existing park will be preserved on the eastern end of the Broomhill top, and there will be a wildlife corridor leading round the hill to it. Of the possible new sites which the architects suggested to us, that is the best. It’s where I first went up on to the hilltop in 1978, and even then it had a great surrounding skyline which was obscured only in the northeast quadrant, where the last blocks of flats are now scheduled for demolition.
The redevelopment plan calls for the highest point of the hilltop, where the circle now stands, to be cut off and lowered by up to 12 metres. The material will be used to flatten most of the existing park to make a plateau, to be occupied by arcs of new housing. That would obscure the northwestern quadrant of the horizon at the proposed new site, so blocking the midsummer sunset and its flanking lunar alignments for the time being. We have to think in terms of thousands of years, during which buildings will come and go both nearby and on the skyline, but we also have to think of present-day requirements. Midsummer sunset has been the most popular event at the circle since it was built, and the most organised support for the campaign to save it has come from the Druid and Pagan communities, of which the City Council is now very much aware. I have therefore been stressing that if we aren’t going to be able to see midsummer sunset, every effort should be made to preserve a clear sightline to the spring and autumn equinox sunsets, virtually due west by the University spire, with the afterglow showing through it – as in Linda’s photograph in “The Stones and the Stars”, reproduced by Dr. David Clarke in his book “Reflections on the Astronomy of Glasgow”.
Equinox sunset in Glasgow is around 6 pm (UT), 7 pm BST. The downside is that at each equinox the Sun’s position changes rapidly on the horizon from day to day, so there’s only one chance to see it, whereas the midsummer sunset alignment can be seen for three days either side of the solstice. The upside is that there are two chances per year to see it, in spring and autumn.
The questions about the exact placing of the circle remain to be answered, and they will have to wait until the design of the housing on the hilltop has been finalised. Meanwhile, although the Druid and Pagan groups have officially bid farewell to the site, tokens of respect and affection, for the stones and for the people whose ashes are scattered there, are still being left, and the astronomical story may not be quite over.
While the planning process for redevelopment continues, with less urgency now that the Youth Olympics are no longer a factor, the circle is still in place, and the minor lunar standstill is sneaking up on us. The four events of northerly and southerly moonrise and moonset at the minor standstill are the only events not yet observed and photographed at the circle. They are in September and October of 2015, and that seemed a long way away when the threat of demolition first arose in November 2012. But because the circle has no distant foresights, the diameters of the stones in the foreground will let us capture the events up to a year either side of the standstill itself. With only one chance per month for each event, with the need to capture them in darkness and when the Moon is significantly past new, and with the Scottish weather, this is just as well. In 1987, Chris O’Kane and I didn’t manage to capture any of the major standstill events; in 2006-2007, Mark Runnacles managed to photograph three of them. (I saw the fourth, when I didn’t have a suitable camera, and Bob Graham managed to get snapshots of it.) So the planning delays may work to our advantage, and if the circle is still undisturbed in September we can start trying to complete the set of alignment photographs, while making some basic observations relating to the possible new site.
Meanwhile, thanks to the attention which has been drawn to the circle, photographers and artists are continuing to document it at its present location. In particular, Alastair Mulhearn, Graham Sykes and Jean Pierre St. Martin have allowed us to make use of their work for fundraising and publicity purposes, and it can now be found on our website, www.duncanlunan.com. Our thanks to them and to everyone who’s supported the campaign thus far.
Duncan and Linda Lunan.
I'm pleased to see you taking a wide view, a 'millenia' view.
These places matter, have always mattered, will always matter. Buildings and human changes, matter too, to us, but, in the long run, the place, is stil there, is still what it is, and will be.
We just acknowledge, what is.
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