A lot of the posts on my blog so far have been about teaching, Ireland, or both. But this one is a bit different- today we’re taking a wee jaunt over the sea to Scotland. Specifically a special place near Lochgoilhead and the banks of Loch Fyne in Argyll called the Tinker’s Heart.
This site has been sacred to Scottish Travelling People (Tinkers) back into history as a place to mark weddings, namings and rememberance. Though time has blurred the details of it’s origins, it seems the Heart was laid out in remembrance of men from the Travelling community who fought in the Battle of Culloden in 1745 but never returned.
It was picked out in white quartz stones at a place where three roads met, the laying out white stones being a traditional way of remembering the dead. In the 1920s the Heart was almost lost when local workers were tarmacing the road, but local people stepped in. Due to re-alignment of the roads in the 1970s, the Heart now stands alone in a field by the modern road.
It has been looked after over the years by Tinkers and locals have promised to look after it rather than the local council having to invest in it. The success of this appears to have been mixed, but there is now a fence to protect it from being trampled by the cattle at least. However if the Heart was officially classified as a monument by the Scottish Parliment, there would be greater scope to protect the Heart and the traditions and memories that it represents for future generations.
I’m not a Traveller, as far as I know. My ancestors are a tangle of native Irish, Scottish settlers of uncertain origin and Gods only know who else. But Scotland’s history, her people and her landscape are very dear to me and I believe these are the type of sites that we should be going out of our way to protect. Quiet but vital chapters in our shared history that could disappear in the future if we don’t take notice of them.
Many different cultures and peoples, past and present, have shaped these islands of ours as they are today And shaped us. As Travelling Folk, the Tinkers’ rich history and culture lies largely in oral traditions. To my knowledge, there is no other site quite like the Tinker’s Heart. This makes it even more important that this unique place be preserved- not only for Tinkers and Travelling People, but for everyone as part of Scotland’s rich and varied heritage.
“We only ask for our thumb print on the earth; our Tinkers’ Heart. We owe it to the sacrifices made by our ancestors.”
- Click here to read more about the background of the Tinker’s Heart at Fiona Tinker’s blog.
- Read about the author Jess Smith’s work to save the Tinker’s Heart in The Traveller’s Times, The Scotsman or her own website at www.jesssmith.com
- Join the Facebook group “Saving the Heart of the Travelling People” for updates.
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