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LAND ACQUISITION APPEAL FUND

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October 2012 News and Events

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

The Annual General Meeting of Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe was held on Monday 27th August in Ionad Stoodie, Garrabost. It was very well attended. Donald Crichton, retiring Chairman, reported that the previous year had been a very busy and productive one. The present phase of consolidating the building and making it safe is well under way. This phase is costing £324,000 and Mr Crichton expressed his gratitude to Historic Scotland, who is the major funder, and to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, LEADER and the Stornoway Trust for their support of the project. He commented that the building and graveyard are of historic significance and the aim of the Urras is to restore and maintain them so that they are open to the public and marketed as a key tourist attraction for the community and the Western Isles.

Mr Crichton congratulated everyone who has been involved in fund raising and raising the profile of the project; he referred to the inaugural Annual Lecture by the Lord Lieutenant Mr Sandy Matheson in June, the launch of Friends of Ui Church, Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie's fascinating new book on the historical perspective of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, the new website and the Open Day in August. He commented that the Open Day would not have been so successful without the herculean effort made by many local volunteers to cut and collect the grass in the graveyard.

Mr Crichton ended by thanking his fellow directors for their contribution to the work of the Urras over the last year; he explained that he is not seeking re-election as chairman and he expressed his gratitude for the honour of chairing the Urras and the privilege of working on such a rewarding project.

Donald Macleod, treasurer, presented the Annual Accounts for the year to 31st December 2011. Income for the year was £37k, expenditure was £36k and there is currently £5k in the bank.

Judy Macdonald, John Cunningham, Gillian McKim, Simon Riley and William Banford expressed an interest in becoming Directors and were duly appointed. Murdo Macmillan was appointed as Chairman and Colin Scott Mackenzie, Donald Macleod and Liz Chaplin were re-appointed as Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary respectively.

COMPLETION OF THE PROJECT

Krystyna Pytasz, project manager, invited Peter Burman, Nic Boyes and John Raven from Historic Scotland to join a site meeting with the Urras on 30th August to consider various options as to how best to complete the project. Mr Burman and Mr Boyes had visited the site in July and prepared a paper for the Urras on the future treatment, location and interpretation of the ancient memorials prior to this meeting.

Nic Boyes, Stone Conservationist, gave a presentation to the Urras on the work that had been done on the graveslabs. They worked on 8 slabs:
1. Roderick Macleod
2. Mackinnon Stone
3. Sword
4. Bishop
5. Schist Stone
6. Stone in the Western Gable
7. Mackenzie Stone
8. Skull and Crossbones

Mr Boyes explained that each stone was recorded by the archaeologist before any intervention. They were all found to be subject to delamination, i.e. they are made of local schist which comes apart like slate as well as erosion from wind and rain. In each case cement was removed, any metal cramps were removed and the stones were cleaned with a toothbrush and a dental tool. Then cracks were injected with liquid plastic to keep water out and capped carefully with mortar. Mr Boyes' photographs demonstrated how beautifully the stones have been transformed during conservation.

Mr Boyes emphasised how important it is that the graveslabs are urgently protected from the weather; otherwise the markings on them will be lost forever.

Peter Burman is an art historian who has been a university professor in England and Germany, before that he ran the Council for the Care of Churches in London for 12 years and since then he has been Director of Conservation for the National Trust for Scotland. He is now an independent writer and consultant on heritage matters and a member of a number of committees including the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) International Committee on the Theory and Philosophy of Conservation and the UK ICOMOS Committee on World Heritage.

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