Natasha opens up ‘treasure trove’ of battlefield history

A PACKED lesser town hall saw both the business of the society’s AGM completed efficiently as ever and also an informative lecture on the battlefield of Philiphaugh in Selkirk. This intellectual feast was rounded off by sweet and savoury snacks with the ladies of the committee providing a glorious spread of home baking treats at the yearly supper.

Ian Lowes, outgoing president, chaired the AGM and commented on how much he had enjoyed his term of office and how much he had valued the support of the society as a whole.

He introduced Shona Sinclair, museum curator, to give the museum report, during which she stated that despite the long period of closure in early 2012, visitor numbers to both Hawick’s museums were very positive. Shona also looked forward to working closely with the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park in their efforts to rejuvenate the backdrop to the museum.

Norma Graham, honorary treasurer and membership secretary, outlined the financial state of the society which was still healthy, thanks to her stewardship, and despite poor rewards from interest-bearing accounts. A rise to £10 per annum for membership was both proposed and seconded and the life membership was also raised to £100. The society’s council had two vacancies, the most recent due to the recent resignation of Nick Powolny, who was thanked by the president for his contributions over the last five years. Enid Cruikshank and Jim Walker were both proposed and seconded and welcomed to the council.

Having dealt with the business of the AGM, ex-president Ian Lowes transferred his chain of office to newly-installed president Iain H. Scott, who should need little introduction to the readers of the Hawick News. Despite audibly being afflicted with a good-going Borders cough, Iain spoke (and sang) his maiden speech as president. As well as thanking the outgoing president for all of his hard work and support, Iain spoke of his pride in continuing a family tradition and pledged to continue the good work of the Society in making its resources more accessible in digital form. He also introduced Duncan Taylor, a history teacher at the high school, as his choice as vice-president for the next three years.

Iain then welcomed the speaker for the evening, Natasha Ferguson, from the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, who introduced her lecture with an explanation of how the Treasure Trove system works, making it clear that not only precious metals are relevant to the work of the organisation in Scotland. Ancient remains of all sorts are in fact useful to its work, as even a humble musket ball can give a lot of information regarding the location of a soldier in a battle. Natasha also gave a brief but informative introduction to the Battle of Philiphaugh (13th September 1645) when a small Royalist army led by Montrose and consisting mainly of Irish musketeers was destroyed by a much larger Covenanter army led by Leslie.

In terms of analysis of the battlefield itself, Natasha and her team were most interested in finding out about a ditch referred to in contemporary accounts, and their excavations into a surviving ditch showed that there had been one existing there at the time of the battle and could well have been used as a defensive position by Montrose – which Natasha illustrated with excellent diagrams.

Before the excellent supper, Duncan Taylor showed the society’s appreciation to Natasha in a vote of thanks.