Don’t miss PAS Times exhibition at Tweeddale Museum and Gallery

Much to celebrate...Trevor Cowie, Joyce Durham and Stephen Scott prepared the PAS Times exhibition which is on show at Tweeddale Museum and Gallery until November 30.
Much to celebrate...Trevor Cowie, Joyce Durham and Stephen Scott prepared the PAS Times exhibition which is on show at Tweeddale Museum and Gallery until November 30.

Peeblesshire Archaeological Society was founded 25 years ago this year.

In the intervening years, there have been many successes for the small group of local history enthusiasts who make up its 50-strong membership.

In the field...members take part in surveyance training at Kilrubie Hill, Eddleston.

In the field...members take part in surveyance training at Kilrubie Hill, Eddleston.

And those successes are being celebrated with a special exhibition at the Tweeddale Museum and Gallery, which runs until November 30.

A play on words and the group’s name, PAS Times: celebrating 25 years of the Peeblesshire Archaeological Society takes visitors on a visual tour of the society’s work since 1994.

PAS was always intended to be more than just a talking shop, with guest speakers invited along every month.

Members wanted to roll up their sleeves to record and excavate the area too.

PAS members were determined the society would not simply be a talking shop but they'd roll their sleeves up too. Trevor trowelling at the Shootinglee excavation is just one example of that.

PAS members were determined the society would not simply be a talking shop but they'd roll their sleeves up too. Trevor trowelling at the Shootinglee excavation is just one example of that.

They have certainly achieved that, firstly under the tutelage of Tam Ward, an archaeologist from Biggar, and current chairman Trevor Cowie, also an experienced archaeologist.

But how did it all start? Trevor explained: “Tam Ward was the leading light of archaeology in Clydesdale.

“Based at that time in Biggar, he held a couple of evening classes in Peebles and West Linton.

“They created such a groundswell of interest that Tam was the driving force for the formation of the society.

“He was extremely enthusiastic in getting the committee off the ground, with the help of local people who were interested in local history and archaeology.”

Trevor was one of the founding members and has been chairman since the early 2000s so he is well-versed in the many projects PAS has successfully tackled.

The first was an archaeological survey of the Manor Valley.

Trevor recalled: “From the get-go, we were driven to do more than just listen to lectures every month with a summer field trip every year.

“We wanted to be active and do field projects.

“So we started with the project in Manor Valley, which was led by Tam.

“It shed new light on the archaeology of the area, unexpectedly uncovering the earliest evidence of lead smelting in Scotland.

“It showed how a small group could break new ground and make significant new discoveries.”

Spurred on by their success, members went on to survey Eddleston, just north of Peebles, right up to the border of Midlothian.

Trevor said: “We wanted to shed as much light as we could on the history of the parish, from the earliest hunters and gatherers 10,000 years ago right up until the railway era in the 19th century.

“One of our members discovered a site that was carbon dated to 8000 BC.”

Another success story for PAS was the successful conservation of an 18th century gravestone in the Lyne Kirk graveyard.

With support from Historic Scotland and Archaeology Scotland, PAS raised £10,000 to restore and encase the headstone.

Trevor said: “It is a beautifully carved memorial to Jannet Veitch who died in 1712, aged only 16. She was the daughter of the local tenant farmer at Hamiltoune (now Hamildean) on the hillside to the north-west.

“Her gravestone is a particularly fine example of early 18th century symbolic folk art known as an Adam and Eve stone, depicting a carved scene of the Temptation in the Garden of Eden. Such stones were once common in the Borders but are now all too rare.”

Work to preserve the stone was completed in 2009, with a display panel and leaflets created to explain its significance.

The full story of that project is detailed in the PAS Times exhibition at Tweeddale Museum.

While members look to the past, they are also forward thinking – now using new technology to survey vast areas of land.

Trevor hopes that the 25th birthday celebrations will also attract new blood.

He added: “None of us are getting any younger so we’re hoping that publicity from our anniversary will bring new members into the ranks.

“We’re busy working on a project at Shootinglee, near Traquair, where we have been investigating the suspected site of a forest stead and hunting lodge within the Ettrick Forest.

“And members are also using drone technology to survey vast areas in half an hour, which would have once taken us two days!”

There is little doubt PAS has come a long way since 1994. To chart the full journey, visit PAS Times at Tweeddale Museum and Gallery. Admission free.

Thank you to local landowners

The exhibition provides an opportunity to showcase how the society has shed valuable light on many aspects of the rich archaeological and historical heritage of Tweeddale.

And while that work was done voluntarily by members, Trevor was also keen to thank the many local landowners who have co-operated with requests for access.

He said: “This celebration of our quarter century provides an opportunity to thank the scores of local landowners and farmers the length and breadth of Peeblesshire who have given us permission to access their land in the course of field trips, field surveys and excavations over the years.

“There are too many to thank individually but we are grateful to them all.”

The PAS Times exhibition is being staged in conjunction with Live Borders.

Chris Sawers, of Live Borders, said: “Tweeddale Museum and indirectly the community at large has benefited greatly from the work of PAS and its members over the past quarter of a century – ranging from exhibitions, walks and talks and activity days to voluntary work behind the scenes.

“For a relatively small group, PAS has regularly punched above its weight and we hope that it continues to do so for another 25 years!”

On October 19, PAS staged a special conference to celebrate its milestone year.

Original founder Tam Ward was guest of honuor at The Archaeology of Tweeddale: Exploring the Past with the Peeblesshire Archaeological Society in the MacFarlane Hall in Peebles.

To find out more about the society’s work or to join the ranks, visit www.peeblesarchsoc.org.uk.