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Swandro Dig Diary: Racing Against Time and Tide

Not the Dig Dairy Wednesday 2nd August 2017

By Team Swandro, Aug 2 2017 07:19PM

Well that’s all folks – a sad day for us all leaving Rousay on the boat for the last time in 2017


There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as we watched this magical little island receding in the wake of the MV Eynhallow


We’ve had a great season and we want to extend our thanks to anyone and everyone who’s helped us out this year, the list is long but as he-who-shall-be-obeyed aka Steve the boss hasn’t actually got round to giving me the list I shall just acknowledge everyone I can remember. Big thanks go out to the following who have all helped us immeasurably and we can’t thank them enough and apologies toanyone I've forgotten:


Russell & Kathyrn Marwick


The Rousay Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust


Kirsty Mainland & family


Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Heritage Society


Julie & Norman Gibson


The Pier Restaurant, The Taversoe, The Hostel and everyone who has rented us accommodation


The People of Rousay & especially the crew of the Eynhallow


A special thanks to all the students from CUNY and the University of Bradford who’ve worked so hard over the 4 weeks of the dig – hope everyone’s knees and backs have now stopped hurting.

We also want to thanks all the other volunteers and specialists who have given up their holidays to come and dig for us – hope we see you next year guys!


Thanks also to Orkney Islands Council and the Orkney Archaeology Society for financial assistance and to Orkney Archaeology Tours for their sponsorship.


Finally big thanks to YOU THE PUBLIC for all your very kind donations to the dig fund.


Now even as we sail wistfully away, possibly with an old Rod Stewart song running through our heads, we are already planning for next year.



It is painfully obvious that we are going to have to move fast and raise some serious money if we’re to have any chance of excavating even the most immediately threatened part of the site – the chambered tomb – which is being eaten away by the sea. At one point it must have been covered by a fair depth of Iron Age, Pictish and Viking buildings but these have been scooped away at the seaward side of the site leaving just the concentric walls of the chambered tomb exposed.



Luckily the chamber itself is further up the slope, and is so far more or less undisturbed – but that could change given a serious winter gale from just the right (or wrong!) direction.


We’ve been running the dig on a shoestring so far (although we have received grants from various local organisations for which we are very grateful, we don’t receive any funding from any government bodies such as Historic Environment Scotland) and this has only allowed us to dig for a 4 week season. About a week and a half of the 4 weeks is taken uncovering the site and then covering it back up again, giving us only 2 and a half weeks of digging.


We need to run for 8 weeks in 2018 and 2019 to give us any chance at all of making a realistic impression on the site before it’s lost completely and to do that we need money. We hope that bodies that have supported us in the past will continue to do so, but our target for 2018 is to raise an extra £56,000 to pay for the extended season and also most importantly to help pay for some of the post-excavation work that being in the field for 8 weeks will generate.


If we don’t raise the money then the chambered tomb at Swandro:




will be swept out to sea along with all its contents and will shortly be followed by all the rest of the site.


So: target dig dates in 2018 are Monday 2nd July to Friday 24th August


Days to go: 334


Amount to raise: £56,000 or £167 per day between now and then – so if anyone wants to help us out with a few quid it would be much appreciated, or if anyone knows any philanthropists who might have the odd few thousand they need a charitable home for – don’t forget we’re a registered charity so all UK higher rate taxpayers can get a tax break by donating to us and completing our gift aid form. We’ll keep you posted on how our fund raising efforts are going!



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