Culture

Feeling Wistful At Mine Howe

By Bernie Bell

Readers of TON might remember a piece I wrote about Mine Howe, Tankerness, and how in the comments to that piece I mentioned that Mine Howe is now closed – permanently. https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/07/27/bernie-bell-minehowe/

Since the closure we’ve been meaning to go along, lean on the gate, and see how the site is faring.

Mine Howe is on someone’s land, and the owners are under no obligation to have it open to the public.  As with Maes Howe, and now The Tomb of the Eagles, Mike and I feel that we were fortunate to have had the ‘glory days’ of access to Mine Howe, and regret that others will no longer have the opportunity we had to visit the site.

The best visit we can make now is to go along, park by the cemetery across the road, lean over the gate wistfully, and look…..

The trouble is, with the passing of time both our memories had become a bit unclear about which of the ‘humps’ contains Mine Howe, and which contains the little replica constructed by Time Team – remember Time Team?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg2ctdef3PI

I had a reasonably clear memory of coming out of the Portakabin/Visitor Centre and walking straight across to Mine Howe, so we decided that the gentle mound on the left is the actual site….

……and the little ’nubbin’ to the right contains the replica…..

It’s surprising how soon memory fades and becomes blurred, even in relation to things which we are interested in.

Looking through the windows of the Portakabin it looks as though, at the end of the final season, the door was closed leaving inside the hard hats and other paraphernalia needed when the site was a visitor attraction.

Somewhat bizarrely, through the next window I could see feint, ‘ghostly’ images of photos of people which are still pinned up on the information displays inside, merging with reflections of the headstones in the cemetery….

It’s such a shame that this site is no longer accessible, not only to the public, but also, presumably, to archaeologists, as Mine Howe is a unique structure, and also nearby are Round Howe and Long Howe – Long Howe was excavated not long before Mine Howe was closed.

This whole area has been occupied for a very long time, and what more might be lying beneath the various lumps and bumps around the  Howes and the cemetery?  These are glacial mounds, but to the ancient peoples of the area, they might have looked ‘useful’?

Things change, time moves on, and maybe there will come a time when this area can be explored and excavated again, and when others will be able to actually experience going down into Mine Howe – a place of wonder and mystery.

Ed’s Note: Here is a link to the article Bernie referred to about Mine Howe which she wrote in 2017 and the images from that

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