There’s a very exciting project going on in Kirkwall at the moment: The great garden dig, led by archaeologist Dan Lee. Being a community project, everyone is welcome to dig, so we did — including the children.
The digging happens in volunteer gardens along what was once Kirkwall’s shoreline. We had a go at digging in Radio Orkney’s garden, which was a rocky outcrop in the sea. This is where Earl Henry Sinclair built a castle in 1375 despite royal orders that he was not to build any fortified structure. It stood until 1614 when it was demolished and the stones were later reused to build a jail. One wall still remained until 1865 when Castle Street was built, and the sea filled in. I have heard that the remaining stones now form part of the new harbour front. People were offered a tax relief for bringing fill, which explains why we found all sorts of Victorian rubbish: shells, a rib bone, blue China, slate, and lots of mud. We took a good measure of that mud home with us, attached to our knees.