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7 Jun 2019

Liz is digging, for the love of Scotland

Written by Liz Carlton
Liz Carlton, Thistle Camp volunteer
In celebration of Volunteers’ Week 2019, we’re highlighting the work of our volunteers. Liz Carlton is a Thistle Camp volunteer on the Glenshiel archaeological dig.

The military engagements of the Jacobites have been a passion of mine since the age of ten, when my parents took me to Culloden Battlefield whilst we were holidaying in Scotland. This passion led me to come up from Lincoln to study Scottish history at Glasgow University, become a postgraduate student of Conflict Archaeology, and now a professional archaeologist!

In my day job, in commercial archaeology, I don’t often get the chance to dig in undulating terrain with sublime views steeped in the history that’s closest to my heart. So when I learnt of the opportunity to join one of the Trust’s Thistle Camps and dig on the site of the 1719 Battle of Glenshiel, I couldn’t let it pass me by.

I started volunteering with the Trust at Pollok House whilst I was still studying, and eventually went on to work for the Trust part-time, during my postgrad, so I’ve always been aware of Thistle Camps but hadn’t had the chance to go on one – until now!

Thistle Camps are residential working holidays for over 18s and are based at Trust properties and places, allowing volunteers to live and work in some of Scotland’s most remarkable and remote places.

Liz and other Thistle Camp volunteers taking part in the archaeological dig at Glenshiel
Liz and other Thistle Camp volunteers taking part in the archaeological dig at Glenshiel

The intention of this particular camp is to continue to locate three key points of the Battle of Glenshiel. I’m currently working in a small team which is investigating whether or not the old shieling huts were utilised by the Jacobites and the allied Spanish troops during the engagement, before fleeing.

Team photo of the Thistle Camp volunteers at Glenshiel
Team photo of the Thistle Camp volunteers at Glenshiel

In our team, we’re looking for evidence of occupation dating from the time of the battle, which could consist of Jacobite or Spanish material and domestic ware. This hasn’t been too easy to do, due to the sheets of rain that are pouring into our trench. Progress has been slow, even with a gazebo being used as a makeshift shelter! When the weather has made digging impossible, we’ve downed the excavation tools and undertaken metal detector surveys to try and locate any musket ball scatters and mortar shells from the battle and the Jacobite encampment site a little further down the glen. Normally, when the rain is pouring, it can feel a little frustrating carrying on through, but somehow here, when I’m in the glen, I just want to keep going back out to see what I can find!

Considering the Jacobite rebellions are part of the bread and butter of Scottish history, by us digging on one of their sites on the 300th anniversary of the engagement, we can help to remember the battle by adding to the understanding of the Jacobite military experience and the nature of warfare in Scotland by proving or disproving our outlined hypotheses.

Liz, undertaking a metal detector survey whilst on the dig at Glenshiel
Liz, undertaking a metal detector survey whilst on the dig at Glenshiel
“The greatest thing about volunteering on this Thistle Camp is that I’m able to help share my professional skills with such a range of lovely people all from different walks of life, in the country that I love so much.”
Liz Carlton
Thistle Camp Volunteer

For me, this archaeology project is not simply a trip to satisfy my own interests, it’s also about meeting new friends and enjoying contributing to the story of Scotland’s past.

I feel inexplicably proud to be giving something back to Scotland, after it has given so much to me in the past, so this working holiday is truly the most wonderful experience.

| Update 20/11/23: Pollok House closed on 20 November 2023 for approximately two years to facilitate the second phase of a £4 million programme of investment led by Glasgow City Council. |

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