DCSIMG

Concern over 'desecration of graves' at wind turbine site

A PETITION is being circulated around the world opposing plans to erect three turbines on an area north of Barvas where it is believed the last battle between Lewis clans took place.

It is claimed the Morrisons and the Macaulays were engaged in battle on the moorland at Druim nan Carnan around 1654 and members of the Clans are up in arms that the area could be desecrated with the erection of a wind turbine.

Councillors have unanimously approved an application by the Galson Trust to construct a wind energy project at Upper Barvas which would have a total maximum generating capacity of 2.7mw, with ancillary development including access tracks, underground cables, crane hard standings and a site control building at Loch Sminig at Barvas.

However, there were a number of objectors to the Comhairle at the time.

Said one: "Recorded and published historical information indicated Druim nan Carnan is the burial site of an unknown number of the slain defeated clan members of the warring Morrisons of Ness and the Macaulays of Uig."

It was also stated: "Human remains are very possibly preserved at this site."

Chair of the Galson Trust, Agnes Rennie said this week: "We are aware that the site, like many sites throughout the area, have a cultural significance of one kind or another. We took advice from archaeologists and others before submitting the planning applications.

"The site itself is a site that has been skinned of peat and the specific location of the turbine has very little cover of soil or peat. The access from the main road is very short and will be over the line of an existing peat road."

She added: "As with the other community projects which received planning consent from the Comhairle at the same time, it is a planning condition for all the community projects that an archaeologist be present at the site when any groundworks are taking place."

Alasdair Smith, a seaman from Upper Shader, said that there were four sites in the area which tradition had stated were the sites of the last Clan battle between the Morrisons and the Macaulays – two at Shader and one each at Barvas and Brue.

He said that crofters had been extracting peat from the area proposed for the wind turbine for generations without finding anything, and he felt the present protest was a 'red herring'.

"They have cut down to the hard and nothing was found so it is very unlikely that there is anything buried there. I think if there was anything, it would have been found over the years. If people thought there were graves there, they wouldn't have cut their peats at that location. The subject was never brought up when they were cutting peats or putting up electricity poles there," he added.

The organisers of the petition say that for over 300 years, the Macaulays and the Morrisons had been at peace and that situation was likely to continue.

"There is now arising, however, a serious matter of high priority to all clansfolk, and an urgent need for a united front against a common enemy.

"This enemy is in the shape of a plan to erect up to three massive wind turbines on an area which has a most important place in our mutual history – Druim nan Carnan – 'The Ridge of the Cairns', which is situated just north of Barvas. Here, on the moorland, was fought a great battle between our Clans, c1654, reportedly the last battle between clans on Lewis."

They go on: "Those who were killed were laid to their eternal rest in this area, and the cairns marked where they were buried. The cairns are no longer visible, unfortunately, possibly having collapsed or – according to one local source – removed by workmen constructing the main road from Ness to Stornoway."

The petitioners say it is important that there should be joint Clan opposition to 'the high probability of excavators ripping up the land, desecrating the area, and throwing out the bones of our forefathers.'

They point out that they are not against renewable energy, but do not want it on this particular part of Lewis.

They conclude: "Our ancestors, and our history, deserve our loyal support. Leaving this appeal to others is turning our backs on the story of our Clans. We can be proud of our present, as we are proud of our past, and our views must be listened to.

"Please take the time to fill in the petition. Please circulate this to others to help us in our common cause. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Druim?e"

Donald Macaulay of Lewis Street - originally from Bernera and now retired from his police career in Dunbartonshire - said: "Apart from the historical view, it is unethical and not Christian to dig up where they know people were buried. It is desecration of graves and a serious offence in international law as well as British law."

He referred to the archaeological point of view in the Comhairle's report.

"Despite the fact that the archaeologist who examined the site and reported there was a fairly high historical interest, it is surprising that the planning authority gave permission without taking cognisance of this report.

"There hasn't been a detailed archaeological survey done, so nobody is sure where these graves are."

He added: "Apart from disturbing the living, they are planning to disturb the dead."

Member of the Hebridean Environment and Landscape Projection Society, Murdo Morrison of Bragar, now living in Wishaw, said this week: "The Morrisons, like the Macaulays, regard this issue as a travesty. This is not an argument for or against wind turbines, but it is an argument for or against desecration for what is probably a place where there are graves."

He pointed out that since the petition was started a few days ago there had been a number of responses.

Said one response from Minnesota: "All the best of luck with getting proper siting of the wind turbines. We are a farming community that is in complete disruption due to heavy development by wind turbines. It is too bad that it will take a few years to realize we are creating junk yards."

Said another from America: "Surely there are other locations that are not so historically (or scenically) significant! To desecrate such a place is unconscionable."

A Scottish resident stated: "I am not a Macaulay or Morrison and I have no affinity with Lewis. However, to plant three turbines on such a historic site is insensitive and completely mercenary. According to its website, Galson Estate has 56,000 acres. Surely a less contentious site could have been found."

The closing date for signing the petition is June 20.

Said the report before the Comhairle on the archaeological aspect: "Ground-disturbing excavations associated with the proposed development could have an adverse effect on any unrecorded buried archaeological remains present in the affected areas.

"The Environmental Statement states that the CnES archaeologist has indicated that the archaeological potential of the area is moderate to high. However, the field survey for this project found that the areas where proposed development features would be sited have been extensively exploited for peat extraction.

"The Environmental Statement argues that given the proposed access track to the turbines would utilise existing tracks and that the turbines are to be sited in areas significantly disturbed by peat extraction, the probability of the development works encountering sites or features of archaeological significance is judged to be low."

 
 
 

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