Remarkable find in St Andrews museum garden

Parts of a headstone found in museum gardens
Parts of a headstone found in museum gardens

It was an ordinary, although somewhat mundane task but necessary all the same to maintain some semblance of order.

Whilst clearing out a totally overgrown part of the St Andrews Preservation Trust garden in preparation for redevelopment a remarkable find was uncovered.

The parts of what was thought to be a headstone were unearthed. The trust’s museum convener, Andrew Johnson, secured the assistance of Fife archaeologist, Steve Liscoe and Mike Arrowsmith of the Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society, in an attempt to safely remove it from the goround and to try and learn more about it.

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Using two modern technologies RT (Reflectance Transformation) and Photogrammetry the outcome of their work was the revelation that the stone is inscribed with the 13th verse of a 17-verse catechism for mothers as religious teaching for children.

This text printed in 1715 was written by the Rev John Willison (1680 – 1750), who was a minister in Dundee.

The stone was found in two sections; but unfortunately the upper or top section has not been located.

One theory is that the found pieces are the lower half of a child’s gravestone from the 18th century. Round indentations on the stone are thought to be musket ball shots when the stone may have been used for target practice during the Napoleonic Wars.

The headstone is now on display in the museum garden. Arrangements were made with local blacksmith, John Henderson, who has manufactured a suitable steel frame allowing the stone to be displayed and information about it viewed by visitors to the garden.