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Re: The influence of the ‘Pictish Brown boy’ ghost/faerie apparition on the discovery of Cairnpapple hill as a major Bronze Age site.
I wrote to Tam asking him to confirm the story that during his childhood at a picnic on Cairnpapple hill with his mother and brother that his brother who had gone off to play had given his new coat to a ‘brown boy’ on the hill who subsequently disappeared with it.
I also asked him in the letter if this event had been influential in his mother’s later campaign for archaeological digs at the hill in the 1940’s that led to the discovery of the hill’s true significance in Scottish history.
Tam said that he was most interested in my letter – which also recounted my own experience on Cairnpapple hill with the hilltop shaking and the sound of a stone door grating open in a cavern somewhere below.
He replied that both his mother and grandmother did generally believe in little brown men in the Pictish tradition. They had seen visions of these ghosts or beings on Binns hill.
Tam believes however that this phenomena was merely an ‘excitement of the visual cortex’ – that is that the sight of ‘Brown Pictish Men’ were possibly an aspect of perhaps temporary visual dysfunction.
He relates that some ‘Brown Pictish men’ were thought to be seen on the lime works near the House of the Binns and that some of his family believed in the appearance of what may or may not have been ‘Picts’.
Tam relates that his mother said that ‘Cairnpapple hill had the feeling of an ancient site.’
His mother was very aware of archaeological practise and a friend of the family was the prominent archaeologist Professor L Gordon Childe and she had related her feelings about Cairnpapple hill to him.
As a result of being aware of the archaeology scene in Scotland through her association with professor Childe she made contact with Jimmy Richardson a very learned HM Government Inspector of Ancient Works.
From these enquiries there resulted in a meeting with an archaeology student called Stewart Piggot who later became professor of archaeology after the many discoveries from the digs on Cairnpapple hill had made the hill one of the most significant sites in Scotland.
Tam’s mother was interested in the ancient traditions of Cairnpapple hill and how it could have been used as a beacon hill in ancient times to warn other Pictish tribes of invasion.
The fire on its hilltop would have been seen a long way off in central Scotland.
The sight of Cairnpapple hill’s beacon fire would have triggered another warning bonfire on Binns Hill which would have then been seen by the Pictish tribes to the north in Fife.
Tam relates that there is a tradition of such visions of ‘Pictish brown men’ in the area of the House of Binns, his family seat and residence that dates back to the Dark Ages of Scotland. There are documents a mystic called Olga, Lady of Binns.
The only protest demonstration that Tam Dalyell ever physically took part in was in laying down on the road with other campaigners to prevent the construction vehicles and agency that was intent on the siting and construction of an unsightly microwave transmitter mast directly on the hilltop. The protestors as a group at one point laying down on the road when there was the possibility of the use of steamrollers.