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Watten kids search for a real wizard's grave and other historical wonders thanks to Caithness Broch Project


By David G Scott

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Children from Watten Primary School searched through a muddy field to find the grave of a wizard and discovered other historical wonders on their doorstep with help from Caithness Broch Project (CBP) volunteers.

Brought up on tales of fictional wizards such as Harry Potter, the pupils were led to a site close to Loch Watten by CBP founders, Kenneth McElroy and Iain Maclean, to see where an alleged wizard called Murdo Rivach was beheaded and buried. Historical information differs on the life of Rivach, with him living in either the 1300s or 1700s, but all the accounts say that he was murdered, his head removed and the body buried in a field opposite Loch Watten and next to Station Road.

The children search in a muddy field beside Loch Watten to find the site of the wizard's grave. Picture: DGS
The children search in a muddy field beside Loch Watten to find the site of the wizard's grave. Picture: DGS
Loch Watten and the site of Murdo Rivach's grave shown on a 19th century map. There is a depression in the ground at the site which may have also been where a medieval Danish encampment existed.
Loch Watten and the site of Murdo Rivach's grave shown on a 19th century map. There is a depression in the ground at the site which may have also been where a medieval Danish encampment existed.

CBP director and co-founder Kenneth McElroy said: "We're always keen to develop and promote local interest in our historic environment – where better to start than with local schools? The future of Caithness lies in the hands of our children in the county, and so we believe it's important to instil a sense of curiosity, wonder and pride in our archaeological sites."

He continued by saying that CBP will continue working with Watten Primary School to develop a colourful map showing off the "Wonders of Watten" that will be filled with drawings, poems and stories made by the children.

Fellow CBP director and co-founder Iain Maclean explained that the day was dedicated to "The Seven Wonders of Watten" which aimed to show the local schoolchildren the wealth of archaeology which can be found in the area. "We took the children on a tour stretching back 5000 years – from prehistoric standing stones, to medieval chapels, to WW2," he said.

Watten Primary Schoolchildren enjoyed a spot of sunshine as they went on a historical tour of their neighbourhood on Wednesday afternoon. Pictured with the pupils are Caithness Broch Project founders Kenneth McElroy and Iain Maclean. Picture: DGS
Watten Primary Schoolchildren enjoyed a spot of sunshine as they went on a historical tour of their neighbourhood on Wednesday afternoon. Pictured with the pupils are Caithness Broch Project founders Kenneth McElroy and Iain Maclean. Picture: DGS
Anyone seen a headless wizard? The Watten pupils search for Murdo Rivach's grave. Picture: DGS
Anyone seen a headless wizard? The Watten pupils search for Murdo Rivach's grave. Picture: DGS

"We recreated our stone circle, we sang our hymns, we re-enacted the story of the wizard of Watten, and Ken even chased the bairns dressed as 'Wattie the Loch Watten Monster'. It's really important to give young people these opportunities, but we try to make our archaeology accessible and fun, too."

Iain added that archaeology and history can be difficult to get children to engage with but through a mix of "play, dress-up, entertainment and engaging stories of dead bodies, and murder" it was possible to really captivate their attention and get across the key points. "History doesn't have to be boring for kids, we want them to understand a little about all that they have around them – growing up [and] knowing this feeds in to a sense of pride in place and cultural identity."

More info on the broch project can be found on its website at: www.thebrochproject.co.uk/

CBP is more than happy to organise outreach events with other schools and organisations – email it at contact@thebrochproject.co.uk or message the group's social media accounts.


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