Friday, 19 July 2013

"Roll up, roll up, see the Sighthill circle..."

I happened to see an article in the latest Big Issue magazine called Save the Stone Circle, which talks about the Sighthill Stone Circle in Glasgow. It's not an ancient stone circle - it was built in 1979 - but it was the first astronomically aligned stone circle to be built in Britain for 3,000 years. The idea came from a competition for local primary schools, when a little girl suggested it.
Now Glasgow City Council want to knock it down, to make room for new development.

The story reminded me that I had heard the name Sighthill Stone Circle before.
Many years ago, when I was involved in Star Trek fandom, and went to lots of conventions, there was a style of singing called filk. This started off as a mis-spelling of "folk" music, and stuck, and it is SF inspired music. There are songs about Star Trek, and conventions, and vampire kittens, and various book series, either set to the tunes of genuine folk songs or to original music - and there are two which include references to the building of the stone circle. I looked them up in my copy of The Old Grey Wassail Test, a song book I bought at World Con 87. The first one is called Space and Scotland, and it was written by Duncan Lunan, to the tune "Fife's got everything", in 1982.

The relevant verse goes:
"The Sighthill megalith, the newest in the country,
We're waiting for midsummer just tae check on oor array.
It was done by calculation, and broadcast to the nation -
If it doesnae mark the sunrise, you'll find us in B.A.!"

The note at the end of the song says:
"This is the 'company song' of the Association in Scotland to Research into Astronautics, Ltd. (ASTRA). The first verse relates to the Glasgow Parks Dept. Astronomy Project, which built the first astronomically aligned megalith in Britain for three thousand years, but without an opportunity to check the alignments by observation beforehand."

It turns out that Duncan Lunan was the manager of the project.

The second song, also in The Old Grey Wassail Test, is called Mythcon XV, and is sung to the tune of The Rawtenstall Annual Fair (ta-ra-ra), and was written by Duncan Lunan and Leigh Ann Hussey.

Mostly, it describes what was going on at the convention, but the last verse goes:

"Roll up, roll up, see the Sighthill circle,
See the modern Stonehenge put together bit by bit;
In came the fans, and they gave out a sigh,
When the bowed stone snapped and then was left behind to die.
And there was Braithwaite in a quarry, Gavin Roberts in a lorry,
And Lunan guiding sunstones through the air, ta ra ra...
Solstice, standstills, and sunrise in a notch,
The Navy flew the stones and all the schoolkids came to watch;
If the nets had given way then you'd have seen rocks upon the Scotch!
At the Mythcon annual tear, ta ra ra...."

Mythcon was actually held in Oakland California, but Duncan Lunan was there talking about the building of the Sighthill stone circle. He wrote: "At the Spring Equinox of 1979 the circle was completed by a Sea-King helicopter from the HMS Gannett which flew in the last seven stones, though not (as I explained in my talk at Mythcon) without some misgivings about the strength of the nets."

"Braithwaite in a quarry" refers to the astronomer who helped to choose the stones and work out their positioning, and he was the father of Stuart Braithwaite, member of Mogwai, who wrote the article in the Big Issue. "...the idea you have to knock down absolutely everything to rebuild is a sad philosophy," he says.

There will be a benefit concert for Save Sighthill Stone Circle at Platform in Glasgow on July 27th from 4.30pm.

1 comment:

  1. Philip Carr-Gomm's blog (on the side bar) has the latest on what's going to happen to the stone circle. It seems that redevelopment will be going ahead, but the stones could be incorporated into a labyrinth.