Sunday, 28 August 2022, was an immensely significant day in the history of SWACS. Not only did we dedicate a picnic table to one of our founder members, but we also celebrated the inauguration of the new grilles that have recently been installed in the caves to protect the carvings.
Frank Rankin – who passed away in 2019 – made a considerable contribution to SWACS. He was the first chair of the society, he gave tours and talks, and wrote a number of the local history booklets (including the cave guide) that are still available from the society. Although less active towards the end of his life, he remained always a strong supporter of our cause. The dedication of the picnic table up at MacDuff Castle had previously been postponed due to lockdown, but it seemed very fitting to combine the event with celebrating the new protection now in place for the caves. All are agreed that Frank would have approved. Deaconess Jacqueline Thomson – who knew Frank very well – kindly agreed to lead the proceedings, and Frank’s son Jim Rankin spoke very warmly of his father and his achievements and shared happy memories. It was wonderful to see so many of Frank’s family and friends there to mark the occasion.
The dedication was followed by refreshments – courtesy of our wonderful local caterers – and the official inauguration of the new grilles installed at Court Cave and Jonathan’s Cave. The society was founded back in 1986 following an incident when a car was pushed into Jonathan’s Cave and set alight, destroying a whole frieze of Pictish carvings. This event was what persuaded local people to get together and form SWACS and there followed in 1987 the first attempt to protect the carvings by introducing grilles. Unfortunately, they proved not to be strong enough and it has taken a long while for us to be in a position to revisit the problem. But after years of planning, consultation, grant applications, etc, we finally got there! There were disappointments and setbacks along the way, but so many people have contributed so much of their time, determination and expertise to make this happen. We are particularly grateful to Jo Hambly (SCAPE & SWACS) who tirelessly drove the project through and to Legge Steel of Kirkcaldy for taking the designs and so impressively bringing them into existence, also to our main funders Historic Environment Scotland and Fife Environmental Trust for enabling us to turn our ambitious dreams into reality.
So it was that on a very sunny Sunday at the end of August we were able to celebrate the new grilles, joined by Irene Bray of the Community Council who accepted our invitation to come along and cut the ribbon: thank you to everybody who turned up to enjoy the occasion with us.