My Life as a Replica Preview

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My life as a replica ST JOH N’S CROSS, IONA

S A L L Y F O S T E R with S I Â N J O N E S


My life as a replica S T JOH N’S CROSS, IONA

Iona Cathedral Trustees



My life as a replica S T JOH N ’S CROSS, IONA

S A L L Y F O S T E R with S I Â N J O N E S design and original artwork c h r i s t i n a u n w i n


Windgather Press is an imprint of Oxbow Books Published in the United Kingdom in 2020 by Oxbow Books The Old Music Hall, 106 –108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JE Published in the United States by Oxbow Books 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083 © Windgather Press and the authors 2020 Paperback edition isbn 978 1 911188 59 9 Digital edition isbn 978 1 911188 60 5 (epub) A cip record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher in writing. Printed in Malta by Melita Press Ltd For a complete list of Windgather titles, please contact: United Kingdom oxbow books

telephone (01865) 241249 fax (01865) 794449 email oxbow@oxbowbooks.com website oxbowbooks.com United States of America oxbow books

telephone (800) 791 9354 fax (610) 853 9146 email queries@casemateacademic.com website casemateacademic.com/oxbow Oxbow Books is part of the Casemate Group

Cover design Christina Unwin’s artistic response to Sally Foster’s photograph of the St John’s Cross with swallow. Frontispiece Glimpses of Iona captured in 2017–19, arranged by Christina Unwin.

Back cover The St John’s Cross replica with members of the Exposagg team who had just erected it on Iona.


This book is dedicated to three friends who shared a love of concrete and good design

John R. Scott

Ian G. Scott

John Lawrie



Contents Illustrations x Acknowledgements xv Image credits

xvii

Abbreviations xviii Preface xix

The concrete and non-concrete Sally Foster

1

I Crafting lives 1 Life as a replica

Sally Foster and Sîan Jones

Replication and authenticity

7 7

Analogue replicas still matter

11

The St John’s Cross and its copies matter

16

The lives and voices of replicas

19

Capturing lives – objects, texts, images and people

21

Piecing it all together

28

2 Loving Iona

Sally Foster and Sîan Jones

33

Island of crosses

35

Multiple communities

38

A ‘thick’ place

46

3 ‘Priceless monuments’ Sally Foster

47

Early antiquarian interest

48

New stewards, new horizons

53

‘History versus Mystery; Science and Art versus Faith’

55

Island voices

60

Dead or alive ?

62


II Creating and cultivating the cross 4 Formation and reformation

Sally Foster

67

Salvation, wounds and resurrection

68

Fragmentation

82

Antiquarian rebirth, earliest copies

86

Silent witness

96

The Fallen Cross

98

5 Birth of the concrete replica

‘I can’t think of anything more worthwhile doing’ Sally Foster

105

A slow conception

105

Fertile possibilities

110

‘Miraculous success’: an ‘authentic prototype’ for an ‘authentic replica’

111

Erecting the replica in situ

120

For the love of Iona

131

Material matters, first impressions

133

Celebrating the ‘virtually impossible’

134

MacLeod and the St John’s Cross

135

New life, new values

136

6 From out of the shadows?

Sally Foster

139

Transformer

139

Reunited

145

Place in the world

149

The Iona brand

152

7 Glorious revelation:

contemporary significance, values and authenticity Sally Foster and Sîan Jones

155

‘Loaded objects’: meanings and relationships

156

Place and space

160

Material evidence of ‘pastness’

164

‘Glorious revelation’

165


III Celebration in concrete,

celebration of concrete 8 New life, new thinking Sally Foster and SĂŽan Jones

171

Rethinking authenticity and value

172

Heritage implications

173

Creating knowledge and understanding

175

Understanding social value and authenticity

177

Securing for the future

179

Engaging and experiencing

180

New lives, new stories

183

Appendices Sally Foster 1 Surviving physical remains of the St John’s Cross, its 1:1 replicas and their production

186

2 Archival sources

190

3 Breakdown of ethnographic sources

194

Bibliography Index

195 208


x

Illustrations Figure 1 The St John’s Cross replica, Iona.

xx

1 Life as a replica Figure 2 Visitors, some with audioguides, experiencing Iona Abbey around its in-situ crosses.

9

Figure 3 The Cast Court at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

12

Figure 4 Dundee’s Ward Road Library in 1911.

13

Figure 5 Johanna Puisto, sculpture conservator at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

15

Figure 6 Monument to Sir Donald Currie and Margaret Miller in Fortingall.

17

Figure 7 Silver pendants made in Glasgow from the collection of Fiona MacSporran.

18

Figure 8 Celtic-cross merchandise in The Iona Shop in Oban.

18

Figure 9 A summary of the original St John’s Cross components and the relationships of its full-scale direct copies, indicating their current locations.

23

Figure 10 Child and Classroom Assistant working with historic postcards and images of Iona Abbey during our project’s 2018 workshop in the Primary School on Iona.

25

Figure 11 Murdo MacKenzie with his father’s Concrete Society 2000/2001 award for the St John’s Cross replica.

25

Figure 12 Participant observation.

26

Figure 13 Co-production of a digital scan, led by Dr Stuart Jeffrey, Glasgow School of Art.

27

Figure 14 Children of Iona Primary School with Stuart Jeffrey and Sally Foster.

27

Figure 15 Visual summary of the key biographical moments in the life of the St John’s Cross.

30 –1

2 Loving Iona Figure 16 Map of Iona identifying key sites mentioned in the text.

32

Figure 17 Aerial photograph of Iona village and Abbey from south-east, showing the village and route from the modern ferry pier to the Abbey church.

34

Figure 18 The fifteenth-century MacLean’s Cross.

35

Figure 19 Original crosses in Iona Abbey Museum, displayed without their bases.

36

Figure 20 Iona War Memorial, designed by Alexander Ritchie and unveiled in 1921.

37


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Figure 21 Commemorating Elizabeth Leweson-Gowes, Duchess of Argyll, this cross has a secondary inscription to her daughter Victoria.

38

Figure 22 Ian G. Lindsay and Partners’ summary of the Abbey’s twentieth-century rebuild.

40

Figure 23 Iona Parish Church.

43

Figure 24 Peace and Adventure: The Story of Iona for Young Folk of all Ages.

44

Figure 25 View of St Oran’s Chapel, Reilig Odhráin cemetery, and Abbey complex beyond.

44

Figure 26 Iona’s western coastline.

45

3 ‘Priceless monuments’ Figure 27 Gravestone of an unknown West Highland warrior or chieftain who was buried at the Reilig Odhráin in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

47

Figure 28: Skinner’s 1825 ‘View of the coast of Mull and the Isles of Staffa and Iona in the distance’.

50

Figure 29 Skinner’s 1825 ‘St Martins & St Johns Crosses’.

51

Figure 30 Skinner’s 1825 ‘Cathedral at Iona’.

51

Figure 31. Skinner’s 1825 ‘Landing place at Iona’.

51

Figure 32 Henry D. Graham’s 1848 –1849 drawing of the Reilig Odhráin.

52

Figure 33 ‘Tombs of the Kings and Iona Cathedral’ on a Valentine’s Series postcard from about 1880.

53

Figure 34 The fifteenth-century MacKinnon’s Cross moved to the unroofed St Oran’s Chapel.

53

Figure 35 Ministry of Works plans from 1923 for creating a carved stones museum.

55

Figure 36 George MacLeod leads a procession of worshippers to the Abbey Church.

57

Figure 37 Jonquil Alpe watercolour of the Village Street.

61

Figure 38 ‘Holidays in the West Highlands. A guide [Alec Ritchie] describing the tombs of the kings on Iona.

62

4 Formation and reformation Figure 39 The soaring replica of the St John’s Cross.

66


xii Figure 40 A conceptual map of the location of eighth-century Iona in relation to Jerusalem.

70

Figure 41 Subtle differences in height exist between the existing paved stone road leading to St Columba’s Shrine and the base of the crosses.

72

Figure 42 rcahms illustration of the east face of the St John’s Cross.

74

Figure 43 rcahms illustration of the west face of the St John’s Cross.

75

Figure 44 rcahms sections and plan of the base of the St John’s Cross.

76

Figure 45 Two possible reconstructions of the first phase of the St John’s Cross, compared to its secondary form after repairs and the insertion of the ring.

77

Figure 46 This postcard from before 1955 gives a sense of lost views towards the crosses.

79

Figure 47 The present-day view from inside the shrine-chapel looking towards St John’s Cross, with swallow, and Tòrr an Aba behind.

80

Figure 48 Detail of Discovery Programme scan of the St John’s Cross showing possible repeated Virgin and Child motif on the lower part of the upper cross-arm.

81

Figure 49 Lhuyd’s 1699 drawing of St John’s Cross.

82

Figure 50 Plan of cleared shrine-chapel and area around St John’s Cross, drawn by Henry Dryden 1874 –5 and 1877.

84

Figure 51 Later medieval socket-stone for a cross on the top of Tòrr an Aba.

85

Figure 52 ‘No attempt has been made to present a deceptive counterfeit of the old work’ (Macalister 1927).

87

Figure 53 H. D. Graham’s ‘Fragments of Cross lying in Reileag Oran – Iona – 1850’.

90

Figure 54 H. D. Graham’s 1850 ‘Restored Cross. Iona from fragments fitted together’.

91

Figure 55 George Washington Wilson’s ‘Remains of Ancient Crosses’, thought to date to 1867 or 1868.

93

Figure 56 One of Ernest Beveridge’s photographs of carved stones stored in an enclosure within the Reilig Odhráin in 1895 with, to the rear, fragments of the St John’s Cross.

94

Figure 57 Aberdeen-based artist A. Gibb’s record of the shaft of the St John’s Cross.

95

Figure 58 Volunteers from the Iona Community carry building timbers from the jetty to the Abbey in 1950, past the reconstructed St John’s Cross.

96

Figure 59 Cover of A. C. Phillip’s 1958 The Fallen Cross booklet.

98

Figure 60 Dorothy Una Ratcliffe and two friends on a beach in about 1955.

98

Figure 61 The St John’s Cross after its first fall in 1951, photographed in 1953.

99


xiii Figure 62 The recently fallen St John’s Cross as it lay in 1957.

100

Figure 63 The broken shaft of St John’s Cross in 1965, with its 1954 reconstructed base.

102

5 Birth of the concrete replica Figure 64 David Francis Oliphant Russell, probably in the early 1960s.

104

Figure 65 The central court of the National Museum of Ireland, as we now know it, in the 1890s, with replicas of Irish high crosses in the centre.

108

Figure 66 George Mancini stands in his Edinburgh workshop in front of his completed master model for the replica of the St John’s Cross.

113

Figure 67 Example of engineer John R. Scott’s plans for the design of the St John’s Cross replica.

118

Figure 68 Example of engineer John R. Scott’s plans for the internal skeleton of the St John’s Cross replica.

119

Figure 69 Jackie Drysdale, David Borthwick and a colleague prepare a plaster casing for the cross-head to receive the gelatine mould.

123

Figure 70. Jackie Drysdale and an unidentified Borthwick employee create the gelatine mould for the St John’s Cross replica.

123

Figure 71 The cast concrete shaft lies alongside its gelatine mould.

123

Figure 72 Stewart Cruden’s excavations of the base of the St John’s Cross in 1970.

125

Figure 73 John Lawrie supervises the lowering of the concrete cross-head of the St John’s Cross replica onto its shaft in Borthwick’s Yard, Edinburgh.

127

Figure 74 Topping-out ceremony of the replica cross.

128

Figure 75 A primary school pupil’s storyline for the events leading to the erection of the St John’s Cross replica on Iona.

129

Figure 76 The replica of the St John’s Cross arrives in the hold of the puffer, on top of the island’s coal supply.

131

6 From out of the shadows? Figure 77 rcahms reconstruction of how the ring quadrants were inserted into the composite cross-head of the St John’s Cross.

141

Figure 78 Cross-sections of St John’s Cross with a key to the evidence for its eighthcentury damage and repair.

142

Figure 79 The east face of St John’s Cross, as mounted in the Iona Abbey Museum in 1990.

147

Figure 80 Unveiling of the reconstructed St John’s Cross in 1990, showing its west face.

148


xiv Figure 81 Delegates to the 2012 Historic Scotland Iona Research Seminar.

150

Figure 82 The approach to Iona Abbey along its early medieval paved road.

151

Figure 83 Stone types were chosen for their material qualities, such as this wonderfully shimmery garnet-mica-schist made into a cross-slab for Iona.

151

Figure 84 Scan of the south side of St John’s Cross, to show its fractures, the present-day supporting structure, and the scars of previous repairs.

152

7 Glorious revelation Figure 85 Detail of the head of the St John’s Cross replica.

155

Figure 86 In the Aosdàna shop on Iona visitors linger when looking for replica and modern jewellery to take home that will evoke Iona’s special qualities.

156

Figure 87 A pupil’s perspective of the crosses on Iona.

157

Figure 88 An Italian tourist kneels at St Martin’s Cross.

159

Figure 89 St Martin’s and St Matthew’s Crosses, and the St John’s Cross replica from the roof of the Abbey, with natural outcrop Tòrr an Aba behind.

161

Figure 90 The midsummer shadow of the St John’s Cross replica on St Columba’s Shrine.

162

Figure 91 Engineer John R. Scott, conservator Tam Day, foreman plasterer Jackie Drysdale and artist John Lawrie stand in front of the replica in Edinburgh.

166

Figure 92 Artwork about the replica’s story produced by a young islander.

167

Figure 93 Artwork about the replica produced by a young islander.

167

8 New life, new thinking Figure 94 Summary of the heritage cycle.

170

Figure 95 A child’s perspective on the replica story as history.

173

Figure 96 Just erected on Iona in June 1970, the Exposagg team from Murdoch MacKenzie Construction Ltd stand in front of the replica of the St John’s Cross.

177

Figure 97 Touching and feeling the concrete replica.

182


xv

Acknowledgements We warmly thank our many anonymous interviewees on and off Iona. On Iona we thank the residents of Iona, Iona Abbey staff and Iona Community. Beyond the permissions obtained for the ethnographic work, we have done our utmost to seek formal clearance for sources used in this publication, whether archives, which include personal correspondence, or images. If we missed anything or you can fill a gap in our contacts, please email s.m.foster@stir.ac.uk and we will seek to remedy this in future publications. The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland, Iona Cathedral Trustees and Strathmartine Trust funded our research and publication costs. For talking to us and sharing personal archives that evidence events related to the creation of the 1970 replica, rcahms survey and 1990 reconstruction, we particularly thank Ian Fisher, Stephen Gordon, Adrian Lawrie, John Lawrie, Arthur MacGregor, Murdo MacKenzie (with Lorraine Prentice and Grace MacKenzie), John Renshaw and Ian G. Scott. Sally was often a ‘persistent correspondent’ and you were very patient indeed. Dario Sinfoniani of Communications, Media and Culture at the University of Stirling facilitated the use of interns Josefin Dahlin, Jodie Davidones and Calum McIntosh to film Murdo MacKenzie for YouTube (MacKenzie and Foster 2018), and we must of course thank Murdo MacKenzie for allowing us to record an interview of him talking to his cine film. For feedback on all or part of draft texts but no responsibility for the outcome, we owe a big debt to: reviewers Neil Curtis (University of Aberdeen) and E. Mairi MacArthur; Ewan Campbell (University of Glasgow); Ian Fisher; Adrian and John Lawrie; Rod McCullagh; John Renshaw; and Ian G. Scott. For access to collections, curated archives and unpublished institutional resources, we are grateful to the expert staff of the following: Aberdeen Art Gallery; Glasgow School of Arts Archives and Collections; Glasgow Life; Historic Environment Scotland (notably the National Record of the Historic Environment); National Museums Scotland; National Records of Scotland; University of St Andrews University Special Collections. Dr Iain Fraser of Historic Environment Scotland deserves a special mention for persevering to successfully track down uncatalogued H. D. Graham archives that Ian Fisher brought to Foster’s attention. The Russell family kindly gave permission, per Manuscript Archivist Maia Sheridan, to closed family archives in the St Andrews University Special Collections. For permission from families and executors to use personal sources in archives we are also grateful to Cecilia Bishop, Fiona Glass (and her sister Isabelle), John Laurie, Maxwell MacLeod, David Richardson, Sue Rushworth and Roy Scott. For access to/permission to use unpublished research, we thank: Adrián Maldonado (National Museums Scotland); Colleen Thomas (Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Scholar 2018); Historic Environment Scotland; Krittika Bhattacharjee (University of Edinburgh); Ewan Campbell, Katherine Forysth (University of Glasgow); Katie Mills (University of Manchester). Thomas Clancy and Gilbert


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Márkus gave permission to reproduce extracts from their translations of early medieval literature (Clancy 1998; Clancy & Márkus 1995). For responding to specific queries including picture research, or proffering advice, those we wish to thank include: Bob Abel; Alvie and Insch church (Bill Steele); Anderson Strathern (Beth Cameron); Aosdàna (Mhairi Killin); Argyll and Bute Council (Kim de Buiteléir); Malcolm Bangor-Jones; David Breeze; British Library (Janet Portman); Concrete Society (Edwin Trout); Morag Cross; Discovery Programme (Michael Ann Bevivino, Anthony Corns, Rob Shaw); Dundee Central Library (Erin Farley, Maureen Hood); East Lothian Archive and Local History Service (Hanita Ritchie); Exmoor Society; Historic Environment Scotland (Duncan Ainslie, Judith Anderson, Michelle Andersson, Philip Brooks, Deirdre Cameron, Lorna Ewan, Stephen Gordon; Lynsey Haworth, Rebecca Jones, Elizabeth McCrone, Mark McKillan, Colin Muir, John Raven, Lisa Robshaw, Beth Spence, the staff in the Search Room); Tasha Gefreh; Iona Cathedral Trust (Jennifer Hamilton, Mhairi Killin, Anne Steele); Iona Community (Margaret Campbell; Peter Macdonald); Iona Heritage Centre; Killearn Trust (Gill Smith); Leeds University Library Special Collections and Galleries (Joanne Fitton, Xiao Lu, Jen Povey, Remi Turner); Live Argyll (Rory Crutchfield, Eleanor McKay); Fiona MacSporran; Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (Beth Hodgett); National Library of Wales (Emyr Evans); National Museum of Ireland (Clare McNamara); National Museums Scotland (Alice Blackwell, Martin Goldberg, Sarah Laurenson); National Trust for Scotland (Derek Alexander, Stephen Small); Pop Up Designs (Andrew Cox); Cecilia and Judy Russell; Scottish Poetry Library (Emily Prince); Trinity College Dublin (Roger Stalley); University of Aberdeen Special Collections (Kim Downie); University College London (David V. Clarke); University of Dundee (Murdo MacDonald); University of Edinburgh (Heather Pulliam); University of Glasgow (Nyree Finlay); University of Stirling (Qian Gao, Kevin Macneil, Phia Steyn); Wild Goose Publications (Sandra Kramer); Peter Yeoman. For making our fieldwork on Iona possible, we particularly thank Richard Strachan, Jane Martin and their Historic Environment Scotland colleagues. Stephen Glen Lee and Lynda Maccallum of Iona Primary School, and parents of pupils, enabled us to work with class P5–P7 in February 2018. We loved the children’s original artwork and we are very pleased to be able to reproduce some of this here. The Iona Heritage Centre Café deserves a special mention for its delicious daily sustenance. On a personal note, Sally would like to acknowledge her ex-Historic Scotland colleagues for their exceptional generosity and open-ness, continuing a long institutional tradition of critical reflection on working practices. ‘Holidays’ to Iona with Jonquil Alpe and Lucy Williams generated welcome new perspectives. Sally also thanks the University of Stirling and her supportive colleagues for the six-month Research Leave in 2018 that facilitated the core of this work. Last but absolutely not least, Sally thanks Siân for her mentorship throughout, particularly in relation to the ethnographic work.


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Siân would like to give special thanks to Sally; for introducing her to the fascinating case of the St John’s Cross replica and for carrying the lion’s share of the work, not least during a period of ill-health in 2018–19. This extends a long-standing tradition of working together on the biographies of early medieval sculptured stones! For their considerable and extended support, we thank our partners, Rod McCullagh and Stuart Jeffrey (Glasgow School of Art); they have both offered intellectual inspiration and practical support at all stages of the project. Stuart co-designed and delivered the digital focus group and school workshop, and undertook several interviews; Rod assisted with the school workshop. Sally and Chris thank the publication team at Windgather/Oxbow and Casemate Publishers (Julie Gardiner, Mette Bundgaard and Declan Ingram).

Image credits Front cover Artwork Christina Unwin, original photo Sally Foster. Back cover, 96 Murdo MacKenzie. © Courtesy of hes (J. R. Scott Collection). Frontispiece Jonquil Alpe, Sally Foster, Siân Jones. Dedication Pauline Scott © Courtesy of hes, Sally Foster, Ian G. Scott. 1, 14 Rod McCullagh. 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 39, 41, 47, 51, 82, 83, 85, 86, 89, 90, 97 Sally Foster. 4 Libraries, Leisure and Culture Dundee. 7 Fiona MacSporran. 9 Artwork Christina Unwin, photographic details Sally Foster, GSofASimVis,

Discovery Programme and © Courtesy of hes (J. R. Scott collection). 15 Artwork Christina Unwin, photographic details John Renshaw, © Crown copyright: hes and Sally Foster. 16 Artwork Christina Unwin, photographic details Sally Foster. 17, 27, 42, 43, 44, 63, 72, 77, 79, 81 © Crown copyright: hes. 22, 35 © Courtesy of hes (Iona Cathedral Trustees Collection). 28, 29, 30, 31 © The British Library Board (ms 33687 f204r, 2f30r, f232r, f233r). 32, 54, 55 © Courtesy of hes (copied from Henry Graham Album, held at hes Archives). 33 Photographer unknown. 34 © Courtesy of hes (George Washington Wilson). 36 Iona Community, enhanced by Sandra Kramer. © Courtesy of hes (Iona Cathedral Trustees Collection). 37 Jonquil Alpe. 38, 57 National Library of Scotland, used under the Creative Commons Attribution (cc by ) 4.0 licence. 40 Christina Unwin, a informed by O’Loughlin 1997 figs 3–4, b and c by Campbell & Maldonado 2020 forthcoming.


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45 Christina Unwin, developed from rcahms 1982. 46 George Allan, Iona Community. 48, 84 Discovery Programme. 49 © The British Library Board (Stowe ms 1024, f137r). 50 © Courtesy of hes (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection). 52 Donald B. McCulloch, by permission of E. Mairi MacArthur. 55 University of Aberdeen gb 0231 ms 3792/2921. 56 © Courtesy of hes (Erskine Beveridge Collection). 58 Iona Community. 59, 61, 62 Estate of A. C. Phillips. 60 Unknown, Special Collections, Leeds University Library. 64 Photographer as signed, the Russell family. 65 National Museum of Ireland. 66 Drummond Young. © Courtesy of hes (Iona Cathedral Trustees Collection). 67, 68, 74, 76 © Courtesy of hes (J. R. Scott Collection). 69, 70, 71 John Lawrie. © Courtesy of hes (J. R. Scott Collection). 73, 91 Arthur MacGregor. © Courtesy of hes (J. R. Scott Collection). 75, 87, 92, 93, 95 Iona Primary School P5–7 Spring 2018, permission of parents. 78 Christina Unwin, developed from rcahms 1982. 80 John Renshaw. 88 Simon Villette. 94 Sally Foster after Thurley 2005.

Abbreviations amb bl

Ancient Monuments Board (‘the Board’) British Library GSofASimVis Glasgow School of Art School of Simulisation and Visualisation hes Historic Environment Scotland icomos International Council on Monuments and Sites ict Iona Cathedral Trust (‘the Trustees’) mow Ministry of Works (‘the Ministry’) nmi National Museum of Ireland nrhe National Records of the Historic Environment (part of hes) nrs National Records of Scotland pic Property in Care rcahms Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (‘the Commission’) sdd Scottish Development Department st asc University of St Andrews Special Collections unesco United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization V&A Victoria and Albert Museum (former South Kensington Museum)


Preface This book has a long genesis. Researching for it, Foster found herself revisiting government files that she first consulted in 2000 (Foster 2001). The seeds of the present project were sown in April 2012 when Foster attended the Iona Conference organised by Historic Scotland to inform their thinking about their planned reinterpretation of the site and museum. She made the case for more biographical approaches to the lives of the carved stones and new ways of thinking about their authenticity, illustrating this with the potential of the St John’s Cross replica to enable visitors to engage with the enduring lives of Iona’s carved stones. Recognising the potential of ethnographic research, Foster and Jones teamed up in 2015, by then colleagues at Stirling University. In 2016, we secured research funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh Small Research Grants and later Historic Environment Scotland (cnr-g/pic076/17/1 and cnr-g/pic076/19/1), per Richard Strachan. This enabled us to undertake ethnographic fieldwork to explore the contemporary authenticity and value of historic replicas through a study of the St John’s Cross. Drawing on the accord methodology, Stuart Jeffrey also joined us to deliver a community 3d-modelling workshop on Iona, a specific intervention which provided a basis for further qualitative research. During the workshop participants helped to produce a photogrammetric model of the St John’s Cross replica which can be viewed on Sketchfab (see below). During Sian’s ill-health, Stuart also delivered the Iona Primary School workshop with Sally in March 2018. Meanwhile, Foster continued to work in an interdisciplinary way researching extensive archival and other primary sources to provide a temporal perspective on the ways in which the meaning of the St John’s Cross and its replica(s) have changed over twelve centuries. The cores of Chapters 7 and 8, and elements of Chapter 2, were first published in International Journal of Heritage Studies and Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites (Foster & Jones 2019a; 2019b). We are grateful to the Editors and publisher, Taylor and Francis https://www.tandfonline.com/, for permission to reuse this material. We have sought to offer you various options to navigate our craft. The book is deliberately highly visual, and we are very grateful to Chris Unwin for her creative input. You may simply enjoy the pictures and their captions to get a feel for the life of the St John’s Cross and place through time. If you search the free online Sketchfab platform you can find and explore the St John’s Cross from all angles, whether the stone original or concrete replica https://sketchfab.com/ (models by the Discovery Programme and GSofASimVis respectively). Using Canmore and Pastmap you will find more about Scottish sites we mention (https://canmore.org.uk/ and https://pastmap.org.uk/ ). Although of course there is no substitute for visiting, seeing – having ‘touching’ encounters – we hope that some sense of the people and their stories will emerge. We enjoyed our Iona journey and hope you do too.


Figure 1 The St John’s Cross replica, Iona.


The concrete and non-concrete He said, look, take your arm and feel in between these stones and grab a handful, pull them out. I pulled out this powdered mortar with snail shells in it, sea snail, and he said the last person to have seen that will have been a 13th-century stonemason. Just such an awesome idea … I’ve kept those pieces. They’re in little envelopes at home. Because you can still see the shells. Robin

Robin, a regular visitor to the Scottish island of Iona, had just been chatting to one of the stonemasons engaged in some repointing work at the Abbey when he was invited to do something very exclusive, very intimate, very affective. With his fingers he grasped, felt and met the past, deep in the historic core of the building.1 He went on to give this gritty mortar a new life and meaning. Back home, he treasures envelopes of shells. They reflect and renew his personal relationship with Iona, a place already very special to him. Yes, these are ancient shells he can gaze at and revere between his fingers, but their authenticity is founded on the networks of relationships between people, places and things that they embody, his experience of Iona. In his privileged encounter, Robin witnessed the passion and craft of the modern mason. He also spawned links to thirteenth-century forebears who had collected raw materials, made lime, worked stone and built the Abbey. Those connections, and his own ever-emerging relationship with the special place that is Iona, have travelled home with him and live in and through those shells. This is not a book about mortar or shells, but it is about inviting new ways of thinking about authenticity, value and significance. It is about recognising and understanding tangible and intangible values, and the multiple lives and changing meanings that an object can have through time. The focus of enquiry is replicas of historic monuments, often contentious things found across the world (Lowenthal 1995, 290–5; Mersmann 2017, 245–56). Surprisingly, perhaps, there has been little systematic study of how they ‘work’ in practice at places of historic interest, often tourist destinations, where replication is often thought to make ‘best sense’ as some kind of substitute for the original (James 2016, 521). This is one of the first qualitative social studies of such historic replicas, and the first in-depth cultural biography to give primacy to the life of a replica – a 1970 concrete replica of the iconic St John’s Cross, Iona (Fig. 1). Our research shows how replicas can acquire authenticity. It unravels the part that social relations, craft practices, creativity, place and materiality play in the production and negotiation of their authenticity. Yet, underlying stories of human creativity, skill and craftsmanship are rendered invisible when replicas are treated as mere surrogates for a missing ‘original’. Challenging the traditional precepts


2 My life as a replica

that seek authenticity in qualities intrinsic to original historic objects, we will show how replicas are important objects in their own right; they acquire value, authenticity and aura. The life of a replica generates networks of relationships between people, places and things, including the original historic object, and authenticity is founded on what these relationships embody. Authenticity is also founded on the dynamic material qualities of the objects. The cultural biographies of replicas, and the ‘felt’ relationships associated with them, play a key role in the generation and negotiation of authenticity while, at the same time, informing the authenticity and value of their historic counterparts through the ‘composite biographies’ that are produced (Foster & Curtis 2016). We argue that replicas can ‘work’ for us if we let them, particularly if clues are available about their makers’ passion, creativity and craft. They have their own creative, human histories, biographies that people can connect with. We hope to demonstrate that they have ‘concrete’ and ‘non-concrete’ values. This book also tells important new stories about the much-loved, worldrenowned island of Iona, and its internationally significant carved stones. Iona’s extensively-copied, iconic St John’s Cross is our case study. In 1970 a concrete replica was erected in situ to replace the original. This had fallen for at least the fourth time in its life in 1957. We expose and explore, for the first time, the in-depth life of this replica, in relation to the life of the original and lives of its many other copies. The St John’s Cross is universally acknowledged to be an artistic and technical masterpiece, a composite monument thought to be the progenitor of the ringed ‘Celtic’ cross. Erected in the mid-eighth century ad, it stands like a sentinel outside the entrance to an intimate stone building enclosing St Columba’s place of burial. The cross and shrine-chapel were probably erected as part of a highly innovative programme of architectural and artistic works to enhance the religious experience of pilgrims to St Columba’s grave. St Columba is the best known of the early medieval saints who introduced Christianity to Scotland. Therefore, the St John’s Cross has always been at the heart of the Iona experience, of pilgrimage to and around Scotland, indeed around western Europe. The St John’s Cross is arguably best known through its copies, not least the 1970 replica. But, the story of the concrete replica is scarcely known and largely untold. Turning half a century in age in 2020, it is therefore timely to investigate the authenticity, value and significance of this historic replica, and to consider the wider implications of our findings for little understood historic replicas at heritage places. We already know that historic sculptured stones can play an extremely important role in contemporary place-making and defining identities. They can elicit, vocalise and come to represent competing values (Foster 2001; McEnchroe Williams 2001; Jones 2004; Macdonald 2013, 131). Causes célèbre include the treatment meted out to the Afghani Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001, and the international responses that followed (Mersmann 2017, 245–56). They do this because in certain contexts they do not represent ‘themselves’ but symbolise the concerns of individuals and communities in a metaphorical way


The concrete and non-concrete 3

(cf. Bold & Pickard 2013, 109). With its rich fragmented stories, another classic example is the case of the Hilton of Cadboll monument, an internationally significant early medieval cross-slab derived from Easter Ross, Scotland. A major ethnographic study by one of us (Jones 2004; 2005; 2011), demonstrated how this fragmented monument is involved in memory-work and place-making in the tiny village of Hilton, as well as the politics of who ‘belongs’, being used in the negotiation of community boundaries. Importantly, this research also revealed the ways in which the monument is symbolically conceived as an ancient ‘living’ member of the community, and how its material fragmentation and displacement provide a metaphor for the Highland Clearances, as well as a means to resist perceived marginalisation and decline. The cultural biography that we subsequently wrote together (Foster & Jones 2008) also sheds light on other networks of power, authority and identity surrounding the monument, not least associated with the events of 1921 when part of the cross-slab was removed to London and then returned to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh amid patriotic protests, consolidating the significance of the monument as a national icon. The propensity of carved and sculptured stones to become fragmented and displaced through a variety of processes, ranging from deliberate iconoclasm to forms of acquisition and appropriation, contributes to their symbolic and metaphoric power. As Foster (2001; 2010) has discussed, it also creates tensions around their protection and conservation, as they shift ambiguously between the status of monument and portable object, adding further complexities to their biographies, not uncommonly seeding forms of replication along the way. Both the Bamyan Buddhas and the Hilton of Cadboll cross-slab have been caught up in controversial debates about their conservation and the role of replication and/ or reconstruction. However, in studies of these monuments, as in many other cases, replicas frequently remain in the ‘wings’, whereas we place the St John’s Cross replica centre stage. The book has three sections. In Crafting lives, we seek to convey a sense of how and why we have written such a book, one in which we think it is important that a replica ‘speaks’. Chapter 1 discusses how lives of objects can be constructed. We justify our approach, methodologies and choice of subject in terms of the latest thinking on replicas in heritage and museum contexts. Chapter 2 reveals the ways in which Iona is a particularly complex and special place, in material and social terms. Famously described as a ‘thin’ place, we show that it is ‘thick’ from an ethnographic and temporal perspective. Chapter 3 offers a temporal perspective on the values of Iona’s multiple communities, illustrating the agency and symbolism of the island’s carved stones in this regard. Creating and cultivating the cross explores the 1200-year-plus cultural biography of the St John’s Cross, drawing on extensive primary research. Chapter 4 covers the life of the cross from its creation to 1957, when the cross fell for the last time. Chapter 5 is about the long gestation of the concrete replica and how it came to be born, while Chapter 6 spans the period from the 1970s to 2016. Chapter 7


4 My life as a replica

presents the findings of our ethnographic research, with an emphasis on what they tell us about contemporary authenticity and value. Celebration in concrete, celebration of concrete invites new thinking about replicas. Having examined the role of the St John’s Cross replica in the production and negotiation of authenticity and value, we explore the implications for those who look after historic replicas, or who continue to create them. In concluding, we argue that, if we let them, replicas can play an important part in creating new heritage futures that are: collaborative, dialogical and interactive, [involving] a material-discursive process in which past and future arise out of dialogue and encounter between multiple embodied subjects in (and with) the present (Harrison 2018, 27). 1 It

should be noted here that we do not seek to encourage this practice in other contexts. The mortar component of masonry buildings needs periodic renewal and in this instance the stonemason was in the process of raking out the decaying mortar and replacing it with a new hydraulic lime mix to maintain the building. In the context of buildings and monuments in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, this practice in itself is subject to complex negotiations surrounding authenticity. As Jones & Yarrow (2013) show in their research with stonemasons at Glasgow Cathedral, these encompass materiality and craft traditions, but ultimately also rest on the networks of relations – both social and material – involved.


Crafting lives