The Scottish Crannog Centre says there has been an “unbelievable” outpouring of support from the local community and heritage sector colleagues since its iconic reconstruction of an Iron Age lake settlement was destroyed by fire over the weekend.
The wooden roundhouse, which stood on stilts in Loch Tay, Perthshire, burned down on the night of Friday 11 June. Enquiries are underway to establish the cause of the blaze. A statement from Police Scotland said there was “nothing at present to suggest the fire is suspicious”.
The structure had been the centrepiece of the Accredited living history museum, which tells the story of Iron Age history in Scotland. The museum’s collection of Iron Age artefacts, which were excavated from the Oakbank Crannog in 1980, are displayed in another building and were not damaged in the fire.
The centre’s director Mike Benson told Museums Journal that the museum had been “absolutely inundated with support” since the fire. Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) is working to support the centre, while deputy first minister and Perthshire North MSP John Swinney is planning to visit the site today. Local tradespeople and carpenters have also been in touch to offer their skills, said Benson.
“The crannog is a symbol of the community and people are rallying round in a way I never would have expected,” he said.
The centre has launched a financial appeal to help cover the associated costs of the fire; participants in the museum’s apprenticeship programme for young people are planning to take part in sponsored activities as part of the campaign. An online fundraising page has already raised more then £20,000 out of a target of £50,000.
Benson hopes to reopen the rest of the museum later this week pending safety inspections, and plans to continue running its programme of activities. “The fire is part of our story, it’s not the end of our story,” he said.
Development was already under way on a new crannog centre on the north shore of the loch when the fire struck, and plans will now be accelerated to move the facility to this site. Nicholas Grant, chair of trustees at the centre, said: “This is a hugely distressing blow to all our friends, visitors, and members of the trust who have so ably supported us in the past.
“But we are now even more determined to double-down on all our efforts in the development of the new crannog centre already in planning on the north shore of the loch at Dalerb. Later today we will launch a financial appeal for all those to whom the crannog has meant so much in the past and whom we know will wish to contribute to the renewal of this unique part of Scottish history.”
A statement from MGS said: “MGS is working with the Scottish Crannog Centre to support them after the devastating fire that took place on Friday evening.
“The Scottish Crannog Centre is a unique experience of Iron Age history and integral to interpreting and sharing Scotland’s history. The fire has destroyed the reconstruction of the historic crannog dwelling, a space that is central to the crannog community.
“Over the last year MGS has awarded grants from the Scottish Government totalling over £283,000 for the Scottish Crannog Centre’s far-reaching work to welcome visitors, increase employment opportunities in the local area, and support vocational learning with young people through Modern Apprenticeships and the Kickstart Scheme.
“Prior to the fire, the crannog has been planning an expansion to the north shore of Loch Tay at Dalerb. The crannog community is recognised for innovation, ambition and care for their local area, qualities that with support will be central to their recovery from the fire.”
MGS chief executive Lucy Casot said: “The crannog team worked so hard to continue their vocational learning opportunities with young people during the pandemic and welcome visitors back once it was safe to do so. Our hearts went out to the team when we heard about the fire and the immense loss of the iconic crannog reconstruction will be felt by many.
“We are working closely with the team and this will continue as we understand the immediate and longer-term support requirements. The community that is at the heart of the Scottish Crannog Centre needs our support now as they recover and rebuild from the fire. We encourage the many people who enjoy the crannog to donate to their financial appeal.”
The roundhouse was used to host hands-on demonstrations of ancient crafts and technologies, as well as musical performances, storytelling and Iron Age cookery experiences.