Artefact Attack at Dunbar SciFest 2016!

Dunbar SciFest_Logo 2016It was with some trepidation that myself and three student volunteers from Edinburgh University (Jo, Lewis and Tiffany) got into my car at 8am on Saturday morning to drive to Dunbar Primary School. Our purpose? To deliver ‘Artefact Attack’-a day of archaeology-themed science workshops for children at Dunbar SciFest 2016. But how many kids would we have? Would we run overtime? Would the activity work well? Would the kids (and ourselves) have fun?!

Meeting my colleague Andy, and our other workshop volunteer Colm from archaeology company Rubicon Heritage, the day got off to a good start. We had coffee aplenty, lots of pre-workshop team spirit laughter, and a great set-up in our assigned classroom. We had our amazing washing line-esque timeline strung up across the wall, our fabulous posters full of lots of interesting archaeological facts, and of course, our ‘artefact museum’-two tables full of a whole range of objects from our handling collection. This included everything from replica Palaeolithic hand-axes to a 21st century plastic micro-wave meal container!

After Andy and Colm left at lunchtime (following a lovely packed lunch provided by the event organisers), my fellow workshop organiser Louise, also from Rubicon, came along to join in the fun and lend her expertise. Unfortunately, one of our props for the workshop intro, a baked potato (prizes for guessing how to use a tattie to explain making detailed descriptions and deductive thinking!), was starting to look a little worse for wear and a bit green. Louise did an admiral job of making the best of the potato despite its deteriorating condition! Needless to say, I did not, in the end, have it for my tea that evening!

By the close of the day at 5pm, those artefacts had most definitely been ‘attacked’! The first workshop started at 10.30am, and we delivered 10 workshops throughout the day, working with 75 children in total, and even a few parents! Each child picked, sketched, measured, described and interpreted at least one object from our ‘artefact museum’, using their scientific and archaeological deductive thinking skills in the process. Hopefully they also  learnt a little bit about materials, technologies and ways of life in the past along the way!

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the day was a great success, and both myself and the team had great fun delivering the workshop and working with all the children. They came up with a whole range of fascinating, and perfectly reasoned ideas and interpretations for their artefact choices (Ancient Egyptian warrior boomerang versus Neolithic antler and flint sickle anyone?!). We were all still smiling (and standing) at the end of the day, but our game faces paled into insignificance when compared to those of our three final workshop participants, or should I say, our menacing  Mesolithic hunter-gatherer, our masterful Medieval needle-worker princess, and our regal Roman general.  That sums up the day for me right there folks!

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A trio of intrepid artefact attackers from the Mesolithic, medieval and Roman periods!

Thanks to Dunbar SciFest for the invitation to participate in this year’s festival, and of course, a big thank you to the amazing volunteers and the rest of the Dunbar SciFest team who all helped make the day not only possible, but a whole lot of fun too!

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Edinburgh Dean of Guild & the French “Outlaw”

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The Dean of Guild Court, as talked about in these pages in the past, was the forerunner of what today is Building Control within the local authority context.  Their present function is as overseer to building developments within the City and although this was also the case for the Dean of Guild Court in years gone by, that authority also had other strings to its bow.  For example, it acted as the Burgh’s ‘policeman’ as far as trade within its boundaries went which meant it enforced the rules and regulations relating to manufacturing, buying and selling within the ancient limits of Edinburgh.  Only burgesses (in England known as ‘freemen’) were allowed to carry out such occupations and entry to their ‘club’ was tightly controlled.

If some ‘unfree’ individual attempted to trade within the burgh then the powers of the Dean of Guild were called into play as was exemplified in the papers of the case from which the newspaper cutting shown above, was found.  The advert placed here shows he was selling French Lace, amongst other things, from premises in Infirmary Street in 1806 but it is clear that he had done likewise in previous years since the advert shown below notes him having once operated from 16 Leith Street.

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So, by 1806 it was clear that he had clashed with other merchant burgesses in Edinburgh in the past since he begins the newspaper advertisement above with a cheeky side swipe at them as follows:

Mr Simeon cannot again address the Public and omit thanking those kind Gentlemen who instigated the Dean of Guild to enter a prosecution against him, in hopes he would quit Edinburgh: but Business answering his most sanguine expectation, he intends entering business immediately, and continue his yearly visits to this City.”

The documents included in the bundle relating to this Dean of Guild Court case give us some insight into how things proceeded.  In January 1806 he was again prosecuted in the Dean of Guild Court and fined 10 guineas, a considerable sum of money for the time.  On the 3rd of February he complained that the fine was too high and asked that he be granted a ‘licence’ – at a reasonable cost – to trade for a limited period each year and went on to argue that being an ‘alien’ (i.e. a foreign national) he would never have been permitted to become a burgess and thus never attempted to do so.

The reply by the Procurator Fiscal on 4th February rejected his claims and contended that Mr Simeon was merely stalling for time to sell his wares and then fly by night as he had done before. He cited Simeon’s ‘pasquinade’ against Edinburgh’s burgesses (satirical advert in the Press) as proof of his contempt for the law and asked that the Frenchman be imprisoned until such time as his full fine be paid.  The judgement was against the accused; he was ordered to produce his licence from the ‘Aliens Office’ within 10 days and in the meantime lodge 100 guineas as a ‘caution’ or security.

We can tell from the Dean of Guild Court documents that by late March, having produced the relevant papers, he was in Glasgow and from there appealed the fine levied by the Edinburgh authorities and continued to plead for a licence to trade.  Again, his request was refused, he was ordered to pay another guinea and denied the freedom for any further appeal.

This is the end of this particular story as far as the Dean of Guild Court papers elucidate it but it clearly shows that the remit of this ancient institution was then much broader than its modern counterpart is today.

Through nothing more than curiosity I carried out a quick internet search on our French adventurer and was rewarded with an addendum to his story.  The search revealed this document (theglasgowstory.com) within the People’s Palace Collections in Glasgow.  It shows that a ‘Monsieur St. Ange Simeon’ (surely our man) was by 1820, at least, temporarily or perhaps permanently settled in Glasgow and giving French lessons to some of its citizenry.  Perhaps the Dean of Guild in Edinburgh had by then finally put paid to his mercantile career but – being a lad o’ pairts’ – he had simply moved on to earn a crust (or a croissant) in another way!