Monday, 29 April 2013

Week 4: Creetown Flags

William Blake: Ancient of Days (1794)
Listen to the Granite - the stone talks

“Our history makes us what we are. Our geology makes us what we are”
                                                                                             (Creetown Resident: April 2013)

‘In the parish of Kirkmabreck very extensive operations in granite working have been carried on for a long series of years. Adjoining the public road leading to Gatehouse, about two miles from Creetown, is an extensive quarry, leased by the Liverpool Dock Trustees. All the stones procured there are used for dock purposes only. There are four vessels constantly employed by the Liverpool Company in transporting the stones to their docks, and other vessels are often engaged in the same service. On one occasion, when the quay at this place was transferred from one proprietor's land to that of another, there were nineteen vessels constantly occupied for six months in the removal to the banks of the Mersey of the material that had accumulated at the abandoned wharf. About two miles east from these works, on the farm of Bagbie, on the estate of Kirkdale, belonging to Major Rainford Hannay, a quarry was opened in February 1864 by Messrs Forrest, Wise, & Templeton. The stone of this quarry is of first-class quality, and, like that at Kirkmabreck, can be worked without blasting. In connection with their works the firm have a commodious quay erected for the shipment of such portions of their prepared materials as are transported by sea, and between it and the quarry they have constructed a tramway. There is still another quarry in this neighbourhood deserving notice. It is situated near the apex of the hill at whose base are the Kirkmabreck quarries, and almost in a straight line from these works. It is within the farm of Fell, and hence called Fell Quarry. It is worked by the Scottish Granite Company. Messrs Newall have an extensive polishing establishment. The process of polishing is of recent introduction into Galloway, the first experiments in it having been made by the late Mr Andrew Newall a few years ago. By Messrs D. H. & J. Newall the art has been brought to a state of great perfection, and is extensively carried on by them with a constantly increasing business. From their quarries on Craignair the firm are supplied with part of their material for polished work’

The Industries of Scotland, their Rise, Progress and Present Condition
 - By David Bremner (1869)

“Our history makes us what we are. Our geology makes us what we are”
                                                                                             (Creetown Resident: April 2013)

Creetown is built on and from granite - its houses made from stone quarried from the surrounding hills. This granite, formed around 400 million years ago - was derived from the partial melting of rocks lower within the earth’s crust, where the heat and deformation caused by continental collision was most intense. A course grained igneous rock composed of quartz, feldspar and mica - the whiteness of Creetown granite is due to its high levels of quartz - which...

“sparkles in the sunlight”
                                    (Creetown Resident: March 2013)

Quarry men have said that the stone talked, that you had to wait and listen to the stone. On a still and quiet day you could hear the granite clicking as the plug and feathers were tapped the pressure on the stone gradually built up to splitting point.

With harder materials, such as granite, before the introduction of pneumatic drills stone was traditionally split manually, with quarry workers using the ‘plug and feather’ method. This involved boring lines of holes along the stone’s grain using iron rods. Iron plugs and wedges were then inserted into the holes and struck with a maul, in order to gradually split the stone apart.

The word "granite" comes from the Latin word "granum", a grain.

 “Creetown granite is hard to work” (Creetown Resident: March 2013)

‘......due to it’s tangled reed’...........’The ‘reed’ is the local word for the granite’s grain - and is equivalent to the grain in wood’
(In Context: Hideo Furuta and Adamson Square)

How did quarrying granite (‘one of the hardest materials on earth’) shape the character of the Creetown men who worked it? – How did this in turn, shape the lives and character of their children and their children’s children?

‘Stones have their natural tendencies, as well as mortal men.....’

‘The block of granite, which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong’
                                           Thomas Carlyle

‘The unforgiving nature of granite demanded of him very long hours, patience and the skill of a mason’..........Former Quarrymen... ‘recognised in him a straightforwardness, honesty and dedication..' (In Context: Hideo Furuta and Adamson Square)

“Creetown is not a pretentious place, people here have a strong work ethic – this is a working village” (Creetown Resident: April 2013)

Resin block with suspended spheres and black specks ('micas'?) made by Creetown resident Gemma in 2006
Hideo Furuta: Sphere on Adamson Square - keystone/locking stone
Creetown Granite at Liverpool Docks (1/4/13) - keystones/locking stones


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