The Geoffrey Barrow Award

The Barrow Award was established in 2014 while Jenny Wormald was chair. The intention was to create a large research grant, up to £2,500, which would last for four years, to support projects within the broad areas covered by the Conference of Scottish Medievalists. Elizabeth Ewan initially suggested that it be named in memory of Professor Geoffrey Barrow, which was warmly endorsed by the society. The award is now wound up

Geoffrey Barrow (28 November 1924 – 14 December 2013)

Geoffrey Wallis Barrow was born to Marjorie Stuart and Captain Charles Embleton Barrow, later adding Steuart to his name. He attained a degree in history at the University of St Andrews, although this was interrupted by service in WWII. While undertaking a BLitt at the University of Oxford he met fellow historian Archie Duncan, and in 1958 they were among the fifteen founding members of the Scottish Medievalists. Barrow held appointments at University College, London, King’s College, University of Durham, the University of St Andrews, and the University of Edinburgh before retiring in 1992. He applied an exceptional understanding of documentary sources, as well as linguistics and geography, to medieval Scotland, generating works which remain foundational for scholars of the subject. These include Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm (1965), The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History (1980), and his editions of Regesta Regum Scottorum (1960, 1971). Barrow’s work placed medieval Scotland, with its melting pot of cultures, within a wider European context. He married Heather Lownie in 1951.


Hector MacQueen, ‘Geoffrey Wallis Steuart Barrow, 1924–2013: a memoir’, The Innes Review 65:1 (2014), pp. 1-12; Dauvit Broun, ‘Barrow, Geoffrey Wallis Steuart (1924–2013)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2017); David Torrance, ‘Professor Geoffrey BarrowThe Herald (2013).

Morvern French, May 2022



Cynthia Neville (Dalhousie): ‘The Lives of the Leges Marchiarum’

British historians have long been familiar with the treatise known as the Leges Marchiarum (hereafter LM), the earliest extant version of which dates to the middle years of the thirteenth century. In 1249, at a meeting of twelve recognitors from each of the realms, the Scottish king secured from his English counterpart recognition of the provisions set out in the treatise as a fundamental statement of the laws and customs that had long obtained in the border region. The LM treatise went on to enjoy a long and storied life among Scottish jurists, becoming part of the ‘good Auld Law’ tradition that underpinned such legal compilations as the Leges Scocie attributed to King David I, and the lawbooks of Kings William and Alexander II. Like these other works, LM was copied many times over, carefully bound together with other treatises into manuscripts intended for circulation among practising lawyers and, again like these other works, occasionally updated, annotated and glossed. Eventually LM was translated into vernacular Scots; there are extant three such manuscripts

Despite the enduring importance of the LM treatise to the history of Anglo-Sottish border law and to the broader topic of Scottish legal writing, the twenty-three extant manuscript witnesses of LM have never been the subject of collective modern study. The grant that I received from the Barrow Award funds has enabled me to purchase high resolution digital photographs of the treatise from several UK archival sources. The paper that I presented in the January 2021 meeting presented some of the fruit of the research I have completed to date. My project has as its aim a book-length manuscript that will consist of a critical edition of all the extant manuscripts of the LM treatise and a lengthy introductory text. The research aims, among other things, to identify the manuscript traditions of LM and thus to shed light on why the authority of this mid-thirteenth century was so enduring; second, to examine the contexts under which the Latin of the original LM was eventually translated into vernacular Scots; and, perhaps most important, to explore the circumstances under which, in the early fifteenth century, the LM treatise became closely associated with the most famous of all Scottish lawbooks, Regiam Majestatem.

Margaret Connolly and Rachel Hart (St Andrews): ‘Identifying Early Scottish Notaries Database: Progress in a year of Covid’

We are very grateful to have been granted an award from the Geoffrey Barrow fund in support of our project Identifying Early Scottish Notaries: Pilot Project (St Andrews). Our ultimate ambition is to create a freely accessible online searchable database of medieval and early-modern Scottish notaries. This will contain images of their notarial marks and samples of the documents they wrote, accompanied by biographical profiles and maps showing the geographical range of their operations. The application to the Barrow Fund was for a small amount of seed-corn funding to help get this project off the ground, and to develop a prototype for the database that would demonstrate the academic potential of the project.

Delays in the actual transfer of funds meant that a cheque was finally received on 18 March 2020, unfortunately coinciding with the first Covid lockdown. The funding requested was largely to cover the costs of providing digital images from 150 medieval documents, although this stage of the project proved impossible to carry out until lockdown restrictions are lifted. However, in late December 2019 we identified an opportunity to explore some of the design requirements of the project prospectively and without cost. We volunteered our project to the University’s School of Computer Science as one that could be worked on by MSc students taking the module CS5042: User-Centred Interaction Design. The goal of this module is to train students in user experience and design methodologies. They are expected to investigate the needs of the users of their clients’ applications and to generate ideas, mock-ups and prototypes. During the second semester of 2019-20 we were able to work with a dedicated small group of Computer Science students to map out a prospective interface for the project. This work was not disrupted by the pandemic, since Computer Science students are very comfortable working online! The students offered several design ideas which, through conversations and further investigations with us, were whittled down to two final prototypes. These are not fully functional, but they showcase elements that we will be able to take further with a proper designer. Being able to pass on these materials to a designer will ensure that the amount of funding allocated to the design element will stretch much further, since we will not be starting from a blank page.

In summary we are pleased with what we have been able to achieve during an exceptional period when many researchers who work with original materials have not been able to progress their research at all. We are confident that once life returns to normal we will be able to make substantial progress towards completing the prototype and look forward to being able to demonstrate this at a future meeting of the Scottish Medievalists, hopefully in person!


Martin MacGregor (University of Glasgow), ‘The skull of Robert Bruce’

Sincere thanks to the trustees of the Scottish Medievalists for the grant of a Geoffrey Barrow Award in 2019–20. The award was used as a contribution towards the costs of making a 3D model of the craniofacial depiction, published in December 2016, of the individual whose tomb was discovered within the ruins of Dunfermline Abbey in February 1818, and officially excavated on 5 November 1819.

The model has been completed and images were shown at the conference. Thanks are due to the colleagues responsible for its creation: principally to Dr Mark Roughley, FaceLab, Liverpool John Moores University; also to Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Director of Facelab, Dr Ralph Moffat, Curator of European Arms and Armour, Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow, and Professor Darren Monckton, Institute of Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology, University of Glasgow. The model is to become part of the collection of the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. It will join the Hunterian’s small cohort of artefacts claimed to relate to the Dunfermline tomb investigations of 1818–19: the cast of the skull of the tomb’s incumbent upon which the craniofacial depiction and 3D model are based, a fragment of metatarsal bone, coffin fragments, gravecloth fragments and tomb fragments. These are the subject of a permanent virtual exhibition (, but it is hoped to mark the accession of the 3D model to the Hunterian with a bespoke event and new display.

Thus far, the project of which the 3D model is a part has resulted in four articles:

  • 1.     Martin MacGregor, ‘In Search of Robert Bruce’, History Teaching Review Year Book 2018: The Yearbook of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History, 10–31
  • 2.     Caroline M. Wilkinson, Mark Roughley, Ralph D. Moffat, Darren G. Monckton, Martin MacGregor, ‘In search of Robert Bruce, part I: Craniofacial analysis of the skull excavated at Dunfermline in 1819’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 24 (2019), 556–64
  • 3.     Martin MacGregor and Caroline Wilkinson, ‘In Search of Robert Bruce, Part II: Reassessing the Dunfermline Tomb Investigations of 1818–19’, Scottish Historical Review 98 (2019), 159–82
  • 4.     Martin MacGregor and Caroline Wilkinson, ‘In search of Robert Bruce, part III: medieval royal burial at Dunfermline and the tomb investigations of 1818–19’,Innes Review 70 (2019), 171–201

The first of these includes discussion of the possibility that Bruce’s military strategy from 1307 onwards was influenced by Gaelic warfare. The third revisits the debate on whether Bruce had leprosy, concluding that this was probably the case. The fourth argues that Bruce was part of a burial cluster within Dunfermline Abbey along with Alexander III and Elizabeth de Burgh, and that when dedicated in 1150 the abbey was still largely congruent with Queen Margaret’s church which it replaced, only attaining cruciform status by 1180 and Margaret’s first translation. Articles 2–4 conclude that there is a strong probability that the incumbent of the tomb discovered and investigated in 1818–19 was Robert Bruce.

Jack McLachlan (University of Maine/St Andrews), ‘Mapping Fife’s Medieval Waterscape’

The post-glacial surficial geology of Fife is such that the landscape was at one time replete with large and small lochs, mosses, mires, and other wetlands. Today, Fife has one of the most modified landscapes in all of Scotland. Many large water bodies that were present in medieval times have since been drained and converted to agricultural land or lost to open cast mining. Fife’s place-names reflect its history of lost waters. Words like ‘loch’, ‘bog’, ‘mire’, ‘moss’, and ‘water’ are common in place-names, even when no such feature is extant nearby. During the ‘Improvement’ period (c. 1700–1900), as much as 94% of Scotland’s lochs were drained or lowered almost exclusively for agriculture (Stratigos, 2016). Dr Michael Stratigos found 14 lochs that appeared on Roy’s military map of Fife (1747) that had been drained completely by the time of the first Ordnance Survey (1854). Roy’s survey also mapped areas of moss and other wetlands that were very likely previously lochs and lochans. Sibbald in his history of Fife (1710) said that the landscape was full of lakes and pools, mosses and marshes, and that a great many had already been ‘improved’ to arable land.

The Barrow Award from The Scottish Medievalists paid for a subscription to the National Library of Scotland’s Historic Maps API (application programming interface) which allows users to download early Ordnance Survey maps for use in a GIS (geographic information system). I am using these map layers to plot the putative locations and extent of the water bodies that would have been prominent and important features of medieval Fife and Kinross, and how they have been reduced in area through time. To date, I have found 135 lochs and smaller bodies of standing water on pre-OS maps that are now lost or mostly drained. While the work is still ongoing, I have focused my efforts on the waterbodies for which good DEM (digital elevation model) data exist. This has allowed me to recreate the historic shorelines for several now drained lochs.

Being able to visualise how Fife’s landscape looked before improvement efforts began will help us understand medieval land use. Fife was clearly much wetter than it is now, and the now lost lochs, ponds, mosses, and mires will have had an influence on place-names, road layouts, travel times, land values and rents, estate and parish boundaries, and the general ecology of the area.


  • Sibbald, R. (1710), The History, Ancient and Modern, of the Sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross. 1803 Edition. Tullis, London. 468pp.
  • Stratigos, M. (2016), ‘The lost lochs of Scotland: Tracking land-use change and its effects on the archaeological record’, Journal of Wetland Archaeology 16, 33–51

Adrián Maldonado (NMS) & Alex Sanmark (University of the Highlands and Islands), ‘Monumental literacy and the making of Scotland, AD 400–1200’

The project ‘Monumental literacy and the making of Scotland, AD 400–1200’ was part funded by an award from The Scottish Medievalists in January 2019. The additional funds needed were secured by a grant from the Society of Antiquaries, and the project work has thus been successfully carried out in the course of 2019.

The aim of this pilot project was to trace the establishment of writing as a technology of power in early medieval Britain through 3D laser scanning of monumental inscriptions in stone. The team appointed for the work consisted of Dr Laila Kitzler Åhfeldt (Swedish National Heritage Board) and Henrik Zedig (Länsstyrelsen Västra Götaland, Sweden), who have developed new 3D laser scanning techniques to discern specific tools used for runic carving, and even different sculptors according to minute details in their styles of carving. The focus was placed on inscriptions using runes, ogham and Pictish symbols. In order to break the barriers between these three different fields of study, the two sites where all three writing systems were used were selected for study, i.e. the Brough of Birsay in Orkney and Cunningsburgh in Shetland. Due to the fragmentary nature of these inscriptions, they are difficult to read, interpret and date, and it has not been clear whether these forms of writing were used concurrently or subsequently in Orkney and Shetland.

The team visited Scotland in October 2019 and successfully scanned all 12 stones included in the original application, plus other stones for comparison from NMS, Shetland Museum and Orkney Museum, for a total of 38 new models.  

This is the first time that this laser scanning technique has been applied to Pictish or ogham inscriptions, or indeed any runic inscriptions outside of Scandinavia. Interim reporting began with initial wide press coverage, for example by the BBC and The Scotsman, although very few outlets (e.g., the Scottish Field) actually mentioned the sponsors. An overview of this work was included in Maldonado, A (2021), Crucible of Nations: Scotland from Viking Age to Medieval Kingdom (National Museums Scotland)

We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of time and access to material by Historic Environment Scotland, Orkney Museum and Shetland Museum.


Alice Taylor (King’s College London) ‘Identifying Governmental Forms in Europe, 1100–1300’

Lucinda Dean (University of the Highlands and Islands) ‘The Perth Charterhouse Project: Initial Explorations’

The generous Geoffrey Barrow grant provided for research trips from Centre for History, University of the Highlands and Islands, Dornoch, to the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh, to undertake transcriptions and initial investigative research related to the Carthusian Charterhouse, Perth, in the records of the King James VI Hospital, Perth (held at NRS, GD79). The research provided information about physical positioning of the Charterhouse, demolished during and after the Reformation, and begin initial enquiries into its landholdings (both urban and rural), as well as relations between the burgh and the religious foundation, building on articles written by W. M. Beckett in 1988 and James Hogg in 2001. This research has facilitated subsequent work within this collection and collections pertaining to the Charterhouse in the Perth and Kinross archive at the AK Bell library (where a range of corresponding materials survive).

This research was undertaken as part of a wider collaborative interdisciplinary project with Prof. Richard Oram, University of Stirling, and local collaborators, such as Culture Perth and Kinross (CPK). The project centres on analysing the Carthusian priory’s multi-faceted role in Perth’s development during the late medieval period and supporting CPK’s aims of a deeper  understanding of, and widened access to, their collections. The progress of the project has been impacted significantly by the pandemic, due to the public facing nature of much of the work that the project seeks to facilitate. However, we held a public day conference and accompanying archival exhibition that focused on the collections at the Perth and Kinross archive (postponed from May 2020) in May 2022 at the AK Bell Library in Perth (and online). The paper utilizing the Barrow Award research and subsequent work that I presented (Connections and Memories: Domus Vallis Virtutis and the Burgh of Perth) is being revised for publication in a special issue of the Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal (2025) on the Carthusians in Scotland and wider British Isles, and we have a follow up event in June 2023.


Giovanna Guidicini (Glasgow School of Art): ‘Iconography of Stirling Castle façade’

This project began as an iconographical investigation of the decorative apparatus of the façades of James V’s palace in Stirling Castle. I had a contract for publishing the resulting essay as part of a book titled Games and Game Playing in Art and Literature in the16th and 17th centuries with the Medieval Institute Publications (MIP). Some aspects of this research were presented at the Renaissance Society of America Conference in Boston in March 2016 – receiving excellent feedback and raising much interest – hence the inclusion in this upcoming publication. This project was meant to help reach a better understanding of the iconography of one of the most famous Scottish castles, framing it within the culture and context of its times, and particularly within the iconography of Trionfi intended as both triumphal entries and ceremonies, and as educational past-times using decorated playing cards. My research suggests that playing cards and other educational past-times were a vehicle for the transmission of classical iconography throughout Europe in the sixteenth century, connecting Italy, Germany, France, the Low Countries, and Scotland. This comparison needed a good amount of images and pictures to provide visual evidence. I asked for support to help towards publication costs of five images from the SCRAN images repository; a preliminary quote for five images, half-page size is of about £40 per image. In carrying on the research, I realised that I needed more pictures than I had initially thought to make the comparison strong enough, and understandable to readers not familiar with Scottish architecture. This was particularly following the reviewer’s feedback, who pointed out the need to clarify some assumptions and connections he had found too speculative. Also I ended up using a more varied selection of playing cards from different decks than I had initially chosen for my comparisons. This meant some changes in the number and kind of pictures the award will be used for. I had initially decided to go for ‘proper’, good quality pictures from the SCRAN repository. However, the (updated) publication range of the book – which will also be available as an e-book – means the copyright fees are much more expensive than planned. I had to change plans – borrowed a good camera from the photography department and went in person to take as many pictures as possible, although at least one picture at roof level will still have to be purchased. I am also liaising with the museums holding the originals of the additional playing cards I need to include in the publication. It was worth it waiting for it before proceeding with the pictures acquisition, but now I am making the final moves regarding personal acquisition or copyright clearance of a final selection of images; I will be able to claim the award before the end of the year (2017).

he research supported by this Barrow Award, was published as Giovanna Guidicini, ‘Ordering the World: Games in the Architectural Iconography of Stirling Castle, Scotland’ in Games and Game Playing in European Art and Literature, 16th-17th Centuries, edited by Robin O’Bryan (Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam, 2019), pp.221-248.

Catherine McMillan: ‘“Zeal and charity”: Scottish charitable giving in support of Geneva and the common cause of Protestantism’

The Geoffrey Barrow Award has supported my project Zeal and Charity: Scotland, England, and the Common Cause of Protestantism. The initial focus of the project was the fundraising scheme initiated by James VI/I in the autumn of 1603 that sought voluntary financial donations from the people of Scotland for the assistance of the beleaguered city of Geneva. With the funding provided by the Barrow Award, I was able to visit the National Archives at Kew and consult manuscript correspondence between the political and theological leaders of Geneva, England, and Great Britain from 1590 to 1605.

With this correspondence, I have been able to place the Scottish collection for Geneva in its broader context and view it in its ‘British’ dimension. As Calvinist Geneva faced a renewed threat of takeover from the Catholic house of Savoy from the 1580s, its leaders petitioned other states, Protestant and Catholic alike, for military and monetary assistance. In their requests to states aligned with or sympathetic to Reformed Protestantism, they appealed to their mutual affinity as members of the ‘true’ Church of God and their obligation to protect and defend each other from God’s enemies. This language is prominent in the consulted correspondence. For example, in their letter of January 1603 to Robert Cecil, Secretary of State of England, the Genevan magistrates refer to ‘the bond and union of religion that is between us,’ their shared ‘zeal and affection,’ and their commitment to the ‘good and prosperity of the Church of God.’ In an accompanying letter, Theodore Beza and Anthony de la Faye wrote to Queen Elizabeth of Satan’s sustained attacks against Geneva and the piety of those who take action against those who oppose God. These sentiments were echoed by King James, the English Archbishops, and the Scottish ministers in their requests to the people for voluntary contributions in aid of Geneva. While these expressions may simply be conventions of diplomatic communication and while further research is necessary, the similarity in language across the Genevan, English, and Scottish sources may support the argument that there was a significant degree of spiritual understanding and unity – or at least considerable commonality – between the three states.

The manuscripts that I consulted at the National Archives yielded far more evidence and insight than I had anticipated. Their richness encouraged me to explore beyond the 1603 Scottish collection and I have since expanded the scope and publishing aims of the project. It now encompasses Scottish and English charitable giving in support of foreign causes of religion from 1560 to 1712. The broader significance of this larger project, however, is much the same as the initial intention. The primary objectives are to further the understanding of Scottish, English, and British religious and political identity, the kingdoms’ spiritual and practical relationships with other Protestant communities, and their political positions within early modern Europe. It also examines the procedures of national and local collections and individual giving, providing further information about the formation, membership, and functioning of international religious, social, diplomatic, and financial networks; the role of the state in religious matters; and the roles of clergy and lay church officers in international activities. This subject has the potential to shed considerable light on the worldview of early modern Scots, English, and Reformed Protestants in Continental Europe as well as Scotland’s and England’s engagement with Europe. Yet, despite the abundance of material, it has been largely neglected by scholarship. The Geoffrey Barrow Award, therefore, has provided me the opportunity to discover and pursue a new and expansive avenue of research.

Cynthia Neville (Dalhousie University):‘Wrongdoing and remission: canonical influences on royal pardon in later medieval Scotland’

Funding was requested in support of travel to Scottish archives in Edinburgh (esp. the National Library of Scotland) planned for the Summer of 2017, to undertake ongoing research on the subject of canonical influences on royal pardon and secular lawmaking in later medieval Scotland. This research project had its origins in a keynote speech that I was invited to deliver at the tri-annual Celtic Studies Conference at the University of Sydney, in the autumn of 2016. Preliminary research for that paper raised a series of intriguing and little-studied questions about the relationship between the high medieval Scottish crown and its clerical advisors in the specific context of lawmaking. Recent research (including my own) has revealed that in the thirteenth century the rulers of Scotland and their advisors developed a sophisticated theory of kingship that enabled them to express concepts of European-style sovereignty in novel ways. A new understanding of the relationship between the king and his duty to legislate found its most enduring expression in a marked growth of secular lawmaking, but also in the elaboration of novel ideas about princely justice and princely mercy. While scholars have long known that the legal materials that survive from high medieval Scotland owe much to late twelfth-century English common law, as well as to (Roman) civilian traditions, few have ventured to examine closely the extent to which the ideas of the reforming church of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries represent an equally significant influence on the shaping of kingship and its manifestations in this same period. The church offered the kings of Scots new models to emulate in the construction of royal authority, in formulating new assizes, in imposing punishment on offenders, and in reconciling such offenders with the crown and the body politic. More important, the rapid maturation of canon law in the late twelfth and the thirteenth centuries provided the king of Scots and his advisors (an increasing number of whom were university men) new theoretical, juridical and linguistic tools with which to express and enforce royal authority in the kingdom. The research that I completed in 2017 has demonstrated that in the thirteenth century the king and the reformed church of the day were indeed in close touch with each other in the project of governing the realm: extant legal sources reveal clear parallels between the language of wrongdoing in the contexts of both secular crime and spiritual sin; between acts of remission by which the king was reconciled with offenders and God with penitent sinners; and, more unusually, between the conditional nature of a royal pardon at Scots common law and the Christian concept of penance.

Funding from the Geoffrey Barrow Award and the Anderson-Dunlop Trust made it possible for me to travel from Halifax, NS to Edinburgh in July 2017. Here, my research focused on early manuscript texts of royal legislation (notably, NLS, Acc. 21246 [the Bute MS]; Adv. MS 25.4.13; Adv. MS 25.4.10; Adv. MS 25.5.10; NLS, Acc. 16497 and Adv. MS 25.5.6). Moreover, I took advantage of my presence in the UK to travel to London, where I was invited to present my research at the biannual British Legal History Conference (held at University College, London). While in London, I set aside several days to consult a handful of relevant Scottish legal manuscripts currently housed in the British Library (notably MS Add. 18111).

The outcome of this research funding is a 15,000-word article entitled ‘“No Remission without Satisfaction”: Canonical Influences on Secular Lawmaking in High Medieval Scotland’, which has been solicited for a collection of essays entitled Memory and Foresight in the Celtic World, edited by Jonathan Wooding and Lorna Barrow and is scheduled for publication in 2018. I have clearly acknowledged in the essay my indebtedness to the Scottish Medievalists. Moreover, my research into the influence of canon law on secular lawmaking in medieval Scotland is by no means completed: the source materials that I consulted and collected in 2017 will allow me to pursue this topic for some time yet.

Claire Hawes (University of Aberdeen):‘Privilege and privacy: corporate politics in Renaissance Scotland, 1469–1542’


Michael Penman (University of Stirling): ‘Dunfermline project’

This pilot project began with the idea of using ground probing radar scans to identify any of the medieval remains of Dunfermline Abbey’s choir, overbuilt by the Church of Scotland Abbey Church c.1818–21. Indeed, the focus of the pilot was to be portions of the east end of the choir, including the possible locations of the several royal burials at the Abbey, for which extant record and material evidence remains highly ambivalent and fragmentary.

On 13–14 June 2016, a two-stage scan was undertaken by Mrs Erica Utsi of EMC Radar Consulting and Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage, assisted by project PI Dr Michael Penman and post-graduate/post-doctoral students of the University of Stirling, and the beadles of the Abbey Church. These scans focussed on i. the north-east corner of the interior northern aisle and porch/gift shop of the Abbey Church and ii. the vestry at the far east end of the Abbey Church. The few extant working plans of the Abbey Church’s builder-architect, William Burn (1789–90), indicate a depth of c.7’-8’ between the current Abbey Church floor and the overbuilt medieval surface. This allowed two targeted scans of each area to be made, first at 250MHz, then at 400MHz, at intervals of 25cm (half the industry standard of 50cm).

These scans achieved very interesting, if mixed, potentially problematic results, detailed in a 35-page interpretive report by Mrs Utsi completed by September 2016. This reported that, overall, this GPR method of varied frequencies can be used to identify potential burials at the medieval depth [figs below], but there remain significant difficulties due to frequency disruption caused by uncertain infill materials and voids, and (in the choir area) poured pitch c.1.5’ below the Abbey Church floor. That being the case, the project PI has made the decision to seek funding for a second stage pilot scan to expand the field of results and secure comparative data from: i. the north-east exterior corner of the Abbey Church over the medieval Lady Chapel, thus an area clear of Burn’s structure; ii. the interior area immediately adjacent to the current Bruce commemorative brass plaque in search of other large-scale graves. As of December, £7,400 in funding has been secured for the secondary stage from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for work in Spring 2017: the data from these scans will be combined with the stage 1 pilot in the projected project open-access journal articles.

2024 post-script:

Two further GPR scans were undertaken at Dunfermline in 2019 and 2022 with the results including:

  • Further evidence for large-scale elite burials focussed in the north aisle/Lady Chapel area of the choir.
  • Further evidence for the scale, form and possible liturgical use of the choir’s high altar settings and that the 1818 ‘Bruce grave’ may be a post-Reformation rescue burial and intrusion.
  • A possible matching southern transept chapel, dedicated to St John the Baptist, otherwise omitted from many modern plans of the Abbey choir.

The GPR data reports for these scans and an open-access interpretive report – M. Penman and E.C. Utsi, In Search of the Royal Mausoleum at the Benedictine Abbey of Dunfermline, Fife: Medieval Liturgy, Antiquarianism and a Ground-Penetrating Radar Pilot Survey, 2016-19 (164pp., 2020) are available for download at the project website , or via Historic Environment Scotland’s CANMORE database at Records from Dunfermline Abbey Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Project, 2016-2019 | Canmore. An expanded second edition of 200pp will shortly be available.

Katy Jack (University of Stirling): ‘The earldom of Mar’

The financial aid received from the Barrow Award was used to complete the final chapter of my thesis. The chapter in question initially set out to explore the development of the earldom of Mar after its escheatment to the crown in 1435, providing an in-depth assessment of the families vying for recognition to succeed to Mar and the impact that the failure of a kindred may have had on the stability of local politics. The chapter also hoped to assess crown distribution of earldom lands (if such a distribution took place) which followed James I’s acquisition of the earldom. Such an assessment would enable us to develop a keener appreciation for the manner in which land was distributed within Mar, considerably enhancing our understanding of the agendas of territorial aggrandizement pursued by various noble families at the time, such as the Lindsay earls of Crawford, the Forbeses and the Gordons. However, as a result of the generous contribution received from the Barrow Award, I was able to extend the scope of this chapter, which now includes a broad overview of the decline and fall of the earldom of Mar from c.1281–1513.

The funding received from the award was used to travel to and from Edinburgh to visit both the General Register House and the National Library of Scotland, as outlined in the financial plan attached to the original application. The application outlined that the funding would be used to conduct thirty-nine trips to both sites in order to consult the papers of the noble families who are known to have held land within, and surrounding, the earldom. Consultation of these private papers was integral to the completion of this chapter. The papers not only enabled an assessment of comital administration of Mar (or lack thereof) during the period under scrutiny, but also provided a clear picture of the internal familial hierarchy in Mar, and the role that these families played in periods of crisis within the earldom.

Furthermore, I was able to determine that the traditional interpretation of Stewart involvement in Mar is open to question. Evidence highlights that crown acquisition of the earldom of Mar in 1435 was not simply a consequence of the acquisitive nature of James I, but may have been the final realization of a Stewart policy of territorial consolidation in the north-east of Scotland that had been in play since at least 1315. A lack of evidence pertaining to crown distribution of lands within the earldom during James I’s brief possession of Mar also suggests that far from damaging the integrity of the earldom by introducing new (loyal) men into key territories, James possessed an appreciation of Mar’s internal power structure, and sought to preserve it in the wake of Stewart’s death in 1435.

Edda Frankot (University of Aberdeen):‘The Scottish translations of the Laws of Oleron’

The objective of this project was to produce a critical edition of the Scottish translations of the Laws of Oleron (Rôles d’Oléron). This edition, with an introduction and a commentary on the contents of the articles, was published in the eighth Miscellany of the Stair Society in 2020 (‘The Scottish Translations of the Rôles d’Oléron’, in: Mark Godfrey, ed., Miscellany VIII (Edinburgh: Stair Society, 2020), 13-56), and the Barrow award was a great help in gathering the material needed for a comparison of extant texts.

The Laws of Oleron are considered to be the oldest north-western European sea law. They were compiled in French in the late thirteenth century to regulate the wine trade between the French Atlantic coast and Flanders, England and Scotland and were translated into Scots in the fourteenth century (as well as into Flemish/Dutch, though never into English during the middle ages). They appear to have been in common use in Scotland in the middle ages, as all known copies of the text can be found in collections of the main Scottish laws.

The Rolls take a special place among the medieval Scottish laws as being not only one of the earliest legal texts to be translated into Scots, but also perhaps the first that was translated from another vernacular language instead of from Latin. However, even although editions of the original French text and of the Flemish/Dutch translations were published in the important maritime compilations edited by Pardessus and Twiss in the nineteenth century, and more recently by others, the Scottish texts had yet to receive the same attention. In addition to filling this gap, the edition identies any differences between the three versions of the Scottish text and the various copies of these versions, and between the Scottish and the original French texts.

Since the publication of my book in 2012 (on maritime law and its practice in urban northern Europe), in which I discussed  nine manuscript copies of the texts, I had been made aware of another nine copies through publications by J.D. Ford and Gero Dolezalek. The funding received from the Geoffrey Barrow award went towards acquiring photocopies/scans of eight of these (the ninth having been identified as a more or less exact copy of another) and as such allowed for a more thorough comparison of the extant texts. It turned out that three of the other eight copies were either modernised versions or copies of an English translation, and as such not of direct use for the critical edition. The other five texts, all from the sixteenth century, corresponded with one or two of the three different versions of the Laws already identified in my book. The additional copies confirmed that the majority of manuscript included a double copy of the laws, with version 2 normally followed by version 3. Noteworthy is the inclusion of the word ‘Oleron’ in three of the copies: these are the only three that mention that name, though the spelling of these references (‘Alrom’, ‘Ulroun’ and especially ‘Admirall’) begs the question whether the scribes and the users of these texts would have understood what was meant. But it does suggest that an earlier version did include the name of Oléron.

Overall, the Barrow award ensured that a more complete comparison was made in the edition between extant texts of the Scottish translations of the Rôles d’Oléron.

William Hepburn (University of Aberdeen): ‘Medieval burgh registers’

I applied for a Geoffrey Barrow Award for three research trips to look at the fifteenth-century burgh registers of Ayr, Montrose and Newburgh (NRS, RH4/150/1, B51/10/1; SAUL Sp. Coll. B54/7/1). These were prioritised on the basis that there were no transcribed extracts available from the records of these towns whereas the other surviving fifteenth-century Scottish burgh registers have all been transcribed to varying degrees (I later realised that a transcribed and published short burgh account from Ayr was in fact from this volume: see SHR 31 (1952), 139–46). My aim was to look in these records for evidence about the clerks who produced them as part of a broader study of the emergence of burgh registers in Scotland. While direct references to the individuals who produced these records were difficult to come by, there was some revealing evidence about writers in the town more generally. For instance, one entry from 1456 in the Montrose Court Book stipulates that the writer responsible for making records in the Tolbooth for the burgh authorities was not allowed to go away without leave, under pain of a fine, highlighting the importance of the services of writers in the town. However, since applying for the Barrow Award, my research objectives have broadened to encompass literate culture in fifteenth-century Scottish towns. Identifying, where possible, those who wrote these records is an important part of this work but it moves beyond this to address all types of evidence provided by burgh registers for the creation and use of written records.

Taking this approach, an abundance of relevant evidence was found in the records of Ayr, Montrose and Newburgh. One notable example from 1480 was found in the Newburgh Burgh Court book. In the burgh registers of Aberdeen there are many records of cases of iniusta perturbacio or ‘wrangwis strublance’. Most of these cases give very little detail on the nature of the trouble caused. Similar cases from the Newburgh Burgh Court Book, however, reveal in detail the violent escalation of a feud between neighbours with Henry Chamer accused of entering John of Kinglassy’s house with a knife and the intention to kill, and Kinglassy purportedly approaching Chamer’s wife and son with an axe. This example also reveals the use of written records – including the court book itself – by both parties, who asked to have statements relating to the case recorded to support their legal case. Similarly, an agreement concerning mills in the Ayr Burgh Court Book makes frequent reference to written documents cited in making the agreement as well as writing, besides the entry in the court book itself, generated by the agreement, showing multiple ways in which written records were put to use in relation to just one piece of business.

Since applying for the Barrow Award I have started working as a Research Assistant on the Law in the Aberdeen Council Registers (LACR) at the University of Aberdeen, which focusses primarily on the volumes of the Aberdeen Council Registers covering the fifteenth century. This and my work on other burgh records have complemented each other and I am now working towards a research project looking at literate culture and the emergence of burgh registers in fifteenth-century Scotland.

Following on from this project I was awarded a visiting scholarship at the University of St Andrew’s Special Collections in order to carry out a more detailed study of the Newburgh Burgh Court Book. All this work has fed into my job as a Research Fellow on subsequent projects at Aberdeen, and I currently have an AHRC Catalyst proposal under consideration which is about 15th c Scottish records outside of Aberdeen, work I started with the Barrow award.

Miles Kerr-Peterson (University of Glasgow): ‘Marischal College, Dunnottar Castle and Thomas Cargill’

I was awarded funds for a five-day research trip to consult diverse materials held in Aberdeen University Library Special Collections. These sources were for various projects in development for a series of short publications and articles.

  • I consulted the old university collections for materials on the buildings of Marischal College, which will contribute towards an article on the post-Reformation redevelopment of the Aberdeen Greyfriars and the architecture of the Protestant universities of Scotland. The very extensive records of the college have allowed me to contrast works at Marischal to those contemporary schemes at Glasgow, but have also indicated a previously unknown phase of works in the 1600s, probably conducted by the Earl Marischal. A surprising find from this research is that Marischal College seems to have made efforts to hide and erase evidence of their relationship with the earls after their forfeiture in 1715 as Jacobites.
  • I consulted the extensive notes, unpublished papers and drawings of architectural historian W. Douglas Simpson for an intended article, ‘New Light on Dunnottar Castle’, which was to comprise a discussion of the early modern development of this iconic, but under-researched renaissance palace. Unfortunately I found very little material on Dunnottar, but found extensive unpublished notes on Ravenscraig and Inverugie Castles, other seats of the Keiths in Buchan. These findings prompted a later visit up to Peterhead where I made a survey of the privately owned ruins of Ravenscraig. Much more work needs to be done on the Keith castles.
  • I also consulted Thomas Cargill’s previously unknown translation of Justus Lipsius’ ‘Sixe Bookes of Politickes or Civill Doctrine’. Next to nothing survives of Cargill’s other works and this volume was thought to have been long lost. I consulted this to get a sense of its nature and extent and to formulate plans for a follow-up visit to transcribe extended sections of it. This will also allow me to compare it with the earlier English edition and to help me further formulate research strategies to explore this exciting discovery. Oddly, this translation, written in 1595 and dedicated to the Provost of Aberdeen, was written in English rather than Scots. I managed to transcribe the first book, although I am yet to explore its full significance.