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. Details of projects this award funded will be added below in the coming months.

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.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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