Background Info

It is the only monument that Scottish Travellers have, indicating their timeline and presence in Scotland. Excluded by church and state these ancient people have visited the Heart to marry and christen babies for centuries. The site was still used for Tinkers’ weddings as late as 1978 and it seems that its importance as a place of beginnings is still understood today by couples who visit the Heart on their wedding day; as the beautiful photograph on page 19 of  the 2012 report from Cairndow’s Here We Are rural communities group shows:

http://tinyurl.com/q6nk63o

It is also a sacred place to remember the dead, evident by the coins and flowers that lie scattered at the Heart: some people still visit to pay respect and honour their ancestors.

In 1928 the nearby road was resurfaced by workmen from the local council, who covered the Heart. Both Tinkers and local landowners objected to this action and Lady George Campbell insisted that the tar be removed from the site. Not only was the Heart restored, this episode showed the importance of the Heart to both a distinct Scottish cultural group and to the local gentry. By protecting this site, Lady Campbell showed her appreciation of the diverse cultures within the Scotland of her time and her appreciation of the people farmers relied on as seasonal agricultural workers. She understood that the land and its entire people are intertwined: the land shapes the people as much as people shape the land.

The layout of the road was changed in the 1970s and the main road was realigned, leaving the heart in a field instead of at the junction of the roads. The RCHAMS record of the site clearly documents that it was the road that was moved to the east, whilst the Tinkers’ Heart remained in its original position:

http://tinyurl.com/ovzkk9z.

In 2008 Argyll & Bute council drew up plans for restoration work and money was allocated to the project. However, local residents considered that the £34,500 cost was too much and promised to take care of the area. They erected three posts and wire. This was damaged. There are now cattle feeding and tramping on the Heart, leading to its destruction: http://tinyurl.com/qf6qflv, thus prompting this petition for the restoration and listing of this historical place.

How long the Heart has been in Argyll is not known but stories of Caird men (Tinkers from the area) who fought and did not return from the Battle of Culloden of 1745, were remembered by their kinsfolk, in way of the ancient practice of laying a quartz stone for each one lost, culminating in the heart shape and its significance both to the area and the culture. The same understanding of the Tinkers’ Heart as a place of memory to honour those who travelled away to war and never came home is still extant in tales told of those who went to war in the 20th c and never came home again.

The Tinkers’ Heart is not a huge site in physical terms, but in terms of love, of memory and of sacred significance, it is a site of enormous proportions and cultural, historical and religious significance.

The Travelling people who have lived and contributed to Scottish culture for centuries have only this little place as proof of our existence.

In his famous book ‘Guy Mannering,’ Sir Walter Scott wrote fluently about them. In Poosie Nancy’s Tinkers’ Howf pub at Mauchline, Ayrshire, Burns recorded the many ballads he’d heard being sung by Scottish Travellers who were the keepers of those songs. Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn mentions the help he received from the ‘wee folk.’ The Duke of Atholl’s secretary mentions the brave ‘caird’ (tinkers) soldiers, in the black book of Taymouth. Their history intertwines with the soul of Scotland and has added to the strength of the people.

The demise of traditional Gypsies and Travellers in Scotland has long been predicted. It would be tragic if the nomadic history of these / my people who have helped to colour the culture of Scotland, should end in such a way without a tiny little spot being scheduled and listed as our place.

We only ask for our thumb print on the earth; our Tinkers’ Heart. We owe it to the sacrifices made by our ancestors.

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