IT BEGAN with a campaign to have a wee ring of white quartz stones scheduled as a national monument.

Now it is continuing with a cultural development demonstrating that travellers are part of the fabric of Scotland.

The seemingly insignificant heart of stones at the Hell’s Glen junction in Argyll has achieved a worldwide following as a result of its official status but the work of the campaign is continuing.

This can be seen in a new film about the travelling folk which is about to go on tour in Scotland. As well as sharing some of their own stories, the film highlights their place in the country and shows there is more to their culture than only ballads and legends.

People who took part in the unique production include David Pullar, great grandson of the late Betsy Whyte, author of traveller memoir Yellow On The Broom, and Patsy Whyte, author of No Easy Road, as well as her twin daughters Lucinda and Samantha.


SCOTTISH traveller Jess Smith, an author and researcher into the Travelling culture, which she says is Scotland’s oldest, was instrumental in both the campaign to have the Tinkers’ Heart near Loch Fyne recognised and the creation of the film.

The Tinkers’ Heart was the travelling people’s “church” for centuries and in times gone by it was the place where they took their vows of marriage, had babies christened and even had the dead blessed before being buried in the surrounding countryside. A reverend McCorkindale is recorded as having officiated in marriages at the Heart at the end of the 1800s but when the Old Dunoon road was realigned the site fell into the hands of a local landowner and became neglected.

Finding it in such a dreadful state, Smith began a campaign to have it cleaned up and protected. To give it lawful protection it needed to be scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland, the guardians of ancient sites, monuments and castles in Scotland, and a seven year campaign which even went to the Parliament Petitions Committee finally achieved success in 2015.

Visitors to Argyll now seek out the Heart to visit and make wishes and weddings have been performed there once again. There’s also a song dedicated to the stones.


RATHER than stopping there, the charity formed to campaign for national monument status decided to keep going in order to highlight the travelling people’s place in Scotland and correct the common misconception that they travelled and settled here in fairly recent times. A grant from Awards for All funded the film which will begin its tour in Oban today. Made by Smith and her husband, Dave, it contains humorous and poignant stories.

Pat Hutchison who lives in MacDuff and recently published a book on Doric Tales is featured in the film.

“Tinkers have been here a lang, lang time, they didnae come here in the 15th century as we are led to believe,” he points out. “We are part and parcel of this land.”

He recalls hearing his grandfather and father speak about earlier times.

“I didn’t get all that was being said but the story was about the time when my dad was born in Old Meldrum. The local folks burned their places. It was because they were biding in the green and folk were angry about that and that they were Travellers.

“I was a fair age by the time Grandad told me, so I said: ‘Hold a minute, why did you never tell me that?’.

“He looked at me and said: ‘Because I didn’t want you growing up with a chip on your shoulder’.”


ROBERT Knight tells the story of his gran and granddad who were up on the “Shooting Hill” in Deeside in the 1930s. They were on a back road at Balmoral in their horse and cart to meet one of the keepers to collect rabbit skins when they saw a big black car coming towards them.

“Of course ye canny reverse a horse and cart, so the car comes up and the man driving was not at all pleased,” says Knight. “He had to reverse until he found a space where the horse and cart could pass but as they come up tae the car the man come out and gave grandfather the height of abuse. Grandfather was an argumentative wee man and would chin you as soon as look at you but he didnae say anything. Granny looks at the man and says: ‘Whae dae ye think yer looking at, ye impudent wee snotter, I’ll deck yer chin!’.

Grandfather gee-d the horse and shot off. About 300 yards up the road he said: ‘Aw Jeannie, Jeannie, you’re going tae get me the jail, that gadgie was the King!’.”


SAMANTHA and Lucinda Donaldson point out that they are part of a culture that goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years, and should not be allowed to vanish.

“We are the people who preserved the stories of Scotland and their own culture,” they point out. “We are more than just stereotypes. When the barriers are broken down then people will realise we are just like them. We don’t want to disappear as a people.

“We want to continue to strive in the arts, music and never be ashamed of who we are. No one should be ashamed of his or her identity.”

While lamenting the loss of some of the travellers’ ways, Isabella MacGregor recognises the modern world has brought a few benefits.

“The best thing for weans is education” she says. “They need that to work. Years ago they just faced the fields. If they don’t have an education they are lost. My wee lass is convinced she’s going to visit planets. Weans are far more advanced than I was.”

A Sense Of Identity can be seen tonight at 7pm in Oban library.