From the Clan West Archive – Article originally published in the 1990s. This is part of a series of articles that were initially published by the now-inactive Clan Hannay Society West. Many thanks to Gigi Hanna, Convenor Emerita.
Note: Packard Harrington was the Clan Archaeologist in the 1990s and early 2000s. Any hyperlinks and images that may have been in the Clan West website version are now lost. Hyperlinks below were added (and references to lost images removed or substituted) when the archived version was reviewed and revised in August, 2020.
The archeologist who helped the Clan Hannay Society secure several thousand pounds to help conserve Sorbie Tower said he believes the site could date much further back than previously thought.
Packard Harrington, who has worked on ecclesiastic digs less than 10 miles away from Sorbie, said he thinks Sorbie could have been the site of a Bronze Age settlement. The Bronze Age stretched from 2000 to 1000 B.C.
He’s spent 12 years in Whithorn, Scotland’s earliest Christian site, where he found evidence amongst ruins dating to around 900 A.D. or earlier of Viking buildings.
“We haven’t found the evidence, but that continuum is not going to be inconsistent with what happened at Sorbie”, he said. “If there happened to be a Viking occupation there it wouldn’t surprise me”.
Harrington said a diary of a relative of the tower’s last occupant, Brigadier General John Stewart, mentions visiting Sorbie and unearthing cremation urns. The writer speculated that the urns could be third-century Roman, but Harrington is skeptical about the likelihood of a Roman cremation site outside the immediate frontier, at that time.
“It could be that those urns were not Roman at all, but Bronze Age”, he said. “Perhaps Sorbie was a Bronze Age cemetery”.
Good introductions to Dark Age Britain can be found in:
“Arthur’s Britain“, by Leslie Alcock
“Celtic Britain“, by Charles Thomas
“Picts, Gaels and Scots“, by Sally Foster
More detailed information on Dark Age Dumfries and Galloway are:
“Wild Men and Holy Places“, by Daphne Brooke
“Whithorn and Saint Ninian“, Peter Hill