Bannockburn time capsule mystery…

22 Jan 2013

A time capsule discovered in the top section of the Bannockburn flagpole has prompted National Trust for Scotland’s conservation experts to look for more clues about its contents.

After years of rough treatment from the Scottish weather, the topmast of the 1870s flagpole at the Bannockburn site was declared unsafe to fly the flag. The section was removed in late 2012 for conservation work and to be replaced. 

The capsule consists of the remains of a rolled up edition of the Stirling Observer from 6 April 1937. Inside the newspaper conservation experts at the National Trust for Scotland discovered: a thimble; a metal token stamped with the number 72; a 1911 Falkirk coronation medal; a 1924 Farthing; a 1928 Half Crown; and fragments of a brown glass vessel.

The Stirling Observer article details the process of replacing the topmast in 1937 after a “November storm”, and lists many but not all of the items to be included in the time capsule - adding further to the mystery surrounding them. 

National Trust for Scotland Curator Alastair Smith, who was first to examine the find, said: 
“Time capsules usually celebrate a moment in time, sent forwards to help people in the future understand the past. The 1937 Bannockburn capsule commemorates the coronation year, although many of the objects may have been added on the spur of the moment as the flagpole was being assembled. The glass bottle might even have been smashed in the same way as ships have been launched for centuries.”

David McAllister, Project Director, National Trust for Scotland said:
“This unexpected find has been very exciting for the Battle of Bannockburn project team. We would be interested to hear from those who would like to offer their own opinion of the meaning and significance of these finds.

We think that the items depicting George V including the coins and thimble were intended to refer to the royal significance of the Bannockburn site. However, there are some pieces, such as the numbered token and glass bottle - that remain a bit of mystery. If anyone can shed any light on their meaning, we’d be delighted to hear from you.”

The Bannockburn flagpole was erected on 25 June 25 1870, but the topmast had to be replaced in 1937 after a winter storm caused major damage. Specialist riggers from the Grangemouth dockyards applied a new electrically welded steel topmast and a stainless steel battleaxe was also added as a symbol of Bruce and acting as a weathervane. Now conservators have discovered that they added a little something extra while doing the repair. 

The project is looking to the public for ideas on the meaning of the time capsule finds, any which can be sent through to the following address: mybannockburn@nts.org.uk 

The recovered topmast has just been replaced by a new stainless steel version with factory applied machine grade coating to provide a long-life and reduced maintenance solution. A new stainless steel weather vane has also been created as a direct replica of the 1937 style with Bruce’s battle axe as the design. This now reaches the same height of the previous flagstaff at 120 feet. 

After some final minor enhancements are made to the newly-repaired flagpole, it will be able to fly the saltire again once more with pride.

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