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Aspiring archaeologists from across the globe have visited a protected historic wreck on Mull to learn about underwater heritage

18 August 2009

Historic Scotland has sponsored the underwater archaeology fieldschool in the Sound of Mull to encourage public interest in the recording and conservation of Scotland’s underwater heritage. This follows the introduction of the Marine (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament, a bill that includes mechanisms to improve protection and management of Scotland’s world-class marine heritage.

Philip Robertson, Historic Scotland’s Senior Inspector of Marine Archaeology, said: “Scotland has some incredible wreck sites that have fascinating stories to tell. The Swan, where we took the students to dive, was one of three ships lost in a Commonwealth flotilla that attacked Duart Castle (Mull) in 1653 in order to stamp out pockets of Royalist resistance to republican government in the aftermath of the English Civil War. Archaeological investigations of this very well preserved historic wreck over the last decade have helped to shed light on a little known aspect of Scottish maritime history.”

The fieldschool participants had travelled from across the UK, Europe and the USA and were among the first to see a new interpretation panel explaining the Swan’s significance, recently installed by staff from HS Conservation and Maintenance on a promontory overlooking the wreck site, in order to allow non-divers to understand and appreciate the wreck.

Philip’s visit to the fieldschool also coincided with his appointment as the first permanent Senior Inspector of Marine Archaeology at Historic Scotland.

Since joining the agency in 2005 Philip has advised on high profile projects including the sonar mapping of the wrecks of Scapa Flow and the proposed deconstruction of the City of Adelaide – Scotland’s only A-listed vessel, located on a slipway at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. Philip is now heavily involved in our contribution to the Marine (Scotland) Bill and in helping the sector (including Historic Scotland) to develop its strategy in this area by publication of Towards a Strategy for Scotland’s Marine Historic Environment.

Philip said: “For 10 years, my wife and I ran a diving school on the Sound of Mull but then decided it was time for a change so we moved to Edinburgh with our children. It was great to take the fieldschool students to the Swan as it is the site of one of my favorite diving experiences – photographing the excavation of the hold of the ship including fragments of heather used to protect the hull timbers from the ship’s stone ballast. The heather was wonderfully preserved even after 350 years under water.”

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.


  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations


For further information


Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873
lesley.brown@scotland.gsi.gov.uk