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Historic Scotland's Principal Historian retires after 40 years

2 June 2010

Friends and colleagues bade a fond farewall to Chris Tabraham, Historic Scotland’s Principal Historian, who retired after 40 years.

He is pictured here with the camera which was presented to him on his first day of work.

Chris Tabraham with camera     

Chris had visited all of Historic Scotland’s 345 sites with the exception of the Eagle Rock, a Historic Scotland site near Cramond, so it was the most appropriate venue for 50 of his friends and colleagues to gather to wish him all the best for the future.

Chris became the youngest Inspector of Ancient Monuments in the UK at the age of 21 and was based at Argyle House, Lady Lawson Street in Edinburgh, when there were just five Inspectors to cover the whole of Scotland.  .  Chris rose through the ranks to become Historic Scotland’s Principal Historian.

A graduate in Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology from the University of Liverpool,  Chris hails from Cumbria, but now spends his time in North Berwick and Italy.  

He has written over 50 books including guidebooks on a range of subjects from the history of Scotland, Scottish battles and Scottish castles to archaeological digs.

He said: “One of my favourite memories was spending over five Summers directing excavations at Threave Castle, which was built by Archibald the Grim, the third Earl of Douglas, on an island in the middle of the river Dee. We discovered a range of fascinating items dating from the fourteenth century which had been discarded into a buried harbour.  

“I particularly remember a child’s leather shoe which had holes in and some porridge bowls made out of ash which had the logo of the Black Douglases, the ‘Bludy hart’, branded into the undersides.  It’s fascinating to think that even then, people were obsessed with logos!”

“It has been a privilege to have a job which has enabled me to travel all around Scotland and meet so many interesting people, such as the stonemasons who do the most fantastic job for preserving our heritage.”

Retirement is going to be anything but quiet for Chris. He is looking forward to three of his books being published over the Summer, including the 3rd edition of The Illustrated History of Scotland and Culloden 1746:  Fight for the Throne.  He already has plans for the next project – an investigation into the history and architecture of the 17th Century Ulster Scots.

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. For more information visit

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Jennifer Johnston Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media