The rediscovery of a 17th century ‘posy’ ring

Seventeenth-century gold posy ring found at Cullen, Moray, acquired by University of Aberdeen Museums in 2012 with an NFA grant of £375 (ex gratia award £750).

The story of this ring begins with its rediscovery in the Moray area. It was reported to the Treasure Trove Unit which ensures that finds of cultural significance are allocated to museums for public benefit. Experts identified the ring as a mid-17th century ‘posy’ ring of a type usually given as a wedding ring.

Seventeenth-century gold posy ring from Cullen, Moray

Seventeenth-century gold posy ring from Cullen, Moray

Although wedding rings were used much earlier, it was in the 17th century that their design began to make them visually different from other rings with a simple yet elegant gold band being a clear sign that the wearer was married. The inside of the ‘posy’ ring is inscribed with the phrase ‘The Lord is my helper’, a pious biblical reference from the King James version, Hebrews 13:6. The ring itself has a plain surface with a fluted edge which together with the inscription demonstrate the work of a skilled maker. The unusual style of the italic inscription dates it to the mid-17th century.

The ring fits with the University of Aberdeen’s collecting remit for Scottish archaeology in the North-East of Scotland and policy of collecting medieval to modern material relating to the traditional culture of Northern Scotland. The ring’s religious and social context makes it an ideal candidate for displays on life in the north-east.

Neil Moir
MLitt in Museum Studies
School of Social Science
University of Aberdeen

A particularly sociable Sentinel

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200. Mike Ward wrote about the acquisition of the Sentinel in a post published on 19 March. Now he’s back with an update on what has been a busy summer for this popular vehicle as it took part in events to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

Of all historic vehicles, steamers are most often credited with ‘being alive’. There is something about steam … it is almost a natural, living source of power and if that’s true perhaps steam vehicles are the most likely to have personalities.

Fifteen years ago the NFA helped Grampian Transport Museum purchase V 3507, a 1914 Sentinel steam waggon (Sentinel’s spelling!) It turned out to be the sole surviving complete and working Glasgow-built example, new to Alexander Runcie, a Carrier from Inverurie close by the museum.

Copyright of Grampian Transport Museum

The Sentinel steam waggon out on the road

We coaxed the old steamer back into safe working condition and decided to treat it as a working exhibit. After some careful thought it was agreed that with safe mounting steps and temporary seating it could give passenger rides on special occasions. This was a great success from the outset, although some among us thought it a little irregular to give rides on the back of a lorry.

Imagine our surprise, therefore, to discover as our researches continued, photographs of V 3507 giving rides to large groups of school children during the First World War. This old steamer had done it all before and on a huge scale. During the war government took over the railways and all pleasure excursions were banned. This was particularly significant in the Aberdeen area as the town was a vitally important port and railhead for supporting the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. The Great North of Scotland Railway’s network was overloaded with traffic. As losses mounted on the Western Front, Sandy Runcie stepped in and began to organise outings for local children to lift the mood and boost failing morale. He did this throughout the war with picnic excursions to local beauty spots, even carrying up to 145 people to church on Sundays. After the war this unofficial home front war work was commented on in the press.

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

With the centenary of the start of the war on 3rd August 2014, V 3507 had its own commemoration. The waggon carried our local Minister and members of his congregation on a tour of the local war memorials where services of remembrance were held. All agreed that the old waggon was like a ‘living’ link to those dark days. It seemed like a natural thing for this particularly sociable Sentinel to do.


Mike Ward MBE
Grampian Transport Museum



Cool and Collected at Aberdeen Art Gallery

Bronze on marble sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, 1962-3, by Barbara Hepworth, painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, 2004, by Gavin Turk and hand blown glass, pink and blue neon artwork, For You, 2008, by Tracey Emin, acquired by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums in 1965, 2004 and 2009 with NFA grants of £1,200, £20,000, and £13,500 respectively.

Challenging, exciting, dramatic, witty, fun or serious and above all superb quality – these are the hallmarks of contemporary fine art collecting at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Ever since its inception in 1885, the acquisition of contemporary art has been its lifeblood. This first came about through the generosity of one our earliest benefactors, Alexander Macdonald, who left a fund to buy works of art which were not more than 25 years old.

Subsequent curators built on this foundation and now – a regional art gallery perched on the edge of north east Scotland – we hold an outstanding collection of modern 20th century and contemporary art, with recent focus on sculpture, installation, conceptual art and new media. The National Fund for Acquisitions has long supported curatorial decisions to expand the collections in fresh and dynamic ways.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.  Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.
Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

For some time now, the rather severe classical grandeur of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s Centre and Side Courts has provided the perfect foil to Post Modern works of art, for example, Gavin Turk’s bronze sleeping bag Habitat which appears both as a very realistic rumpled abode of a homeless person and an object of contemplation.  Another purchase, Tracey Emin’s pink and blue neon love heart sign For You possesses a vista from halfway up the street approaching the Art Gallery, drawing you in through the front door. The sign also reflects in the pool in front , created by Barbara Hepworth in the 1960s to hold her marvellous bronze piece Trezion.

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form - Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

The art of these two remarkable women works so well together proclaiming loudly to anyone walking in that this gallery is about great art – modern and contemporary.

Olga Ferguson
Curator (Fine Art)
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums