Nick’s book builds on his life in stone
‘King of the Dykes’is hoping for Perthshire launch
An expert in the art of drystane dyking – constructing stone walls without mortar – plans to return to Perthshire from the United States to see his book published.
‘King of the Dykes’ Nick Aitken, the son of a shepherd who worked in Glenshee and Glenisla, spent years building drystane dykes on Perthshire and further afield.
In 1995 he took up the post of ‘dyker in residence’ with a local authority in Scotland and spent the next 21 years working with a wide range of rock types and structures, from cairns to dykes, blackhouses and brochs.
Subsequently, he travelled around North America on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship studying stone structures.
Now retired and resident in Seattle, when restrictions allow, Nick plans to return to Perthshire to launch a major new book, the result of decades of research.
Encyclopedic and profusely illustrated, ‘Drystone: a gathering of terminology and technique’, will be published by Rymour Books later this year.
Nick’s handbook on his life’s work is expected to be launched in May.
Ian Spring, co-founder of Perthbased Rymour Books, said: “This book really is a monumental work of scholarship and research by Nick.
“I see it as having a wide general appeal. After all, who wouldn’t like to build a drystane dyke in their garden in their spare time?”
Drystane dykes are the result of billions of man hours of toil throughout the British Isles, mostly in a remarkably short period, from about 1700 to 1900.
Locally, there is some evidence that dykes were built by seasonal Irish workers.
Nick would welcome any information on this. One such dyke, the March Dyke, was built at the head of Glenbeanie in 1857 and contractors were sought in the press.
The craft of drystane dyking is still alive and increasingly seeing a revival as more sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives to using carbon-heavy cement are sought out.
Nick Aitken’s book will soon be available, priced £22, through www.rymour.co.uk and runs to nearly 400 pages in full colour with numerous illustrations.
Learning how to build in sandstone and basalt is possible by contacting the Central Scotland branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association at www. csdswa.org.uk/about