Blairgowrie Advertiser

Nick’s book builds on his life in stone

‘King of the Dykes’is hoping for Perthshire launch

- MELANIE BONN

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

 ??  ?? Enduring A typical drystane dyke with ‘cock and hen’ coping. This image appears in Nick Aitken’s book on the walling technique
Enduring A typical drystane dyke with ‘cock and hen’ coping. This image appears in Nick Aitken’s book on the walling technique
 ??  ?? Author Nick Aitken
Author Nick Aitken

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