Not so long ago we visited Stirling Castle, Scotland UK., to see a special and short time-
limited exhibition of The Stirling Heads. There were thirty-seven newly carved oak roundels. The final one, it is said, was an extra head, and allowed craftsman’s license, in that the carver was allowed to use the face of his daughter. The details on the dress, the epaulettes and the head-dress demonstrate that she has been accorded high status.
The designs are all based on the details available from historical artefacts, some too fragile to replace on the ceiling in the Royal Apartments.
These heads include Margaret Tudor, sister to Henry VIII of England, the man himself, and one head believed to be a copy of James V of Scotland. Various other courtly characters, include dancing puttos and a jester or two.
If we wanted to see the heads in their raw wooden state, this visit was to be the only opportunity to do so. The heads are now in the process of being painted in the style the heads were known to have been originally finished. The next time we see the replacement heads, will be with our necks craned back, (not the best viewing position).
Included in future tours of the Castle will be an exhibition of the remaining original heads, there were in all,I believe, forty seven. Some were found in private ownership. The carver performed a labour of love for his self-taught craft and in the process learned old, but not necessarily traditional methods of carving. There were the errors of the past not to be repeated; the crude ability seen in some of the old work; then there was what seems to have been a remarkable discovery. The carver noticed a series of repeating symbols. The greater the time spent on his work, the more convinced he became that these symbols could be a form of music. Consulting with a musicologist, it has become a distinct possibility that the theory is good. The musical symbols and tones linked to them based on the instruments known to be in use in the period, have produced what might have been popular tunes of the day.