VIDEO: Viking ‘hostage stone’ comes home to Bute

A remarkable stone drawing found on the island of Inchmarnock and believed to depict a Viking raid has gone on display at Bute Museum in Rothesay.

The ‘hostage stone’ was found during excavations carried out on the island off Bute’s west coast, and is attracting international interest.

Bute Museum curator Anne Speirs explains the importance of the 'hostage stone' from the Inchmarnock collection to pupils from St Andrew's Primary School in Rothesay.

Bute Museum curator Anne Speirs explains the importance of the 'hostage stone' from the Inchmarnock collection to pupils from St Andrew's Primary School in Rothesay.

Experts say the carving on the stone shows a bearded man being led away to a ship by a long-haired warrior wearing chain mail, and was probably made by a boy educated by monks on Inchmarnock.

The stone is thought to date from around the ninth century AD, and forms part of a collection unearthed during the five-year Inchmarnock Research Project, instigated by the island’s owner, Lord Smith of Kelvin, between 1999 and 2004.

The collection has been jointly awarded to the Bute Museum and the National Museum of Scotland, and items from it will form a permanent display at the local museum in the town’s Stuart Street.

“This is pretty much a unique discovery,” Anne Speirs, Bute Museum’s curator, told The Buteman. “Viking boats can be seen chiselled into beautiful Celtic stones, but this is a contemporary sketch, by a child who could actually have seen a big hairy Viking, which should never have survived - indeed, it hardly did survive.”

The stone’s existence has been public knowledge for some years - it was featured in the BBC Four series Secret Knowledge: The Art of the Vikings in March 2013, for example - but it has only recently gone on display at its ‘home’ museum.

And if you want to see the stone at its Bute home, it might be a good idea not to hang about.

“The whole collection is amazing, but the ‘hostage stone’ is the star of the show,” Anne continued.

“Whenever it’s not wanted elsewhere it will come home here, but it’s of such international importance that we’re getting requests from museums all over the place to borrow it.

“There’s been a request from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark to borrow it for an exhibition on Viking explorers next year, for example, and two other pieces from the collection have already gone to an exhibition in Paderborn in Germany.

“But the international interest in the collection means that every time pieces from it go abroad, Bute will get a mention, which is wonderful.”