Wednesday 20 April 2011

Norrie Campbell and the Mammoth

There is a great Islay story, some had been rude enough to call it a myth, which says that the late and much lamented Norrie Campbell, peat cutter, DJ and raconteur extraordinaire had, once upon a time managed to do what no mere archaeologist has ever done - found incontrovertible proof of the existence of mammoths on Islay.  Norrie, it was said, had found a mammoth's tusk buried deep in the peat of Islay during the course of his work, and being a responsible chap, had called in the relevant authorities and handed over his find. 
The story said that the mighty tusk had been taken away and examined, but that the results of the analysis had shown that far from being a mammoth's tusk, what Norrie had found buried in his peat bank was nothing more than 'a modern horn, probably from India'.  The story was embellished by suggesting that it had been merely brought back to Islay as a souvenir by a member of the British Raj, who had at some point become bored with it and tossed it into a bog.
Norrie, needless to say, never saw his mammoth tusk again.  And so the story might have remained, being gently massaged down the years, until someone was kind enough to send Bruichladdich Distillery a very remarkable photograph, which we attach here.  Now if I had been in Norrie's boots, and I had found a tusk like that buried in a Scottish peat bank, I would have gone for a mammoth ID, no matter what some mere archaeologist might say.  Indeed I reckon we should start a campaign to find out who it was that took Norrie's mammoth tusk, and have it returned to its rightful home...

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