Iain Rollitt-James: Steward
I am a full time steward with Historic Scotland and work at the neolithic village of Skara Brae here in Orkney. I don’t have a background in archaeology nor am I an historian; indeed my background is in HR but I have a lifelong interest in the prehistory of Scotland.
Skara Brae is a 5100-year-old neolithic village that forms part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney which is a Unesco World Heritage site, the others being the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. Skara Brae is unique among these as it is a domestic setting rather than a ceremonial one or a place for communal gathering.
I feel incredibly privileged to work here at Skara Brae. During the quieter moments when I’m the site steward, I imagine the folk that lived here more than 5000 years going about their daily lives in the same way that we do today; lighting fires, preparing food, laughing and having conversations about everyday matters. It’s that that sets it apart from the other neolithic sites here in Orkney.
These are simple stone houses, complete with their stone furniture, and I feel like the neolithic Orcadians who lived here all those years ago make me feel welcome every time I walk along the path that encircles the village. I’m returning their welcome by looking after their homes and educating our visitors about life at Skara Brae five millennia ago. It’s an incredibly special place.