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The Scottish Castles Association
Preserving the Past for the Future

The Nigel Tranter Memorial Award 2014


John Donaldson, the craftsman who recreated James V’s Stirling Heads – sometimes referred to as Scotland’s other ‘crown jewels’ was awarded the Scottish Castles Association's Nigel Tranter Memorial Award in 2015.

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LEFT: John Donaldson at work RIGHT: Professor Richard Oram presents John with his award

Mr Donaldson was presented with the award by the President of the Scottish Castles Association – Professor Richard Oram of Stirling University – in recognition of his magnificent contribution to Scotland’s heritage. He spent seven years carving replicas of the Stirling Heads, a series of wooden carved round structures depicting scenes from mythology and history that once adorned the ceiling of James V’s renaissance palace at Stirling Castle.

Carving new versions of the Stirling Heads was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

After the ceiling was removed in 1777, some of the carvings were destroyed and the rest were scattered throughout Scotland and England. Known as the Stirling Heads, 34 of these metre-wide oak medallions survived, and in 2011 a full set of copies carved by John Donaldson were unveiled and attached to the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall as part of a project to restore the interiors of the royal palace to how they may have looked at the time of a young Mary, Queen of Scots.

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John spent seven years painstakingly carving replicas of the Stirling Heads

Mr. Donaldson said: “Carving new versions of the Stirling Heads was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the ceiling looks absolutely stunning. “It was quite a feeling to have your work included in a project of this scale and importance and which will hopefully be enjoyed by millions of visitors for many decades to come.”

The Nigel Tranter Memorial Award is awarded annually to an individual or group whose efforts have contributed significantly to an area of interest to the Scottish Castles Association and its membership. The award is given each year in recognition of the Association’s first President Nigel Tranter O.B.E, who during his lifetime worked tirelessly to promote Scotland, its culture, its history and the preservation and rescue of its historical buildings.


Date posted: 04 Feb 2017Last updated: 05 Feb 2017