19 May 2009

Elgin apprentices win inaugural stonemasonry competition

Two apprentices from Historic Scotland's Stonemasonry Training facility, Elgin, have been crowned champions of the first Stonemasonry Apprentice Skills Competition, which was held at Glasgow's Metropolitan College on 24, 25 and 26th April.  Kenny McCaffrey, 38, and Malcolm Hutcheon, 38, both adult apprentices, beat off competition from Edinburgh's Telford College and Glasgow Metropolitan College, as judges deemed the pillar they produced over the three day competition to be the best.

 Kenny and Malcolm will now head out to the United States of America, to experience a two week work placement at Virginia Lime Works, with accommodation and flights
All three teams were assessed on their building and dressing skills by judges Lawrence Begg of Historic Scotland, Steven Laing of Laing Traditional Masonry and Justin Egerton, from The National Trust for Scotland Stonemasonry Facility at Culzean Castle. However, the sharpness and obvious attention to detail by Kenny and Malcolm ensured their win.  

The pillars produced by each team, will now be transformed into sundials and donated to a local school or hospice.
Graeme Ogilvy, director for ConstructionSkills Scotland, said:
"Congratulations to Malcolm and Kenny who have proved themselves to be worthy winners, but the competition was close. This weekend has been a very positive one for the traditional skills industry and for all of the apprentices involved.
"ContructionSkills is proud to have been involved in the organisation of such a successful competition and we look forward to continuing our work alongside Historic Scotland by supporting apprentice stonemasons as they learn their trade." 
Graam Campbell, training manager at the Elgin Stonemasonry Training Facility said:
"I am delighted that the lads have won here today. It's been a great opportunity for them and their all hard work and effort has paid off.
"I have been out to work with the team at Virginia Lime Works and learned a lot, so I'm confident that both Kenny and Malcolm will definitely benefit from the experience."
Chris McGregor, depute director of Technical Conservation Group at Historic Scotland, sponsors of the competition, said:

"Congratulations to Malcolm and Kenny. All the apprentices have worked exceptionally hard throughout the weekend and performed to a very high standard.
"The inception of this competition is incredibly positive as it's important that we continue to raise awareness of traditional skills as a craft.  Historic Scotland is delighted to be working alongside ConstructionSkills to support the stone industry by being a part of it."

The competition, which is sponsored by Historic Scotland and supported by the Scottish Stone Liaison Group, in partnership with ConstructionSkills, was the first of its kind and celebrates the stonemasonry talent and skill Scotland has to offer.
The six apprentices taking part in the competition were:

  • Glasgow      Metropolitan: Craig Canavan, Scotcourt Ltd, Steven Ferrie, CBC Stone.
  • Historic      Scotland's Stonemasonry Training Facility,  Elgin: Malcolm      Hutcheon, Kenny McCaffrey, both Historic Scotland.
  • Edinburgh's      Telford College: Graham Wooton, R. N. Thompson Ltd and Ruairaidh Riddell,      Thomas Riddell Builders Ltd.

The aim of the Scottish Stone Liaison Group is to enhance availability, promote utilisation and advance knowledge and skills in design, specification and use of indigenous Scottish stone in existing and new build projects
Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation's historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

Members' News

Stone Federation would like to congratulate former Stone Federation President, Peter Harrison for being the recipient of the stone industry's highest award, the Duke of Gloucester Gold Medal.

Peter was presented with his medal by the Duke of Gloucester himself at Worshipful Company of Masons' Master's Banquet in London's Mansion House.

The Medal, which was introduced in 2010, is awarded every two years, to honour an individual in the craft of stonemasonry or the natural stone industry whose work is of considerable merit and who is acknowledged by his or her peers for the excellence of their contribution.

The idea for recognition for those in stonemasonry was originally mooted in the 1980s when it was noted that stonemasonry did not have any kind of recognition or a supreme accolade.


His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, who trained as an architect and has an affinity for stonemasonry, also felt that some form of recognition should be created and was instrumental in developing the concept of a recognition for stonemasonry befitting the millennia-old craft.

Stone Federation are a member of EuroRoc, an organisation made up of the various European Federations for the dimensional stone industry.  The aim of the group is to coordinate questions of common interest and find solutions while promoting the use of dimensional natural stone.


The Federation's EuroRoc representative, Michael Poultney of Albion Stone along with Peter Harrison of Harrison Goldman, attended the latest meeting held at the Verona Stone Show in October.


There were a range of topics discussed, but shown are four discussions points that will be of particular interest to members.


1. Ethical Sourcing - There are various different degrees of controls of ethical sourcing across Europe and some is at a very local level.  It was accepted that the EU should be encouraging stones from ethical sources but there was some scepticism that a system with a high degree of certainty could be found in the short term.  It was agreed that the starting point should be to pool all the experiences from the differing methods currently being used by different, Countries, companies and organisations.

2. Geographical Protection - There was considerable support from across the EU and the robust comments from the UK were considered positive.  It is back with the European Parliament on what could be a long journey to possible implementation.  

3. Reporting Figures - There was concerns that the code numbers used for reporting production, imports and exports are not recording the dimensional stone figure accurately.  It was suggested that these should be related to the harmonised Product Standards (BS EN). Michael Poultney has been in dialogue with BGS and Eric Bignell at the Natural Stone Specialist magazine about the topic earlier in the month. Euroroc will progress the matter with the relevant authorities.

4. Silica Dust - There was a mixed response about the danger of the implementation of the dust regulations and the prospects of reducing the code.  It was agreed that the experiences from the implementation from national authorities will be requested.


With the island of Portland, from which the famous Portland limestone comes, being just off the Dorset coast from Weymouth, there could not have been a more appropriate material to use for a sculpture of the Olympic rings that has now been installed in the town that is hosting the Olympic sailing events. 

Burlington Stone has acquired the rights to quarry at Petts Quarry on Kirkstone Pass and Brathay Quarry near Ambleside following the regrettable demise of Kirkstone Quarries Ltd.

This new monument, costing £5 million, will commemorate the 55, 573 crew members of the RAF's Bobmer Command who were killed between 1939 and 1945.  The average age of those who lost their lives was just 22.

Albion Stone has recently purchased a new ‘JCB Fantini’, tractor mounted stone saw which will be used to increase efficiency in the Quarry & Mine.  This is the first machine of its type to be imported into any UK stone extraction operation. 


TV presenter, journalist and former conservative politician and Cabinet Minister, Michael Portillo made a fascinating tour of local natural stone producer, Burlington Stone of Kirkby-in-Furness, shown on 26th January on BBC2 at 6.30pm, as part of series three of the BBC’s popular travel documentary, Great British Railway Journeys.


A £500,000 investment into an innovative new roof for Albion Stone’s Factory is set to save thousands of pounds a year on their electricity bills.

Albion Stone supplied over 3m³ of Jordans Basebed and Jordans Whitbed in the form of treads risers, paving and memorial stones.

Taking centre stage on The Marshalls Garden That Kids Really Want! at the 2008 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May the company utilised its own indigenous natural Yorkstone block to create two striking central features in this amazing organic playground.