Medieval archive could be history

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A massive archive detailing the history of medieval medicine is set to be made homeless. The archive, weighing around four tonnes, is the work of archaeo-botanist Dr Brian Moffat, who has spent the past 20 years investigating the work of medieval monks at the former Soutra Hospital site at Soutra Aisle, Midlothian.

Dr Moffat has housed his archive at the nearby former Fala Primary School, Fala, for the past three years, since he was forced to move it from its original home at a cottage in the village.

But now Midlothian Council is to sell the land - and has told Dr Moffat he will have to move the archive by the end of December.

It is believed the land is to be sold to the Honourable Michael Dalrymple of Oxenfoord Castle near Pathhead.

Dr Moffat said: "It is a huge archive. We've been going for 20 years and I never throw anything away. The school in Fala hasn't been used for 12 years, so it seems a shame that the landowner wants to do something with it now.

"It is very difficult because I have only had a few weeks' notice and at the moment, I have nowhere to go. Unless we find somewhere suitable very quickly, we will be on the streets with four tonnes of paperwork."

He added: "I need somewhere very specific for the archive. Somewhere that is very dry, with plenty of storage and it has to be very secure. Some of the work contains information that could be worth quite a lot of money if it got into the wrong hands.

"The council has suggested I might be able to store it at the Old Dalkeith High School, but it would be in an open classroom, which I don't think is secure."

He said he was expecting the archive, which currently receives around a dozen inquiries a week from drug companies and medicinal herbalists looking for information, to see a huge surge in popularity over the coming months following a joint project with the Duchess of Northumberland.

He added he had hoped to open a visitors' centre in the school hall to hold exhibitions about the monks' work.

The Duchess, who is originally from Edinburgh, took cuttings from Soutra to include in her poison gardens at Alnwick Castle.

The Duchess, who features cannabis, opium poppies, magic mushrooms and coca - the source of cocaine - in her gardens, has featured an interview with Dr Moffat in one of her promotional videos.

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