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Alexander Ormiston Curle


(A.O. Curle)

1866 - 1955

Archaeologist and museum administrator. Curle was born in Melrose in the Scottish Borders, the son of a solicitor and younger brother of Dr. James Curle (1862 - 1944). Educated at Fettes College, he read law at Trinity Hall Cambridge and became a Writer to the Signet in 1892. However, it was not in law that Curle was to make his mark. He is the only person to have run three national institutions in Scotland. He was the first Secretary to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1908-13), which was created by Secretary of State John Sinclair (1860 - 1925), and served as a Commissioner until his death. He began work immediately, personally inspecting and documenting numerous archaeological sites. He then took on the role of Director of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and was almost single-handedly responsible for its reorganisation and improvement between 1913 and 1919. Finally he took on the Directorship of the Royal Scottish Museum, a much larger organisation.

He was also responsible for important archaeological excavations; he unearthed the treasure on Traprain Law in 1919, which came to the museum and was proudly shown off to King George V and Queen Mary by Curle the following year. He also helped his brother at the Trimontium Fort at Newstead (from 1904) and worked on Dun Telve (1916), Dun Troddan (1920), Mumrills Roman Fort (1923-28) and Jarlshof (1931-35).

He was awarded a Companionship of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 1930 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 1935. He lies buried next to his brother in the grounds of Melrose Abbey.


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