The small grassy mound on the southern edge of the Orkney island of Rousay offered sweeping views of the mainland, Wyre, Egilsay and Gairsay; a perfect spot to sit and take in the scenery.

For Lady Eliza Burroughs, born in Edinburgh in 1849 and settled on the island with her husband and family, the only issue was the biting wind which, she wrote, was “apt to catch one in the ears as one looks at the view in front”.

A few years earlier, she and her husband, General Sir Frederick W. Trail-Burroughs, who inherited Rousay and Wyre from his grand-uncle George W. Traill, had hired Fettes College architect, David Bryce, to design a new, grand three storey home, Trumland House.

Surely carving a wedge from the knoll to create shelter for a humble summer seat on Flag-staff Hill, as it was dubbed, would not cause too much of a stir?

As it transpired, Lady Burroughs’ quaint idea for a sheltered spot to fend off those sharp north easterly gusts would set in motion a sequence of events leading to the discovery of one of Scotland’s precious Neolithic treasures – a rare double chambered burial cairn, one of only a few to have ever been found.

The discovery would be recorded in her journal, a rollicking Gothic-style real-life tale of thunder, wild winds, whispering Picts, skulls and peppered with revealing hints about her relationship with her husband and Rousay life, all intertwined with her intelligent observations, detailed sketches and musings over precisely what had been uncovered.

But while her engrossing record of the first sighting and excavation of Taversoe Tuick provided vital information and insight that would help inform archaeologists for generations to come, Lady Burroughs’ name would go on to be either omitted or only mentioned in passing.

Now, however, her role in recording the discovery is finally being recognised in a short film which will be presented at Orkney Storytelling Festival later this year.

It follows detailed research into her life by Dr Nela Scholma-Mason, project co-ordinator and creative Director of Forgotten Stories, a Society of Antiquities of Scotland-led project which aims to uncover the lesser-known women who made contributions to Scottish archaeology over the past few centuries.

It includes plans to explore the life and work of the exotically named Johanna von Ettingshausen, Countess Baillet de Latour, also known simply as Mrs MacLeod of Dunvegan.

She excavated Dun an Iardhard, or Dun Fiadhairt, an Iron Age broch in the early 1890s and, later Dun Beag broch, both on the Isle of Skye.

Rousay had already revealed some of its archaeological treasures by by 1898, when Lady Burroughs decided to instruct workers to create a summer seat at the grassy mound.

The stiff breeze, she wrote in her manuscript, was not just uncomfortable, but howled as it whipped a pole stuck in the mound by a gamekeeper as a vermin trap, and which she teased her Southern friends was the sound of “the Picts whispering”.

Her description of planning the seat and the subsequent discovery of the site is rich in detail, while the gentle descriptions of events at the time, the response among locals to the find, her husband’s reaction and the realisation of what they had discovered create a fascinating image of her life on the island.

She describes the beginning of work on the mound with hopes among all that they would not turn up anything that might derail her plans.

But on inspecting the almost complete summer seat, her eye was drawn to a ‘rough circular building in a section of the now completed circle’.

Her writings describe vividly how one of the workers lifted a flat stone to reveal a hollow formed by rough stones, earth and ‘a few white objects’ which both immediately recognised as a cist.

‘We now proceeded to investigate in earnest and within half an hour two more remains of ancient cists were found,’ she wrote, adding that they contained earth, vitrifactions, small white bones – all, apparently, remnants of cremation.

To add to the drama, the discovery of a dark and gloomy underground chamber was accompanied by a sharp clap of thunder.

The discovery and the thunderclap, she wrote, quickly evolved into an island tale, suitably embellished: ‘An angel whispered to our Lady that she was to open the Mound; there was a clap of thunder; one workman was picked up 50 yards from the spot, the other fainted, the Laird and the Lady turned pale,’ she wrote.

She summed up the excitement of the find: ‘I went to the Mound that afternoon carrying a basket of spring flowers to plant at the summer seat. On the homeward journey, my basket contained a skull.’ Later excavations revealed the site to be a rare example of a double-tiered Neolithic burial chamber, dating from between 4000 and 2500 BC. It includes a third chamber downhill, linked by a small channel.

According to Dr Scholma-Mason, Lady Burroughs’ charming turn of phrase and detail of the discovery brings the story to life in a way often not found in archaeological reports.

“It was a chance discovery. She wanted to build a seat because it was too windy, and her journal explains what they were thinking about doing and the reactions.

“Her manuscript is not just a beautiful Gothic style story, it is also one of the archaeological reports that we have from Orkney at that time.

“She clearly has this interest, she writes about what the site was used for and asks questions about what else it might have been.

“There’s an intelligent recognition of archaeology and an emotional intelligence when she writes.”

She adds: “Archaeology in her times was not necessarily what it is today when you can study, get degrees and work in archaeology commercially.

“It was much more of a leisure pursuit for well to do gentlemen.

“Whether she would regard herself as an archaeologist, we don’t know, but perhaps she was one at heart – she writes about it being the most interesting event in her life.”

Despite her important role in documenting the find, Lady Burroughs became better known as a supporter of arts and crafts, and for being the first person to bring cinema to Rousay, with more has been published about the Rousay steamboat Lizzie Burroughs than the person whose name it bears.

The Forgotten Stories project, which is supported by AOC Archaeology Group, North East Scotland College and TrowelBlazers – an international group which aims to highlight the work of owmen in archaeology, is now appealing for more information about her and other women who have played key roles in Scotland’s archaeological heritage.

A film telling the story of Lady Burroughs made by students at North East Scotland College will feature in Orkney Storytelling Festival in October.