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The Standing Stones of Stenness (Stone Circle)

Tales From Eynhallow by Thelma Nicol

STANDING STONES

Mammy! Mammy!” Whut wey did that big stones git there?” Peedie Davo tugged at his mother’s sleeve. His mother was tired of Davo’s never ending questions about the great pieces of stone that formed the familiar landscape by the Loch of Stenness she promised, that if he was good she would tell him at bedtime, hoping that by that time he would have forgotten. She had not reckoned with peedie Davo’s determination to get an answer to his question.

“You promised Mammy,” he whispered as she tucked him up in bed. “Whut wey did they git there?” His mother shook her head and sat down wearily on the stool by his bedside. “Weel,” she began, “hid wis a long time ago and I canna mind the rights o’ hid bit hid wis afore the Norsemen cam tae Orkney, so they must be thoosands o’ years ould.”

“Oulder than Grandad?” Davo enquired, looking across the lobby where his Grandfather drowsed by the fire in the kitchen.

“Oh yass, far oulder than Grandad. There wisna many folk bade in Orkney at the time. All the folk lived doon sooth thoo see’s. They say that t he standing stones reach doon intae the grund twice as far as they stand abune hid .”

“Whut wey did they git doon there then I winder?” Peedie Davo’s enquiry into the origin of the Standing Stones of Stenness was proving to be more of a problem than his mother had ever imagined.

“Well,” she struggled on, “shut thee eyes like a good boy noo, and I’ll tell thee.” With fingers crossed that he would soon fall asleep she began. “Hid wis a midsummer’s night . The day hid been hot an quiet, not the usual breezy kind o’ wither that we usually hiv in June. The sky wis somet imes owercast and a rumble o’ thunder cam fae the direction o’ Hoy. There wis great flashes o’ lightning. A’ the birds wir quiet and the twa three folk that lived aboot hands wir huddled taegither. The bairns were a sleepan snug and warm under thir sealskin blankets.”

Peedie Davo’s mother paused and glanced hopefully at her small son. “Did the thunder come again Mammy?” he asked.?

“Oh yass,” she answered. “More thunder and rain like they have niver seen the like o’ afore or since. Suddenly there wis a great flash o’ lightning and the grund roond aboot Stenness wis thrown up like hid wis an earthquake. Some o’ the big stones landed upright and the grund fell back and filled up the holes except whar the Loch is noo. It filled up wae the rain water and so there’s been a loch there ever since and nobody’s ever bothered tae shift the stones so they are still there too. The twa three folk that hid lived in Stenness at that time wir thrown up in the air bit they landed in Stromness and decided to stay there. And that‘s the weyt here’s more folk in Stromness than in Stenness.”

There was a gentle snore from the bed and a sigh from peedie Davo’s mother as she whispered: “Whit a lot o’ lees thee mither tells thee Davo. Bit the truth is she disno ken whut wey the stones cam tae be there and nither dis anybody else. Goodnight Davo!”
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
19th June 2017ce

Dun Dornadilla (Broch)

Dun Dornghil, erroneously called Dornadilla, is represented at the termination of this Chapter. It was, in the memory of man, about thirty feet high, but is now much dilapidated. Not a stone of this fabric "is moulded by a hammer, nor is there any fog or other material used to fill up the interstices among the stone; yet the stones are most artfully laid together, seem to exclude the air, and have been piled with great mathematical exactness."
The following verse concerning it, is repeated by the inhabitants.
Dun Dornghil Mac Duiff
Or an taobh ri meira don strha
Scheht mille o manir
Er an rod a racha na fir do Gholen.


Translation.
The Dun of Dornghiall, son of Duff,
Built on the side of the strath next to Rea,
Seven miles from the ocean,
And in the way by which the warriors travel to Caithness.*

* Rev. A. Pope, in Archaeologia, v.
From 'The Scottish Gael; or, Celtic manners, as preserved among the Highlanders' by James Logan (first published 1831).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th June 2017ce

Broch of Gurness

Broch Of Gurness by Thelma Nicol

from the Tales Of Eynhallow

I wandered round these ancient ruins,
With thoughts so far away,
I thought of hallowed customs,
When people here did stay.

And then I touched some weathered stones,
Someone had built with care,
Fashioned with an artist's touch,
Although no tools were there.

A hollowed stone where once a maid,
Had ground the corn for bread,
Blackened stones upon the floor,
Say: "Here a fire was laid".

Some skins spread on the floor, perhaps,
To keep the small room warm,
And in this ancient home, no doubt,
Children too were born.

A thousand years ago or more,
These warriors hunted deer,
And fashioned with their work worn hands,
Bead and bowl and spear.

Perhaps a thousand years from now,
Someone will wander round,
The ruins of our modern homes,
All scattered on the ground.

Will some machine-made cooking pot,
Or factory-fashioned cup,
Remain a thousand years somewhere,
For someone to pick up?
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
15th June 2017ce

Broadleas (Stone Circle)

After a little delay, the remainder of the journey was accomplished to the next regular stoppage, at a place called "The Piper's Stones." here, again, Lord Walter Fitzgerald had some information prepared for the members, which he read out at the spot. He explained that the existing objects of antiquarian interest lying a short distance to the south-west of Ballymore-Eustace are three in number. In the first place there are the large boulders of graite placed in a circle 31ft. in diameter in the townland of Broadleas Commons, called "The Piper's Stones." They are now 29 in number. Formerly they made up a complete circle of closely placed boulders, though now there are large gaps in the ring showing where in times past many had been broken up and carried away for building purposes.

At a place called Athgreney, there is another similar circle of stones, and in the Deerpark, near Blessington, formerly there was a third one, each called "The Piper's Stones," but this latter was demolished years ago for building purposes.

[...] The name, "Piper's Stones," was often applied to this class of monument, and must have its origin in some now forgotten legend. The only explanation the old people give for the name is that bagpipe music, played by the "good people" or fairies, is still occasionally heard at the spot.

A quarter of a mile to the north-east of "The Piper's Stones" are the remains of a Pagan sepulchral moat, called Knockshee, meaning "the fairy hill." Little of it is now left, three-quarters of it having been demolished years ago, probably by some farmers, for the purpose of top-dressing the adjoining lands.

[...] Half a mile to the north-west of "The Piper's Stones" is a prostrate granite monolith, known as "The Long Stone." It formerly stood in a small rath-like enclosure now levelled, and which was thrown down in the year 1836.
From the Kildare Archaeological Society's annual excursion reported in the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 22nd September 1900.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th May 2017ce

Moyvoughly (Round Barrow(s))

Somewhere in the vicinity of this site is or was a holy well and a bullaun stone:
St Patrick, the great local saint, is commemorated at the present day by a holy well and "knee" situated in the field (locally known as the Street Park) lying west of the school-house. It was usual for an old resident (in the barracks) to make daily pilgrimages to the well. Some of the older residents believed that St. Patrick left the impress of his knee on a rock not far from the well. However, it is quite possible that the "knee" was a mixing place for cattle medicines. It was also usual for sufferers to drop some coins, pins or trifles into the knee. Superstition had it that the ailment would be relieved in this manner. If anyone should take any of these offerings out of the knee, he should be afflicted by warts.
From information recorded for the Schools Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s, online at Duchas.ie.

The information for the site on the Historic Environment Viewer says that there are exposed blocks of limestone visible in places in the bank of the barrow here. The local landowner pointed out that major drainage operations had taken place here over the years, so large parts of the ground were previously marshy or fully flooded, immediately to NE and E of the barrow. The holy well and bullaun are said to be about 400m to its east.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st May 2017ce

Duffcastle (Portal Tomb)

There is a field near my home on Mrs Joe McGlelland's farm in Duffcastle, a large stone standing on four smaller ones. It is supposed to be an ancient druid's altar. It has been told that long ago two men dug under these stones and unearthed one of the smaller pillars in search of gold. When they went back to their home they found that the healthy baby they had left in the cradle was now a sickly child. It seemed to have changed in appearance too. It was said that they had done wrong and the change in the child was their punishment. This child lived for years but never grew any bigger.

In Mr John Magovern's field just at Duffcastle crossroads there is a long stone standing upright.
There are five marks on it supposed to represent the fingermarks of some ancient warrior.
There are some strokes and dots on the bottom of the stone. It is supposed that this is Ogham writing.
There are many forts near my home but there is not much known about them.
Recounted by James Tweedle for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Digitised at Duchas.ie.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th May 2017ce

Fieldstown (Cairn(s))

There is a cromlech in Byrne's field on Fieldstown Hill. The field is called Lios Dubh. Fionn Mac Cumhaill is supposed to be buried there. The cromlech is on the top of the hill. There are some stones standing upright in the ground and a large flat stone on the top of them. The stones are almost covered with clay and the place is overgrown with briars. Within the grave are bones.
Recounted by James Winters for the 1930s Schools' Collection of folklore in Ireland. Online at Duchas.ie.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th May 2017ce

Skregg (Passage Grave)

Another name for this Cromlech is "Lopa-Erma." It is said that this name was got from the giant that put it up.
Under the cross stones of the cromlech there is said to be stone steps for a long way down in the ground and it is said to be closed up by the chieftain O'Kelly some years ago.
From Charles Fuery, a 60 year old local farmer, recorded for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Online at Duchas.ie
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th May 2017ce

Fiddler's Hill (Round Barrow(s))

Legend of Fiddler's Hill
Does Warham Discovery Prove Old Legend True.

Is the old legend of Fiddler's Hill, Warham, true?
What appears to be surprising confirmation of it has been brought to light by Norfolk County Council men working on the roads. They have discovered in a mound at the crossing of the Wighton and Stiffkey road and the Binham and Warham road the skeletons of a man and a dog.

For generations the cross-roads have been known as Fiddler's Hill because of the old folk story of the fiddler. Centuries ago there was a secret passage joining Walsingham Abbey to Binham Priory. One day a fiddler and his dog, runs the legend, attempted to walk from the Abbey to the Priory by way of the old secret tunnel. Their progress was followed by some friends above ground, for as he walked, the fiddler played. The strains of the music were plainly heard slowly moving away from Walsingham towards Fiddler's Hill. Then they ceased. The fiddler and his dog were never seen again, but mysterious music, it is sometimes heard at midnight.

The bones have been handed over to the police, who took them to Dr. Hicks, of Wells, for examination. Later they may be seen by an anthropologist.
From the Thetford and Watton Times, 15th April 1933.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th May 2017ce

Kenshot Hill (Cairn(s))

The Sheriff's Kettle

Here (Kenshot Hill) in 1420 the gruesome murder of Sheriff Of The Mearns, John Melville, took place. Landowners complained frequently about the sheriff's tiresome behaviour. One day, during a hunting party they murdered the sheriff, boiling his body and each sipping a spoonful of the brew.

Turbine Noticeboard, Mearns.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
6th April 2017ce

Beacon Hill (Hillfort)

Beacon Fire- Mr. Langham, of "Needless Inn," informs me that he well remembers that thirty-four years ago there stood, on the highest point of Beacon, an erection of rude and ancient masonry, about six feet high, of a round form, and having in its centre a cavity about a yard deep and a yard in diameter, the sides of which were very thickly covered with burnt pitch. This, he says, had all the appearance of having been used for holding the beacon fires. He remembers, too, that at that period, the entrenchments were much more visible than they are now [...]
History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest, T.R. Potter, 1842, p48.

Beacon Hill. - Not satisfied with my single opinion of these extraordinary remains, I requested Mr. Lester, a highly intelligent farmer and surveyor, who lives at the foot of Beacon, to examine them. He was perfectly astonished. Though long resident, almost upon the spot, and aware of the remains described as lying on the south-west side of the hill, it had never occurred to him that there were others. "Often," says he," as I have crossed that wonderful hill, and always with the feeling that it was a charmed spot, I have been either so occupied with the distant prospects, or so circumscribed in my immediate view by the inequalities of the surface, that I have never before once noticed the most remarkable fortifications to which you have directed me."
Potter, p49.

Wake at Nanpantan. - The Annual Wake, now kept on Nanpantan, but formerly kept on Beacon, the origin of which is lost in obscurity, may be a remnant of [a Druidical] festival.
Potter, p45.
I'll take the Druidical festival with a pinch of salt, but the Beacon must have seen its fair share of revels. I totally understand the farmer not being able to look round for "inequalities of the surface" - that often affects me. And I like his italicisation of charmed... it hints at a fairyish spot.

Collected into 'County Folk-lore: Printed extracts no. 3, Leicestershire and Rutland' by C.J. Billson (1895).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th March 2017ce

Cadbury Castle (Hillfort)

From the church we walked up to the Roman encampment of "Cadbury Castle," which is most interesting. It was partially excavated in 1848, and on the previous evening we had been shown many interesting relics taken from it. The most valuable of these is a large ring of debased silver. On an intaglio of a light green antique paste is engraved an object supposed to be connected with the sacrifices of Apollo or Hercules. There are, besides, some smaller rings, some armlets, reminding one singularly of the present fashionable bangles, and making one remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Both the workmanship and design of these are singularly delicate. There were glass and enamel beads, horses' teeth, fragments of pottery, &c.

All these had been taken from a well in the centre of the camp. There has been an attempt to fill up this well, but it persistently sinks down in the centre. There is a tradition that there is an underground passage from the top of Cadbury Castle to Dolberry Hill (Killerton). Risdon gives us the following couplet:-

"If Cadbury Castle and Dolberry Hill down delved were,
Then Denshire might plow with a golden coulter and eare with a guilded sheer."

From the same source we learn "that a dragon, forsooth!" is supposed to guard these treasures.

The views from Cadbury Castle are both extensive and beautiful. The Dartmouth Tors were all plainly visible, and we saw Cawsand white with snow. Farther to the left our eyes rested on Exmouth and its Bar, and on the other side we saw the range of hills at Wellington, in Somersetshire.
By 'Volo non Valeo' in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29th May 1885. Tristram Risdon wrote his 'Survey of the County of Devon' in 1632.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st February 2017ce

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle)

I don't understand how the traditional rhyme isn't already written here. So I don't apologise for the length of the following:
[...] Folklore and science, romance and archaeology, the unlearned and the learned, have all contributed answers [to the meaning of the stones]. From the folklore of the neighbourhood we have gleaned the story of the stones which has undoubtedly proved the most popular, and which will probably be attached to them as long as they stand. Indeed it is probable that if we searched the whole of England we should not find a site in which the folklore is a more living thing.

The story is well-enough known, but here it is:--
A certain King set out to conquer all England and had arrived at the head of his forces at the hill on which Rollright stands. He had almost reached its crest when a witch who claimed the ground appeared and stopped him with the words -

Seven long strides shalt thou take and
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be.

Exulting greatly, thinking his victory assured, the King called out -

Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I'll be known.

and took the seven long strides, when, lo! there arose before him a mound of earth, which at the completion of the strides prevented him from seeing the village of Long Compton below. The witch then pronounced the doom --

As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be,
Rise up stick, stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an eldern tree.

And so it came about.

[...] The elder is abundant all around the stones and several bushes have been pointed out as that embodying the witch. If you find the right one and cut it her blood oozes out, and the stones are seen to shiver, in an endeavour to come to life, for when the witch's blood is drawn her spell is broken and the King and his army will pursue their triumphant march.

On Midsummer eve, when the elder was in bloom it was formerly the custom for people to come to the King Stone and stand in a circle. Then an elder bush near by was cut and those present have affirmed that the King moved his head. The inhabitants of the district have, however, a dread of breaking the spell, and the writer was told, not so long ago, that those of Long Compton will not burn elder sticks in their grates.

The fairies dance round the King Stone of nights. One Will Hughes, of Long Compton, now gathered to his fathers, had seen them. They were little folk, he said, like little girls to look at. His wife's mother, who had been murdered as a witch, remembered a hole in the bank out of which the fairies came, and she and her playmates had often placed a flat stone over the opening to keep them in, but it had always been turned over before the morning. Folklore and religion blend in the attitude felt towards the spot and Sir Arthur Evans tells of a labourer who always went to the stones on Good Friday, for there he would be on Holy ground.

Away to the south-east on the edge of the large field in which the circle is situated, is a rather jumbled group of five large stones, called the Whispering Knights, which are said to be five treacherous officers who had detached themselves from the King's army and were plotting treason when the spell operated. They have their own particular piece of folklore and at midnight are said to run down the hill to drink at a spring in little Rollright spinney, every night according to some, only at special seasons according to others. At dusk, it is said, you can hear them whispering to each other.

Many of the stories attached to Rollright are to be found in other parts of Europe, and it is evident that we have in them something more than local superstition, but the subject is too great to be discussed here.

Another legend says that the stones become men at midnight, join hands and dance round in a circle and in Cornwall the name "Stone Dance" is attached to such circles as Rollright, the explanation there being that they are dancers turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

[...] Rollright and its kindred circles were to the prehistoric people who erected and used them, places as sacred as our cathedrals and churches are to us to-day. That it should come, as it did yesterday afternoon, under the auctioneer's hammer in a public saleroom, would have filled our ancestors, could they have foreseen and understood such a contingency, with the same kind of horror we should feel if the same auctioneers were to offer Westminster Abbey to the highest bidder.
From an article in the Banbury Guardian, 30th June 1927.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th February 2017ce
Edited 19th February 2017ce

Men Amber (Natural Rock Feature)

To the Editor of the West Briton.

[...] In the year 1851 I was induced to visit Prospidnick village and hill, particularly the latter, by reading in Norden's Speculi Britanniae Pars, &c., 1584, an account, accompanied by an engraving, of a singular mass of rocks that is in the neighbourhood; and, on making inquiries, was informed that Men Amber was still in existence, but not in the same state as when sketched by Norden, whose description is here given verbatim:

"Mayne Amber, certain huge stones so sett and subtillye combined, not by art as I take it, but by nature, as a childe may move, the upper stone beinge of a huge bignes, with one finger, so equallie balanced it is, and the forces of menie strong men enjoyned, can do no more in moving it. It is to be imagined that theis stones were thus lefte at the general floude, when the earth was washed awaye, and the massie stones remayned, as are mightye rockes uncovered, standing upon lofty hills."

The following is from Carew, 1602:- "More certain though less wonderful, and yet for the strangeness well worth the viewing, Mayn Amber is a rock; Amber as some say signyfieth Ambrose, and a great rock the same is, advanced upon some others of a meaner size, with so equal a counterpoise, that the push of a finger will sensibly move it to and fro, but further to remove it the united forces of many shoulders over weak. Wherefore the Cornish wonder-gatherer thus describeth the same:--

"Be those thy mother Nature's work,
Or proof of Giant's might,
Worthless and ragged though thou show,
Yet art thou worth the sight.

This hugy rock one finger's force
Apparently will move,
But to remove it many strengths
Shall all like feeble prove."

Mr. Scawen, whose family had been established for a long time at Molenick, in St. Germans, tells us in his MSS., written in the latter part of the 17th century, when and by whom this logan stone was thrown down. Complaining of the mischief done by strangers, he writes:-

"Here, too, we may add what wrong another sort of strangers has done to us, especially in the civil wars, and in particular by destroying Mineamber, a famous monument, being a rock of infinite weight, which as a burden was laid upon other great stonesn; and yet so equally thereon poised up by Nature only, as a little child could instantly move it, but no one man or many remove it. This natural monument all travellers that came that way desired to behold, but in the time of Oliver's usurpation, when all monumental things became despicable, one Shrubsall, one of Oliver's heroes, then governor of Pendennis, by labour and much ado caused to be undermined and thrown down, to the great grief of the country, but to his own great glory as he thought, doing it, as he said, with a small cane in his hand. I myself have heard him boast of this act, being a prisoner then under him."

There was a tradition or prophecy, current at the time, that Mineamber, so called by Scawen, should stand as long as England had a king; its overthrow by Shrubsall seems to have been for the purpose of showing the loyal Cornish that kings were to reign no longer.

Borlase's account is as follows:-
"In the parish of Sithney stood the famous Logan stone, commonly called Men-amber; it is 11 foot long from east to west, four foot deep, wide six foot; there is no bason on the surface, but on the stone B there is one plain one. This top stone was so nicely poised that, as Mr. Seawen in his MSS. says, &c. There are some marks of the tool upon this stone, the surface, C D, being wrought into a wavy place, as in the Icon; and by its quadrangular shape I should judge it to have been dedicated to Mercury, as by a bason cut in the under stone B, I judge the stone A to be placed on the top of this karn by human art.

However that be, certain it is that the vulgar used to resort to this place at particular times of the year, and pay'd to this stone more respect than was thought becoming good christians, which was the reason that by cleaving off part of the stone B, the top stone A was lay'd along in its present reclined posture and its wonderful property of moving easily to a certain point destroyed. It was the top stone, therefore, of this Cragg which drew the common people together and raised their admiration; and I find that in the Cornish language Mea-an-bar signifies the top stone, and I do not at all doubt but that Men-amber is a corruption of Men-an-bar, and signifies nothing either relating to Ambrosius Aurelius, King of Britain, or to the Petrae Ambrosiae of the Ancients, as some learned men have thought." - Antiquities, 1754.

The letters in the last extract refer to a plan of the rock.[...]

Yours obediently,
Δ
From a letter in the West Briton newspaper, 20th January 1870. He signs himself as a capital Delta. I guess the 1870 equivalent of an internet name perhaps?!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th February 2017ce

Duntulm (Stone Fort / Dun)

Slide No: 30 Duntulm Castle

Nine miles from Uig is Duntulm Castle, and one way it leads over a long slope of land called "the garden of Skye". On the verge of Loch Snizort the stack of Scudburgh is seen standing like a lighthouse. Duntulm Castle, originally the site of a "dun", once was the stronghold of pirate Norsemen, anterior to the Norwegian invasion of Harold Harfager. It is a considerable ruin perched upon a precipitous cliff, and still has an imposing look. The castle built by the chiefs of Clan Donnel in the twelfth century, remained the home of the MacDonalds till they moved to Mugstadt. "Big Donald with the blue eyes", Lord Of The Isles and grandson of Donald Gorm, who lost his life besieging Eilan Donan Castle in Loch Duich, at one time starved a kinsman to death in the dungeon of Duntulm. This kinsman having conspired against his uncle, wrote to an accomplice in Skye, and by the same opportunity sent a friendly letter to Donald Gorm, but in transmit the letters passed into the hands of one who could not read, and this person handed to Donald Gorm the one that revealed his nephew's treachery. He was immediately captured, carried to Skye, and immured in Duntulm; there he was starved to death, after first being supplied a meal of salt food, and daily after this to mock his thirst, a covered drinking cup was lowered to him, which on being uncovered, was found empty.

Destination St Kilda 'From Oban to Skye and The Outer Hebrides'

George Washington Wilson and Norman Macleod

Edited by Mark Butterworth
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
14th February 2017ce

Callanish (Standing Stones)

Slide 34 Circle Of Callernish

At the head of one of the inlets in Loch Benera is a megalithic cruciform, Drudicial circle, called the Circle of Callernish. This Druidicial temple is one of the largest, as well as one of the most complete of its kind in Scotland. The total number of stones, when the temple was complete, was sixty five, of which about forty five are still standing, ranging from sixteen to four feet tall.

In the immediate neighbourhood are several smaller circles, some of them, being as large as fifty feet in diameter. The circle occupies a striking position in an open track of moor, and appears to have been surrounded at a small distance by a trench or ditch, which is now in many places obscured, the sames as at Stenneshouse, Orkney and Stonehenge, England. It is thought by some that these stone circles may have been places of worship, erected by the Norsemen, as in some Northern sagas; the temple of Thor is described as a circular range of upright stones, containing a central stone, called the stone of Thor, where the sacrifices or executions were performed.

Destination St Kilda 'From Oban to Skye and the Outer Hebrides'

George Washington Wilson and Norman MacLeod edited by Mark Butterworth
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
14th February 2017ce

Hangman's Stone, Hampnett (Holed Stone)

According to DP Sullivan (Old Stones Of The Cotswolds & Forest Of Dean - 1999 Reardon), this is another of those hangman's stones that takes its name from an idiotic thief:
It obtained its name, apparently, from an incident involving a sheep rustler who, when getting over the stile with his spoils fell and was hung by the entangled sheep. ... It is possible that this stone once marked a gibbet, giving a more plausible reason for its name.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
12th February 2017ce

Killian (Bullaun Stone)

The "Wart Stone," or "Font," appears on the Ordnance Survey Map, No. 26, as "Doughnambraher Font." Thinking it very unlikely that there should be a font without a church, I came to the conclusion that there might be a bullaun at the spot marked. It is about three-quarters of a mile from Drummeen, or Barrycarroll Castle, and there is a sort of road all the way to it. We turned aside to visit the Castle, and so had to cross the fields to get to the bullaun.

We made inquiries once or twice from the inhabitants, and found out that the name of the place was Kyleane (three syllables), Killian on map; and that there was a stone there which would cure warts.

When we reached the place they pointed out, we soon found a large bullaun, of which I send a sketch. My friends thought it lay in a sort of fort, or enclosure, but I am not so sure. It is a large, flat sandstone, with one large basin in it, and something which looks like the beginning of a second. There are nine round stones in it which make part of the charm against warts: I suppose to turn them round like the Killeany stones.

We measured it as carefully as we could. The length of the stone is about 5 feet 7 inches, the width 3 feet 4 inches, while the basin is 1 foot 8 inches long, and 1 foot 3 inches wide. [...]
Miss G C Stacpoole reports in the 1904 volume of the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
The information via the Historic Environment Viewer describes the bullaun and its stones. It says the stone is also known locally as 'Jack Baker's Well' and is made of Old Red Sandstone. It contains 'seven water-rolled 'cursing' stones'. Situated in the basin of a ballaun stone lying in the perimeter of an ecclesiastical enclosure. Seven 'fist-sized' egg-shaped water-rolled stones lie in the basin which is sometimes waterfilled and associated with the cure of warts. There were previously ten stones although the number seems to vary up and down over time. Stacpoole includes nine stones in his [her!] drawing. 'Rounds' performed here involved rubbing each stone against the afflicted part of the body and placing an offering of some sort under the bullaun. In February 1993 this practice continued. While stones of this type are generally classified as cursing stones there is no known evidence of their use for that purpose in this instance.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th February 2017ce

Ballyard (Bullaun Stone)

I cannot tell you how long it's taken me to track down the location of this site... variant spellings and unfamiliarity with the area did not help. But anyway it sounds superb so all this is worth the effort. I'd love to visit.

This is a naturally curious place, with a stream disappearing into the ground and reappearing: it's no wonder it's replete with folklore and Christianisation. I advise a glance at the Historic Environment Viewer map to see where the well, stream, 'bed', and bullauns all are.

This is an extract from an article on 'The antiquities of the Parish of Kilcomenty' in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries for 1904:
About 30 yards east of the graveyard, a rapid stream which there issues from the ground is called St. Commaneth's Well. This stream flows from Ballinahinch, about two miles distant, and close beside the saint's bed; it is carried underground for nearly 200 yards, emerging at and forming the well; then, turning sharply by the south wall of the graveyard, it finally empties itself into the bog of Shower.

One of the legends told concerning the well is that long ago it was situated close by the stone known as St. Commaneth's Bed, but that some cattle having been accidentally allowed to sully its waters, the well in a single night moved down to its present site.

Two of the traditional trout said to frequent holy wells in Ireland are supposed to be here.

Over the well, completely shading its waters, are four ancient trees - one sallow, one whitethorn, and two ash. Those two last are in reality one enormous tree, which, near the lower part of the trunk, is divided in two, and its branches and the hollow by the well are covered with rags and votive offerings of every description, deposited by pilgrims who have made their rounds.

The summer of 1902 was exceptionally dry in North Tipperary, the month of August being phenomenally so. Springs, wells, and streams that in living memory had never been known to do so, ran dry; and St. Commaneth's Well formed no exception to the general rule, for it must be recorded that we failed to find even one drop of water within its usually brimming basin.

The rounds practised here are seven in number. Having taken seven pebbles from the stream running from the well, and having repeated the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary!, Creed, and Gloria, the pilgrim throws one of the pebbles back into the brook, and proceeds to walk round the well. Following the course of the water for a time "sunwards," through the field south of the stream, he crosses it by a small bridge and enters the graveyard by a gate at the extremity of the south wall. Proceeding along a well-worn pathway by its north and east sides, he quits its precincts by a stile, which brings him to the well again, where he kneels and prays, and so on, until the appointed number of rounds are performed. While Mr. Westropp and I were in the cemetery, a country woman and two children "were making their rounds."

Close by the spot where the water of the stream disappears for a space under ground rests the traditional bed of the saint, lying north of the stream, and nearer to the road than the graveyard and well. It is a large irregular block of brownish sandstone, 8 feet long, and 4 feet 9 inches wide, extreme measurements, and stands about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high. The highest end is to the west, and here is a large and deep bullaun. To the west of this is a shallow, dish-like bullaun, and there are traces of two or more basins. Two sets of scorings are to be found on the stone; that nearer the top consists of six irregular broad strokes, not ogamic in character, while the set lower down consists of four slight scores. These markings are reputed to represent the impressions of the saint's ribs and hands.
There's some extra folklorey information in Lives of the Irish Saints by John O'Hanlon. He mentions that the prayers at the well are good for "bodily and mental ailments."

He says of the trout: "The following is a local legend. A person of the neighbourhood, at one time, scorning to respect the well, took one of these trout home, and made an effort to roast it; nothing but blood appeared, and the rascal had to bring the trout back to the well; but from that day forward, the family has not had good luck."

He mentions of the bed: "About two hundred yards noth-east of the well, in the midst of hawthorn and alder trees, there is a great Druidic rock basin, of brown sandstone, quite unlike stone of the immediate place, which is limestone," and that the basins are "always full or half full of water."

I love the way he mixes Druids and saints. He says "There is no doubt, that the stone lay, in its present position, long before the period of the patron saint. On the conversion of the Druids, he may have used the basins for baptizing the early Christians of the place, and may have rested on it occasionally. There is nothing impossible or improbable in this presumption, and tradition may be perfectly correct."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th February 2017ce

Weston Hill (Henge)

The Hertfordshire HER says there is a (probable) henge here, with its entrances east and west, and a diameter of 85m. There used to be a dene hole inside it, in which Neolithic arrow heads were found. The hole was also known as being 'Jack O'Legs's Cave' (dully, it's now filled in). But you can't help thinking that a henge with built-in cave would be a rather marvellous thing.

On Jack O'Legs:
At Weston, two stones in the churchyard, 14ft. 7 inches apart, are said to be the head and foot stones of the giant Jack o' Legs, who is there buried with his body doubled up. He lived at Baldock, - where, as he walked along the street, he would look in at the first-floor windows, - and thence he shot an arrow, saying that where it fell he wished to be buried. It fell in Weston Churchyard, and, in its flight, knocked away a corner of the church tower. (Told in 1883).
From 'Scraps of folklore collected by John Philipps Emslie', C.S. Burne, in 'Folklore' v26, no. 2 (June 1915).

Likewise he's mentioned in 'Handbook to Hitchin and the neighbourhood' by Charles Bishop (1875):
On the Great North Road, near the village of Graveley, is a considerable elevation which goes by the name of "Jack's Hill," from its having been the scene of depradations on travellers by a noted highwayman called "Jack o' Legs." [...]
In fact if you're interested, there's a whole book about this character by W.B. Gerish (1905). It suggests the cave was filled in around 1850.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
5th February 2017ce

Sudbrook (Cliff Fort)

The Camp At Portskewett.
(From a Correspondent).

[...] Thanks to the members of the corps - about 20 in number - who, under the command of Captain Williams, proceeded to the camp on Saturday last, a sufficient number of tents had been pitched for our accommodation before our arrival en masse on Monday.

[...] There is nothing which indicates the whereabouts of the "soldiery" until one is as it were in the midst of them. The tents are completely hidden from view by the high ramparts which extend from the north-east to the south. The piece of ground enclosed within the ramparts is of a triangular form, the eastern line being formed by the waters of the Severn. Coming suddenly into a deep moat without the ramparts, one is as suddenly confronted by a sentry, marching with a soldier-like air, a guard-room, or rather a guard tent, and a number of the guard lounging about.

Immediately in front of the guard tent, there is a gap, cut right in the angle of the encampment, and looking through this the whole of the tents and their occupants within are at once visible, presenting to the visitor a lively and picturesque scene, of which, two minutes before, he could have had no perception.

[...] The weather has been glorious throughout the week, but the heat, which would be exceedingly oppressive in town, is rendered delightful here, with a stiff fresh breeze flowing across the water. Each day the men have worked and drilled with a subordination that would be creditable even to a soldier of long service, and order has been maintained night and day. Heavy gun drill has been gone into most zealously, and some good practice has been made [...]

Ghost stories are not wanting in the guard room, for one good reason. On the north-east are the ruins of an old Roman chapel known as the chapel of the Holy Trinity, and no doubt was connected with the Roman encampment. Sundry remains of the genus homo in decay have been found in this spot, although the outline of the graveyard which adjoined the chapel has been effaced. A sentry is posted in the vicinity of the old chapel, and more than one have felt a chill creep over him during the still hours; but it is unnecessary to mention the little rumours which have currency during the last couple of days.

I have forgotten to mention that the immediate vicinity of the camp is called Sudbrook, and also that the advantages of the spot were utilised as a place to land, conceal, and protect his soldiers by Oliver Cromwell before he stormed Caldicott Castle. The place is in the highest degree classic and historic ground, and is well worth visiting.[...]
From the Western Mail, 4th August 1871.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th January 2017ce

Papa Westray

Like other wells and springs in Orkney, it is likely that the traditions surrounding St Tredwell’s Loch had their roots in pagan custom – practices that were christianised when the site was taken over by the church.
Archaeological evidence shows that the chapel was built on top of a mound containing a complex of prehistoric buildings that may include an Iron Age broch and earth-house.
We know the significance of bodies of water to the prehistoric people of Orkney, so it seems likely that the original figure of veneration was a pagan goddess, or spirit, possibly associated with fertility or healing.
The long-established customs surrounding the loch and the island within were subsequently absorbed by the church, who then adapted to incorporate the figure of St Tredwell as the popularity of her cult grew and reached Orkney towards the end of the 12th century..
There is one strange snippet of folklore surrounding the loch that is particularly intriguing. It was said that the loch’s waters would turn blood red as a presage to a “disaster” befalling the “Royal family”.

There are numerous similar examples of “prophetic” wells throughout Scotland – with some turning to blood, others rising or simply making noises to signify a forthcoming event.

Regarding St Tredwell’s Loch, the significance of the “Royal family”, however, has been lost. But Rev Brand had no doubts:

“As for this Loch’s appearing like Blood, before any disasture befal the Royal Family, as some do report, we could find no ground to believe any such thing.”

http://www.orkneyjar.com/tradition/sacredwater/tredwell.htm
tjj Posted by tjj
29th January 2017ce

Y Garreg Fawr (Burial Chamber)

According to tradition it was originally a megalithic dolmen about 4000 years old. It has served mainly as a small platform used by preachers, the Parish Clerk and others to make public announcements. In the past there was a large tree in front of it on which were nailed fox tails and the corpses of other creatures which preyed on chickens.


Charming local customs abound. Taken from the village information board near the stone.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
8th January 2017ce

House Of The Fairies (Souterrain)

But the most extraordinary relic of antiquity in the village is a subterranean house. I had heard of it on my first visit; and on the 13th July 1876 determined to have it opened and examined. A crop of potatoes grew on the top, and the owner at first refused to allow this to be disturbed. But by dint of raillery, persuasion, and a promise to pay the damage, he at length acceded to my request. This underground dwelling was discovered about thirty-two years ago by a man who was digging the ground above it, and was generally called the House of the Fairies. The aperture on the top was filled up again, and it had never been opened since. But after a little search the hole was found and an entrance made. Two or three men volunteered to clear out the stones and soil that had accumulated on the floor to a depth of several feet, and worked with a will. The house was found to be twenty-five feet long by three feet eight inches wide, and about four feet in height. The walls consisted of three or four ranges of stones, a roof of slabs resting on the sides. This house runs due north and south, and curiously enough there is a drain under the floor. Amongst the debris on the floor I found numerous stone axes, knives, and fragments of a lamp, as well as pieces of rude pottery. As there was no tradition concerning this house, and as it is assigned to the fairies, it may be very old; but I am inclined to think that the stone period extended to a very recent date in St Kilda. I have some satisfaction in believing that I am the discoverer of stone implements in St Kilda, and that my claim has been recognised by the Society of Scottish Antiquaries.

From Life In St Kilda During the 1870s.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
4th January 2017ce

Beltany (Stone Circle)

The Druid's Circle is situated two miles from Raphoe at Beltony. It is composed of sixty seven stones all standing erect in a circle.
South of this circle there is a large stone where all the victims were hung for there is a trace of a chain on it.

From this circle a giant threw a large stone to Nagherahane where a giant's grave now lies. Another grave is to be found in Mrs Craig's land. On top of it there is a large stone standing erect.
There is gold to be found at the Druid's Circle. Many tourists came from Derry to dig for the gold but found none.

Adjacent to this circle there is the 'Old Wind Mill' where a number of giants were buried.
The druids worshipped the sun or fire Bael teine - "fire of Bael".

Giants' graves are numerous in Ireland so that shows us there were a great many giants in olden times.

Molly McClean (age 14)
Collected for the Schools Collection of the 1930s, now being transcribed at Duchas.ie.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd December 2016ce
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