The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Standing Stone / Menhir


In the neighbouring parish of Birsay there is one of these Druidical stones, with a rather strange and tragic history attached to it. The legend runs that every Hogmanay night, as the clock strikes the hour of twelve, this stone begins to walk or move towards Birsay Loch. When the edge of the loch is reached it quietly dips its head into the rippling waters. Then, to remain firm and immovable until the next twelve months pass away, it as silently returns to its post.

It was never considered safe for any one to remain out of doors at midnight, and watch its movements upon Hogmanay. Many stories are current of curious persons who dared to watch the stone's proceedings, and who the next morning were found lying corpses by its side.

The latest story of the kind is that of a young gentleman from Glasgow, who formed the resolve to remain up all night, and find out for himself the truth or falsehood about this wonderful stone. One Hogmanay accompanied only by the cold silvery beams of the moon, the daring youth began his watch. As time wore on and the dread hour of midnight approached, he began to feel some little terror in his heart, and an eerie feeling crept slowly over his limbs. At midnight he discovered that, in his pacing to and fro, he had come between the stone and the loch; and, as he looked towards the former he fancied that he saw it move. From that moment he lost all consciousness, and his friends found him in the grey dawn lying in a faint. By degrees he came to himself; but he could not satisfy enquirers whether the stone had really moved and knocked him down on its way, or whether his imagination had conjured up the assault.

There is another tale, of a more tragic nature, related of this walking stone. One stormy December day a vessel was shipwrecked upon the shore of Birsay, and all hands save one were lost. The rescued sailor happened to find refuge in a cottage close by this stone; and, hearing the story of its yearly march, he resolved to see for himself all that human eyes might be able to discover. In spite of all remonstrances, he sallied forth on the last night of the old year; and, to make doubly sure, he seated himself on the very pinnacle of the stone. There he awaited the events of the night. What these were no mortal man can tell; for the first morning of the new year dawned upon the corpse of the gallant sailor lad, and local report has it that the walking stone rolled over him as it proceeded to the loch.
From Rambles in the Far North by R Menzies Fergusson (1884). Loch of Birsay is an alternative name for Loch of Boardhouse.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th July 2012ce
Edited 25th July 2012ce

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