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




The photos on the Megalithic Portal suggest this place is rather superb. Far from being discovered in 1835 (as the Canmore record suggests), this souterrain must surely have been known for long before that? The story is a bit wordy but bear with me.
In the time of the later Jameses, a noted freebooter of the name of Cumming, with his eleven sons, was the scourge of Strathspey and the more distant glens of Perthshire, and long baffled the feeble efforts of the law.

An artificial cave, the retreat of the band, is still entire, and is known locally as "Uamh Mor," the great cave or den. It is cut in the face of a green hill, about a mile and a half east from Kingussie [...]. The cave is crescent-shaped, and about fifty feet from end to end; and, as the soil is friable, it must have been formed with great difficulty.

At the centre, the width is about six feet, and the height about seven; but towards the western end, both height and breadth contract so much that, at the mouth, the space will only admit, by crawling eel-like, one man at a time. A few feet from this narrow entrance, the passage has been guarded by a strong door; and the boles built in the walls show that the bar must have been a tree of at least three feet in circumference: at the eastern end, the cave widens to a breadth of eight or nine feet, adn the roof is of about an equal height, so that a somewhat spacious chamber is formed. The walls of the cave are of large stones, rudely built together; the roof consists of a series of large flagstones stretching from wall to wall; and the floor is of earth or clay. To the centre of the cave there is a second entrance, by a flight of steps, that seems to have been concealed by a trap-door.

Cumming and his eleven sons were all, according to tradition, tall and powerful men; and the cave was formed by them in the night time; the earth, as it was thrown out, being carefully carried down the hill and cast into a deep dark pool of the Spey. The stones for the walls and the roof were brought from a higher part of the hill; and such was the strength of the sons, it is said, that only two of them were required to carry one of the great flagstones down the hill.
To save you from the waffling, I'll summarise. The murderous Cummings finally wound up a Macpherson enough that he vowed to rumble them. He pretends to be a gravely ill beggar to gain admittance to the bothy (it's not explained how he actually knows about the bothy). He notices the old women are baking far more bannocks than they can eat and realises they're being transferred to the cave below. He dashes to Perth to call the authorities. The authorities haul them out one at a time and don't even bother with a trial, they just despatch them there and then. Which seems rather unfair. But there is an afterword:
This is the story told by tradition, and I give it without attempting to prove its truth. I have, however, visited the cave; and the story was told to me as I sat within the dark, grave-like, chamber.

I may add that, to this day, according to the belief of the district, the descendants of the Macpherson who betrayed the Cummings are troubled with the disease, the pains of which were feigned by their predecessor.
Reported by J.C.P. in The Scottish Journal in 1847.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th May 2013ce
Edited 14th May 2013ce

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