|Here in Orkney there are/were quite a few of what Gregor Lamb terms finger stones. These were generally thrown by giants. In Eday there was one above Farahouse. Rousay had one where folk would lay a stone in passing. The Finger Steen or Byasteen is, or was, on a cliff near Wasbister shore. On Mainland, in Evie, is one of Cubbie Roo's failed shots on Hoy. Cubbie Roo's Stone in the Dale of Woodwick had several holes caused by his fingers. Also called Cobbie or Cubbie Roo's Stone, it is shown on the 1882 map at HY36712306, between South Kews and the Styes of Aikerness mound (but to their east). In Stenness a huge broken up stone near Breckan /Millquoy was thrown by Hugboy from Hoy. Another put from Hoy again dropped short, landing at Ruff/Gruf Hill in Orphir - the Giant's Stone had the mark of his thumbprint. Over in Firth near main road north of Redland Farm, on the north side of Brae of Muckquoy, a pair of stones thrown from Gairsay to Estaben landed. One was triangular ~6'x2'x9" and the other 4'x4'x2', the with 'fingermarks' being on the latter. In Sanday a stone with the devil's fingermarks is built into Lady parish church.
They didn't always leave their idents behind. A natural boulder called the Giant's Stone, 8' x 6' x 2½', was thrown from the standing stone of Stembister (HY50SW 6 at HY54130239, moved to there from the fast-eroding cliff-edge) in St.Andrew's parish. It landed on the very edge of Copinsay, at the highest point of the cliffs around that island a few yards from brink. Over in Rousay Cubbierow/ Kubbie Row's Stone/ Cubbie Roo's Stone was thrown from Fitty Hill on Westray to Lyra in the region of Frotoft, somewhere above Mt. Pleasant but below Keirfea hill. Which is still a large area to search. On Shapinsay Mor Stein (HY51NW 1 at HY52401685), thrown from Mull Head in Deerness, was called the Moow Stane after a giant who left his imprint (I suspect that some of the stories of the Moar brothers, the early Christian missionaries of the Bright Morning Star, originally involved supernatural beings - so perhaps they gave their name to this ten foot high Mör Steen)
On holier ground, down at the end of South Ronaldsay there is the Ladykirk Stone, first ascribed to a monster turned to stone for saving an anonymous Gallus 'priest' after a shipwreck. Only sometime before 1690 did it gain the name St.Magnus Boat, from a tale originally told of a standing stone (in the present-day only a pile of rubble) on the Scottish mainland called Sten Hone. The Ladykirk Stone's two 10" long 1" deep depressions are likelier feet than anything boat related. In 1701 the stone was either six foot by four or four by two, now this oval beach 'pebble' is 3'8" long by 2'10" long - so are we missing umnntioned salient detail since lost ? The worthy is said to have built the St.Mary church on an old temple - not the present kirk but a grassy mound on the banks of the now drained Loch of Burwick.
Associated with the Knights of Stove legend is the King's Stone in Sandwick. 3' 6" x 2' 3" it is said to have gained its name from what were described as carvings representing the word king. Originally in the meadows of Stove this was later incorporated into the foundation of a water mill which was then built into the corner of barn in same place. Alas, this is now harled over. In "Orcadiana" Gregor Lamb puts a case for the Faal Stane o'How being another king's stone. In Orkney the local legends chiefs were called kings e.g. the king of the Brough Borwick warred with the righ of Verran, Voyatown.
There seems to be something about hogback stones in Orkney, with two named after a ?fictitious Queen of Morocco. In the NE corner of St.Ninian's churchyard at Skaill
in Deerness was one with a fish-scale pattern that now resides in the Session House. There's a fish-scale hogback lies in St.Boniface churchyard on Papa Westray. Another such in Rendall parish churchyard is called the Queen of Morocco's Gravestone.
In Kirkwall there was formerly a White Stone opposite the pulpit in St.Magnus Cathedral where folk went to repent. If not some prehistoric artefact it must surely have been connected with the saint's cult in some way.
On the modern map boundary markers and boundary stones are no longer distinguished, so that over the course of time the latter become lost e.g. The Markstone of Dalespot at HY45690593 marked a parish boundary where now the legend is simply B.M., no bs. Across the road the Mark/March Stone of Gaitnip lay on the St.Ola/Holm boundary in its original position at HY44680606. On the Howe lands in Harray the Fa'an/Faal Stane o'How, a large prostrate stone before it was broken up, is surmised to have shown where the tunships of Bimbister & Winksetter & Grimeston met. Over on Sanday is The Black Stone/Rock, an earthfast beach stone where its three parishes of Cross & Burness & Lady meet. Nearer Mainland another black stone, the 6' 6"x 4' 6" Black Stone of Odin (HY51NW 2 lying on its side on the sands of Veantro Bay at HY50641914) in Shapinsay was also used as a boundary stone. Back on Orkney Mainland there was the Man's Stane named for St.Magnus, 'lost' from somewhere near end of Swannay Loch, which used to mark the Birsay-Evie boundary [??B.M. HY30432986 near the jetty]. The Birsay-Evie border at one time also went through Crismo farmhouse, the road cuts through a mound here and a Grey Stone is/was on hillside above at HY31442893 (or perhaps it and the Man's Stane are one and the same). Greystone and variants were names applied by the Vikings to stones they felt to be hoary with age. Another at HY50150484 is by a slight turn in the St.Andrew' under-boundary. And then there is the Grey Stone in Orphir that is near no known boundary unless the road itself were one once. In the rentals for St.Andrew's there is a reference to "ane gray stone in the mure be Vest Vossand" being part of the freedom of Skibbowick - perhaps this was that taken in the ninteenth century from near where the Yinstay cairn now is ? Peterkin's rentals mention several more march stones, and it was common practice to set these up with two 'witnesses'.
The 19th century O.S. very generously mapped a huge number of stones even though they did not call them standing stones. There are several in the vicinity of the Grey Stane in Orphir for instance (and still are). But still they missed a few of the ones known to Orcadians, about which information has still come down to us. This includes a few named ones. There must be many many more that have been lost in ages past. For instance a standing stone in Stenness, the Kethisgeo Stone, was found embedded in five feet of moss with its socket beneath (a peg marks the spot presuming that survives). And could it be that there are yet a few lowly stone circles beneath our feet as we traipse about, the two famous Brodgar circles surviving by sheer dint of height rather than because there were no others. Again, if Maes Howe incorporates standing stones is it not impossible that there are homely stone circles similarly hid by other monuments ? Sometimes it goes the other way and what were standing stones prove to be a different kind of monument. For instance the Redland s.s. in Evie, which was aligned ENE/WSW like those at Staneyhill and Quoys of the Hill, after excavation now comes under the monicker of Redland North as the remains of a chambered cairn. Similarly in Birsay the pair of stones supposedly named after a Sir Randolph is now the Stanerandy Tumulus, though many still call it the Staneranda Stones. Unfortunately the stone that used to be atop the Knowe of Crustan, not all that far away, has gone, or else we might enquire after its identity too.
I don't know whether it is true anywhere else, but in Orkney there is often a stone standing hard by a corner of old and ruinous dwellings (as atop one of the Veltigar mounds in St.Andrew's parish) and the same seems to have been true of Starra Kirks.
Lastly there are my hobby-horses, unaccepted/recognised by anyone else as far as I know. First are flat-face aligned stone pairs (ffas) i.e. two stones whose broad faces are aligned instead of parallel as with the more modern farm-gate. These appear to be situated in places that mark boundaries, though I am not sure in every case whether the line went through or across or both, dependent on individual circumstances. Normally they are of differing shape, and where I am able to observe this there is only one with a definite socket. Though used as gateposts the ffas is only suited to the 'Orkney gate', a collapsible form constructed nowadays from fence posts strung with barb-wire fencing, though this is surely not their original composition if they are of any signifiacant age. It has been suggested to me that perhaps only the socketed stones are original. Another possibility is they are all that remains of what I term 'standing stone fences', formed of upright stones of a multitude of shapes and sizes. The preferred habitat of these are headlands. Which is perhaps likely to be only be an accident of survival. Unlike the slab fences of the mid-19th century agricultural improvements they do not form a continuous line but are spaced apart - which is why many of them nowadays have been imprisoned by barb-wire fences. Certainly the impression that I have is that with them it is more a matter of marking boundaries than enclosing fields or ?land. An unusually regular 'standing stone fence' can be found in walking from Yenaby to the Brough of Borwick, a different stone being used to boot. These well-socketed stones march mostly bare of covering and pass the front of the broch. Though a connection might seem inescapable it could be that this fence is different because it is a modern product. This week I heard on the radio of an accepted standing stone dated from material in its socket to ACE 200-250. Naturally the assumption was made that this was only the date of re-erection. I see no reason why this should be, standing stones were erected in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, and later the Vikings erected there own. So why not folk in the ages between ? And it wouldn't be the first time that Orcadian archaeology shows us what land once looked like in parts used to less durable materials.
Posted by wideford
9th October 2006ce
Edited 9th October 2006ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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