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



In Arran, the belief in fairies still lingers in the minds of the older inhabitants, and many curious stories are told of the pilfering habits and cunning tricks of the wee-folks, who held their midnight meetings within the stone circles and old forts of the Island.

Many of the minor relics of the stone period have been found beneath the moss and heath of the Arran glens and hills, but few of them have been deemed worthy of preservation. Arrow-heads of stone and flint are frequently picked up by the natives whilst digging peat in the moors [..] They are called elf-shots by the Islanders, and are supposed to have been used by the fairies long ago.

[..] As we find the little flint arrow-head associated with Scottish folk-lore as the elfin's-bolt, so the stone hammer of the same period was adapted to the creed of the Middle Ages. The name by which it was popularly known in Scotland, almost to the close of the last century, was that of the Purgatory Hammer [.. so the inhabitant of the burial cist could] with it thunder at the gates of purgatory..
McArthur also talks of the highly polished stone balls found in cists and the "Baul Muluy" (the stone globe of Saint Monlingus): a goose-egg sized stone of jasper, which could cure diseases. People swore solemn oaths on it, and "even during the present generation it has been consulted by the credulous Islanders". Curiously it could remove 'stitches from the sides of sick persons' and if it didn't cure you and you died, "it moved out of bed of its own accord."

St Molingus was said to have been chaplain to the McDonalds, and they carried the ball with them into battle for good luck. It was next held by the MacIntosh family as a hereditary privelege, but "this curious relic was lost a few years ago by a gentleman to whom it was entrusted, who partook too much of the scepticism of the present age to appreciate its value."

A final bit of related folklore: "The perforated pebbles of the British barrows [..] are still known in the Scottish Highlands by the name of Clach Bhuai , or the powerful stones, on account of the inherent virtues they are believed to possess."

From p68-71 of 'The antiquities of Arran' by John McArthur (1861).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th August 2007ce

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