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

wideford’s TMA Blog

Post to the TMA Blog

George Marwick's Landscapes

Even now there is still dispute as to whether the incoming Vikings slaughtered the Orkney Picts, in which case we would know nothing of what went before - no knowledge or folklore. However if, as has been suggested recently, there was in early times a [proto-]English presence here then we have a possible agent for transmission for matters of history, folklore etc. It could be that when the Vikings came the 'English' were already in the Orkneys but seen as distant relatives rather than enemies given a choice as to whether to be friend or foe - there are precedents in other countries.


Sorry to raise the Gaelic spectre but George refers this battle to two neighbouring [sub?]kings each given the title 'righ' by him. They were based at the Broch of Borwick/Borgwich near Yesnaby and Verran [? Verron Point] in Voyatown (NW corner of the Loch of Stenness). This battle took place on the slope of Bruntland Hill [Gyron HY2416] at a spot now occupied by East Giron, and when the land was first brought into cultivation the soil produced a large number of rough sandstone/whinstone 'slewchan stones'.


Traditionally the original religion of the Northern Isles was the "wey of the druis". There were sites (often enclosures) called Quoymadruidays/Madralas in Orkney (cultivated by the white folk or left to pasture), surrounded by stone/earth dykes, where stock could not lie as long as the sun shone on the 'hare-lift' [whatever that is] - one of these in Yesnaby near Bride's Kirk had the name of White Quoy. In a corner of these places the 'White Chammer'/Madruid had a rough dwelling and at night came and took, nay demanded, whatever he wanted without any hindrance. The Ma-Druis or White Druids/Folk also had the name of Queena Folk in Shetland. Shetlanders danced at sites called the Healtadens of the Queena Folk on Yule/Jule Day and on St.John's Day, also on Lammerday when the sea-god Ra kindled the sea-fires (these often continuing to Lammas). One of the quoymadruidays in Yesnaby at a place called Hael [presumably the same site as White Quoy] had a drui-stane of odd shape at its centre, and at this site there were many black stone lumps said to be the petrified remains of Christian souls - the howthen/howithers resisted their teaching violently ! Marwick gives hael-stone as the local name for white quartz - a lump of said stone was found in all the 'aesir-knowes' [crematory mounds] excavated by W.Allan at Langadae [Burn of Linga Dee]Stanny Knowe [Stany Knowe] and the Chammers 'chambers' of the Stanny Knowe was another quoymadruiday in Yesnaby where the White Folk traditionally demanded tribute
The Howas [from haugr 'mound-dwellers] and White Folk both persecuted those who followed the Bright One (a.k.a. the Bonnyman or White Christ), so there were two distinct peoples living in Orkney at the time of the Morning Star men preaching Christianity. North of Bride's Kirk is a site Marwick calls Tirlhow [South Seatter mound], and around its base some small cists were held to contain the "young brains" of those tirled 'hung' as a result. Close by are many cinders, lumps of vitreous calcified bone locally called smeethow/Smithow cramps. Once hangired 'hung' the [other?] remains of these followers of Brida were placed in Nurse Keepers (knowes) in the vicinity, these being thence called Hangi(r)hows.


Traditionally this came about through the church sending a priest called Mohr. This "quoycumquoy" or 'Morning Star man' established what became the St.Lawrence stook near Linahowe/Lenahowe, in support of which folk mentioned a 3' x1' whinstone headstone in the present andwick parish churchyard (once upright by a well) inscribed in antiquity 'Mabhir' (earlier reported as 'Mobhr'). The extensive St.Lawrence monastery ruins, circular in parts, measured almost an acre and still stood a few courses high in the 19th century before the large stones were quarried for the steading [this will be the broch of Verron - it is common to find brochs adapted for ecclesiastical purposes]. This place had the name Mo(a)bisyard/Moarisyard and the preacher was buried near a well either there or near the Established Church.
[Expanding on this ?] there were tales of three brothers called Mohr [likely present Moar], who styled themselves as preachers of the Bright Morning Star. Lawrence/Lowrie we have met [I think he may have originally been nameless]. Duthan/Duthac held sway from Yesnabi, which then became Yesknakabie 'pulpit/church in the valley' [most likely Bride's Kirk], but also held St.Mary's kirk near Cauldhame in Stromness parish. This latter kirk was traditionally attacked by the lord of nearby Bluidy castle [the gallery grave of Castle Bloody]. He himself was killed in Tenston tunship by wild Harra [sic] men in the vicinity of Duthois/Duehouse [Doehouse] and buried at or near the present farm of that name. The third brother, James, resided at the Kirk of Qu(h)arbith [Warebeth cemetery built about a broch, or to be more precise the Monk's Green area] but was killed at the Park of Haarn. This lay in the parish of Hawn/Haun, which would seem to be Hoy as his killers were gossips 'emissaries' of the White Folk [pagans] of that island [though confusingly Marwick's article could be read as its being near Warebeth]. The part of Warebeth churchyard where he was buried bore his name, with his remains under the old buildings there. When the papacy arose they placed a church there, the priest living at Braenigarth [Glebe next to Brinnigar].


These were Culdee establishments of the Morning Star men (Orkney Norn Culdaes and Shetland Culdris) who came from the "Western" [whatever that means]. Marwick talks of the ruins of two ancient kirks in Yesnaby township. The elder of these is Briti-kirk a.k.a. Bride's Kirk, near which are the feal 'earth sod' foundations of a building (roughly 14' by 9' internally) termed the quam-cwn-que 'arched roof house of the qucamque' i.e. priest's house. He also appears to refer to it as a small mound called the Wham Whee, and likely the "guidispell hoose" [because both houses had a Calvary Stone etc]. At the W end of the latter, which Marwick remembered as once surrounded by graves, stood the large Cal-var Stone with two named sides. What appeared to be a cross of St.Andrew marked the calagoe 'westerly facing' cal-vaar side [sic] and a human figure encompassed by rayed rondels [a Morning Star man I take it] on the Golguotie [Golgotha ?] side. Nearby was a piece of land called Quoynaspells/Quoynaspelt.
Coming back from an outing to Work farm Marwick's host Mr.Flett drew his attention to what used to be called a Starra/Scarra Kirk by a water course in the Carness brecks 'uncultivated land'. The whinstone foundations of this site looked to be surrounded by a stone and earth wall [a dyke I guess], the main building being a rectangle of some 20' by 12'. Roughly 10' from the buildings south end a Starra Stane of sandstone stood 4' high, measuring a foot across and 4-5" thick. Along the Burn of Leashun in Birsay parish were the ruins of a similar small [?smaller] site.


Some time after St.Magnus was killed on Gairsay the occurence of miracles led to his body being moved to Mainland. Landfall was made at a creek to the south of the Point of Aikerness, whence the 'guid man's body' went straight to the Earl's Palace in Birsay. Along the way it went through Hund(i)land and then the level ground of Kirbister [Kirbuster] SE of the Loch of Stanger/Boardhouse before resting at St.Magnus Well before the final bit. Thus George Marwick. But sources other than his indicate a route nearer the coast for the journey from Gurness to Birsay, with a 'Mansie's Grip' as a resting place. This is at the NW corner of the Loch of Harray. From here there was another stop near the old house of Lingro, probably the Knowes of Lingro [perhaps marked by a stone arrangement roadside]. Then the last resting place was on the ridge giving a first glimpse of Birsay church from Crustan [two sites at Knowe of Crustan]. However there is also a boulder called a Mansie Stone further along in the turf at Round Geo [couldn't find this geo named on any maps].
A large stone marked where the grave was in the church floor. Before being moved to Kirkwall in the summer the remains were swaddled in a 'rowing clath' (shroud). These 'scoorins' of native woolen cloth were boiled in a sixty gallon copper kettle that could be viewed at the palace for a long time thereafter before being moved to Lyking. The gravestone broke when the body was moved. Eight men carried the coffer on a bier. Twatt is said to have its name because a dispute arose at the Stane o'Quibune (Wheebin Stone) as to which side of Floati Loch [Loch of Banks] and Greeny Loch [Loch of Sabiston] to pass. Next the cortege rested at the Knowe of Nurton [Knowe of Taft/Greeny], the winter-spring residence of the knocklapi called Knorri (to whom a part of the 'meal used to go). Here a Sandwick contingent added themselves, that expected from Evie not turning up, and the party continued to the Stone o' Whilcoe (on the outskirts of present Dounby near the Whilchow Well) dividing Birsay and Evie. More folk from Sandwick and Evie joined the cortege and supped on Kirkness ale before it moved on to the Knowes of Conyar [Coynear] to meet the Harraymen. Next they rested in Grimeston tunship where the Bisay men left, though not before erecting the Staney Hill standing stone. Folk from Stromness and Rendall joined here. In Harray's NE corner there is a 30" stone called 'the guid Mans resting stanes' on a heather ridge called Riv(i)age that slopes towards Binscarth. Finally we hear of them coming to Kingsdale and Caldale, which latter is said to have its name from this great assembly here [I wonder if there was a final resting place at Corse 'cross' as the old drove road from Orphir ended at Walliwall not far from Corse Cottage and this would have allowed Orphir folk to pay their respects too].

wideford Posted by wideford
30th October 2009ce
Edited 1st November 2009ce

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to add a comment