We sat out after dinner for Breacacha, the family seat of the Laird of Col, accompanied by the young laird [...]. It is called Breacacha, or the Spotted Field, because in the summer it is enamelled with clover and daisies, as young Col told me. We passed by a place where there is a very large stone, I may call it a rock: -- 'a vast weight for Ajax'. The tradition is, that a giant threw such another stone at his mistress, up to the top of a hill, at a small distance; and that she in return, threw this mass down to him. It was all in sport.
From 'The Life of Samuel Johnson' by James Boswell, 1791.
I imagine these could be the stones to which the Rev. refers - there are two of them, and they are on the way home to Breachacha castle (the Macleans' abode) from Grishipoll. But let me know if you know better.
Finding our labour [on Grishipoll cairn] ineffectual, we left our work, and returned to Mr. M's house. In our road, I saw several upright stones, particularly two, called the whispering stones*, which they call the giant's grave, and also evident traces of ancient cairns; all of which, though hardly noticed by or known to the natives, bear strong marks of monumental labour.
*So called from a silly trick, practised by the natives, of placing a person behind one of the stones, pretending he may hear what is whispered at the other, and having thus stationed him, he is left a dupe to his own credulity.
The Reverend Clarke sounds like The biggest cynic of all time - he can't even believe in other people's belief?
From p235 of 'The Life and Remains of the Rev. Edward Daniel Clarke' (a professor of mineralogy at Cambridge) by William Otter (1824) - viewable on Google Books. He visited Coll in 1797.
Coflein says the stones were known as 'Na Sgialaichean' in 1937 and still in 1972 (what is the translation?). They were by tradition "ancient burial marks". They are 46 feet apart; one is 5 ft tall, the other 6.
Falling into conversation with [Mr Maclean] on the subject of cairns, he informed me, there was only one in the whole island, called Cairn mich Re, signifying the cairn, or tomb, of the king's son. I thought this would be a very favourable opportunity.. of opening one of these cairns; and expressing a wish to that effect, Mr. Maclean informed me he had often thought of doing it himself, and if I pleased, we would set out for the spot immediately..
.. It is situated [by the roadside] near the village of Grissipol.. We soon fell to work.. While we were thus employed, a venerable figure, with hairs as white as snow, came slowly up to the cairn, shaking his head, and muttering something in Gaelic, which I did not understand. Mr Maclean interpreting for me, told me he said 'it was unlucky to disturb the bones of the dead!'..
..I am sorry to add, our labours at the cairn were not productive of much information. We dscovered nothing; but in casting out the stones I found several of that description of stones which are venerated in Mull for their imaginary virtues: also several specimens of beautiful black Mica.
Mr M. said, and I believe it with truth, that cairns were not erected merely where a person was interred, but often to commemorate the spot on which he died; and also at all the places where his body rested, from the place of his death to the place of his interment.
The old man informed us, he remembered the time when at any common funeral in Col, if the body was carried by that cairn, every one of the attendants cast a stone upon it. It is an expression of friendship and affection, at this hour among the islanders, to say, 'I will cast a stone upon your cairn!'
"We discovered nothing" yet he found axeheads? What was the man hoping for I wonder. From p235 of 'The Life and Remains of the Rev. Edward Daniel Clarke' (a professor of mineralogy at Cambridge) by William Otter (1824) - viewable on Google Books. The excavation took place in 1797.
Canmore says that "According to local tradition it was opened about 1765 by three Norwegians in the presence of the laird of Coll. They took the relics discovered home with them, claiming them to belong to a fellow-countryman." Well maybe that's why the Rev. was disappointed..
The RCAHMS website says that "An inclined standing stone was recorded at this location through fieldwalking in areas of the eastern side of the island of Coll." - this was in 2003.
I wonder if it was the stone mentioned here in the 'Life of Johnson' by James Boswell ( it is on the way to Breacacha castle):
We set out after dinner for Breacacha, the family seat of the Laird of Col, accompanied by the young laird [..] We passed by a place where there is a very large stone, I may call it a rock; 'a vast weight for Ajax'. The tradition is, that a giant threw such another stone at his mistress, up to the top of a hill, at a small distance; and that she in return, threw this mass down to him. It was all in sport.
Sheer speculation I admit. It could probably be any number of stones on Col. Found in vol V - 'journal of a tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson' 1773. Online at Google Books. Supposing you know the true stone this relates to - please leave a comment.
Later on they went to see the other 'great stone' in the story. I'm afraid to report that it "did not repay [their] trouble in getting to it."