Whilst on my way to Fowey to visit St Catherine’s Castle (another E.H. site off the list!) I took the opportunity to have a look at the Tristan Stone.
Very easy to see spot as it is right on the B3415.
**As an aside, in order to visit the castle you have to cross a lovely little beach / cove below the castle. This would make a great place for a day at the beach in nice weather. I found a set of car keys on my return trip and had to wait for nearly an hour for the worried owner to return to the beach to reclaim them. He was happy – so was Dafydd – he had extra ‘play time’ on the beach!
Carew entertainingly wrote in his 1602 Survey of Cornwall:
".. a gentleman, dwelling not far off, was persuaded.. that treasure lay hidden under this stone: wherefore, in a fair moonshine night, thither with certain good fellows he hieth to dig it up.. a pot of gold is the least of their expectation: but... in the midst of their toiling, the sky gathereth clouds, the moonlight is overcast with darkness, down falls a mighty shower, up riseth a blustering tempest, the thunder cracketh, the lightning flasheth: in conclusion, our money seekers washed, instead of laden.. and more afraid than hurt, are forced to abandon their enterprise, and seek shelter of the next house they could get into."
Another example of the bad weather and trouble you can expect if you mess with the monuments of our ancient forefathers.
Daphne du Maurier lived near where the Tristan stone stood before it was moved (crossroads at sx1051), and she wrote her own version of the Tristan and Iseult story, with which it has legendary connections (see also Castle Dor.)
In Wm Borlase's Antiquities of the County of Cornwall, pub. 1769, the inscription is read thus:
CIRVSIVS HIC IACIT CUNOWORI FILIVS
The reading of the first name as DRVSTANVS seems to be generally accepted at present, with the initial letter(s) construed as a 'D' written back-to-front. I have never yet been able to find the evidence upon which such a reading is based: for example, other inscriptions from (around) the same period in which a 'D' is written back-to front. Do such examples exist? If so, where?
In a recent edition of Making History on Radio 4, Dr Oliver Padel described the Tristan Stone as a possible converted standing stone. Apparently the inscription on the stone is similar to other 6th Century inscriptions in Cornwall and Wales. He was relatively happy to entertain a connection between the stone and the Tristan of legend, but emphasised that there was no definite link between the stone and the story. Nothing surprising there I guess.
Craig Weatherhill’s ‘Cornovia: Ancient Sites of Cornwall and Scilly’ (1985, revised 1997 & 2000) gives this info – “This great pillar stone, 2.7m high and set on a modern plinth, was formerly called the long stone. Originally it stood closer to Castle Dore, 2 miles to the North. High on the back of the stone is a Tau cross, carved in relief; on the front, running vertically down the stone, is a two line inscription interpreted as ‘Drustanus Hic Lacit Cunomori Filius’ (Drustanus lies here, son of Cunomorus). This has been dated to the sixth century AD. The two names have been equated with the famous Tristan and King Mark of Cornwall; indeed, a ninth century manuscript speaks of ‘Marcus, also named Qunonomorius’ who ruled over both the British and Breton regions of Dumnonia and Domnoneee. Unfortunately, the first name of the inscription is now almost ineligible”
The Tristan Stone - is it the Tristan who loved Isolde?
"I live in Fowey, Cornwall, and outside of Fowey there is a monolith with the legend 'Here lies Tristan son of King Mark'. Is the Tristan on the stone monolith the Tristan of the Tristan and Iseult story?":
The Tristan Stone, near Fowey in Cornwall, is a weathered monolith about 9 feet high like a Neolithic standing stone. It might even be a Neolithic stone, but it has a worn inscription on it: Drustans hic iacet Cunomori filius, which means "Here lies Drustanus, the son of Cunomorus".