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County Leitrim — Folklore

Leitrim weirdness (and some casual destruction of archaeology), collected by the local teacher from Terence Geoghegan, a 55 year old farmer.
In the townland of Mullaghgarve in the year 1936, I was working on a Relief Scheme, and I came on a mound of stones. There were big long limestone flags, standing up on end along the sides of the mound and at both ends. Outside the flags there were piles of stones of various sizes and shapes - some of them would weigh about 2 cwt. Inside the same standing flags there were a number of broken flags which appeared to me to have been a cover that reached from the standing flags on one side to those on the opposite side. Of the standing flags there was one on the western end higher than the others. Outside that flag we got ashes similar to that, that comes from a turf fire.

Between the standing flagsor stones were stones of various sizes which we removed for road metal. At a depth of about three or three and a half feet we came on a number of what we thought, in the gathering darkness of the evening, were human bones, and part of a skull. I brought home a number of the bones with me to examine them, as I heard there was a Druid buried there.

This happened in the month of December. Just as we were quitting work a friend invited me to his house to spend a few hours there. I went to it and brought the bag containing the bones with me. The people of the locality saw lights coming from and going to the house while I was in it but I knew nothing of this whatever.

I left the house at 11 or 11.30 p.m. and when I was a short distance from it I saw a number of lights in front of me, and as I was making my way to the road which I was approaching at right angles, I saw more lights farther away from me coming down the road. They were like so many lanterns, and I hurried to overtake those in front of me, as I thought they might be young lads going to a dance, and that their company would help to shorten the road home. I did not succeed as they went off on the bye-road where I was working during the day. I then waited for the other lights that were still coming on, and when they came to the by-road they went down it too. I then thought it strange that I was within 12 feet of each group of lights, and that I heard neither talking nor walking. There were about 7 or 8 lights in all.

I then continued on home, and nothing strange occurred till I was about 400 yards from my home. Suddenly a small light sprang up in front of me, and it was about a foot up from the ground. I first thought it was a glow-worm, and I stood to find out what had it raised so high above the ground. I put my hand under it, and raised it up on my hand. I felt no heat from it, or any kind of feeling of weight or softness. I at once shook it off my hand, and away it sailed through the air, increasing in size, and it went in the direction of the road where I was working, that is, in the direction of the mound. It went as straight as an arrow for there, but as a hill intervened between me and the mound I cannot say where it went when it crossed the hill.

As soon as I got to the house (my home) the roosters started to crow louder than I ever heard them before. I then went out to see was there anything wrong with the cattle in the byre, and to find out what was disturbing the birds, but I noticed nothing unusual. I then returned to the house, and with candle light I examined the bones which I had brought with me, and I concluded they were those of a human being.
As long as I was awake the cocks kept up the crowing, but as I was tired I fell asleep soon after going to bed, but my wife told me they kept up the din till daylight. She did not know that I had any bones home with me till next morning, for if she did I am sure she would make me put them outside the house.
From the Schools Collection, being digitised at Duchas.

St Columkille's Stones (Cup Marked Stone) — Folklore

One time the landlord Danny Hewittson of the Lough Veagh estate was erecting a mill in his yard and he sent some of his men to the old abbey in Gartan for a stone which he thought suitable for putting under the upright shaft. This stone was round in shape and there was a hollow in the centre. It was supposed to have been used by Colmcille for holding holy water in his abbey.
When the mill was complete he told the men to bring the horses along and [?] it but all the horses on the estate could not drive it. They removed the stone and put it back in the abbey and substituted another stone. The mill then worked perfectly.
Sounds a bit like a bullaun stone to me. St Columkille / Colmcille certainly had a lot of stones.
From the Losad / Losset volume of The Schools' Collection, transcribed online at Duchas.ie. I can't make out the [?] though.

Bostadh (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

I'm not saying Mr Rh and I are unsociable, but we do seem to tend to head for the emptiest reaches of beyond on holiday these days. And the beach at Bostadh does feel like quite a long way from anywhere. You need to leave the Scottish mainland for Skye, catch the ferry to Lewis, drive up north and over the bridge to the island of Great Bernera, then aim for the furthest tip of that. It should probably be called the Outer Outer Hebrides if you ask me.

I can promise you pale sand and properly blue water that wouldn't look out of place in the Caribbean (it's just a bit draughtier). It was nice to just sit and watch the local birdlife flying around and bobbing about. But if you walk to the back of the beach you'll spot a thatched mound, its roof held on by long ropes weighted with holed stones. It's a recreation of the houses that once stood here in the Iron Age - a number were revealed in the 1990s when a storm blew away some of the dunes.

You must cross a little moat (which unfortunately isn't putting off the rabbits who are eating the roof - they've got the sense to use the bridge like you do) and descend into the sheltered low doorway. Then ducking down (even I had to duck) you enter the house.

It's absolutely pitch black, and although you can hear a welcoming voice telling you all will come clear in a moment, and inviting you to sit just there (or somewhere thereabouts) - well it's just as though you've gone blind. But gradually your eyes adjust, and in the meantime you can listen to the superb soft Lewissian lilt of the lovely and knowledgeable woman who is the house's curator. Eventually you'll believe her that it's even possible to read a book in this dim light.

I thought I might like to live in a house like this, cosily out of the draught, with my strongly-scented peat fire burning, doing a bit of weaving.

I thoroughly recommend you visit, it feels like time travel.

Dun Carloway (Broch) — Folklore

A warning in case you were thinking of doing some laundry in the sea loch to the north of the Dun. Although conceivably it could refer to somewhere similarly named - phonetic attempts in English to name Gaelic places are still pretty confusing 300 years later.
There are several Springs and Fountains of curious Effects [on Lewis]; such as that at Loch-Carlvay, that never whitens Linen, which hath often been try'd by the Inhabitants.
From Martin Martin's 'Description of the Western Isles of Scotland' (second edition of 1716).

Lud's Church (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

... One comes unexpectedly to Lud Church entrance at which, on payment of threepence, with a reduction for quantity, in this case numbers, one passes through a rough wooden gate to the right and down worn steps into a long narrow chasm whose rocky sides vary between 30 and 50 feet in height.

The dank, damp air, moss-grown boulders, and air of desolation, produce an eerie atmosphere which is borne out by the history of this place. A ship's figurehead fixed high up in the rocks and known as the statue of Alice de Lud-Auk, or our lady of Lud, but in spite of the owners collecting dues from visitors this statue now lies merely a shapeless piece of wood on the floor of the defile.
So a part of history lies uncared for and some of us would wish that something had been done to preserve this most interesting feature.

Lud Church is also known as Traffords Leap because one Squire Trafford of Swythamley Hall, whilst hunting one day found himself on the brink of the chasm without opportunity of turning his horse and to save his life he made his horse leap across. Several hounds were killed as they failed to clear the cleft and fell upon the rocks below.

A popular superstition or legend avers that the redoubtable Friar Tuck here conducted services for Robin Hood and his merry men and it is certain that Lud Church has afforded sanctuary for outlaws and criminals.

It is also established that some of the Lollards held services and meetings for worship here during the persecutions of the reign of Henry V. At the upper end of the cleft is a cave which was used for those services of the Lollards, whose leader was Walter de Lud-Auk, and the story goes that soldiers surprised them during one of their meetings and attempted to fight their way into the cave.

Whilst the soldiers were being held at bay by Montair - a member of the sect - the rest tried to escape from the other end of the cleft. In this engagement, Alice, the beautiful daughter of Walter de Lud-Auk was shot by a bolt from a crossbow aimed by a soldier at Montair. Montair escaped to France and the rest of the Lollards were arrested. Walter de Lud-Auk died in prison.

The wooden effigy which used to commemorate Alice is said to have been the figurehead from a ship named "Swythamley" after the estate in which Lud Church is situated, which was taken after the ship was wrecked and erected in Lud Church in 1860.

Still another story claims that the figure represents Alice Lud who was shot by soldiers when they surprised a meeting of Luddites. Alice Lud was the leader of a band who met in Lud Church to make their decisions.

There have been attempts to explore the cave in which the meetings were held but falling stones have prevented any definite conclusion. The cave is estimated to have been 200 yards long and 100 yards deep.

[...] And just one more story, about Bonny Prince Charlie. The Prince had become separated from his army owing to a delay at Manchester, and was hurrying across the moors to meet his army which was expected to be below the Roches. Darkness had fallen when he reached Swythamley and so he and his bodyguard decided to sleep in Lud Church. Waking early next morning Prince Charlie was surprised to find a beautiful girl watching him. The girl ran away as soon as she saw he had woken but, when later he made a thorough search of the cleft, he discovered to his great delight that she was Flora MacDonald who had disguised herself as a member of his bodyguard in order to be near him.
From a piece in the Sheffield Independent, 30th September 1938.
TO PLEASURE PARTIES.
Visitors to Buxton are respectfully informed that E. ROBINSON, Dane Cottage, Quarnford, has permission from the owner, P. Brocklehurst, Esq. of Swithamley Hall, to SHOW LUDCHURCH. Refreshments may be had at the Cottage.

Buxton Advertiser. 8th September 1875.
LUDCHURCH. Tourists can be provided (Sundays excepted) with TEA, &c.; also with Milk, at the Manor Farm, Quarnford. Good Stabling.

Buxton Advertiser. 25th September 1880.

Dun Dornadilla (Broch) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Dun Dornadilla</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Dun Dornadilla (Broch) — Folklore

Dun Dornghil, erroneously called Dornadilla, is represented at the termination of this Chapter. It was, in the memory of man, about thirty feet high, but is now much dilapidated. Not a stone of this fabric "is moulded by a hammer, nor is there any fog or other material used to fill up the interstices among the stone; yet the stones are most artfully laid together, seem to exclude the air, and have been piled with great mathematical exactness."
The following verse concerning it, is repeated by the inhabitants.
Dun Dornghil Mac Duiff
Or an taobh ri meira don strha
Scheht mille o manir
Er an rod a racha na fir do Gholen.


Translation.
The Dun of Dornghiall, son of Duff,
Built on the side of the strath next to Rea,
Seven miles from the ocean,
And in the way by which the warriors travel to Caithness.*

* Rev. A. Pope, in Archaeologia, v.
From 'The Scottish Gael; or, Celtic manners, as preserved among the Highlanders' by James Logan (first published 1831).

Dun Dornadilla (Broch) — Images

<b>Dun Dornadilla</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Ringses Camp, Beanley Moor (Hillfort) — Links

Internet Archive


Notes Archaeological, Geological, etc. on Beanley Moor and the vicinity of Kemmer Lough. From the MSS of George Tate. In the History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 23, 1890.

He mentions the carved stones, and also the 'detached blocks of stones which are usually covered over with lichens, and hoary with age, are here called "Grey Mares".'

Newtown Hill Cairn (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

VANDALISM.
To the Editor of Saunders's News-Letter.
SIR- Yesterday, being in the neighbourhood of Glencullen, with two friends, we went to inspect a cromlech between that place and Ballyedmonduff named "Giant's Grave" in the Ordnance map. Imagine our surprise and indignation at finding only its site; it had recently been literally quarried away, perhaps, for some purpose for which any other stones would have answered just as well, and this too, at no great distance from quarries now being worked.

Archaeologists should learn from such cases as this, which unfortunately are only too common, the importance of never passing one of these structures without taking a sketch, or better still, if possible, a photograph, and measurements of it. It is much to be regretted that landed proprietors do not adopt proper precautions for the preservation of these interesting relics of remote antiquity from wanton destruction.

I am, sir, your obedient servant, W.H.S. Westropp, MRIA.
Blackrock, October 11, 1867.
In Saunders's News-Letter, 15th October 1867.

Tibradden (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>Tibradden</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Broadleas (Stone Circle) — Folklore

After a little delay, the remainder of the journey was accomplished to the next regular stoppage, at a place called "The Piper's Stones." here, again, Lord Walter Fitzgerald had some information prepared for the members, which he read out at the spot. He explained that the existing objects of antiquarian interest lying a short distance to the south-west of Ballymore-Eustace are three in number. In the first place there are the large boulders of graite placed in a circle 31ft. in diameter in the townland of Broadleas Commons, called "The Piper's Stones." They are now 29 in number. Formerly they made up a complete circle of closely placed boulders, though now there are large gaps in the ring showing where in times past many had been broken up and carried away for building purposes.

At a place called Athgreney, there is another similar circle of stones, and in the Deerpark, near Blessington, formerly there was a third one, each called "The Piper's Stones," but this latter was demolished years ago for building purposes.

[...] The name, "Piper's Stones," was often applied to this class of monument, and must have its origin in some now forgotten legend. The only explanation the old people give for the name is that bagpipe music, played by the "good people" or fairies, is still occasionally heard at the spot.

A quarter of a mile to the north-east of "The Piper's Stones" are the remains of a Pagan sepulchral moat, called Knockshee, meaning "the fairy hill." Little of it is now left, three-quarters of it having been demolished years ago, probably by some farmers, for the purpose of top-dressing the adjoining lands.

[...] Half a mile to the north-west of "The Piper's Stones" is a prostrate granite monolith, known as "The Long Stone." It formerly stood in a small rath-like enclosure now levelled, and which was thrown down in the year 1836.
From the Kildare Archaeological Society's annual excursion reported in the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 22nd September 1900.

Eggardon Hill (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

The farmers' sons and daughters of the parishes surrounding Eggardon Hill held their annual private picnic on the hill on Whit-Monday, and were joined by a number of friends from a distance. The Askerswell band was in attendance, and dancing commenced shortly after four o'clock. During the evening a great number of persons went on the top of the hill to enjoy the extensive scenery. About six o'clock they all sat down to an excellent tea, and as evening drew on the band played almost without ceasing, and dancing was kept up with great spirit. Through the kindness of the Misses Toleman, of Witherstone, and Misses Wrixton, of King's, there was an abundance of refreshments. The party broke up about 11 o'clock, and left the hill cheering and congratulating each other upon their evening's enjoyment.
Fun on the hill reported in the 20th June edition of the Bridport News, 1868.

Moyvoughly (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

Somewhere in the vicinity of this site is or was a holy well and a bullaun stone:
St Patrick, the great local saint, is commemorated at the present day by a holy well and "knee" situated in the field (locally known as the Street Park) lying west of the school-house. It was usual for an old resident (in the barracks) to make daily pilgrimages to the well. Some of the older residents believed that St. Patrick left the impress of his knee on a rock not far from the well. However, it is quite possible that the "knee" was a mixing place for cattle medicines. It was also usual for sufferers to drop some coins, pins or trifles into the knee. Superstition had it that the ailment would be relieved in this manner. If anyone should take any of these offerings out of the knee, he should be afflicted by warts.
From information recorded for the Schools Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s, online at Duchas.ie.

The information for the site on the Historic Environment Viewer says that there are exposed blocks of limestone visible in places in the bank of the barrow here. The local landowner pointed out that major drainage operations had taken place here over the years, so large parts of the ground were previously marshy or fully flooded, immediately to NE and E of the barrow. The holy well and bullaun are said to be about 400m to its east.

Duffcastle (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

There is a field near my home on Mrs Joe McGlelland's farm in Duffcastle, a large stone standing on four smaller ones. It is supposed to be an ancient druid's altar. It has been told that long ago two men dug under these stones and unearthed one of the smaller pillars in search of gold. When they went back to their home they found that the healthy baby they had left in the cradle was now a sickly child. It seemed to have changed in appearance too. It was said that they had done wrong and the change in the child was their punishment. This child lived for years but never grew any bigger.

In Mr John Magovern's field just at Duffcastle crossroads there is a long stone standing upright.
There are five marks on it supposed to represent the fingermarks of some ancient warrior.
There are some strokes and dots on the bottom of the stone. It is supposed that this is Ogham writing.
There are many forts near my home but there is not much known about them.
Recounted by James Tweedle for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Digitised at Duchas.ie.

Fieldstown (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

There is a cromlech in Byrne's field on Fieldstown Hill. The field is called Lios Dubh. Fionn Mac Cumhaill is supposed to be buried there. The cromlech is on the top of the hill. There are some stones standing upright in the ground and a large flat stone on the top of them. The stones are almost covered with clay and the place is overgrown with briars. Within the grave are bones.
Recounted by James Winters for the 1930s Schools' Collection of folklore in Ireland. Online at Duchas.ie.

Skregg (Passage Grave) — Folklore

Another name for this Cromlech is "Lopa-Erma." It is said that this name was got from the giant that put it up.
Under the cross stones of the cromlech there is said to be stone steps for a long way down in the ground and it is said to be closed up by the chieftain O'Kelly some years ago.
From Charles Fuery, a 60 year old local farmer, recorded for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Online at Duchas.ie

Fiddler's Hill (Round Barrow(s)) — Folklore

Legend of Fiddler's Hill
Does Warham Discovery Prove Old Legend True.

Is the old legend of Fiddler's Hill, Warham, true?
What appears to be surprising confirmation of it has been brought to light by Norfolk County Council men working on the roads. They have discovered in a mound at the crossing of the Wighton and Stiffkey road and the Binham and Warham road the skeletons of a man and a dog.

For generations the cross-roads have been known as Fiddler's Hill because of the old folk story of the fiddler. Centuries ago there was a secret passage joining Walsingham Abbey to Binham Priory. One day a fiddler and his dog, runs the legend, attempted to walk from the Abbey to the Priory by way of the old secret tunnel. Their progress was followed by some friends above ground, for as he walked, the fiddler played. The strains of the music were plainly heard slowly moving away from Walsingham towards Fiddler's Hill. Then they ceased. The fiddler and his dog were never seen again, but mysterious music, it is sometimes heard at midnight.

The bones have been handed over to the police, who took them to Dr. Hicks, of Wells, for examination. Later they may be seen by an anthropologist.
From the Thetford and Watton Times, 15th April 1933.

Rathangan — Images

<b>Rathangan</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Beacon Hill (Hillfort) — Folklore

Beacon Fire- Mr. Langham, of "Needless Inn," informs me that he well remembers that thirty-four years ago there stood, on the highest point of Beacon, an erection of rude and ancient masonry, about six feet high, of a round form, and having in its centre a cavity about a yard deep and a yard in diameter, the sides of which were very thickly covered with burnt pitch. This, he says, had all the appearance of having been used for holding the beacon fires. He remembers, too, that at that period, the entrenchments were much more visible than they are now [...]
History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest, T.R. Potter, 1842, p48.

Beacon Hill. - Not satisfied with my single opinion of these extraordinary remains, I requested Mr. Lester, a highly intelligent farmer and surveyor, who lives at the foot of Beacon, to examine them. He was perfectly astonished. Though long resident, almost upon the spot, and aware of the remains described as lying on the south-west side of the hill, it had never occurred to him that there were others. "Often," says he," as I have crossed that wonderful hill, and always with the feeling that it was a charmed spot, I have been either so occupied with the distant prospects, or so circumscribed in my immediate view by the inequalities of the surface, that I have never before once noticed the most remarkable fortifications to which you have directed me."
Potter, p49.

Wake at Nanpantan. - The Annual Wake, now kept on Nanpantan, but formerly kept on Beacon, the origin of which is lost in obscurity, may be a remnant of [a Druidical] festival.
Potter, p45.
I'll take the Druidical festival with a pinch of salt, but the Beacon must have seen its fair share of revels. I totally understand the farmer not being able to look round for "inequalities of the surface" - that often affects me. And I like his italicisation of charmed... it hints at a fairyish spot.

Collected into 'County Folk-lore: Printed extracts no. 3, Leicestershire and Rutland' by C.J. Billson (1895).

Cerne Abbas Giant (Hill Figure) — Images

<b>Cerne Abbas Giant</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Bratton Castle & Westbury White Horse (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Bratton Castle & Westbury White Horse</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Cairn F (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>Cairn F</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Cairn F</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Cadbury Castle (Hillfort) — Folklore

From the church we walked up to the Roman encampment of "Cadbury Castle," which is most interesting. It was partially excavated in 1848, and on the previous evening we had been shown many interesting relics taken from it. The most valuable of these is a large ring of debased silver. On an intaglio of a light green antique paste is engraved an object supposed to be connected with the sacrifices of Apollo or Hercules. There are, besides, some smaller rings, some armlets, reminding one singularly of the present fashionable bangles, and making one remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Both the workmanship and design of these are singularly delicate. There were glass and enamel beads, horses' teeth, fragments of pottery, &c.

All these had been taken from a well in the centre of the camp. There has been an attempt to fill up this well, but it persistently sinks down in the centre. There is a tradition that there is an underground passage from the top of Cadbury Castle to Dolberry Hill (Killerton). Risdon gives us the following couplet:-

"If Cadbury Castle and Dolberry Hill down delved were,
Then Denshire might plow with a golden coulter and eare with a guilded sheer."

From the same source we learn "that a dragon, forsooth!" is supposed to guard these treasures.

The views from Cadbury Castle are both extensive and beautiful. The Dartmouth Tors were all plainly visible, and we saw Cawsand white with snow. Farther to the left our eyes rested on Exmouth and its Bar, and on the other side we saw the range of hills at Wellington, in Somersetshire.
By 'Volo non Valeo' in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29th May 1885. Tristram Risdon wrote his 'Survey of the County of Devon' in 1632.

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — Folklore

I don't understand how the traditional rhyme isn't already written here. So I don't apologise for the length of the following:
[...] Folklore and science, romance and archaeology, the unlearned and the learned, have all contributed answers [to the meaning of the stones]. From the folklore of the neighbourhood we have gleaned the story of the stones which has undoubtedly proved the most popular, and which will probably be attached to them as long as they stand. Indeed it is probable that if we searched the whole of England we should not find a site in which the folklore is a more living thing.

The story is well-enough known, but here it is:--
A certain King set out to conquer all England and had arrived at the head of his forces at the hill on which Rollright stands. He had almost reached its crest when a witch who claimed the ground appeared and stopped him with the words -

Seven long strides shalt thou take and
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be.

Exulting greatly, thinking his victory assured, the King called out -

Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I'll be known.

and took the seven long strides, when, lo! there arose before him a mound of earth, which at the completion of the strides prevented him from seeing the village of Long Compton below. The witch then pronounced the doom --

As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be,
Rise up stick, stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an eldern tree.

And so it came about.

[...] The elder is abundant all around the stones and several bushes have been pointed out as that embodying the witch. If you find the right one and cut it her blood oozes out, and the stones are seen to shiver, in an endeavour to come to life, for when the witch's blood is drawn her spell is broken and the King and his army will pursue their triumphant march.

On Midsummer eve, when the elder was in bloom it was formerly the custom for people to come to the King Stone and stand in a circle. Then an elder bush near by was cut and those present have affirmed that the King moved his head. The inhabitants of the district have, however, a dread of breaking the spell, and the writer was told, not so long ago, that those of Long Compton will not burn elder sticks in their grates.

The fairies dance round the King Stone of nights. One Will Hughes, of Long Compton, now gathered to his fathers, had seen them. They were little folk, he said, like little girls to look at. His wife's mother, who had been murdered as a witch, remembered a hole in the bank out of which the fairies came, and she and her playmates had often placed a flat stone over the opening to keep them in, but it had always been turned over before the morning. Folklore and religion blend in the attitude felt towards the spot and Sir Arthur Evans tells of a labourer who always went to the stones on Good Friday, for there he would be on Holy ground.

Away to the south-east on the edge of the large field in which the circle is situated, is a rather jumbled group of five large stones, called the Whispering Knights, which are said to be five treacherous officers who had detached themselves from the King's army and were plotting treason when the spell operated. They have their own particular piece of folklore and at midnight are said to run down the hill to drink at a spring in little Rollright spinney, every night according to some, only at special seasons according to others. At dusk, it is said, you can hear them whispering to each other.

Many of the stories attached to Rollright are to be found in other parts of Europe, and it is evident that we have in them something more than local superstition, but the subject is too great to be discussed here.

Another legend says that the stones become men at midnight, join hands and dance round in a circle and in Cornwall the name "Stone Dance" is attached to such circles as Rollright, the explanation there being that they are dancers turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

[...] Rollright and its kindred circles were to the prehistoric people who erected and used them, places as sacred as our cathedrals and churches are to us to-day. That it should come, as it did yesterday afternoon, under the auctioneer's hammer in a public saleroom, would have filled our ancestors, could they have foreseen and understood such a contingency, with the same kind of horror we should feel if the same auctioneers were to offer Westminster Abbey to the highest bidder.
From an article in the Banbury Guardian, 30th June 1927.

Men Amber (Natural Rock Feature) — Images

<b>Men Amber</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Trewern (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Trewern</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Drift Stones (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>Drift Stones</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Boswens Croft (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Boswens Croft</b>Posted by Rhiannon

The Pipers (Standing Stones) — Images

<b>The Pipers</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Men Amber (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

To the Editor of the West Briton.

[...] In the year 1851 I was induced to visit Prospidnick village and hill, particularly the latter, by reading in Norden's Speculi Britanniae Pars, &c., 1584, an account, accompanied by an engraving, of a singular mass of rocks that is in the neighbourhood; and, on making inquiries, was informed that Men Amber was still in existence, but not in the same state as when sketched by Norden, whose description is here given verbatim:

"Mayne Amber, certain huge stones so sett and subtillye combined, not by art as I take it, but by nature, as a childe may move, the upper stone beinge of a huge bignes, with one finger, so equallie balanced it is, and the forces of menie strong men enjoyned, can do no more in moving it. It is to be imagined that theis stones were thus lefte at the general floude, when the earth was washed awaye, and the massie stones remayned, as are mightye rockes uncovered, standing upon lofty hills."

The following is from Carew, 1602:- "More certain though less wonderful, and yet for the strangeness well worth the viewing, Mayn Amber is a rock; Amber as some say signyfieth Ambrose, and a great rock the same is, advanced upon some others of a meaner size, with so equal a counterpoise, that the push of a finger will sensibly move it to and fro, but further to remove it the united forces of many shoulders over weak. Wherefore the Cornish wonder-gatherer thus describeth the same:--

"Be those thy mother Nature's work,
Or proof of Giant's might,
Worthless and ragged though thou show,
Yet art thou worth the sight.

This hugy rock one finger's force
Apparently will move,
But to remove it many strengths
Shall all like feeble prove."

Mr. Scawen, whose family had been established for a long time at Molenick, in St. Germans, tells us in his MSS., written in the latter part of the 17th century, when and by whom this logan stone was thrown down. Complaining of the mischief done by strangers, he writes:-

"Here, too, we may add what wrong another sort of strangers has done to us, especially in the civil wars, and in particular by destroying Mineamber, a famous monument, being a rock of infinite weight, which as a burden was laid upon other great stonesn; and yet so equally thereon poised up by Nature only, as a little child could instantly move it, but no one man or many remove it. This natural monument all travellers that came that way desired to behold, but in the time of Oliver's usurpation, when all monumental things became despicable, one Shrubsall, one of Oliver's heroes, then governor of Pendennis, by labour and much ado caused to be undermined and thrown down, to the great grief of the country, but to his own great glory as he thought, doing it, as he said, with a small cane in his hand. I myself have heard him boast of this act, being a prisoner then under him."

There was a tradition or prophecy, current at the time, that Mineamber, so called by Scawen, should stand as long as England had a king; its overthrow by Shrubsall seems to have been for the purpose of showing the loyal Cornish that kings were to reign no longer.

Borlase's account is as follows:-
"In the parish of Sithney stood the famous Logan stone, commonly called Men-amber; it is 11 foot long from east to west, four foot deep, wide six foot; there is no bason on the surface, but on the stone B there is one plain one. This top stone was so nicely poised that, as Mr. Seawen in his MSS. says, &c. There are some marks of the tool upon this stone, the surface, C D, being wrought into a wavy place, as in the Icon; and by its quadrangular shape I should judge it to have been dedicated to Mercury, as by a bason cut in the under stone B, I judge the stone A to be placed on the top of this karn by human art.

However that be, certain it is that the vulgar used to resort to this place at particular times of the year, and pay'd to this stone more respect than was thought becoming good christians, which was the reason that by cleaving off part of the stone B, the top stone A was lay'd along in its present reclined posture and its wonderful property of moving easily to a certain point destroyed. It was the top stone, therefore, of this Cragg which drew the common people together and raised their admiration; and I find that in the Cornish language Mea-an-bar signifies the top stone, and I do not at all doubt but that Men-amber is a corruption of Men-an-bar, and signifies nothing either relating to Ambrosius Aurelius, King of Britain, or to the Petrae Ambrosiae of the Ancients, as some learned men have thought." - Antiquities, 1754.

The letters in the last extract refer to a plan of the rock.[...]

Yours obediently,
Δ
From a letter in the West Briton newspaper, 20th January 1870. He signs himself as a capital Delta. I guess the 1870 equivalent of an internet name perhaps?!

Rudston Monolith (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Rudston Monolith</b>Posted by Rhiannon

The Giant's Ring (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>The Giant's Ring</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Kilfeaghan (Portal Tomb) — Images

<b>Kilfeaghan</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Kilfeaghan</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Leighlinbridge (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Miscellaneous

From inquiries that Canon Willcocks was good enough to get made for me amongst some of the oldest inhabitants of the district, it appears that the pillar-stone was always known as "the Clonegall stone." Gall is an ancient term for a pillar-stone; and "Clonegall," in the present instance, would no doubt signify "pillar-stone meadow."
From Notes on a gallaun, or pillar-stone, at Leighlinbridge, County Carlow' by Sir Edmund T Bewley. In the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland v35, 1905.

Leighlinbridge (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Leighlinbridge</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Nutgrove (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Nutgrove</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Nutgrove (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Miscellaneous

A Gallaun near Ballindangan, Co. Cork.
(By Courtenay Moore, Canon, M.A., Council Member C.H. and A.S.)

"Some months ago, a Corporal Oscroft of the Royal Engineers, who was engaged in this district, told me of the existence of the Gallaun. I went out on Saturday, July the 16th, to find it out. Stopping at the level-crossing of Ballindangan, on the Mitchelstown and Fermoy Railway, I asked an old woman at the gate-house about it; but whether it was owing to her deafness or ignorance, she could give me no information. However, help was at hand, a bright, intelligent girl, just entered on her 'teens, who overheard the conversation, and who answered to the name of Mary Kate, came forward and said she knew the stone and the way to it. Under her guidance I started off, and in about seven minutes we reached the place.

The Gallaun is a remarkable one, standing by itself in a field near the railway line. It is a monolith, ten feet nine inches in height, and five feet in superficial breadth; it is greatly scored and fissured, doubtless by the atmospheric influences and ice-action, but I could not see any human inscription on it of any kind. There is a small elder tree growing out of a cavity near the top.

The Gallaun is out of the perpendicular, probably owing to some yielding of the earth at the base, and inclines at an angle, roughly speaking, of some 12 or 20 degrees. It would be a great pity if this inclination increased, and that the stone should eventually fall.

On returning to the gate-lodge at the level crossing, I made some further enquiries, and by this time Mary Kate, my guide, was recognised by all and sundry as the proper authority. She said the Gallaun was in the town of Kilnadrow, "Spill it for him, Mary Kate, spill it for the gintleman," said her grandmother. Mary Kate accordingly "spilt it."

[...] The thickness of the stone is about one foot six inches. How much of it is under ground I have no definite idea; judging from the inclination, there is probably not very much. An old woman, who lives in the locality, informed me that a number of years ago, a man was ploughing up the field in which the Gallaun stands. The plough struck against a large flat stone, which he raised, and found under it an earthen urn containing some human bones. He replaced the urn, covered it up, and it has never been disturbed nor re-discovered since. At all events, the existence of the Ballindangan Gallaun is worth recording as a remarkable specimen of its class of pre-historic antiquities.
In Historical and Topographical Notes etc...' collected by J G White (1905).

I love that these sound just like TMA fieldnotes, with chatty remarks about the difficulties of finding the stone, and the quirks of the people met in the process.

Killian (Bullaun Stone) — Folklore

The "Wart Stone," or "Font," appears on the Ordnance Survey Map, No. 26, as "Doughnambraher Font." Thinking it very unlikely that there should be a font without a church, I came to the conclusion that there might be a bullaun at the spot marked. It is about three-quarters of a mile from Drummeen, or Barrycarroll Castle, and there is a sort of road all the way to it. We turned aside to visit the Castle, and so had to cross the fields to get to the bullaun.

We made inquiries once or twice from the inhabitants, and found out that the name of the place was Kyleane (three syllables), Killian on map; and that there was a stone there which would cure warts.

When we reached the place they pointed out, we soon found a large bullaun, of which I send a sketch. My friends thought it lay in a sort of fort, or enclosure, but I am not so sure. It is a large, flat sandstone, with one large basin in it, and something which looks like the beginning of a second. There are nine round stones in it which make part of the charm against warts: I suppose to turn them round like the Killeany stones.

We measured it as carefully as we could. The length of the stone is about 5 feet 7 inches, the width 3 feet 4 inches, while the basin is 1 foot 8 inches long, and 1 foot 3 inches wide. [...]
Miss G C Stacpoole reports in the 1904 volume of the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
The information via the Historic Environment Viewer describes the bullaun and its stones. It says the stone is also known locally as 'Jack Baker's Well' and is made of Old Red Sandstone. It contains 'seven water-rolled 'cursing' stones'. Situated in the basin of a ballaun stone lying in the perimeter of an ecclesiastical enclosure. Seven 'fist-sized' egg-shaped water-rolled stones lie in the basin which is sometimes waterfilled and associated with the cure of warts. There were previously ten stones although the number seems to vary up and down over time. Stacpoole includes nine stones in his [her!] drawing. 'Rounds' performed here involved rubbing each stone against the afflicted part of the body and placing an offering of some sort under the bullaun. In February 1993 this practice continued. While stones of this type are generally classified as cursing stones there is no known evidence of their use for that purpose in this instance.

Killian (Bullaun Stone) — Images

<b>Killian</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Moneydig (Passage Grave) — Miscellaneous

[The Daff Stone] is the name popularly given to a large stone which lies on a low mound of earth in a field close to the Moneydig cross-roads. It is roughly diamond-shaped, the longer diagonal reaching 7 feet, and the shorter about 4 feet. The average thickness is from 1 foot 9 inches to 2 feet.

[...] Recently, Mr. S. K. Kircker and myself, happened to be driving past the place. Noticing the stone, we stopped to have a closer look at it. To our astonishment we discovered that it was the cover-stone of a sepulchral chamber. Clearing away some dead thorn-bushes which were about, we found that the stone did not quite cover the chamber at one particular spot. We were afterwards told that the bushes were designed to prevent some young lambs, which were in the field, from falling through the opening thus formed.*

Making his way, with much difficulty, into the chamber by this "open door," Mr. Kircker, after taking some measurements, made a further discovery. He reported that one of the upright stones forming the chamber had some curious markings or scribings upon it.

I immediately secured some paper from a neighbouring shop, and he made me a rubbing, which, though not very satisfactory, showed at least that the stone was rudely decorated. [...]

The word "Daff" means in Irish 'a vat or tub'; and certainly the appearance which the chamber presents to anyone looking in justifies the name. Seven large stones form the staves of the 'cask', if I may so call it, and the cover-stone furnishes the lid.

[...] The stone marked X on the plan is the one which carries the scribings. They occur at about one-third of the height from the bottom as exposed, and cover a space 1 foot 7 inches broad by 1 foot high. On an average they are one-tenth of an inch in width. They are made up of five figures; the largest is a spear-shaped one, and runs almost across the entire space occupied. It also occurs below the other four.

The edges of the blade are formed by a series of scorings, at least five or six on the upper edge, and ten or twelve on the under one. The ends are open, and seem to curl outward - one of them certainly does. The space between these ends is filled with a smaller triangular figure, shaped like an arrow-head, with longish wings and no stem. A similar figure, but longer and sharper, occupies the top corner to the right.

The left-hand corner opposite this is taken up with a circular ornament, 5 1/2 inches in diameter. The circle is incomplete, or penannular, three inches or so of an are being wanting [sic]. There is no cup at the centre, but there are some five straight lines running downwards from the centre to the circumference, two of which are very distinct.

Though the rubbing shows only one circle, or rather partial circle, there are what seem to me faint traces of other concentric circles within this. Mr. Kircker is inclined to think that originally it was a spiral - and it may have been so; but the surface of the stone is so rough, and the scribings so faint, that it is impossible to make anything more out of the figure than what appears on the rubbing.

Between this circular figure and the point of the large spear-like one underneath the others is a fourth 'broad arrow.' Its point is in the opposite direction to that of the 'spear' and also of that which is within the open ends. In both these instances the direction of the point is determined by the shape of the space to be filled with the ornamentation.

I may add, before I leave this, that on the large stone directly opposite to the one bearing the decoration - the largest one, indeed, of all the uprights - there are a few lines scored, but there is no approach to a pattern [...]
From George R Buick's article in the 1904 Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

I love the way there's a sense of excitement as they explore the stones. And this* made me smile, I bet they found this out when the farmer came over to see what the hell they were up to, and told them off for removing the branches he'd deliberately put there.

It seems to me that there must be some quite complicated designs on the stones. And this would be very cool to see. But when I tried to find out about them on the internet, I drew a blank. The NISMR page is pretty sparse. The additional details link suggests the Official Visit in 1997 didn't notice any carvings at all. But George and his mate Mr Kircker didn't imagine them, surely? They took some rubbings of them - twice, because the first set went astray. You couldn't imagine them twice.

I know what I'd do if I lived nearby, I'd be over there with a torch and a camera.

Northern Ireland — Links

Historic Environment Map Viewer


The latest incarnation of the map viewer, at the Department for Communities website.
The links are supposed to bring up information on the NISMR. But you can always search the latterhere if not.

Moneydig (Passage Grave) — Images

<b>Moneydig</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Moneydig</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Ballyard (Bullaun Stone) — Images

<b>Ballyard</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Ballyard</b>Posted by Rhiannon

Ballyard (Bullaun Stone) — Folklore

I cannot tell you how long it's taken me to track down the location of this site... variant spellings and unfamiliarity with the area did not help. But anyway it sounds superb so all this is worth the effort. I'd love to visit.

This is a naturally curious place, with a stream disappearing into the ground and reappearing: it's no wonder it's replete with folklore and Christianisation. I advise a glance at the Historic Environment Viewer map to see where the well, stream, 'bed', and bullauns all are.

This is an extract from an article on 'The antiquities of the Parish of Kilcomenty' in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries for 1904:
About 30 yards east of the graveyard, a rapid stream which there issues from the ground is called St. Commaneth's Well. This stream flows from Ballinahinch, about two miles distant, and close beside the saint's bed; it is carried underground for nearly 200 yards, emerging at and forming the well; then, turning sharply by the south wall of the graveyard, it finally empties itself into the bog of Shower.

One of the legends told concerning the well is that long ago it was situated close by the stone known as St. Commaneth's Bed, but that some cattle having been accidentally allowed to sully its waters, the well in a single night moved down to its present site.

Two of the traditional trout said to frequent holy wells in Ireland are supposed to be here.

Over the well, completely shading its waters, are four ancient trees - one sallow, one whitethorn, and two ash. Those two last are in reality one enormous tree, which, near the lower part of the trunk, is divided in two, and its branches and the hollow by the well are covered with rags and votive offerings of every description, deposited by pilgrims who have made their rounds.

The summer of 1902 was exceptionally dry in North Tipperary, the month of August being phenomenally so. Springs, wells, and streams that in living memory had never been known to do so, ran dry; and St. Commaneth's Well formed no exception to the general rule, for it must be recorded that we failed to find even one drop of water within its usually brimming basin.

The rounds practised here are seven in number. Having taken seven pebbles from the stream running from the well, and having repeated the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary!, Creed, and Gloria, the pilgrim throws one of the pebbles back into the brook, and proceeds to walk round the well. Following the course of the water for a time "sunwards," through the field south of the stream, he crosses it by a small bridge and enters the graveyard by a gate at the extremity of the south wall. Proceeding along a well-worn pathway by its north and east sides, he quits its precincts by a stile, which brings him to the well again, where he kneels and prays, and so on, until the appointed number of rounds are performed. While Mr. Westropp and I were in the cemetery, a country woman and two children "were making their rounds."

Close by the spot where the water of the stream disappears for a space under ground rests the traditional bed of the saint, lying north of the stream, and nearer to the road than the graveyard and well. It is a large irregular block of brownish sandstone, 8 feet long, and 4 feet 9 inches wide, extreme measurements, and stands about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high. The highest end is to the west, and here is a large and deep bullaun. To the west of this is a shallow, dish-like bullaun, and there are traces of two or more basins. Two sets of scorings are to be found on the stone; that nearer the top consists of six irregular broad strokes, not ogamic in character, while the set lower down consists of four slight scores. These markings are reputed to represent the impressions of the saint's ribs and hands.
There's some extra folklorey information in Lives of the Irish Saints by John O'Hanlon. He mentions that the prayers at the well are good for "bodily and mental ailments."

He says of the trout: "The following is a local legend. A person of the neighbourhood, at one time, scorning to respect the well, took one of these trout home, and made an effort to roast it; nothing but blood appeared, and the rascal had to bring the trout back to the well; but from that day forward, the family has not had good luck."

He mentions of the bed: "About two hundred yards noth-east of the well, in the midst of hawthorn and alder trees, there is a great Druidic rock basin, of brown sandstone, quite unlike stone of the immediate place, which is limestone," and that the basins are "always full or half full of water."

I love the way he mixes Druids and saints. He says "There is no doubt, that the stone lay, in its present position, long before the period of the patron saint. On the conversion of the Druids, he may have used the basins for baptizing the early Christians of the place, and may have rested on it occasionally. There is nothing impossible or improbable in this presumption, and tradition may be perfectly correct."

Hunsbury Hill (Hillfort) — Images

<b>Hunsbury Hill</b>Posted by Rhiannon
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This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.


...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.


I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:
http://wiltshirewandering.blogspot.co.uk/

and I've been helping digitise the Schools' Collection of the National Folklore Collection of Ireland... you can also at
http://www.duchas.ie/en

Some interesting websites with landscape and fairy folklore:
http://earthworks-m.blogspot.co.uk
http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.co.uk

My TMA Content: