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Rutherford's Witnesses

Natural Rock Feature


I've had an ambition to visit Rutherford’s Witnesses for some time however its apparent inaccessibility always thwarted an attempt. I am not enamoured of Samuel Rutherford himself, a religious Zealot, but I wanted to solve the mystery.
As I was perusing OS Maps recently I found a track which led to the vicinity of Rutherford’s Witnesses.
Travelling from Stranraer on the A75 I took the first L for Anwoth around 1 mile after passing The Teapot at Skyreburn. There is a lay-by to park in just around the corner. Walk back down to the junction and turn R up a narrow un-signed farm track. After around 0.5 mile I passed beside a small cottage (Hard Croft) and continued up the hill. After around 300 yards there was a faint track heading L downhill. I ignored this track, heading straight on. The track then bears N becoming vague in places heading uphill though rough whins for around 500 yards. I was lucky enough to see two groups of Fallow Deer, surprised to get a visitor. The path runs out in a rectangular flat clearing surrounded by whins. This could be the football pitch mentioned in the account. Using my GPS I zeroed in on the co-ordinates taken from the Camore map. Canmore has pinpointed 3 stones at Rutherford’s Witnesses, a pair at NX 572674 55608 and NX 57267 55609 with one stone c. 20 metres E located at NX 57253 55603. After some searching amongst the ferns I found three stones some 20 yards NE of the ‘football pitch’. There was a pair of stones at NX 57268 55613 and NX 57269 55616 with a third stone 25 yards W at NX 57256 55611.
These stones are within 10 metres of the expected grid references so it is not unreasonable to propose them as Rutherford’s Witnesses. The stones are between 1.5 and 2 foot high which is not huge but they are the only stones left in a cleared area.
Posted by markj99
24th September 2020ce
Edited 3rd December 2020ce

Comments (2)

Yup - it isn't called Ardwall Deer Park for nothing! Saw many deer up there over the years! I pursued Rutherford's Witnesses for a decade or more from around 2006 until a couple of years back. An annual Autumn holiday in Gatehouse provided many a bright morning to stamp my way around Ardwall, Moss Robin (still very wet) and the various clearings in the gorse clad hill. I never solved it.
There is no Canmore entry for Rutherford's Witnesses now. I am sure there used to be one for the site of the stones which despite years of visits and zealous following of OS references, triangulating myself between tracks, walls and streams always drew a blank. There are now two entries nearby called "Rutherford's Witnesses". Neither refer to the zealot's stones.

(1) a burnt mound.

(2) a ruined building next to an enclosure (which is at the hillock with the tall cluster of trees on it further North of the "Rutherford's Witnesses"map label). I found myself there a few times!

Both of these are given "Rutherford's Witnesses" as their site names. But this is simply the vicinity as marked on the OS map of 1892. The 1892 OS shows many boulders and a stone row (which I found!) in an area with "Rutherford's Witnesses" labelled. It is totally unclear which boulders are being specifically referred to but I was always inclined to the larger boulders marked which seem to show a formation rather than the random small stones which protrude all over the place from the turf (or ON the turf). Three LARGE boulders are shown above the words "Rutherofrord's Witnesses" on the 1892 OS here. These cannot be the small stones in your photos and I came to the conclusion that the large original boulders on the map have been removed. I've used the Georeferenced maps from the Scottish National Library here. Great wee tool.

I was slightly more inclined to the stone row as his "Witnesses". It lies to the West around 15 metres from the start of the track at the top of the "football pitch". They can still be found in the long grass between the clusters of Gorse. But maybe he really was such an unfun person that he would pick three totally non-descript, 2 foot high rocks! I last visited Ardwall in Oct 2017 and was still no clearer.

I was glad to read your entry here Markj99. It was good to read that someone else was determined enough to wander up and stretch their legs on Ardwall Hill only to find an underwhelming couple of rocks and no great hulking boulders as "Witnesses". I very much enjoy reading your other Galloway visits, notes and seeing your pictures. Cheers man!
Howburn Digger Posted by Howburn Digger
3rd December 2020ce
Thanks for your interest in my wanderings round Galloway. I follow in the footsteps of yourself and other TMA’s.

As to Rutherford’s Witnesses, I found the Stone Row to the W of the OS position of Rutherford’s Witnesses. I didn’t like the topography of the land. The football pitch was too small and the stone row looked like an enclosure or boundary marker to me. I think that the smaller rocks at the larger flatter clearing are possible inspiration for Rutherford’s Witnesses given the propensity of the Church to exaggerate the penalty of sin and the tendency of the stones to grow larger with each retelling.

It is also possible that two large stones have been removed from the site however there would be no obvious reason to do so unless the land was being cultivated. Given the surrounding moss and hilly terrain this doesn’t seem likely.

Canmore may not list Rutherford's Witnesses but there are three rocks marked on the Search Map labelled as such. Use the Canmore Search Map and Zoom to NX 57261 55614 to locate them. There is a third stone 25 yards W of the pair in the edge of whins which could correspond to the third stone.

Ultimately I derive some satisfaction from having pursued this mystery as far as I can but I am left frustrated by the lack of resolution. It's not over...

PS Thanks for the map link. It should be useful in my future ramblings.
Posted by markj99
3rd December 2020ce
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