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

Stone of Morphie

Standing Stone / Menhir


The Stone Of Morphie or Morphy is said to mark the grave of a Danish king, Camus, defeated in battle by Malcolm 2 (1005-1034). During a hurricane in the mid nineteenth century the stone fell down, and while it was being re-erected a skeleton was found beneath it, 'of large dimensions.'

J. C. Watt writing in 1914, surmises that the monolith once formed part of a circle, adducing the 'immense number' of stone circles and tombs found in the neighbourhood, and adds that 'some years ago' he sent a friend to photograph the stone, 'but it was doing some duty at the core of a corn stack at the farm of Stone o' Morphy'.

The stone is associated not only with the Danes but with the menacing Kelpie, said to have carried it. Archibald Watt notes in 1985 that 'you can still see his fingerprint on the stone where he grasped it', a motif more commonly associated with the Devil or a giant rather than the Kelpie, which usually appeared as a horse, although it could mainfest in human form. This Kelpie haunted the Ponage (or Poundage, or Pontage) Pool in the Esk, and was celebrated in a poem of 1826 by George Beattie

When ye hear the Kelpie howl,
Hie ye to the Pontage-pool;
There you'll see the Deil himsel'
Leadin' on the hounds o' Hell.

Here the Kelpie is described as a 'stalwart monster, huge in size';

Behind, a dragon's tail he wore,
Twa bullock's horns stack out before;
His legs were horn, wi joints o' steel,
His body like a crocodile.

'It is a well-authenticated fact' note Beattie, 'that, upon one occasion, when the Kelpie had appeared in the shape of a horse, he was laid hold of, and had a bridle, or halter, of a particular description, fastened on to his head. He was kept in thraldom for a considerable time, and drove the greater part of the stones for the building of the house of Morphie. Some sage person, acquainted with the particular disposition of the animal, or fiend, or whatever he maybe called, gave orders that at no time should the halter be removed, otherwise he would never more be seen.' A maid-servant, however, happened to go into the stable and took pity on the beast, taking off the bridle and giving it some food. The Kelpie then laughed and immediately went through the back of the stable, but leaving no mark whatever on the wall. As he went he proclaimed:

O sairs my back, and sair my banes,
Leadin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes;
The Laird o' Morphie canna thrive
As lang's the Kelpie is alive.

The curse had its effect: no trace of Morphie Castle now survives.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
14th February 2024ce

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