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

Isles of Scilly


We pitch'd upon a hill where there are many of these barrows, and, as the common story goes, giants were buried, with a design to search them; and on Wednesday, June the third, 1752, having hired some soldiers, proceeded to open them. [...]

In the afternoon it rained excessively hard, so that we could not proceed in our inquiries. The wind blew, and about mid-night it was the most violent storm, while it lasted, I ever knew.

You that are curious will think very innocently of our searching these repositories of the dead for the satisfaction of the living, but will you not be surprised if I tell you it appeared in a very different light to the poor people of Scilly? The story may make you smile.

Thursday morning [...] I met a person who soon began to talk about the weather, and to complain of the bitterness of the last night's hurricane, that it had almost ruined him and many of his neighbours, that their potatoes and corn were blasted, their grass burnt quite black, and their pease utterly destroyed. I little suspected what the man drove at, but believing him to be in distress, pitied and endeavoured to comfort him, then went [to a house where he was going to stay].

[On making polite conversation with the landlady]
she told me that a few days before they were in hopes of a plentiful crop, paying their rent, and providing meat and clothes for themselves and children, but that the last night's storm was very outrageous; then asked me whether we had not been digging up the Giants' Graves the day before, and smiling with great good humour, as if she forgave our curiosity though she suffered for it, asked whether I did not think that we had disturbed the giants; and said that many good people of the islands were of opinion that the giants were offended, and had really raised that storm[...]
An extract from Borlase's 'Antiquities of Cornwall', that I found quoted in 'Rambles in Western Cornwall' by J O Halliwell-Phillipps (1861). He himself says, The appearance of the barrows which now remain gives the idea that most of them have been ransacked at some period, most likely in the hope of discovering treasure. The country people still believe that valuables are hidden under some of them, and one was recently destroyed clandestinely, in consequence of a man dreaming there was gold in it.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th August 2009ce
Edited 30th August 2009ce

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