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Cairnsmore of Fleet



Cairnsmore of Fleet has two summits, and there are (admittedly dilapidated) cairns on both. It's very dramatic landscape though so I guess that doesn't really matter.
In the side of this mountain, facing Dromore station, we believe there is a cave of incredible dimensions, which is said to have been at one time the safe retreat of the gipsy king and robber Billy Marshall, and his lawless followers, and the hiding-place of their ill-gotten spoil. In Blackwood's Magazine we find the following amusing anecdote of Billy Marshall and this cave, stated to have been derived from "Black Matthew Marshall," grandson of the said chieftain: -

"Marshall's gang had long held posession of a large cave or cavern in the high grounds of Cairnsmore, in Galloway, where they usually deposited their plunder and sometimes resided secure from the officers of the law, as no one durst venture to molest the tribe in that retired subterraneous situation. It happened that two Highland pipers, strangers to the country, were travelling that way, and falling in by chance with this cave, they entered it to shelter themselves from the weather, and resolved to rest there during the night. They found pretty good quarters, but observed some very suspicious furniture in the cave, which indicated the profession and character of its absent inhabitants. They had not remained long till they were alarmed by the voices of a numerous band advancing to its entrance. The pipers expected nothing but death from the ruthless gipsies. One of them, however, being a man of some presence of mind, called to his neighbour instantly to fill his bags (doing the same himself), and to strike up a pibroch with all his might and main. Both pipes accordingly at once commenced a most tremendous onset, the cave with all its echoes pealing back the 'Pibroch of Donuil Dhu' or such like. At this very unexpected and terrific reception - the yelling of the bagpipes, issuing from the bowels of the earth, just at the moment the gipsies entered the cave - Billy Marshall, with all his band, precipitately fled in the greatest consternation, and from that night never again would go near their favourite haunt, believing that the blast they had heard proceeded from the devil or some of his agents. The pipers next morning prosecuted their journey in safety, carrying with them the spolia opima of the redoubted Billy and the clan Marshall."

There are three mountains in the Stewartry named Cairnsmore, - the old rhyme
"There's Cairnsmore of Fleet, and Cairnsmore o' Dee,
And Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, the highest o' the three."
being, doubtless, familiar to most of our readers.
In 'Rambles in Galloway' by Malcolm McLachlan Harper (1876).

Also - ..amongst their wild rocks are pieces of beautiful spar found, termed by the country people Cairns-moor diamonds.

and elsewhere, that Tradition says, that no human eyes ever beheld the back side, or farthest extremity of this cave [the Co' O' Caerclaugh]; that a dog once went in at its mouth and came out at the door o' Cairnsmoor, a place nearly ten miles from it; and when the tyke did come out he was found to be all sung (singed), as if he had passed through some fire ordeal or other.

(from the amusing and highly recommendable Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, by John MacTaggart, 1824)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th November 2010ce
Edited 4th November 2010ce

Comments (2)

Billy Marshall's cave is still there (or it was thirty years ago when I clambered inside it). It is under a huge boulder on the slopes of Cairnsmore of Fleet.
Cairns-moor diamonds... Many gemstones from this area. There is a gemstone museum in Creetown at the foot of Cairnsmore of Fleet.
Howburn Digger Posted by Howburn Digger
12th November 2010ce
That's really good to hear! and I like the idea that it's hidden beneath a big boulder too. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th November 2010ce
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