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St Columkille's Stones

Cup Marked Stone


I regret to say the co-ordinates I've put in for this site probably aren't very good as I'm having problems understanding the mapbrowser (any advice welcomed, it's record DG044-021002).

Anyway, this is a Cup-marked Stone with Folklore and thus cries out to be added anyway. There's a photo of it here
where you can see it stained with coins (you have been warned).
I have spoken of Gartan as being held on very reliable records to have been the birthplace of St Columba, and I may further mention that a great celebration was held there in 1897, on the 1400th anniversary of his death, similar to that which, it may be remembered, was held at the same time at Iona.

The family of the saint occupied a princely position, and for four generations, since St Patrick himself had converted and baptised the great-great-grandfather of the saint, the family had been Christian. Their permanent abode or fort was about ten miles from Gartan. But at Gartan there is the "natal stone" as it is called, which is said to be the actual spot where St Columba was born. His mother, the Princess Ethne, so tradition says, had been brought here for the birth.

This stone, to my surprise when I visited it, I found to be at one end covered with cup marks. Whatever these marks mean or were made for, there seems to be little doubt that they were connected with some pagan rite or practice; and the interest attached to this particular stone to my mind is that a Christian family still held it in so much veneration, probably for good luck, as to have brought the lady to it from her own home at such a critical time.

The size of the stone is about eight feet long by six feet broad and one and a half feet thick, fairly flat, and slightly raised from the ground around it. It bears no trace of any building, either permanent or temporary, having ever been raised over it. Its situation is on a slightly elevated ridge of cultivated land, from which there is a good lookout all round. I saw no other stones like it in the immediate vicinity.

Besides this stone being held in reverence as the actual spot of St Columba's birth, a curious belief is attached to it, that whoever sleeps on it will never know home-sickness; and many a man starting for America is said to have tried the remedy. May this be a reverential reflection on the grace obtained by St Columba, who was able to transfer his affection from the land of his birth in pious devotion to the land of his adoption?
From 'Cup-Marked Stones' by James Sconce, in v5 of the Transactions of the Edinburgh Field Naturalists and Microscopical Society (1902-7).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th June 2011ce
Edited 15th June 2011ce

Comments (4)

I can't access the site at the monent but it used to give grid refs in xand y form to "translate " them an OS prog called Grid InQuest is useful . tiompan Posted by tiompan
15th June 2011ce
Thanks Tiompan, I will sort it out later. The map browser seems to be down at the moment annoyingly so I can't check the coordinates they give. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th June 2011ce
The site seems to be down but from what I can recall, if you click on the print icon beside the entry a popup should appear with site details.
One of the numbers given is a approx 10 digit ref. If you drop the first number of the code and the 5 number this gives you an eight digit OS Grid Ref, use the below site then to figure out which letter the area is under.

For instance Tory Island is B

Hope that is of some help
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
15th June 2011ce
Brilliant, thank you Bawn, that is just the job. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th June 2011ce
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