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Folklore Posts by drewbhoy

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Ardrishaig, Robber's Den (Hillfort)

Sometime before 1490 (maybe even centuries before!) a young lad named McVicar was tending to his mother’s cow near Brenfield on the shore of Loch Fyne. A party of cattle-raiders passed by, and he spied on them, taking note of where they were heading. According to one story, the raiders were MacAllisters from Tarbert, while another version says they were MacNeills from the Isles. The old maps record them as Campbells. Whoever they were, they had been stealing cattle from the MacIvers of Glassary, who were kinsmen of the lad’s mother. He lost no time in running home and raising the alarm.

The MacIvers were known as the ‘Shaggy Black Horses of Glassary’, and they weren’t best pleased. Cattle raiding was rife between clans, and besides the insult to their pride, the loss of livestock inflicted hardship and starvation on families. Quickly gathering a band of vengeful warriors, they galloped off in pursuit, with the young lad as their guide. They were armed to the teeth, and they’d also had the forethought to bring along the ’wise woman’ of the clan, a witch whose powerful sorcery was only effective while she was mounted on horseback.

They followed the raiders’ tracks through Stronachullin and along the old drove-road over Sliabh Gaoil; then they headed south-west, skirting low rocky hills and isolated lochans until they caught sight of their quarry at a little place named Carse, where the Learg an Uinnsinn river empties into Loch Stornoway. Here they fell on the cattle raiders with unbridled fury. In the heat of the battle, the MacNeills (or MacAllisters, or Campbells!) recognised the witch and yanked her rudely from the saddle. Panick-stricken, the MacIvers yelled, ‘Cur a’Chailleach air a capull!’ (‘Get the old one back onto her mare!’)

But it seemed that the wise woman had other ideas. Perhaps she sensed imminent defeat, or maybe she’d had enough of being used as a battle-witch! Leaping back onto her horse, she galloped away from the mayhem and fled westwards, halting atop a rocky knoll with sweeping views southwards towards the Sound of Gigha. Here, with the sea yawning below her, she leapt and was gone…

Meanwhile, down on the shore, the MacIvers knew that fortune had deserted them but they were fighting grimly on. By this time, other people had got involved: an onlooker, a MacNab, was pursued by four attackers and only saved himself by leaping across a gorge. At least one head had been lost, because the victors later proudly washed it in a river pool known as Slochd na Cinn, ‘the Pool of the Head’.

The young McVicar lad escaped with his life, but it was said that he became an outcast, living in an old fort known as the ‘robber’s den’ above Ardrishaig. He was a menace to his neighbours so one night his thatch was set alight and he was killed while trying to escape. Meanwhile, in a place where the calls of oystercatchers and curlews float up from the ebbing tide, the MacIver clansmen were buried. Standing stones were said to mark their graves.

Miss Marion Campbell of Kilberry

‘The Kist’, the Magazine of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society of Mid-Argyll 1974

Creag Nan Uamh (Cave / Rock Shelter)

https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/11/03/creag-nan-uamh/

From Bella Caledonia, the thoughts of the brilliant Dougie Strang

Dundarg (Cliff Fort)

There can be little doubt that this fort was the "cathair" of Abbordobor which the Mormaer Bede the Pict made over to St Drostan, on his arrival at Aberdour in the 6th century AD.

Book of Deer

Dun an Sticir (Broch)

Dun an Sticir, North Uist
In about 1600, Hugh Macdonald sought refuge on this fortified island after a plot to overthrow his cousin as chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat was exposed. He held out for a year, living in a stronghold that was built on a 2,000-year-old broch on a tidal loch. The only way to get at him was along two stone causeways that are exposed at low tide. The name Dun an Sticir - fort of the skulker - probably comes from this episode.



There is no happy ending. Macdonald was betrayed and captured. He was taken to Skye and thrown into the dungeon under Duntulm Castle where a grisly end awaited him. Given only salt beef to eat but no water - his captor kindly provided him with an empty jug - Macdonald died of thirst.

Steve Farrar

Dun an Sticir

An Iron Age broch situated approximately 9.5 kilometers north of Lochmaddy in a lake on North Uist in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. A building was erected on the site in the late medieval period. Hugh MacDonald of Sleat inhabited Dun Sticir in 1602. In 1586 he hatched a plan to murder his cousin, Donald Gorm, 8th Chief of the Macdonalds of Sleat. After his plan was discovered, he fled to Dun an Sticir

De Tha Tol

Turin Hill (Hillfort)

Conall Corc and the Pictish Dreamtime

The circular homesteads on Turin have similarities with others in Perthshire and one authority has likened these to Irish structures and linked to an incursion of Gaelic speakers into the region between 500 and 800 AD. There is, remarkably, an ancient Irish tale which may be linked to the site which would suggest this is true and push back the Irish link to the earlier part of this date range, if not before it. I have fancifully called this the Pictish Dreamtime, though this is an unforgivably romantic description of the period just beyond the Pictish historical horizon. I summarised the tale of the possibly 4th century Corc in an earlier post (which can be fully read here ). His story is contained in the Irish legend of 'The Finding of Cashel'.

Conall Corc, from the Eoganáchta people, was the son of King Luigthech and Bolce Ben-bretnach (“the British woman”), which suggests there may have been even earlier contact between Munster and North Britain. Conall was later adopted by another ruler, his cousin Crimthann, but when he rejected the advances of Crimthann's wife he was sent in exile to the Picts in Britain. In this foreign land, Conall almost perished in a blizzard, but he was saved by the bard of the local Pictish king. The bard also noticed a magical message written on Conall’s shield at the behest of his father. The message directed the king of Pictland to kill Corc. But the poet changed the words to request the king to give Corc every assistance he could and even give his daughter to the Irish immigrant, which is exactly what happened. Prince Corcc remained in Pictland until he had seven sons and an immense fortune. One of his sons founded the Eoganacht kin-group of Circinn, and was possibly the ancestor of the Pictish king Angus mac Fergus.

Several sources name Mongfinn’s son Cairbre, while the Book of the Hui Maine says the son was Main, but there were three other sons attributed to Corc and Mongfinn, all born in Alba. The full name of Feradach’s daughter was apparently Leamhain Mongfionn, and she had by Corc, Cairbre Cruithenechán of Circinn and Maine Leamhna. The latter was ancestor of the Mormaers of Lennox, around Loch Lomond.


What has this to do with Turin? Corc ended up apparently at the fortress of a Pictish leader named Feradach. The stronghold was named Turin brighe na Righe. The name may be coincidental, but it is still impressive. Corc married Mongfinn, daughter of the Pictish king, stayed ten years sojourn in Alba, and had three sons. In three manuscript versions of the descendents of Eber in the Psalter of Cashel, one of these says that Cairbre Cruithinechan (“Pict Sprung”) was ancestor of the Eoganacht of Magh Circinn.



Whether or not the tales hold water, they are nevertheless intriguing, and ultimately perhaps unprovable. I have provided Vernam Hull's full translation of one version of the tale of Corc below for anyone interested. The first part of the tale is mission, but the story is interesting all the same.

The Exile of Conall Corc

...Dublin and saw the ships going over the sea. He went with them eastwards over the sea and perceived the mountains of Scotland. They let him go onto the land. He went to a mountain in the west of Scotland. Much snow descended on him so that it reached his girdle. For five days he was without drink and without food until he cast himself down in a dying condition in a glen.
Gruibne the scholar, the poet of Feradach, king of Scotland, came, twelve horsemen strong, into the glen to seek his pigs. He beheld a lap of his mantle above the snow.

"A dead man!" he said. He saw that his body was [still] warm. "Frost has done that to the man," said the poet. "Kindle a fire around him in order that his limbs will be able to rise."

That was done so that he steamed. Suddenly he arose.

"Steady, O warrior," Gruibne said. "Do not fear anything."

Then, on beholding his countenance, Gruibne spoke as follows:"Welcome, O fair Conall Corc who took each land in the west beyond the region of the sea. Here, the ocean confused you so that sleep stretches you out. A host with silent troops of valor uttered a heavy cry for nine hours so that you were unable to find a word. Good [is] the meeting to which I am destined, [namely], that you came upon me [and] that you did not abide upon the surface of another land. [It was] a plan of sin that sword-ends were brought for your betrayal over the flatness of your body. ..of Lugaid mac Ailella. With honor he was honored. . . O mighty Corc about whom firebrands raise a cry,for fair Cashel protects you so that it will be over Femen that you will rule with fine feasting. Well will you suppress bad weather. In Munster-of the-great-hosts you will receive hostages so that you will be the lion of Loch Lein. Your fame will fill Ireland's vast plain and the race of Oengus above the surface of each land. The adze-heads will come over the sea's ocean with hooks of crooked staves." Actually the poet who had recited the poetic composition was one of the two captives whom Corc had protected from the Leinstermen. Then he put both his arms around him."It were indeed fitting for us," he said, "to welcome you. Who," said he, "saw to your advantage by means of the Ogham writing which is on your shield?" It was not good fortune that it indicated."

"What is on it?" said Corc.

"This is on it: If it be during the day that you might go to Feradach, your head is to be removed before it were evening. If it be in the night, your head is to be removed before it were morning. Not thus will it be."

Afterwards, he bore him with him to his own house, and a hurdle [was] under him, and eight men [were] under the hurdle. On that day a month later, he went forthwith to speak with Feradach, and he left Corc outside. He related to him his whole story, namely, how he went to seek his pigs, and he said that he had intended to kill the man. When he saw the Ogham writing on the shield, he was loath to slay him, for this was on it: "A son of the king of Munster has come to you. If it be during the day that he might come, your daughter is to be given to him before evening. If it be in the night, she is to sleep with him before morning."

"The news is bad," said Feradach. "Anyone would indeed be sad that you have brought him alive."

"Gruibne bound his equal weight in silver on Feradach and brought him in. That one offered him a great welcome. But the daughter was not given to him, for Feradach said that he would not grant his daughter to a hireling soldier . . . from abroad. This availed him hot, because the couple had intercourse with each other so that the woman became pregnant by him, and she was brought
down, and bore him a son. She did not admit that it was Corc's. They intended to burn her [and] the men of Scotland came for the burning. It was formerly a custom that any maiden who committed fornication without bethrothal was burnt. Hence, these hills are [named] Mag Breoa, that is Mag Breg. Then the men of Scotland besought a respite for the girl to the end of a year until her son
had assumed the form, voice or habit of the sept.

At the end of a year they came to burn her. "I will not bring your son to you," said she.

"You shall, however, bring him," said he, "into the presence of Feradach."

When, then, she was about to be burned, she brought him before both of them.

"O woman," said Feradach, "does the boy belong to Corc?"

"He does," said the woman.

"I will not take him from you," said Corc, "for he is a bastard until his grandfather gives him."

"I do indeed give him to you," said Feradach. "The son is yours."

"Now he will be accepted," said Corc.

"Go forth, O woman," said Feradach, "and you shall have no luck."

"She shall, however, not go," said Corc, "since she is not guilty."

"She is, nevertheless, guilty," said Feradach.

"But she is not guilty," said Corc. "To each son [belongs] his mother. On her son falls her misdeed, that is, on her womb."

"Let the son, therefore, be expelled," said Feradach.

"He shall indeed not be expelled," said Corc, "since that youth has not attained manhood. For the son will pay for her offence."

"You have saved them both," said Feradach.

"That will be fortunate," said Corc.

"Well, O Corc,"said Feradach, "sleep with your wife. It is you whom we would have chosen for her, if we had had a choice."' I will pay her price to the men of Scotland."

That was done. He remained in the east until she had born him three sons.

"Well, O Corc," said Feradach, "take your sons and your wife with you to your country, for it is sad that they should be outside of their land. Take the load of three men of silver with you. Let thirty warriors accompany you."

That was done. He came from the east, thirty warriors strong, until he reached Mag Femin. There, snow descended upon them so that it led them astray at Cnocc Graffand. His father was infirm.That brought them northwards into the north of Mag [Femin].

On that day, the swineherd of Aed, the king of Muscraige, was tending his pigs. That night, he said to Aed: "I saw a wonder today," said he, "on these ridges in the north. I beheld a yew-bush on a stone, and I perceived a small oratory in front of it and a flagstone before it. Angels were in attendance going up and down from the flagstone."

"Verily," said the druid of Aed," that will be the residence of the king of Munster forever, and he who shall first kindle a fire under that yew, from him shall descend the kingship of Munster."

"Let us go to light it," said Aed.

"Let us wait until morning," said the druid.

[Thither] then came the aforesaid Corc in his wanderings.He kindled a fire for his wife and for his sons so that Aed found him on the following day by his fire with his sons about him. He recognized him then, and he gave him a great welcome, and he put his son in surety under his custody. When,
now, after the death of his father there was contention about the kingship of Munster, then Corc came. Thereupon, a residence was at once established by him in Cashel and before the end of a week, he was the undisputed king of the Munstermen.

The surety of the Muscraige is the first surety that a king of Munster ever took, and, afterwards, they were freed, and a queen of theirs [was]in Cashel. Moreover, the swineherd who was found in Cashel, freedom was given to him and to his children by the king of Cashel, that is, without tribute and without exaction of king or steward. It is he, too, who raises the cry of kingship for the king of Cashel, and is given a blessing by the king, and straightway receives the garment of the king. Hence it is, then, that Corc's Cashel exists, and it is the progeny and the seed of Corc mac Lugthach that abides forever in Cashel from that time forth.

Angus Folklore

Emain Macha (Henge)

Easier to add the links :-)

Curse Of Macha


https://visitarmagh.com/stories/live-our-celtic-myths-legends-in-the-ancient-site-of-navan-fort/the-curse-of-macha/

Story of Emain Macha

https://visitarmagh.com/stories/live-our-celtic-myths-legends-in-the-ancient-site-of-navan-fort/the-story-of-emain-macha/

CÚ Chulainn& The Cattle Raid Of Cooley

https://visitarmagh.com/stories/live-our-celtic-myths-legends-in-the-ancient-site-of-navan-fort/cuchullian-the-cattle-raid-of-cooley/

Sgalabraig (Cairn circle)

At Sgalabraig, where rocky outcrops rise above the rough pasture, there is to be found an arrangement of ancientstones, some of which may also have Viking associations.

The most prominent of these is called the Chair Stone. The purpose of the site is open to speculation, but it may have been a Viking court or meeting place with the Chair Stone as the seat of the judge and a prominent stone opposite, the place for the accused. The site could also have been a burial ground.

http://www.gatliff.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/1519_Berneray-walk.pdf

Clach An T-sagairt (Natural Rock Feature)

Among the various names that have been recorded for the boulder are 'Crois Aona'ain' and 'An'adhan', suggesting a traditional association with St Adomnan which would be appropriate in an area with dedications to Columba (iii). The name 'Clach an t-Sagairt' ('the priest's stone') is often associated with meeting-places for recusant worship (iv), but this seems unlikely on North Uist. Martin about 1700 described a stone 'which the natives call a cross', and in 1878 it was believed to be 'the site of a general meeting place of the Picts for worship'

Canmore

Craig Hasten (Natural Rock Feature)

The Sithchen in stories are often seen from the entrance of there dwelling having a Ceilidh inside their knolls. Craig Hasten, a castle-like knoll to the south of the village of Baile Mòr in Paible, North Uist, is known locally as a dwelling place of fairies.

Wikipedia

(Sithchen = fairies)

Clach Mhor A'che (Standing Stone / Menhir)

One of the largest and most impressive stones is that known as Clach Mor an Che – The Big Stone of The World – which stands at the edge of the seashore. This stone stands eight feet high and is about two and a half feet across. On the first occasion that I visited the stone the sun was just setting and small waves were lapping on the seashore – an idyllic scene if ever there was one. And yet folklore has it that local miscreants were tied to the stone for their wrongdoings. Some punishment! Although it was during the summertime, the Hebridean midges, known for their ferocity, would no doubt have inflicted their own form of punishment upon the wrongdoers! Not far from the stone are the remains of a chambered cairn called Dun na Cairnach, and at least one historian has suggested that the cairn and the stone were monuments to Che, one of the seven sons of Crithne, an ancestor of the Picts who is said to have been buried there following his death in battle.

Alan Pratt, North Uist
The Celtic Planet

Beinn A' Charra (North Uist) (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Clach Bharnach Bhraodag, means ‘The Limpet Stone of Freya’. The name Freya is indicative of the strong Norse influence in the Outer Hebrides. According to Norse legend it was Freya who taught Odin a form of shamanistic magic called seidhr – and it was Odin who was able to communicate with two ravens who gave him the ability to have ‘knowledge of all things, in all places’. There is a Gaelic saying Tha Tios Fithich Agad, which means ‘you have more knowledge and understanding than is natural’. The literal translation however is ‘you have the raven’s knowledge’.

Alan Pratt, North Uist
The Celtic Planet

This chunky standing stone sits on the slope of Beinn a' Charra, just east of Committee Road, North Uist. The stone is canted at a considerable degree, about 2 metres off centre, leaning to the south. From tip to toe the stone measures 9' 3" high and is 6' 6" wide.

The alternate name Clach Barnach Bhraodac means Limpet Stone of Freya (Freya being the Norse goddess of love and beauty).

Passionate about British Heritage

Carn Liath, Kensaleyre (Chambered Cairn)

A piece of pasture land enclosed with an old dyke. the site of a bloody contest between the Macleods & Macdonalds, a large cairn situated close to the east of it is said to contain the bones of the slain. it is situated a little to the west of Kensaleyre Inn Property of Lord Macdonald It means Bloody Fold.

Revd. John Darroch & Revd A. Martin Angus MacPherson - Scotland's Places

Eyre (Standing Stones)

The most interesting feature of the Kensaleyre stones, apart from their superb location by the loch, is the story told about them in Skye folklore.

The stones are also known by their Gaelic name Sornaichean Coir' Fhinn. The name relates to an old legend that the mythical warrior Finn, or Fingal, and his band of hunters used the stones to suspend a cooking pot over a fire. The pot was so large that it held a whole deer, which Fingal used to make venison stew.

Kensaleyre Standing Stones, Skye
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR

The Paps of Jura (Sacred Hill)

John Francis Campbell’s ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands’, concerning “the Old Woman or Witch of Jura” and her “magical powers.

There was a Caileach (old woman) in Jura who had a magic ball of thread by means of which she could draw any person or thing towards her. MacPhie (or MacDuffie) of Colonsay was in her clutches, and was not allowed to leave Jura; on several occasions he tried to escape to his native Colonsay in his boat, but always the Caileach would spot him, throw the magic ball of thread into his boat, and so bring him back to shore. Eventually MacPhie found out that the magic of the Caileach’s thread could be broken, but only if it was cut by an equally magic hatchet; thus he pretended to be content with his bondage until he found the chance to steal the Caileach’s magic hatchet, and then he made his escape from Jura in a small boat. When the Caileach noticed his absence, she rushed as usual to the top of Beinn a Chaolis, [the tallest of the Paps] and … hurled the magic ball of thread into MacPhie’s boat, but he cut it with the Caileach’s magic hatchet and made his escape. She was distraught … [and] in despair she slid down the mountain to the sea shore, pleading with MacPhie to return. But he would not, and the marks left by the old woman’s heels as she slid down Beinn a Chaolis can still be seen. They are called Sgriob na Cailich – the slide of the old woman.” The best view is from the ferry from Port Askaig to Colonsay.

Carragh Chaluim Bhainn (Standing Stone / Menhir)

One of the stones at Tarbert (presumably this one) is called "Carragh Chaluim Bhain", i.e. the standing stone of Calum the fair, almost certainly a reference to St Columba.

H C Gillies 1906

Dun Fhinn (Stone Fort / Dun)

The earliest story of Ardtalla stems from the the origins of Gaelic Scotland, featuring the semi-legendary warrior Fionn MacCumhail, (Finn McCool). Earl’s ‘Tales of Islay’ records that the great warrior’s headquarters were in Skye, but he was fond of coming to Islay to relax:
Fionn was said to be the son of an Irish father and a Norse mother. His father’s name was Cumhal and his mother’s Morna. Not only was he a hero in Ireland but his adventures were told in Scotland, especially in the west, and many place names are called after him. If the great Fionn MacCumhail was so fond of Islay and visited it so often, surely there must be some indication somewhere that this was so. At Ardtalla there is Dun Fhinn up in the hills opposite Trudernish. Even from a distance it looks quite imposing. In the same area there is what was once an ideal township, Creag Fhinn, with many interesting features. It is a fascinating place and can be reached after a short climb, though it is not so very easy to find as the old tracks leading to it have disappeared. If only it could come alive again!

Fionn grew up big and strong, good at running, swimming and leaping: in fact he was a real giant, and being the type of person he was, naturally legends grew up round about him. He had a son called Ossian. Fionn was said to have much wisdom, which he got from eating the Salmon of Knowledge, which was given to him by an old man who was fishing nearby. He was called Fionn because he was so fair, and he became the leader of the Fienne, a band of warriors renowned for their bravery and war-like deeds.

At one time the people in Islay were being harassed by the Lochlanners and appealed to Fionn to come to their aid. This Fionn did, and he and his men soon cleared Islay of the invaders. A bloody battle took place on the Big Strand called Lathan a Tunnachan, the Battle of the Staves. The warriors fought with staves or short sharp sticks which they threw at their enemy with great force. They carried supplies of these staves under their arm or in a sort of quiver, as was used to carry arrows. Fionn is said to have died in AD283, which places the battle long before the Norse occupation.

https://www.ardtallacottages.co.uk/about/ardtalla-tales/

Clachan Ceann Ile (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Her favourite theory, however, concerned a Danish Princess called Iula, or Yula, who left Denmark with an apron full of stones of different sizes. As she proceeded on her journey some of the stones fell out, one becoming Ireland, another Rathlin and a third Texa. The remainder of the stones fell out and became the string of islands from Ardbeg to Kildalton. She perished in the soft sands off that coast and was taken to Seonais Hill above Loch Cnoc and buried there. What was described in the Statistical Account of 1794 as the grave of "a daughter of one of the kings of Denmark" is marked by two small standing stones about 10 meters apart, though there is no good evidence to support this tradition. Islay is said to have got its name from this lady, or perhaps she may have taken her name from Islay.

Peggy Earl 'Tales of Islay'

Dumbarrow Hill (Stone Fort / Dun)

Anyway, some threads are so bright that they have to be picked up. This is the case with King Nechtan, whose name is perhaps found in Dunnichen (‘the fort of Nechtan’) and the English name for the battle where the Northumbrians were defeated by the Picts nearby, Nechtansmere. Before we consider which Nechtan Dunnichen is named after, there is the matter of confirming this as the place of the battle in 685 AD. To the Northumbrians the site of their national disaster was called Nechtan’s Mere, signifying the swamp or shallow lake in the shadow of Dun Nechtan. But the Welsh, who spoke a very similar language to the Picts, called the body of water Llyn Garan, the Pool of Herons. Was this the original name of the place or did it somehow have two names? (The Irish, meanwhile called it the battle of Dun Nechtan.) It would seem to cast a fragment of doubt over the identification of Dunnichen as the battle site. In fact Dunnichen was not positively identified as the place of the conflict until the connection was made by George Chalmers in his Caledonia in 1807. Chalmers pointed out that the ‘eminence’ on the south side of Dunnichen Hill, still visible in his day and known as Cashili or Castle Hill, must be the ‘fortress of Nechtan’. Chalmers also speculated that the neighbouring hill of Dumbarrow, ‘the hill of the barrow’, signifying notable burials there (Caledonia, I, 155.)

[Note also the King's Well on the east side of Dumbarrow Hill.]

Angus Folklore : In Search of King Nechtan in Angus and Elsewhere
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Still doing the music, following that team and getting lost in the hills! (Some Simple Minds, Glasvegas, Athlete, George Harrison, Empire Of The Sun, Riverside, Porcupine Tree, Nazareth on the headphones, good boots and sticks, away I go!)

https://www.thedeleriumtrees.com/

My TMA Content: