Standing Stone / Cross: OS Grid Reference – NN 62537 47690
Also Known as:
- Eonan’s Cross
Take the road from Fortingall into the Glen. About 4 miles down, past the farmhouse of Slatich, then Craigianie, watch carefully as you round the small bend in the road, where you’ll see a small standing stone on top of a rounded mound, right by the south side of the road, just over the fence. Go through the gate to enter the field less than 100 yards further on and walk back onto the hillock.
Archaeology & History
In this magnificent landscape down the longest of Scotland’s glens, standing atop of a knoll known as Tom a’ Mhoid, or “the moot hill” (Watson 1926), is this small standing stone about 4 feet tall which has long been ascribed as an important relic of the early christian period. They may be right – but it could as much be a more archaic monolith, onto which the carved crosses on either side of the stone were later etched, in the light of the myths of St. Adamnan whose name scatters this great glen and after the legend cited below was ascribed to him.
The stone ‘cross’ stands atop of what at first sight seems a natural knoll; but all round it we find an excess of man-made remains and walling, all but constituting the hill itself. These are clearly visible on the aerial imagery of GoogleEarth. Antiquarian dogs here would be invaluable to ascertain the correct age and nature of the structures around this ‘cross’.
Of the crosses carved onto the stone: the one on the southern face is a small faint one near the top of the upright; whilst the other is much larger and is easily visible, cutting right across the northern face of the monolith. They are clearly of differing styles and would seem to have been carved by different people, perhaps a few centuries apart. Curiously—as Marion Woolley pointed out—the smaller, fainter cross is carved above a ridge on the upright stone, mimicking the position of the stone on the knoll in its landscape setting. Whether this is just a coincidence, or has been done on purpose, we might never know.
In Duncan Fraser’s (1969) excellent local history work, he names the stone here Eonan’s Cross and he too strongly suspects “the stone itself was probably erected at least a thousand years earlier” than the coming of the saint, making this a christianized standing stone – which it certainly looks like. Mr Fraser said that,
“His cross stone, we can be fairly sure, was a Bronze Age standing stone long before it acquired its unusual cross.”
He may well be right…
The mythic history of this cross-marked standing stone was told eloquently in one of Hilary Wheater’s (1981) fine short works. After giving a brief story of the tale of St. Adamnan, she went on to tell:
“A terrible plague swept through Scotland in the seventh century. It reached the Vale of Fortingall and so violent was its ravages that all the inhabitants were wiped out. Slowly the sickness began to infiltrate the Glen and in a panic the people of Glenlyon went to their preacher and beseeched him, “Eonan of the ruddy cheeks, rise and check the plague of thy people. Save us from the death and let it not come upon us east or west.”
“Adamnan rose to the occasion and gathered the people of the Glen to a hillock where he usually preached to them. In a house not forty yards away it is said that a child was already dying of ‘the Death.’
“There on the rock, with the people gathered round him, Adamnan prayed. When he was finished he raised his right arm, exhorted the devil body of the pestilence to come to him and, pointing to a large round rock lying on the ground, ordered the plague to enter it. A large circular hole appeared in the rock as the plague bored into it and Adamnan followed up this apparent miracle by the very sensible act of sending all the healthy people of the Glen up to the shielings until all signs of the pestilence disappeared…
“Thus were the people of the Glen saved from the plague. When they came back from their mountain retreat they erected a stone slab with two crosses on it to commemorate their deliverance. The rock itself they called Craig-diannaidh, the ‘rock of safety’, and the round stone with the hole through which the plague descended into the bowels of the Earth lies to this day at the side of the road near the stone slab.”
The rocky slope immediately above the stone, on the other side of the road, was once the home of an old urisk who, sadly, long-since left the area – though his spirit can still be felt there. Accounts of many other supernatural creatures are found scattering this part of Glen Lyon…
- Barnett, T. Ratcliffe, The Road to Rannoch and the Summer Isles, Robert Grant: Edinburgh 1924.
- Fraser, Duncan, Highland Perthshire, Standard Press: Montrose 1969.
- Watson, W.J., The history of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland, Edinburgh 1926.
- Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin: Aberfeldy 1981.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Massive thanks to Marion—”I don’t have a clue where I am!”—Woolley, for getting us here….and for her photo of the faint cross, above.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian