Port Cross, Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire

Cross / Sacred Tree:  OS Grid Reference – NN 581 012

Also Known as:

  1. Law Tree

Archaeology & History

As a folklorist and antiquarian, I find this long lost site more than intriguing.  Most ancient crosses are stone; but in early centuries many were made from wood which, obviously, have decayed down the years.  But this cross, located on the northeast edge of the Lake of Menteith, was actually a tree: a hawthorn no less.  This choice would have been made based on it being one of the few trees that are deemed sacred in both christian and indigenous lore.  It was described—albeit briefly—in A.F. Hutchison’s (1899) excellent history book of the area: 

“The cross of the burgh is said to have been the trunk of an old hawthorn tree, which stood by the lake side, opposite the manse of Port, and was known as ” the law tree.” Around this tree an annual fair was held in the month of September, and called after St. Michael.”

We’re obviously seeing here the traditional animistic veneration of trees by local people, with the incoming christian symbol being grafted onto it.  Hawthorns were one of the potent protections against witchcraft and so the handshake between christian and pre-christian systems obviously worked here.  Faerie-lore was also rampant at many places for many miles around this site.

References:

  1. Hutchison, Andrew F., The Lake of Menteith – Its Islands and Vicinity, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

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