Tobairandonaich, Strathtay, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone (lost):  OS Grid reference – NN 8866 5320

Also Known as:

  1. Sunday Well
  2. Tobar an Donich

Archaeology & History

Tobairandonaich stone, c.1920

Located some 30 yards south of a holy well known (in English language) as the Sunday Well, this carving was rediscovered shortly before John Dixon (1922) wrote his survey of petroglyphs in the Strathtay region.  It would seem to have been a large “portable” cup-marked stone that had been placed, face-downward, into an old doorstep at the stable at Easter Tobairandonaich and forgotten about, long long ago.  Then, at the beginning of the 20th century when the people living here had to clear a drain beneath the stable, the stone was moved and the cup-markings were noticed.  The carving was a pretty simplistic design, as you can see, which was described by Mr Dixon as follows:

“The stone…has nineteen cups all on the same face.  The largest cup is 3¾ inches in diameter and 2 inches deep.  The next largest has the same diameter, but is 1½ inch deep.  Other five of the cups are very nearly the same size.  The smallest cup is 1¾ inch in diameter and ½ inch deep, but weathering has effected much towards almost obliterating some of the smaller cups.  The stone is of whinstone with slight veins of quartz.  It is oval in form and varies in thickness from 2½ inches to 4 inches.  Its greatest diameter is 3 feet 2 inches, and its least diameter 2 feet 8 inches.”

Tom MacLaren’s 1921 sketch

The stone would seem to have disappeared as no one has seen it for fifty years or more.  It may (hopefully) be in one of the walls, or perhaps buried somewhere under the soil.  Or maybe, tragically, some fuckwit has destroyed it.  Twouldst be good to find out one way or the other.  The photograph above, taken by Mr Dixon sometime around 1920, is the only thing that remains of the carving.

In this small part of Strathtay we are fortunate in finding a cluster of petroglyphs with folklore about them relating to our faerie and witch folk. Some larger man-made stone “bowls” in the area were also used as “praying stones.”  I have little doubt that the people who originally used this carving as a doorstep were fully aware of the cup-marks—and I’d suggest that they even put it here on purpose, probably as a form of protection from the fairies who might have stolen or caused sickness to the horses.

References:

  1. Dixon, John H., “Cup-Marked Stones in Strathtay, Perthshire,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 56, 1922.
  2. Kennedy, James, Folklore and Reminiscences of Strathtay and Grandtully, Munro Press: Perth 1927.
  3. Yellowlees, Walter, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, Scotland Magazine: Edinburgh 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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