Clach na h-ealea, Clachan, Lismore, Argyll

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 861 435

Also Known as:

  1. Clach na h-eala
  2. Stone of the Swan
  3. Swan Stone

Archaeology & History

Although the lads at the Scottish Royal Commission (1974) initially described this site as a ‘Standing Stone’, it is in fact,

“an erratic boulder of granite roughly shaped in the form of a cross… It measures 0.8m in height, 0.6m in width at base, and 0.4m in width at the top…(and) the stone is supposed to have marked a boundary.”

The site was evidently of some mythic importance, as the great Cathedral of St. Moluag was built next to the stone — unless the giant cairn of Cnoc Aingil, 500 yards away, was to blame. A holy well of this saint’s name (an obvious heathen site beforehand) is also nearby.

Folklore

Although this stone was dedicated to swans, I’ve not found the story behind the name.  There were no buried swans here, but local tradition told that this old boulder could give sanctuary to anyone who touched it, or ran round it sunwise.  The Hebridean folklorist Otta Swire (1964) told that,

“anyone who claimed such sanctuary had his case considered by ‘the Elders.’ If they considered his plea justified, they ‘came out and walked sun-wise round the Swan Stone.’ If they did not approve of his right to sanctuary, they walked round it anti-clockwise and the man was then given over, not to his enemies, but ‘to Authority’ to be tried.”

This old tradition derives from well known pre-christian rites. Swire also reported that even in the 1960s here, “at funerals the coffin is always carried round the grave sun-wise before being laid in it.” An old cross placed in the Field of the Cross next to the stone was an attempt to tease folk away from heathen rites of the stone, but failed.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1974.
  2. Swire, O.F., The Inner Hebrides and their Legends, Collins: London 1964.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.534882, -5.479486 Clach na h-ealea

Eilean Musdile, Lismore, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NM 778 351

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 22659

Archaeology & History

Once to be seen on the highest point of the island, this impressive 9-foot tall standing stone is thought to have been removed during construction of the old lighthouse around 1833.  First described by a traveller here in 1784, it was mentioned just once again during survey work in 1829. The monolith appears to have recorded the midwinter sunset.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh 1975.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.455923, -5.606834 Eilean Musdile

Clach na h-ealea, Clachan, Lismore, Argyll

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8609 4342

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 23090
  2. Clach na h-eala
  3. Stone of the Swan
  4. Swan Stone

Archaeology & History

Although the lads at the Scottish Royal Commission (1974) initially described this site as a ‘Standing Stone’, it is in fact,

“an erratic boulder of granite roughly shaped in the form of a cross… It measures 0.8m in height, 0.6m in width at base, and 0.4m in width at the top…(and) the stone is supposed to have marked a boundary.”

The site was evidently of some mythic importance, as the great Cathedral of St. Moluag was built next to the stone — unless the giant cairn of Cnoc Aingil, 500 yards away, was to blame. A holy well of this saint’s name (an obvious heathen site beforehand) is also nearby.

Folklore

Although this stone was dedicated to swans, I’ve not found the story behind the name.  There were no buried swans here, but local tradition told that this old boulder could give sanctuary to anyone who touched it, or ran round it sunwise.  The Hebridean folklorist Otta Swire (1964) told that,

“anyone who claimed such sanctuary had his case considered by ‘the Elders.’ If they considered his plea justified, they ‘came out and walked sun-wise round the Swan Stone.’ If they did not approve of his right to sanctuary, they walked round it anti-clockwise and the man was then given over, not to his enemies, but ‘to Authority’ to be tried.”

This old tradition derives from well known pre-christian rites. Swire also reported that even in the 1960s here, “at funerals the coffin is always carried round the grave sun-wise before being laid in it.” An old cross placed in the Field of the Cross next to the stone was an attempt to tease folk away from heathen rites of the stone, but failed.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1974.
  2. Swire, O.F., The Inner Hebrides and their Legends, Collins: London 1964.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.534002, -5.480231 Clach na h-ealea