Priest’s Well, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 86069 95324

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47056

Getting Here

Priest Well on 1866 map

Priest Well on 1866 map

Along the A907 Stirling to Alloa road, turn onto the B9096 through Tullibody, turning up Menstrie Road until, on your right, you reach the old graveyard.  Walk along the track past the old section and go into the new graveyard. The second pathway down, keep your eyes peeled on the floor and you’ll see it.

Archaeology & History

Just a flat carved stone laid in the expanded graveyard is all that remains to mark the site of this once sacred well.  On it, the inscribed slab reads, “Site of the old Priest’s Well – 1905.”

In the 19th century when the waters were still used by local villagers, Robert Kirk (1890) wrote the following,

Site of the Priests Well

Site of the old well

Carved commemorative stone

Carved commemorative stone

“Like the trees, we will now keep outside the dyke (round the old graveyard) and come to the Priest’s Well.  This well, an adjunct of the ancient building, appears to be coeval with the Old Church, and lay a few yards south of the Parsonage, which was demolished at the Reformation.  A small piece of ground in the immediate vicinity is known as the ‘Priest’s Croft’, and the adjacent field, tradition imagines to be the site of the original hamlet. When this well, from its proximity to the Churchyard, was condemned as unfit for human use, one old wife was heard to exclaim, “Na, na, I aye like a drink o’ the guid sweet priest.”

Despite being cited in the various Scottish holy wells reports, all mythic history of the site seems to have been forgotten.

References:

  1. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea Press: Sandy 1982.
  2. Kirk, Robert, Historical Sketch of Tullibody, Alloa 1890.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  4. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  5. Walker, J. Russel, “Holy Wells in Scotland,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 17, 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.136963, -3.834877 Priests Well

Tillicoultry House Carving, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9240 9752

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48255

Archaeology & History

Multiple-ringed carving, Tillicoultry

Multiple-ringed carving, Tillicoultry

A recent visit to try find this intricate carving—the only one of its kind in Clackmannanshire—proved unsuccessful, and so I add it here in the hope that someone might know where it is and bring it back to light.  It looked like quite an impressive petroglyph.  If the stone isn’t hiding in undergrowth at the edge of someone’s garden, it may well have been destroyed—which would be appalling.  As a unique design, this important carving should have been preserved.  Even when the Victorian explorers found it, the covering stone circle had been greatly damaged and many stones in the ring had been removed.  This carved stone remained intact however.  When Mr R. Robertson (1895) and his friend visited the site, it was covered in sand and dirt and had fallen to the side of an internal cist:

“On clearing this away a remarkable feature was brought to light.  The block was found to be elaborately ornamented on its sides and upper surface, with rings, spirals and lines.  The labour of cutting these in the hard granite with primitive tools of the period must have been very great. Several successful photos of the stone and its carvings were taken by Provost Westwood, Dollar…. This stone has now been removed to the vicinity of Tillicoultry for safety.”

In the same article, George Black told slightly more of the design:

“The covering stone of the cist…bears on the face a series of concentric circles, and spirals springing from one of the groups of circles,  Four grooves also unite the same set of circles with the left-hand edge of the stone.  On the edge shown in the photograph there is another group, consisting of two concentric circles.  The unevenness of the surface of the stone appears to have been of no moment to the sculptor of the circles, as the incisions follow the surface into its sinuosities and depressions.”

Not long after Robertson & Black’s visit, the great megalithomaniac Fred Coles (1899) came here—and he found that the “spirals” that Mr Black described were nothing of the sort.

“The huge irregularly-shaped diorite boulder which covered the cist has several cup-and-ring marks on one face and one side…. These marks are now, so I was informed when inspecting them, very much less distinct than they were when the photograph was taken (above) in 1894.  It would be difficult now to describe the incised markings with accuracy; it is difficult even to see them when wet.  But…I must take exception to the term ‘spirals’ as applied to any of these ‘rings.’  There are three groups of rings so placed as to make the outermost ring in each group touch that of the others (not an uncommon form), but there is no one true volute.

“…What is more noteworthy is the group of four long parallel, nearly perpendicular grooves issuing (probably) from the outermost ring of the group of five rings, and ending at the edge of the boulder.”

Alison Young's 1937 sketch

Alison Young’s 1937 sketch

Cole also noted that the carvings were to be found on the upper surface of the stone.  It would seem very probable that the excessive erosion which Cole described was due to the fact that the stone was, many centuries earlier, exposed to the elements within the stone circle and not buried as it later came to be.  It makes sense.

The excessive erosion was spoken of by the Royal Commission (1933) lads, aswell as the last person to describe the site, Ronald W.B. Morris (1981), who said that during his visits here between 1966-75,

“the author has only found traces of possible cups visible on the rough surface, which has flaked badly.”

Morris (1981) said that the stone measured “1½m by 1¾m by ½m (5½ft x 4½ft x 2ft)”—and was last known to be some 10 yards NW of the Tillicoultry House cottage, but we could locate no trace of the stone or its carving.  If anyone is aware of the whereabouts or fate of this important neolithic carving, please let us know.

References:

  1. Coles, Fred R., (1899b) ‘Notices of the discovery of a cist and urns at Juniper Green, and of a cist at the Cunninghar, Tillicoultry, and of some undescribed cup- marked stones’in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 33, 1899.
  2. MacWhite, Eoin, “A New View on Irish Bronze Age Rock-Scribings,” in Journal Royal Society Antiquaries, Ireland, 76:2, 1946.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., ‘The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties, part II’in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1969.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  6. Robertson, R., Black, G.F. & Struthers, J., ‘Notice of the discovery of a stone cist and urns at the Cuninghar, Tillicoultryin Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 29, 1895.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  8. Young, Alison, “Cup-and-Ring Markings on Craig Ruenshin, with some Comparative Notes,” in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 72, 1937.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.158226, -3.733986 Tillicoultry House Carving

Stone of Mannan, Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Stone:  OD Grid Reference – NS 91114 91891

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48321
  2. Clackmannan Stone
  3. King Robert’s Stone

Getting Here

The Stone of Mannan

The Stone of Mannan

Take the A907 road between Alloa and Kincardine, and up the B910 into Clackmannan.  To get into the village, depending on which route you’re coming in, go up the Kirk Wynd or the Cattle Market—both of which lead you to the Main Street where, beneath the old clock tower, you’ll see the Market Cross and its companion erection just to the side. You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

The phallic upright!

The phallic upright!

The history of this curious-looking giant phallic stone, sat quietly on the Main Street of sleepy Clackmannan village, isn’t as heathen as you’d expect when first seeing the huge upright—but there are mysteries and myths gathered about it.  The county of Clackmannan itself takes its name from this stone—but not the entire stone that we see today; merely the rounded, smaller element on top.  For it’s this that’s the real Mannan Stone. The rest of it, the tall upright pillar, was only attached to the smaller rounded stone—the Stone of Mannan— in the first-half of the 19th century.

First mentioned as a place-name in 12th century writings, the story of the stone was best told by Peter Miller (1889), who wrote:

“The old ‘clack’ or stone that forms the prefix to the name-word Clackmananmust be of considerable antiquity.  Its form and appearance have nothing to excite remark. The two larger portions of the stone are battened together with iron, and the portion forming the cleft appears to be detached from the larger one.  It is only the legend or tradition respecting its history and its association with the name-word Clackmanan that makes it interesting to the antiquary. Its dimensions are as follows: —It is over 3 feet in length, 2 in breadth, and about the same in thickness.  Its form is oval, and it has a deep cleft on its upper side.  The stone has nothing peculiar about it to indicate what it may have been originally, or the uses it was made to serve in early times.  There is no appearance of its ever having had an inscription or any ornamentation upon it.  It is simply a boulder-stone stone of whinstone, such as are found in abundance at the Abbey Craig near Cambuskenneth.  It was placed on the tall boulder slab on which it now stands, brought from the Abbey Craig in the year 1833 by the late Robert Bruce of Kennet, and the late Professor Fleming, who was then minister of the parish.  Previous to that time it lay on the ground alongside of the old jail and court-house of Clackmannan, close by the old cross of the town…”

Clackmannan Stone (after Miller)

Clackmannan Stone (after Miller)

The old stone & its upright

The old stone & its upright

Mr Miller then went on at some length to show the derivation of ‘Clackmannan’ to be from the old Irish, meaning “the stone of the monks.”  It seems a plausible theory too.  Despite this, Watson (1926) deemed it to be the ‘Stone of Manau’, being deemed vaguely as the people of the land north of the Forth.  The great Celtic scholar John Rhys (1888) declared Clackmannan to derive from the Irish deity or hero-figure, Manannan, as have other academic authorities since then.  But it’s all just a bit vague if we’re wanting ‘certainty’…

When T.C. Crouther (1936) wrote about this, he said how the Stone of Mannan had originally come from a position only a few hundred yards south of its present spot, at a place known as Lookabootye Brae  (NS 912 911), just above where the land begins to drop down closer to sea level.  This doesn’t seems too improbable.  Close to this spot could once be seen the sacred site of the Lady Well.

At the turn of the 21st century the stone was caged by the local council as it was beginning to crumble and was in danger of collapse; and so, the local council repaired the great upright and its sacred top-stone—albeit at the staggering cost of £160,000!!!  As the local people and other masons know to this day, the job could have been done for a fraction of that cost with equal efficiency.

Folklore

Said by T.C. Crouther (1936), the local council, and others to have got its name from the sea god Mannan, other legends have grown around this fascinating old rock.  When Edwin Adams (1863) wrote about it, these were the tales that local people gave him:

“Its legendary history is curious. When King Robert Bruce was residing in Clackmannan tower, and before there was a town attached to that regal mansion, he happened, in passing one day near this way on a journey, to stop awhile at the stone and, on going away, left his glove upon it.  Not discovering his loss till he had proceeded about half-a-mile towards the south, he desired his servant to go back to the clack (for King Robert seems to have usually spoken his native Carrick Gaelic), and bring his mannan, or glove. The servant said, ‘If ye’ll just look about ye here, I’ll be back wi’t directly,’ and accordingly soon returned with the missing article.

£From this trivial circumstance arose the name of the town which was subsequently reared about the stone, as also that of a farm at which the King stopped, about half-a-mile from the south, on the way to Kincardine, which took its name from what the servant said, namely, ‘Look about ye,’ and is so called to this day.”

But as the various dates in this tale simply don’t add up, it seems that the writer had been easily fooled.

References:

  1. Adams, Edwin, Geography Classified, Chapman Hall: London 1863.
  2. Drummond, James, Scottish Market-Crosses, Neill & Co.: Edinburgh 1861.
  3. Drummond, James,”Notice of Some Stone Crosses, with Especial Reference to the Market Crosses of Scotland,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1862.
  4. Gordon, T Crouther, The History of Clackmannan, Civic Press: Glasgow 1936.
  5. Miller, Peter, “Notices of the Standing Stones of Alloa and Clackmannan,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 23, 1889.
  6. Rhys, John, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, Williams & Norgate London 1888.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  8. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  9. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  10. Small, John W., Scottish Market Crosses, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1900.
  11. Watson, W.J., The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland, Edinburgh 1926.

Links:

  1. Nataraja’s Foot – Skullduggery

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to author Marion Grace Woolley for use of her photo in this site profile. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.107304, -3.752332 Stone of Mannan

Castle Craig, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

‘Fort’ (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9116 9769

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48294

Archaeology & History

This ancient fort could once be seen in the ancient woodlands on the western side of the Mill Glen, above the village, going into the Ochils—but it was completely destroyed, as usual, by the Industrialists when they quarried the entire structure out of existence.  It was a big thing too, by all accounts.  When Stewart Cruden (1964) saw it, shortly before its final demise, it was still impressive to look at.  He told that the fort consisted of a deep rock-cut ditch with a stone wall on the inside and the remains of a stony rampart on the outside.  Although damaged it still measured 300 feet across.  Its interior contained an almost precise circular enclosure, more than eighty feet across inside the remains of a large stone wall some twelve feet thick.

Nearly a hundred years earlier, Miss Christian MacLagan (1875) told it to be much bigger!  Not only did she report how locals remembered a stone roof on top, but it possessed three concentric circular walls, thirty-five apart, with the central area eighty feet in diameter—much as Cruden later reported.  However, even in MacLagan’s day, she told how many of the stones from the fort were being used to construct sheepfolds.  This destruction was being lamented by the local historian William Gibson (1883), who wrote:

“On the west side of the burn, and overtopping the village, stands the beautiful Castle Craig, wooded to the top, and on which stood, in ancient times, a round Pictish fortress, the traces of which can still be distinctly seen. This craig is, I think, one of the most picturesque objects on the Alva estate, and it is a very great pity that it should be so disfigured by the extensive quarrying operations that are being at present carried on at it.”

On the top of the quarry edges can still be found old walled remains crumbling at the edge of the huge cliffs, but these are unlikely to have been attached to the ancient fortress, and may just be the fragmentary memories of the sheepfolds built from the old fort.

Folklore

Tradition told that this was one of the old forts of the Picts who lived in the Ochils.  If it was a fort, then the Pictish tradition is probably true.  Old lore also told that some of the stones from the fort were used in the construction of Stirling Castle, 7.8 miles (12.6km) to the west.

References:

  1. Corbett, L., et al., The Ochil Hills, Forth Naturalist & Historian 1994.
  2. Cruden, Stewart H., “Castle Craig, Tillicoultry,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1964.
  3. Feacham, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  4. Gibson, William, Reminiscences of Dollar, Tillicoultry and other Districts Adjoining the Ochils, Andrew Elliot 1883.
  5. Maclagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edinburgh 1875.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  8. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.159423, -3.754137 Castle Craig

Butter Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 9610 0018

Getting Here

The marshland of the Butter Well

The marshland of the Butter Well

Take the long uphill road to Castle Campbell and park up at the top.  From here, bear to your right and walk up the footpath onto the hills.  A few hundred yards along you’ll reach a gate and you have the choice of continuing along the path, or dropping down into the small glen and up the other side, towards the ruins of an old settlement called Craiginnin, whose walls you can see from here.  Head there, keeping to the path that leads you to it, going through the first couple of gates and out the other side.  Just above the burn, some very overgrown walling is evident (possibly Iron Age in nature), where excessive Juncus reeds are growing. Amidst this is a boggy pool.  Unless the boggy-land across the burn is the place in question, this is probably the spot!

Archaeology & History

The boggy waters of the well

The boggy waters of the well

There’s very little to see here today other than a murky boggy pool, indicating it hasn’t been used for a long time; although when we visited the place there were several animal tracks into the edge of the pool, indicating that they still drink here.  This implies it has/had some medicinal virtues, but even I wasn’t going to try drinking this!  If there was ever a stone trough here, it too has gone (probably nabbed by a farmer in bygone years) and there seems to be no archaeocentric reference to the place.  The well was described in place-name and folklore accounts, where its waters were used by the people living at this settlement to clean and prepare the butter made by the farmer.

Folklore

The hills, glens and burns of the Ochil range were well-known haunts of fairy folk—and Craiginnan was no exception.  In an early article in the Scottish Journal of Topography, a pseudonymous “J.C.” of “13 Dalrymple Place” (who was it?) told of several dying traditions and, amidst it all, the story behind the Butter Well above Castle Campbell:

“The meadow of Craiginnan, in the vicinity of these hills, was (and still is) famous for the quantities of hay it yearly produces.  Nearly seventy years ago, David Wright rented the farm of Craiginnan.  His servants on cutting the grass of the meadow, were in the custom of leaving it to the management of the fairies.  These aerial beings came from Blackford, Gleneagles, Buckieburn, etc., and assembling on the summit of the Saddlehill descended to their work among the hay.  From morning till evening they toiled assiduously.  After spreading it out before the sun, they put it into coils, then into ricks, when it was conveyed into the adjacent farm-yard, where they built it into stacks.  This kindness of the fairies David Wright never forgot to repay, for, when the sheep-shearing came round, he always gave them a few of the best fleeces of his flock.  He flourished wonderfully, but finding his health daily declining, and seeing death would soon overtake him, he imparted to his eldest son the secret of his success and told him ever to be in friendship with the “gude neebors.”

“The old man died and was succeeded by his son, who was at once hard, grasping and inhospitable.  The kind advices and injunctions given him by his father were either forgotten or unattended to.  Hay-making came round, but young Wright, instead of allowing the “green-goons” to perform what they had so long done (thinking thereby to save a few fleeces), ordered his servants to the work.  Things went on very pleasantly the first day, but on going next morning to resume their labour, what was their surprise to find the hay scattered in every direction.  Morning after morning this was continued, until the hay was unfit for use.  In revenge for this, he destroyed the whole of their rings, ploughed up their green knolls, and committed a thousand other offences.  He had soon reason, however, to repent of these ongoings.

“One day the dairymaid having completed the operation of churning, carried the butter, as was her wont, to the butter well on the east side of the house, to undergo the process of washing, preparatory to its being sent away to the market.  No sooner had she thrown it into the well, than a small hand was laid upon it, and in a second the bright golden treasure disappeared beneath the crystal waters!  The servant tried to snatch it; but alas! it was lost—irrecoverably lost forever! and as she left the place a voice said:

“Your butter’s away’
To feat our band
In the fairy ha’.”

“The horses, cows and sheep sickened and died; and to complete all, Wright, on returning from a Glendevon market, night overtook him in the wild pass of Glenqueich.  He wandered here and there, and at last sunk into a “well-e’e”, in which he perished.  After his death the farmhouse went gradually to demolition and its bare walls are now only to be seen.”

Butter Well site, looking west

Butter Well site, looking west

The place-name ‘Craiginnan’ is thought to derive from the somewhat banal “crags by the anvil-shaped land”, which is grasping at some desperate straws if you ask me!  But it’s also been suggested by Angus Watson (1995) to possibly derive from the “Gaelic Creag Ingheann, maiden crag”, which would acquaint it with the nearby Maiden’s Well and Maiden’s Castle a mile northeast of here—both of which are possessed of their own fairy-lore.  Makes a lot more sense too!

References:

  1. “J.C.”, “Rhymes and Superstitions of Clackmannanshire,” in Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities & Traditions, volume 2, Jul 1, 1848.
  2. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914. p.312
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.182946, -3.676236 Butter Well

Mercat Cross, Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – NS 91109 91890

Also Known as:

  1. Burgh Cross
  2. Canmore ID 48318
  3. Clackmannan Cross
  4. Market Cross
Cross on the 1886 map

Getting Here

Take the A907 road between Alloa and Kincardine, and up the B910 into Clackmannan.  To get into the village, depending on which route you’re heading in, go up the Kirk Wynd or the Cattle Market—both of which lead you to the Main Street where, right next to the huge erection known as the Stone of Mannan you’ll see the old Cross on its steps.Getting Here

Archaeology & History

When the Royal Commission (1933) lads wrote about the site in their early survey, they called it the Burgh Cross, telling:Found in association with the village Tolbooth and the more famous Stone of Mannan, this probable 16th century cross stands at the meeting of the four lanes at the centre of the village in the heart of Clackmannanshire.  It was the focal point of an annual market fair which, said Craig Mair (1988), “could last up to eight days”.  It was the meeting place of local villagers where legal issues were called and settled, where bonds and deeds were made and, in all probability, replaced an earlier non-christian monument.

The Mercat Cross
Millers 1889 sketch

“Although the stepped base has been renewed, the shaft is original.  It is 9 feet 6 inches in height and is octagonal in section, measuring 11 inches in diameter.  The capital is moulded and has on the east side a shield enclosed by swags and bearing a saltire and chief, for Bruce.  A second shield, carved on the west side, has apparently been similarly charged, but is now very weatherworn.  The ball finial on the capital was removed in 1857, but replaced in 1897.”

The reference to the chief, Bruce, is said by tradition to be that of Robert the Bruce.  This element in the cross’ history has been transposed mistakenly by early english writers onto the adjacent Stone of Mannan.

Cross & Mannan’s Stone

In recent times both the cross and the Stone of Mannan were repaired, at a staggering cost of £160,000.  How the hell it cost that much is anybody’s guess – but it certainly sounds as if someone’s pockets would have been bulging!

References:

  1. Mair, Craig, Mercat Cross and Tolbooth, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1978.
  4. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  5. Small, John W., Scottish Market Crosses, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.107301, -3.752423 Mercat Cross

Town Cross, Alloa, Clackmannanshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – NS 88559 92686

Also Known as:

  1. Burgh Cross
  2. Canmore ID 47169
  3. Market Cross
  4. Mercat Cross

Getting Here

Alloa Cross, Bank Street

Get into the small town of Alloa, where the buses stand at Shillinghill.  From here walk southwest down Mill Street, which runs into Bank Street.  Keep your eyes peeled on your right-hand side, where outside one of the old municipal buildings you’ll see it standing upright.

Archaeology & History

Although now standing against the old buildings halfway down Bank Street, Alloa’s Mercat or Burgh Cross was initially set up at the crossroads 162 yards (148m) away, where Mar Street meets Mill Street and Bank Street.  It was moved to its present position sometime in the 1880s and knowledge of its early history is scant.

John Small’s sketch of Alloa Cross

Standing some 10 feet tall, the monument was described in John Small’s (1900) rare magnum opus, where he details the architectural features of the monument, telling:

“The shaft, which rests on a base and three steps, is of the usual square section, with splayed angles, stoped at top and bottom, the top stop being rather peculiar.  The head of the Cross is composed of an oblong stone set upright, characteristic of the late type seen in Keikleour and Kinrossie.  The oblong is ornamented at the sides with debased volutes and acanthus leaves, the whole crowned by a wreath from which rises a griffin’s head, part of the supporters of the Arms of the Lords of the Manor, Lord Mar and Kellie.”

References:

  1. Anonymous, The Alloa Illustrated Family Almanac, MacGregor & Steedman: Alloa 1887.
  2. Mair, Craig, Mercat Cross and Tolbooth, John Donald: Edinburgh 1988.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  4. Small, John W., Scottish Market Crosses, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.113903, -3.793763 Town Cross

Warlocks’ Tomb, Muckhart, Clackmannanshire

Tomb/s (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9928 9865

Archaeology & History

Site of Warlock’s Tomb

A fascinating site that was described in Johnston & Tullis (2003) local history work on the parish of Muckhart. Amidst an area bedevilled with faerie, boggarts, ghosts and historical shamanic moot sites we find more curious folklore pointing at a long forgotten site, whose age and precise nature remains a mystery.  Adjacent to the old boundary line, close to the meeting of streams, the Muckhart authors told that,

“an orchard above the old farmhouse to this day remains mainly untouched.  It was the burial site of warlocks from the parish and it is thought some may have even been burned at the Mill.  It has always been said that this ground should never be touched!  There is an ancient rubble bridge over the Hole Burn which has a Masonic Eye painted on it to ward off any unwelcome spirits.  Despite the eye, both the Farmhouse and the Millhouse have been home to many strange and ghostly manifestations.”

The folklore sounds to be a mix of archaic and medieval animistic traits: perhaps of a prehistoric cairn, visited and maintained by local people (as found throughout Britain) until the Burning Times, when christian fanatics arrived, debasing the cultural rites and murdering local innocent people.  …Perhaps not.

Looking down on the orchard

When Paul, Maggie and I explored the area a few days ago, we were greeted most cordially by the owner of Muckhart Mill, who knew of the folklore, but didn’t know the exact whereabout of the grave.  We couldn’t find any clues as to its exact location either.  Apart, perhaps, from the top of the hill immediately above the orchard where, alone and fenced off with an old covered (unnamed) well, a solitary Hawthorn tree stood.  We each recalled the aged relationship that Hawthorn has in witch-lore… but that’s as far as it went.  The grave remains hidden and may have been destroyed. If anyone discovers its whereabouts, please let us know so that a preservation order can be made to ensure its survival.

References:

  1. Johnston, Tom & Tullis, Ramsay (eds.), Muckhart, Clackmannanshire: An Illustrated History of the Parish, MGAS 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.169908, -3.623531 Warlocks Tomb

Red Well, Alloa, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 87385 93435

Getting Here

The somewhat ruinous old well

Along the A907 a mile west of Alloa and heading towards Tullibody, just before the roundabout across the road from the school fields, a small entrance takes you into the small wooded parkland.  There, right in front of you as you walk in, and visible from the road, is the enclosed architectural stone walling and somewhat ruinous remains that are the Red Well, with its faded name carved on top.

Archaeology & History

Red Well on 1913 map

Although the waters no longer run for the people to drink, this old iron-bearing spring was long of repute to the old folk of eastern Alloa.  So much so, it seems, that even Janet & Colin Bord (1985) included it in their national survey of sacred wells!  Like other chalybeate springs, its waters were known to be good as a tonic—which makes sense as iron fortifies the blood and general immune system.  The Well was highlighted on the 1913 OS-map of the area.

References:

  1. Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Granada: London 1985.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.120320, -3.812921 Red Well

Mineral Well, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9855 9804

Also Known as:

  1. Dollar Chalybeate Spring
  2. Dollar Spa
  3. Vicar’s Bridge Spa

Archaeology & History

Vicars Bridge spring on 1900 map

Somewhere hiding away above the north-side of the River Devon, just above the Vicar’s Bridge, a little-known healing well came into being following industrial workings in the glen in 1831 by a local iron-working company.  The waters were strongly chalybeate, or iron-bearing—and as the fad amongst the wealthy was, at the time, a love of Spa Wells, this mineral spring was broadcast as a competitor of the Harrogate and Bath Spas.  But it failed pretty fast, sadly.

Bottles of the water were marketed and sold as ‘Dollar Mineral Water’ in many of the large cities, but sales weren’t too good.  Johnston & Tullis (2003) pointed out how the waters would have been coloured like brandy; and despite it being good for anaemia, a good tonic, and favourable in treating cuts and bruises, the mineral spring was no longer of any value as a business, dying a quick death.  Local people still kept using the waters, but in recent years the spring appears to have died too.

References:

  1. Johnston, Tom & Tullis, Ramsay (eds.), Muckhart, Clackmannanshire: An Illustrated History of the Parish, MGAS 2003.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.164034, -3.634884 Mineral Well