Katie Thirsty’s Well, Logie, Stirlingshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 81787 97653

Getting Here

The scraggy hawthorn of Katie Thirsty’s Well

Not too tricky to locate, as long as you get onto the right footpath!  Take either road (both steep narrow and very bendy in places!) up from Logie on one side or Bridge of Allan on the other, towards Sheriffmuir and head to the Faerie or Highlandman’s Well.  About 150 yards before this, note the small car-park.  From here, go through the gate as if you’re walking to Dumyat, but 50 yards along the footpath it splits into two.  Take the lower right-hand path and keep walking for another 600 yards until you see a large worn hawthorn tree on your left, with boggy land just in front of it that runs to the path you’re walking on.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

‘Katie Thirsty’ is a most intriguing character who pops up at a number of healing wells, primarily in Scotland.  Dedications to her are known near Abernethy, Falkirk, Innerleithen, Killearn, Kilsyth and elsewhere, with one example just over the Scottish border in Northumberland.  So who was she? And what’s the story behind this little known example, close to the ruinous Iron Age village east of Dumyat?  The truth is, we don’t know for sure as yet.  Tales are told of a local lady called ‘Katie’ at the wells near Abernethy and Kilsyth, each with their own domestic myth—but it seems that a wider mythic status underlies this dedication.

One very fine notion comes from the pen of Pictish researcher Ronald Henderson (2008; 2014), who tells that the name derives from a corruption of both St. Katherine of Alexandria [Katie] and the Pictish King, Drust or Drustan [Thirsty].  The latter etymological postulation finds faith in the fact that the great crags of Dumyat less than a mile to the east is universally credited with being the last Pictish stronghold at the old hillfort there.

The flowing clear waters

…This well on the hills north of Logie village—with its old hawthorn for companion above the old path to medieval Fossachie village—flows nicely, and its freezing waters are very good to drink.  Twenty yards east of the boggy overflow are the overgrown remains of an isolated Iron Age ‘homestead’ or hut circle, and the waters of Katie Thirsty’s Well would have been the primary drinking supply to the people living there in ancient times.

Very little is known about the specific history or folklore of the site and it is mentioned only in passing by David Morris (1935) who told us simply:

‘“Katie Thirty’s Well’ was the old name of a clear spring on the hillside by the track leading to Dumyat.”

It’s a beautiful spot to visit, with lovely views for many miles to the east, south and west.  If you’re going to visit the Fairy or Highlandman’s Well nearby, take time to visit Katie Thirsty’s refreshing flow too.

As for Katie herself: does anyone have their own ideas about her…?

References:

  1. Henderson, Ronald W., Rex Pictorum – The History of the Kings of the Picts, Perth 2008.
  2. Henderson, Ronald W., “Drust… of the Hundred Battles,” in Celtic Guide, 3:4, April 2014.
  3. Morris, David B., “Causewayhead a Hundred Years Ago,” in Stirling Natural History & Archaeological Society Transactions, 1935.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.156829, -3.904796 Katie Thirsty\'s Well

Carlie Craig, Blairlogie, Stirlingshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – NS 816 970

Also Known as:

  1. Carla Craig
  2. Carlin Craig
  3. Witches’ Craig

Getting Here

Carlie Craig is the tree- covered cliff, centre of photo

If you’re coming from Blairlogie, a half-mile west of the village, take the B998 road to the university, but turn right up the first road that runs uphill into the trees.  But if you’re coming from Stirling or Bridge of Allan, keep your eyes peeled for the barely visible B998 at the crossroads and go up the hill, and along, for a good mile, below the Uni, past the factory, then up the small road on your left.  Up this road go past the church another 100 yards and you’ll see the derelict ruins of Logie Kirk on your right.  Right above the ruin you’ll see the tree-lined cliff immediately behind.  This is the Carlie Craig!

Folklore

Carlie Craig on the 1862 map
Carlie Craig on the 1862 map

The tree-covered Carlie Crags above the old ruined church and graveyard of Logie Kirk immediately below (thought to have been built in 1684) has long been associated with legends of old witches.  Deriving its name from ‘carlin’, a witch or old woman (cailleach), the Crags were traditionally the place of heathen rites (authentic ones, not your plastic pagan types).  In David Morris’ (1935) essay on the local township, he told the common story that “an elder in Logie Kirk was of the opinion that the Carla’ Craig…was haunted.”  At the end of the 19th century, Morris remembered a local lady known as ‘Ailie’, who was said by many old folk to be the traditional “witch of Logie.”

“Sickly children were brought to her for her blessing. Occasionally people came from as far as Stirling on this errand.  Her method of giving the blessing was to blow her breath on the child, and this was supposed to ward off evil.  It was also said that anyone buried in Logie Kirkyard on the first day of May, Hallowe’en, or other days of that kind, without her blessing, would not rest in his grave…”

Another legend told that,

“around 1720 witches were believed to rendezvous with the Evil One (i.e. the devil) who would appear in the form of a large black dog.”

A lengthier account of the belief in witchcraft and animistic pre-christian rites above the crags was told by Charles Rogers (1853):

“About the second decade of last century, there lived in the parish of Logie several ill-favoured old women, to whom the reputation of witchcraft was confidently attached.  They were believed to hold nocturnal dialogues and midnight revels with the Evil One, and Carlie Crag was regarded as one of their places of rendezvous. Satan, though he was believed to appear to them in various forms, was understood, in his interviews with the dreaded sisterhood, to appear most frequently in the aspect of a large shaggy dog, in which form it was alleged he had repeatedly been seen by the minister.  An elder of the kirk had been returning of an evening from a shooting excursion among the hills, with a trusty musket, which he had picked up some years before on the field of Sheriffmuir, and discovering on the top of Carlie an animal realizing the description of the Satanic mastiff, resolved to try upon it the effects of a shot. He knelt down cautiously near the foot of the crag, and after ejaculating a short prayer, and slipping into his musket a silver coin, fired with trembling heart but steady aim.  His victim, evidently shot dead, tumbled to the base, and the delighted and astonished elder lost no time in personally communicating to the minister the success of his wonderful adventure. Though not a little superstitious, the minister was somewhat sceptical as to the mysterious dog being really dead. He however agreed to accompany his elder next morning to the foot of the crag to inspect the carcase; but on reaching the spot, they found the remains of no shaggy dog or evil genius, but the lifeless form of the beautiful pet goat of a poor and aged woman, a much respected parishioner. The minister and elder both shed tears. The wicked dog still lived, the innocent goat had perished. The elder however took credit to himself for his good intentions and valorous intrepidity ; and the minister deemed it proper to improve the subject in his pulpit prelections on the following Sabbath. Discoursing on the subject of resistance to the Devil, he remarked, that the Evil One might assume numerous shapes and forms; that he went about as a roaring lion was declared in the Word, but he might take to himself various other aspects. He might even appear as a black colley dog.”  But whatever form he may assume,” added the minister, ” he cannot be overcome or destroyed by powder and shot. There is a gun, however, that will shoot him, and it is this — it is the Bible. Shoot him then, every one of you, with this gun, and he shall be shot.”

Whether the vicar’s biblical superstitions were adopted by local people—who were so much more used to the living animism of landscape and natural cycles—is questionable.  The crag is a fine site for ritual magick and its associative devil-lore probably derives from Pictish shamanistic practices, remains of which are evident across the Scottish hillls and northern England, where they survived for some considerable time…

References:

  1. Morris, David, B., “Causewayhead a Hundred Years Ago”, in Transactions of the Stirling Natural History and Archaeological Society, 1935.
  2. Roger, Charles, A Week at Bridge of Allan, Adam & Charles Black: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils – Placenames, History, Tradition, Perth & Kinross District Libraries 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.151376, -3.906932 Carlie Craig

Lipney, Blairlogie, Stirlingshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 8436 9803

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 145078

Getting Here

From Menstrie, walk up the path behind the post office and head up onto the hills, following the track that runs up alongside the Menstrie Burn.  After about 500 yards, crossing a stream, the path has a sort of hairpin kink and, shortly past this a smaller path leads off up into the grasslands on your left.  The standing stone can be seen up this path about 100 yards up.

Archaeology & History

The Lipney Stone

We came across this small standing stone, less than four feet high, after running and jumping down the steep eastern slope of Dumyat at some speed — or rather, Naomi came across the little thing and then told me about it after I’d run round and further down the slope towards the upper stretches of the Menstrie Burn (I was knackered!).

It’s a curious little thing inasmuch as it stands here alone, with no other companions close by; although there were a number of other stones scattering the grasslands hereabouts and other stones may await discovery.  Little seems to have been said of the site.  The Canmore record tells:

“It measures 1.1m in height, 0.7m in breadth and 0.4m in thickness, and is aligned with its long axis NE-SW. It rises with straight sides and leans to the SE.”

There are extensive remains of earthworks scattering the slopes hereby, though much of this seems medieval in nature.  Any further information about this old stone would be much appreciated!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.160781, -3.863319 Lipney stone

Airthrey Stone, Stirling University, Stirlingshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 81410 96489

Also Known as:

  1. Airthrey Castle Stone
  2. Canmore ID 47115
  3. Stirling University Stone

Getting Here

Airthrey stone, looking north

Dead easy to find!  From Stirling head out on the A9 road towards Bridge of Allan and Stirling Uni.  You’ll hit a small roundabout a mile out of Stirling – go straight across and up the little bendy road.  Follow this round the bottom side of the Uni for a half-mile, watching out for the left-turn as the tree-line ends, taking you up to the factory behind the trees (if you hit the roundabout a bit further on, you’ve gone too far!).  Go up the slope and onto the level sports playing fields – where this old beauty will catch your eye!  If you somehow miss it, just get to the Uni and ask some of the students where it is!

Archaeology & History

Airthrey Stone, looking NW

This single standing stone is a beauty!  It’s big – it’s hard – and it’s bound to get you going! (assuming you’re into megaliths that is)  Standing proud and upright on the eastern fields of the Stirling University campus, A.F. Hutchinson (1893) measured it as being “9ft 1in in height.  Its greatest breadth is 4ft 10in, and its circumference 14ft.”  A bittova big lad!  More than fifty years later when the Royal Commission (1963) lads got round to measuring its vital statistics, only an inch of the upright had been eaten by the ground.  The stone was highlighted on the earliest OS-maps of the area.

Folklore

Of the potential folklore here, most pens and voices seem quiet; although Mr Hutchinson (1897) told of William Nimmo’s early thoughts, linking the history of this stone with the others nearby, saying:

“Of what events these stones are monuments can not with certainty be determined.  In the ninth century, Kenneth II, assembled the Scottish army in the neighbourhood of Stirling, in order to avenge the death of Alpin his father, taken prisoner and murdered by the Picts.  Before they had time to march from the place of rendezvous, they were attacked by the Picts… As the castle and town of Stirling were at that date in the hands of the Picts, the rendezvous of Kenneth’s army and the battle must have been on the north side of the river; and as every circumstance of that action leads us to conclude that it happened near the spot where these stones stand, we are strongly inclined to consider them as monuments of it.  The conjecture, too, is further confirmed from a tract of ground in the neighbourhood which, from time immemorial, hath gone by the name of Cambuskenneth: that is, the field or creek of Kenneth.”

And although this hypothesis is somewhat improbable, it was reiterated in the new Statistical Account of 1845, which also suggested that this and the other Pathfoot Stone were “intended probably to commemorate some battle or event long since forgotten.”

References:

  1. Hutchinson, A.F., “The Standing Stones of Stirling District,” in The Stirling Antiquary, volume 1, 1893.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.146347, -3.910313 Airthrey stone