Kelpie’s Stane, Corgarff, Aberdeenshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NJ 264 087

Also known as:

  1. Kelpie Stone

Folklore

The old Scottish folklorist, A.A. MacGregor, described this legendary rock, “by the Bridge of Luib, on the River Don,” in his classic Peat Fire Flame. (1937)  One of the numerous ‘holed stones,’ it was one of countless rocks in our isles imbued with animistic spirit essence, akin to similar rocks found in all of the other cultures in the world.  MacGregor told how,

“It happened that a man summoned to the death-bed of a relative came to this crossing-place just after torrential floods had carried away the bridge. When he was on the point of abandoning all hope of reaching the opposite bank, a tall man appeared from nowhere and volunteered to carry him across. The distracted homecomer accepted the assistance proffered. But, when he and his carrier reached mid-river, the latter reverted to the form of the river kelpie and endeavoured to drag him down to the river’s bed. The victim managed to escape. As he scrambled to the bank, the infuriated kelpie hurled after him the huge boulder that to this day goes by the name of the Kelpie’s Stane.”

But the stone was also known to possess healing and magickal properties, as evidenced from MacPherson’s (1929) chronicle, which told:

“Somewhere near Dinnet was the Kelpie Stone. Childless women passed through its 18 inch (46cm) hole to concieve. A noble lady performed the task to no avail; only when she repeated it in the same direction as the river flow did the charm work.”

Close by are several other intriguing place-names which may at some time have had some archaeo-mythic relevance to this legendary rock. On the hill above is the old Carn Lian; the water course nearby is the Allt na Ciste; but most intriguingly we find the Bog of the Old Woman, or the Moine Cailleach a half-mile to the east.

References:

  1. MacGregor, Alisdair Alpin, The Peat-Fire Flame, Ettrick Press: Edinburgh 1937.
  2. McPherson, Joseph M., Primitive Beliefs in the North-East of Scotland, Longmans, Green & Co: London 1929.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.163980, -3.217472 Kelpie\'s Stane

Clach-na-Cruich, Fearnan, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Rock:  OS grid reference – NN 71868 44743

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25037
  2. Clach-na-Gruich
  3. St. Ciaran’s Seat
  4. Measles Stone

Getting Here

Pretty easy to get to.  It’s in one of the fields above the old farmhouse of Boreland on the western edge of Fearnan, a couple of hundred yards away on the other side of the road from the Clach an Tuirc.

Archaeology & History

Clach-na-Cruich in 1884

In the field we find this great chair-shaped boulder with a great ‘bowl’ on it where the seating section is, and on its top and sides are a few cup-markings — MacMillan (1884) noted seven of them, two of which had half-rings around them, “associated together in a singular manner, and forming a figure like the eyes of a pair of spectacles.”

Folklore

Regarded in local legends to be an ancient initiation seat, this was taken over and ordained as being the seat of St. Ciaran at some time when the Celtic church started having influence up here.

The ‘seat’ of this great stone regularly fills up with rainwater and was, wrote William A. Gillies, “regarded as an effectual cure for measles, and there are persons still residing at Fearnan who were taken as children to drink from the water in the hollow of Clach-na-Gruich, the Measles Stone.”  His lengthy account of the site told:

“In the district of Breadalbane, Perthshire – which has in it the Pool of St Fillans, famous for its supposed power of curing mentally afflicted persons – there are two boulders with water-filled cavities, which have a local reputation for their healing virtues. One is at Fernan, situated on the north side of Loch Tay, about three miles from Kenmore. It is a large rough stone with an irregular outline, somewhat like a rude chair, in the middle of a field immediately below the farmhouse of Mr Campbell, Borland. The rest of the field is ploughed; but the spot on which it stands is carefully preserved as an oasis amid the furrows. The material of which it is composed is a coarse clay slate; and the stone has evidently been a boulder transported to the spot from a considerable distance.

“In the centre on one side there is a deep square cavity capable of holding about two quarts of water. I found it nearly full, although the weather had been unusually dry for several weeks previously. There were some clods of earth around it, and a few small stones and a quantity of rubbish in the cavity itself, which defiled the water. This I carefully scooped out, and found the cavity showing unmistakeable evidence of being artificial. On the upper surface of the stone I also discovered seven faint cup-marks, very much weather-worn; two of them associated together in a singular manner, and forming a figure like the eyes of a pair of spectacles.

“The boulder goes in the locality by the name of Clach-na-Cruich, or the Stone of the Measles; and the rain-water contained in its cavity, when drunk by the patient, was supposed to be a sovereign remedy for that disease. At one time it had a wide reputation, and persons afflicted with the disease came from all parts of the district to drink its water. Indeed, there are many persons still alive who were taken in their youth, when suffering from this infantile disease, to the stone at Fernan; and I have met a man not much past forty, who remembers distinctly having drunk the water in the cavity when suffering from measles.

“It is is only within the lifetime of the present generation that the Clach-na-Cruich has fallen into disuse. I am not sure, indeed, whether any one has resorted to it within the last thirty years. Its neglected state would seem to indicate that all faith in it had for many years been abandoned.”

References:

  1. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  2. MacMillan, Hugh, ‘Notice of Two Boulders having Rain-Filled Cavities on the Shores of Loch Tay, Formerly Associated with the Cure of Disease,’ in PSAS 18, 1884.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.577070, -4.087345 Clach na Cruich