Ring Cairn (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 5381 7877
Archaeology & History
This is one of many sites that were thankfully recorded by the fine pen of Andrew Jervise (1853) in the middle of the 19th century, without whose diligence in antiquarian interests all knowledge would have vanished. His works remind me very much of those by the late-19th early-20th century writer Harry Speight in Yorkshire, whose veritable madness on that region’s history remains unsurpassed even to this day. But I digress…
Jervise told us that,
“About the year 1830, while the tenant of Fernybank was levelling a hillock in the haugh between the farm-house and the Powpot Bridge (about two miles north-west of Colmeallie), he removed a number of stones varying in length and breadth from eighteen to twenty-four inches. They were ranged singly, and stood upright in a circle at short distances from each other, enclosing an area of about twelve feet in diameter. On the knoll being trenched down, the encircled part (unlike the rest of the haugh, which was of a gravelly soil) was found to be composed of fine black earth; but on several cart-loads being removed, operations were obstructed by a mass of stones that occupied much the same space and form as the layer of earth. Curiosity prompted the farmer to continue his labours further, but after digging to the depth of three or four feet, and finding stones only, he abandoned the work in despair, without having discovered anything worthy of notice… Had this cairn been thoroughly searched, it is probable that some traces of sepulture might have been found in it.”
A short time after this however, Jervise reported the finding of “old warlike instruments, both in the shape of flint arrow-heads and stone hatchets, have been found in the same haugh, and so late as 1851 a spear-head made of iron, and about fifteen inches long, was also discovered; it was much corroded, but had part of the wooden hilt in it.” These were prehistoric artifacts that were subsequently moved to Edinburgh’s central museum where, I presume, they remain to this day.
About ten years later the Ordnance Survey lads came here and were fortunate to be able to meet with the same man who’d uncovered the site. They told that,
“in contradiction to (Jervise’s narrative), the tenant of Fernybank who gave the information to Mr. Jervise, states that he continued the search to the bottom of the Cairn and found a quantity of Charred wood.”
There were a number of other prehistoric sites in this neck o’ the woods, many of which were also destroyed but, again, were thankfully recorded by Mr Jervise.
- Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland and Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian