Colpy, Culsalmond, Aberdeenshire

Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NJ 6411 3261

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 18272

Archaeology & History

Colpy Circle site on 1868 map
Colpy Circle site on 1868 map

Just like the stone circle a half-mile east at Kirkton of Culsalmond, nothing now remains of this megalithic ring.  It was first described very briefly by Rev. F. Ellis (1845) in the New Statistical Account as a “druidical temple”: one of two hereby, “on the farm of Colpie, although now almost obliterated. Several urns were dug up in making a road near one of them”—implying that one of them was a cairn circle or funerary monument of some kind.  This was subsequently affirmed on the early OS-map and then described in Fred Coles’ (1902) survey, where he wrote:

“Site of a stone circle, the road going to Jericho Distillery having been made through it, and, on the south side of this road, the site of a cairn. Within the possible diameter of the circle an urn was found.”

Folklore

A few hundred yards west of the circle an ancient fair used to be held, known as St Sair’s Fair, named after St Serf.  Although St Serf’s Day is July 1, early records show that the fair—held in a long field with the curious name of ‘St Sairs Market Stance’—was to be held on the Wednesday after the last Tuesday in June.  For a stone circle, this is too close to Midsummer to be a coincidence!  Early records show that the fair was granted in 1591 and subsequent years thereafter.

St Serf is a very peculiar mythological figure with quite shamanistic traits and tales around him.  In truth, many of these early saints were little more than lapsed shamans, utilising natural magick and medicine in the olde traditions, but which became grafted onto the incoming christian mythos.  The evidence for this is quite overwhelming!

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Browne, G.F., On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire, Cambridge University Press 1921.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, “The Recumbent Stone Circles of North-East Scotland”, in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 102, 1973.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale University Press 1976.
  5. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  6. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire (Inverurie, Eastern Parishes, and Insch Districts),” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 36, 1902.
  7. Ellis, F., “Parish of Culsalmond,” in New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 12: Aberdeen, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  57.382500, -2.598631 Colpy, Culsalmond

Kirkton of Culsalmond, Aberdeenshire

Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NJ 6503 3293

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 18243

Archaeology & History

Site of the circle on 1873 map
Site of the circle on 1873 map

After standing at the same spot for 3000 years or more, near the beginning of the 19th century this stone circle was destroyed by the self-righteous christian cult that was rampaging its way through cultures far and wide.  After all, they needed to rid the area of local traditions and “improve” the locals, whether they liked it or not!  Thankfully however, one of their creed—a reverend Ferdinand Ellis: minister of the parish for forty years—recorded its destruction in the New Statistical Account between 1834-45. Amongst a variety of important traditional monuments that once existed hereby,

“A Druidical place of worship anciently stood about the middle of the churchyard or burying ground.  It consisted of a circle of twelve upright large granite stones from Benochee, which were overturned when the first Christian temple was erected.  One of these was taken up in 1821 and now remains above ground, near the spot where it was taken up.  The other eleven are still underground.  This is proof that the first christian missionaries, in this country, erected their places of worship as near as possible to the holy hills of the heathens, that the people might be more easily persuaded to assemble there.”

Persuaded‘ being a very broad term indeed when it came to the land confiscation of indigenous folk…

The stone that Ellis said “was taken up in 1821 and now remains above ground” was gone when Fred Coles (1902) surveyed the site, but he told how an earlier antiquarian and writer for the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, J.G. Callander, lived nearby, and who was

“told by the aged sexton, Florance, that he many a time came across a great stone, when preparing graves, and that he had himself blasted these more than once.”

It seems that all trace of this single stone, and the rest of them, either still lay in the ground or were used for local building material.

When John Barnatt (1989) came to add this circle in his corpus, for some reason he postulated that

“the number of stones suggest it was a recumbent stone circle”,

…that is: a stone circle possessing one large stone in the ring that’s laid down with two standing stones either side.  However, there seems no real evidence to show that this was the case.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Browne, G.F., On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire, Cambridge University Press 1921.
  3. Burl, H.A.W., “The Recumbent Stone Circles of North-East Scotland“, in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 102, 1973.
  4. Burl, H.A.W., The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale University Press 1976.
  5. Burl, H.A.W., The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  6. Coles, Fred R., “Report on Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire (Inverurie, Eastern Parishes, and Insch Districts),” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 36, 1902.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.385469, -2.583378 Kirkton of Culsalmond