Samson’s Stone, Waltonhill Farm, Craigrothie, Fife

Legendary Stone: OS Grid Reference – NO 36312 09667

Getting Here

Lighter coloured Samson Stones visible from road south of farm

Travelling South along the A916 just past Craigrothie, turn right down to Chance Inn, and turn left at the T junction. and follow the road on to just past the left hand bend when Waltonhill Farm will be seen on the right. The Stones form part of the structure of a dwelling house and are not accessible to the public, but are visible from the public highway further down the road as the light coloured irregular shaped stones at ground level either side of the door of the south-facing house.

Archaeology & History

According to a piece published in the Fife Herald & Journal in 1905:-

“Once upon a time, so runs the legend, Samson challenged the devil to match him at boulder throwing. As challenger, Samson stood on the West Lomond; Satan stood on the East. The signal was given; two mighty rocks whistled through the air. ‘The De’ils Stane‘ fell where it now lies, on the road-side about a quarter of a mile west from Waltonhill Farm. Samson, though handicapped by three miles greater distance, flung his stone fully four hundred yards beyond that of Satan, and with such force that it split into three parts; which parts are now built into Waltonhill barn.”

The light-coloured, irregularly-shaped stones at ground level are the likely remains

This is of course a variant of a creation myth that is to be found throughout Britain, of an Age of Giants who strode the land quarrelling with each other and the mortal humans. The original names of the Giants have been lost in the aeons of oral transmission of the legend from pre-history, and replaced by that of a probably equally legendary Middle Eastern strong man from the Christian’s Bible, in combat with the Christian’s Naughty Man. And to prove the point of Christianity’s superiority over the old animistic cults of the land, the De’il has to be demonstrably the Loser.

Another view of the Stones

The house owner told me that what is now the farmhouse bearing the stones, was originally the barn, that they rebuilt after 40 years of dereliction, and interestingly she had heard something about some Samson’s Stones, but not about the nearby De’il’s Stane, which shows that these ancient legends are still being orally transmitted.

The Stone was thrown over 10 miles from West Lomond (right). No wonder it split!

There are five ‘odd’ stones either side of the doorway, along the base of the wall facing the Lomond Hills, of irregular shape and lighter colour than the rest of the building’s walls. These are the likely candidates for the Samson’s Stones (unless anyone can come up with more convincing evidence). While the legend speaks of three stones, it is quite feasible that the masons dressed these when they built the original barn, making five stones out of the three. They look like they may be successive horizontal slices of a larger square to triangular sectioned stone. Pure speculation on the writer’s part, but are these the remains of a lost standing stone(s) that had to be demolished in order for the barn to be built, pieces of which were incorporated into the building to give the original stone’s magical protection to the farmer’s animals and crops?

References:

  1. Fife Herald & Journal, 1st November 1905, quoted in John Ewart Simpkins’ County Folklore – Volume VII: Fife, with some notes concerning Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Folk-Lore Society by Sidgwick& Jackson: London 1914.

© Paul T Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2018

Samson Stone

loading map - please wait...

Samson Stone 56.275184, -3.030087 Samson Stone

North Hill, Samson, Scilly Isles, Cornwall

Chambered Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SV 877 131

Archaeology & History

Early photo of the North Hill tomb (Crawford 1928)

On the north side of Samson island there are several chambered tombs and cairns scattered around the edges of aptly-named North Hill; but the one illustrated here was one of the first to be excavated in 1862-3.  Although O.G.S. Crawford (1928) wrote about the site in his essay on Cornish cists — from where this old black-and-white photo of the site has been taken — it was described in much greater detail in Borlase’s (1872) archaeological magnum opus of the day.  In his time, this now much-denuded burial site had all the outer hallmarks of being a large tumulus.  This was described in some detail in a paper written by one Mr Augustus Smith (read at a Meeting of the Royal Institution of Cornwall in May, 1863) who was fortunate enough to be one of the first people to unearth this great tomb and find the site untouched since it had been laid, thousands of years earlier.  Citing extensively from Smith’s notes, Borlase told:

“The Barrow…is situated with four or five others, mostly rifled on the…high ground at the northern end.  “The mound, in its outer circumference, measured about 58 feet, giving, therefore, a distance of near upon 30 feet to its centre, from where the excavation was commenced.  For about 18 or 20 feet the mound appeared entirely composed of fine earth, when an inner covering, first of smaller and then or large rugged stones, was revealed.  These were carefully uncovered before being disturbed, and were then one by one displaced till a large upright stone was reached, covered by another of still more ponderous dimensions, which projected partially over the edges of the other.  At length this top covering, of irregular shape, but measuring about 5 feet 6 inches in its largest diameter, was thoroughly cleared of the superincumbent stones and earth, and showed itself evidently to be the lid to some mysterious vault or chamber beneath.”  On the lid being removed, there was “disclosed to view an oblong stone chest or sarcophagus beneath” on the floor of which, “in a small patch,” “a little heap of bones, the fragmentary framework of some denizen of earth, perhaps a former proprietor of the Islands—were discovered piled together in one corner.

“”The bones were carefully taken out, and the more prominent fragments, on subsequent examination by a medical gentleman, were found to give the following particulars: – Part of an upper jawbone presented the alveolæ of all the incisors, the canines, two cuspids and three molars, and the roots of two teeth, very white, still remaining in the sockets.  Another fragment gave part of the lower jaw with similar remains of teeth in the sockets.  All the bones had been under the action of fire and must have been carefully collected together after the burning of the body.  They are considered to have belonged to a man about 50 years of age…

“”The bottom of the sarcophagus was neatly fitted with a pavement of three flat but irregular-shaped stones, the joints fitted with clay mortar, as were also the insterstices where the stones forming the upright sides joined together, as also the lid, which was very neatly and closely fitted down with this same plaster.

“”Two long slabs, from seven to nine feet in length, and two feet in depth, form the sides, while the short stones fitted in between them make the ends, being about 3½ feet apart, and to fix which firmly in their places, grooves had been roughly worked in the larger stones.”  The paving stones had been “embedded immediately upon the natural surface of the granite of which the hill consists.”

References:

  1. Borlase, William Copeland, Nænia Cornubiæ, Longmans Green: London 1872.
  2. Crawford, O.G.S., “Stone Cists,” in Antiquity Journal, volume 2, no.8, December 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  49.936726, -6.353258 North Hill cairn