Stews, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Standing Stone: OS Reference – ND 46558 88998

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 9516
  2. Stowse

Getting Here

A wind blown stone

Take the third left road off the A961 past St Mary’s Hope, travelling south, taking the right fork at Lythes, and continue down to the end of the metalled road. From there, walk up the slope to your right (south) and follow the fence on your left into the next field and the stone will be seen in a fenced enclosure.

Archaeology & History

Two things strike you when you first see this stone, the triangular shape of the east facing side, and the lichen which covers this face and much of the rest of the stone giving it the distinct illusion of having a green velvet coat! From another angle it has a distinct lean and there are quite a few packing stones around its base. The Royal Commission inventory (1946) describes it thus:

Stone on 1881 map

“On a ridge barely a quarter of a mile S of the farmhouse of Stews is a triangular block of red sandstone nearly 6 ft high, set with a packing of small stones at the base and with its axis N-S.  At the bottom where it is widest it measures 2 ft. 6 in. across and is from 12-13 in. thick.  As it rises it tapers gradually to a pointed top, which is slightly inclined towards the W.”

George Low on his 1774 tour wrote:

“Left this spot, and May 12th, proceeded southward by Stowse head; observed on the hill the remains of a tri-angular monument, but very much defaced, and two of the stones broke to the stumps. Tradition is there none as to the reason &c. of its erection.  The figure with a plan follows…”

George Low’s 1774 sketch
A coat of lichen

There is now no trace on the surface of the other two stones of this group so we are fortunate to have Mr Low on the spot sketch to record them. The stones would have been visible to the seafarers of times past who may have used them as navigation landmarks in pre-literate times, this being one of a number of surviving coastal stones on the Orkneys but whether they were erected for this purpose cannot be known.  If you’ve been to see the Sorquoy stone up the coast, the surviving Stews stone is worth the journey if only for its ‘velvet’ coat.

References:

  1. RCAHMS, Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v. Edinburgh. 1946
  2. Low, George, A Tour Through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland…collected in 1774, William Peace & Son: Kirkwall 1879.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul Hornby 2020, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.785227, -2.926164 Stews

Sorquoy, Kirkhouse Road, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Standing Stone: OS Reference – ND 46905 91403

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore no.9605 
  2. Eastside
  3. Papley
Stone on 1881 map

Getting Here

Travelling south on the A961, take the first road left past St Margaret’s Hope, and follow it over the cross roads, and down the hill towards the sea, and it’s visible on the left hand side. You can’t miss it! It’s accessed by a narrow pathway which has been partly ditched – be careful!

Archaeology & History

View from the SE
View from the track – SW

One of the less well known but most impressive of the Orkney standing stones, and seemingly one of the least visited.  On my visit in July 2019, it was clear no one had walked the path for several months.  The Royal Commission Inventory describes it as being, “14′ – 14′ 6″ high with some packing at the base. At 3′ above ground level, it is 2′ 6″ wide and 18″ thick, thickening to 21-22″ as it rises.”

It has a distinctly top-heavy look, and although invisible from the west above the brow of the hill, it can be clearly seen from the sea.

George Low visited the stone on May 11th 1774, saying:

‘In this beautiful hollow, in a cornfield, saw a large erected stone about 16 feet above ground, probably monumental, tho’ tradition is silent about it, and by digging nothing was found that could certainly prove this’.

Described by local historian George Barry (1748 – 1805):

George Low’s 1774 drawing

‘To the north (of South Ronaldsay), – at no great distance, is a most beautiful vale, with the ocean on one side, and gently declining hills on the other; which, for the production of every sort of beneficial crop, is far superior to any other part of the island. In the middle of this pleasant spot, on the brow of a hill, is a monumental stone, sixteen feet high, which, like many others through the country, bears no marks of human art, in carving, figures, or inscription. The whole delightful dale is known by the name of Paplay’ .

If you’re in the islands, this impressive stone is certainly worth a detour!

References:

  1. Barry, Dr George, History of the Orkney Islands, Longman,Hurst,Bell & Orme: London 1808.
  2. Low, George, A Tour Through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland…collected in 1774, William Peace & Son: Kirkwall 1874.
  3. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland, HMSO 1946.

Links

  1. Sorquoy on The Megalithic Portal

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul Hornby 2020 The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.806863, -2.920733 Sorquoy

Langside Farm, Lanark, Lanarkshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 866 411

Archaeology & History

This was an impressive site by the sound of things.  Sadly destroyed, its exact whereabouts isn’t clear but should—if the description of the site is anything to go by—be on one of the highest points of land around Langside Farm.  In Irving & Murray’s description (1864), they tell the cairn to have been one amidst a cluster of tombs that could once be seen “a mile to the south of his residence”, but this seems to be contested by the definitive pen of the Lesmahagow historian, John Greenshields. (1864)  He told us:

“The late Lord Corehouse had an excavation scientifically made of a karn or cairn on his farm at Longside.  It is to be regretted that information cannot now be obtained of so accurate a nature as the subject merits; but there were stones so arranged in the centre as to have been evidently intended for sepulchral purposes.  Two rude urns of baked clay, one very large, the other smaller, were found inside a stone coffin.  The small urn contained bones partially calcined and broken or pounded, some of them perfectly fresh.  It has been erroneously stated in Swan’s “Views of the Clyde,” that there were eighteen small urns around the large chest, in the form of a circle, which gave rise to the idea that the remains of the chief had been surrounded by those of his family or warriors. One of the urns has been lost sight of: the smaller one, about 6 inches in diameter at the top, and 4 in height, is now in the possession of Miss Edmondstoun Cranstoun, as well as a still smaller funerary urn, recently restored by kiln-burning it with some fresh clay.”

References:

  1. Greenshields, John B., Annals of the Parish of Lesmahagow, Caledonian: Edinburgh 1864.
  2. Irving, George V. & Murray, Alexander, The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, Described and Delineated – volume 1, Thomas Murray: Glasgow 1864.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.
  4. Swan, Joseph, Views on the Clyde – Historical and Descriptive, Joseph Swan: Glasgow 1830.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.650158, -3.803619 Langside Farm

Eastwood Farm, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 821 396

Archaeology & History

When the local historian John Greenshields (1864) wrote his definitive history of Lesmahagow parish, the book was just going to press when the remains of an ancient tomb was unearthed.  We are fortunate that he held publication of the book before adding the brief information about the findings.  He told us:

“When these pages were passing through the press, a stone cist was discovered on the farm of Eastwood, by the hollow sound emitted when the ploughshare struck its lid.  It was of the usual dimensions (about three feet by two), and contained fragments of bones, and a cinerary urn.  There were no indications that a cairn had ever been heaped on its top, but the stones may have long since been removed, as the field was in a high state of cultivation. The bones were much decayed, and the urn was shivered to fragments by the finder, in his anxiety to discover hidden treasures of gold or silver.”

No further information is known to exist about this site.  In all probability the cist was Bronze Age in nature, possibly earlier.  We surmise this from the rapid rate of decay of artefacts upon it being unearthed.

References:

  1. Greenshields, John B., Annals of the parish of Lesmahagow, Caledonian: Edinburgh 1864.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.635616, -3.874443 Eastwood Farm

Trumpeter’s Well, Strathaven, Lanarkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 66014 41685

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 203472

Getting Here

Trumpeters Well on 1864 map

Take the A71 road southwest out of Strathaven as if you’re heading to Kilmarnock.  After 2½ miles (4.1km) you reach the tiny hamlet of Caldermill (be careful or you’ll truly miss it!).  As you go out of the hamlet, on your left there’s a track up to Hillhead Farm with the small but tell-tale signpost saying ‘Trumpeter’s Well’ and the small dome-shaped stone monument in the field is what yer looking for.  If you’re coming from the Kilmarnock side, when you reach the Caldermill sign, it’s in the field immediately to your right.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

When the site was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey lads in the 1850s, the water supply had completely run dry.  It was later revived and the nine-foot tall circular stone building built to commemorate its history.  The water apparently now runs within the building, being supplied from Hillhead Farm.

Trumpeters Well, Caldermill

Folklore

The well is said to have gained its name after the local Battle of Drumclog (1679), when one rich Tory known as John Graham of Claverhouse was retreating for fear of his life; and because his own horse had been killed, the coward stole the horse of his young fourteen-year-old trumpeter.  In doing so, the young lad was subsequently killed and his body was thrown down the well.  Tradition also tells that other soldiers were buried in the same field.

References:

  1. Campbell, J. Ramsey, My Ain, My Native Tour – Stra’ven, J.M. Bryson: Strathaven 1943.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.650165, -4.130798 Trumpeter\'s Well

St. Bride’s Well, Avondale, Lanarkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 6983 4138

Archaeology & History

St Brides Chapel & Well on the 1864 OS-map

Shown on the 1864 OS map of the area as a ‘Well’ just at the front of St Bride’s Chapel—now a very pleasant old cottage—peasants and pilgrims would stop for both refreshment and ritual here as they walked down High Kype Road.  Although the chapel was described in church records of January 1542 as being on the lands of Little Kype, close to the settlement of St Bride, there seems to be very little known about the history or traditions of the well.  If anyone has further information on this site, please let us know.

Folklore

Bride or Brigit has her origins in early British myth and legend, primarily from Scotland and Ireland.  Her saint’s day is February 1, or the heathen Imbolc (also known as Candlemas).  Although in christian lore St. Bride was born around 450 AD in Ireland and her father a Prince of Ulster, legend tells that her step-father (more probably a teacher) was a druid and her ‘saintly’ abilities as they were later described are simply attributes from this shamanic pantheon. Legends—christian and otherwise—describe Her as the friend of animals; possessor of a magickal cloak; a magickian and a healer; and whose ‘spirit’ or genius loci became attached to ‘sacred sites’ in the natural world, not the christian renunciation of it.  St Bride was one of the primal faces of the great prima Mater known as the Cailleach: the greater Gaelic deity of Earth’s natural cycles, whose changing seasons would also alter Her names, faces and clothes, as Her body moved annually through the rhythms of the year.  Bride was (and is) ostensibly an ecological deity, with humans intrinsically a part of such a model, not a part from it, in contrast to the flawed judaeo-christian theology.

References:

  1. Paul, J.B. & Thomson, J.M., Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland AD 1513 – 1546, HMGRH: Edinburgh 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.648467, -4.070063 St Bride\'s Well

Farr Church, Bettyhill, Sutherland

Cist:  OS Grid Reference – NC 71455 62258 

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 6360
  2. Chealamay

Getting Here

The cist in its new home

Dead easy.  From the top of the hill at Bettyhill, take the road east out of the village along the A836 Thurso road.  At the bottom of the hill, on your left, you’ll see the white building of Farr church Museum.  Walk to it and instead of going in the door, walk past it and round the back, or north-side of the church where, up against the wall, you’ll see this small stone-lined hole in the ground.  Y’ can’t really miss it.

Archaeology & History

Originally located 7½ miles (12.1km) to the south at Chealamy (NC 7240 5017), in the prehistoric paradise of Strathnaver, it was uncovered following road-building operations in 1981 and, to save it from complete destruction, was moved to its present position on the north-side of Farr church museum.  It was fortunate in being saved, as it was covered by a large boulder which the road operators tried to smash with a large jack-hammer; but in breaking it up, they noticed a hole beneath it.  Thankfully, old Eliot Rudie of Bettyhill—a well respected amateur historian and archaeologist in the area—was driving past just as it had been uncovered by the workmen.  He recognised it as being a probable cist and so further operations were stopped until it was investigated more thoroughly.

The relocated cist

The cist—measuring some 4 feet long by 3 feet wide and about 1½ feet deep—contained the burial of what was thought to be a man in his mid- to late-twenties.  The remains were obviously in very decayed state and it was thought by archaeologist Robert Gourlay (1996), that the body itself had been “deposited in the grave (when it was) in an advanced state of decomposition.”  Also in the cist they found a well-preserved decorated beaker, within which Gourlay thought “probably contained some kind of semi-alcoholic gruel for the journey of the departed to the after-life.”

References:

  1. Gourlay, Robert, Sutherland – An Archaeological Guide, Birlinn: Edinburgh 1996.
  2. Gourlay, Robert B., “A Short Cist Beaker Inhumation from Chealamy, Strathnaver, Sutherland”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 114, 1984.
  3. Gourlay, Robert & Rudie, Eliot, “Chealamy, Strathnaver (Farr) Beaker Cist”, in Discovery Excavation Scotland, 1981.

Acknowledgments:  To that inspiring creature Aisha Domleo, for her bounce, spirit and madness to get me up here; and for little Lara too, for meandering to the church museum where this cist can be seen; and to Eliot Rudie, who pointed it out to us.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.529396, -4.209269 Farr Church

Portmore Loch, Eddleston, Peeblesshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2601 5074

Archaeology & History

Cist site on 1906 OS map

It seems that very little is known about this site, long since gone when quarrying operations did what quarrying operations do.  The site was recorded by the Ordnance Survey lads on their 1908 map of the region, on which they noted: “Stone coffin containing human remains found AD 1905.”  The Royal Commission boys visited the site in April 1962 and reported that “nothing now survives.”  They listed it in their inventory as a prehistoric cist, or small stone-lined burial chest.  Such remains tend to be either neolithic or Bronze Age in nature.

References:

  1. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1967.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.744362, -3.180144 Portmore Loch

Scotland Well, Scotlandwell, Kinross

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 18474 01656

Also Known as:

  1. Scotlandwell
Scotland well on 1856 map

Getting Here

Whichever way you come into the hamlet—be it along the A911 from either Milnathort or Glenrothes, or up the B920 from Ballingry side—the only little carpark to use is about 20 yards from the main road junction, on the west-side of the road, appropriately named Well Road.  The site is unmissable beneath the small well-house at the end of this short cul-de-sac.

Archaeology & History

When a village is named after a well, you know that its waters held some considerable importance!  Mentioned as early as 1218 as “de fonte Scotie” and subsequently many variations thereof in centuries thereafter, the place-names authority Simon Taylor (2017) thinks it may have been mentioned as early as 1090 CE.

Scotland Well in 1915

Although there has never been a direction dedication of the Scotland Well to any saint, as J.M. MacKinlay (1904) and others have pointed out, in the village itself was an ancient medieval hospital that belonged to “the Trinity or Red Friars” that was built for the benefit of the poor by the Bishop of St. Andrews, some 22 miles to the east.  The hospital was at first dedicated to St. Thomas and subsequently to the Virgin, or St Mary.  Holy wells dedicated to both saints are renowned the world over as having great medicinal properties, but no extant written document relates either saint to the well.

Folklore

The main reason for this site maintaining such an honourable place in Scottish history is its association with the two great Scottish heroes, Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce.  In the pseudonymous Historica’s (1934) literary rambles, he told that, after coming down out of the Lomond Hills,

“We descend the narrow defile—the Howgate—into Scotlandwell—Fons Scotia—famous for its medicinal springs, where tradition says King Robert the Bruce came to take the waters for scrofula and leprosy in 1295.  The great Sir William Wallace—according to ‘Blind Harry’—also has associations here.  His famous swim to the Castle Island, for a boat to take over some of his men to capture the english on St. Serf’s, took place from below Scotlandwell.”

In Ruth & Franks Morris’ (1982) fine survey of Scottish wells, they told that upon their visit to the Scotland Well, three people they met still thought highly of its curative properties.  “Of these three people,” they said,

“one was a sufferer from cancer which was the cause of a painful skin rash.  He had been persuaded to try the water and found that it did him so much good that he was driven from Edinburgh to the well, a round trip of some 80 miles, at at regular intervals to drink the water and take back with him two demi-johns of it.”

According to the man concerned, it did him the world of good and cleared the stubborn body rash he’d been suffering!

References:

  1. Day, J.P., Clackmannan and Kinross, Cambridge University Press 1915.
  2. Historicus, Historic Scenes within our Limits, Kinross-shire Advertiser: Kinross 1934.
  3. MacKinlay, James M., Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-Names, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1904.
  4. Morris, Frank & Ruth, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  5. Taylor, Simon, The Place-Names of Kinross-shire, Shaun Tyas: Donington 2017.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for being able to use the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.200500, -3.315578 Scotland Well

Tammy Mill’s Well, Laurieston, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 910 790

Also Known as:

  1. Tammy Milns Well

Archaeology & History

This all-but-forgotten site situated somewhere on the north side of Lauriston was mentioned in Falkirk’s Notes & Queries (1906) journal, but its whereabouts is somewhat of a mystery (to me at least!).   In a series of question and answers about the site, the editor of the journal, James Love, told us:

“Mr Charles Brown, factor to the Marquis of Zetland, kindly informs us that on a late occasion there passed through his hands a copy of a feu contract by the Right Honorable Francis Lord Napier in favour of Alexander Cowie, brewer, at New Merchiston (now Laurieston), of a piece of ground lying to the north of Mary Street.  This is dated 7 August, 1762 and contains the following clause:  ‘Providing also that the said Alexr Cowie and his foresaid have the Liberty of the water of Tammy Milns Well in common with the said Lord Napier’s other vassals ay New Merchiston.'”

The well was mentioned again in 1781 with similar historical information.  As to the name of the well, Mr Love wrote,

“it would appear, from the circumstance, that an old infirm man belonging to the village, called Thomas Mills or Milns, used to sit with his wooden cup at the spring which flowed from the face of the hill, over which the present structure now stands, and served out to the weary passers-by the cooling and refreshing draught for any small pittance they in their generosity might think proper to give him.  After the lands of Lauriston passed into the hands of Sir Laurence Dundas, he took the advantage of such a copious supply of what then was pure water, and built the present reservoir over the spring, and had it conveyed to Kerse House by means of leaden pipes.”

But he fails to tell us what “the present structure” was that covered the well, nor the whereabouts of the “reservoir over the spring”; and as there’s no such feature on any of the Ordnance Survey maps at the time he wrote his article, nor beforehand, I remain puzzled as to its exact position.  This situation isn’t helped by the earlier description, which said it was found on “a piece of ground lying to the north of Mary Street”.  There are two wells literlly on the other side of Mary Street, but Kerse House meanwhile—whose water supply came from the well—is about 1½ miles to the north!  All in all there are more questions than answers here.  Added to this, in John Reid’s (2009) magnum opus on local place-names, the site is mentioned, albeit in passing, where he gives us the vague grid-reference of just NS 91 79, but this may just be educated guesswork on his part.  It would be good to know exactly where it was…

References:

  1. Love, James (ed.), “Tammy Mills (or Milns) Well, Laurieston”, in Local Antiquarian Notes & Queries, Falkirk – volume 1, 1906.
  2. Reid, John, The Place-Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, Falkirk Local History Society 2009.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.991537, -3.748943 Tammy Mill\'s Well