Weeping Stone, Fladaigh Chuain, Skye

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NG 3638 8091

Getting Here

Unless you’ve got your own boat, forget it!  This one’s miles out on the isolated uninhabited island of Fladda-chuain about 5 miles off the northwest tip from Duntulm, Trotternish.  I wouldn’t mind a coupla weeks alone on the isle though – if anyone can get me there!

Archaeology & History

This little rocky island was allegedly another one of the many visiting places that St. Columba frequented in his copious ventures, trying to sell his new religion to local people wherever he went.  Here he came to the legendary clach known as the Weeping Stone: a place of reverence to the druids and indigenous people.  But St Columba came here to christianize the rituals that were had at the site; and, eventually, he was allowed to build a  small stone chapel close by.

Folklore

In Otta Swire’s (1961) excellent work on the folklore and history of the Isle of Skye, she wrote:

“In Duntulm Bay lies Tulm Island and beyond it, in clear weather, Fladdachuan, Fladda of the Ocean, can be seen. In olden times this was a sacred spot, held by many to be Tir-nan-Og, the Isle of Perpetual Youth, which lay in the west; here it is always summer and the sun never sets. The puffins recognized its sacred nature and never began any venture until they had circled the island three times sunwise; this they did also on arriving in Skye and before leaving it. It was held by some to be the reason why in Skye people used to turn three times sunwise before starting a new enterprise. The Druids held it in veneration and St. Columba caused a chapel to be built there. On its altar lay a black stone which some say was the original altar stone of the Druids and which was known as the Weeping Stone because it was always wet. Until fairly recently fishermen used to land on the island and pour three handfuls of seawater on the stone to procure favourable winds or to stop bad floods. The Weeping Stone no longer exists, or at least is no longer to be found where the altar once stood.”

I can’t find anything more about this place.  Does anyone know owt more about it?

References:

  1. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.740219, -6.431216 Weeping Stone

Sithean Mor, Shian, Iona

Cairn Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NM 2721 2371

Also Known as:

  1. Angel Hill
  2. Cnoc nar-aimgeal
  3. Sithean More

Archaeology & History

There have long been rumours of stone circles on the druid’s isle of Iona, but many are dismissed as little more than errors on behalf of antiquarians, or false descriptions of hut circles and settlement remains.  The stone circle of Sithean Mor however, does seem to have existed until only a century or two ago.  It was first mentioned by the great traveller, Thomas Pennant (1776), who visited Iona more than once.  He told us:

“On my return I saw, on the right hand, on a small hill, a small circle of stones, and a little cairn in the middle, evidently druidical, but called the hill of the angels, Cnoc nar-aimgeal; from a tradition that the holy man had there a conference with those celestial beings soon after his arrival.  Bishop Pocock informed me that the natives were accustomed to bring their horses to this circle at the feast of St. Michael, and to course round it.  I conjecture that this usage originated from the custom of blessing the horses in the days of superstition, when the priest and the holy-water pot were called in: but in latter times the horses are still assembled, but the reason forgotten.”

Site of the Sithean Mor on the 1881 OS-map

The day of the “feast of St. Michael” that Pennant mentioned was our indigenous heathen New Year, or Halloween, now usurped and misrepresented by countless plastic pagans and christians alike. It would appear from Pennant’s description that the circle in question was more likely a cairn circle.  The fact that the heathen islanders celebrated annual rites here at Samhain, strongly implies there was once a hero-myth and a creation myth in evidence, but I am unaware of any remaining tales that may help confirm this.  The coming of St. Columba may be responsible for this lack of oral tradition.

More than a century after Pennant’s visit here, the ring of stones had been destroyed.  We know this from the description given by Archie MacMillan (1898) in his fine text on the antiquities of Iona, where he said,

“Angel Hill, called in the vernacular Sithean More. There was, not so very long ago, a circle of standing stones on the top of this hillock. They have been used for other purposes.”

Folklore

The most commonly recited tale of this grassy rise is that when St. Columba brought christianity to the island, he communed here with the angels.  This is a simple displacement tale: of a new faith replacing an older one. The old name of the hill, Sithean Mor, tells that the littlepeople or fairy folk once held influence here.

References:

  1. Cumming, C.F.G., In the Hebrides, Chatto & Windus: London 1883.
  2. MacMillan, Archibald, Iona: Its History and Antiquities, Houlston & Sons: London 1898.
  3. Pennant, Thomas, A Tour in Scotland, 1772 – Part 1, Benjamin White: London 1776.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.326934, -6.414231 Sithean Mor circle

Weeping Stone, Fladaigh Chuain, Skye

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NG 3638 8091

Getting Here

Unless you’ve got your own boat, forget it!  This one’s miles out on the isolated uninhabited island of Fladda-chuain about 5 miles off the northwest tip from Duntulm, Trotternish.  I wouldn’t mind a coupla weeks alone on the isle though – if anyone can get me there!

Archaeology & History

The little rocky island itself was allegedly another of the many visiting places of St. Columba in his many ventures to sell his religion to the peasants and displace the druids, who were alleged to practice pre-christian rites here and deemed it as sacred.  St. Columba’s chapel on this island was built to displace the heathen traditions.

Folklore

In Otta Swire’s (1961) excellent work on the folklore and history of the Isle of Skye, she wrote:

“In Duntulm Bay lies Tulm Island and beyond it, in clear weather, Fladdachuan, Fladda of the Ocean, can be seen. In olden times this was a sacred spot, held by many to be Tir-nan-Og, the Isle of Perpetual Youth, which lay in the west; here it is always summer and the sun never sets. The puffins recognized its sacred nature and never began any venture until they had circled the island three times sunwise; this they did also on arriving in Skye and before leaving it. It was held by some to be the reason why in Skye people used to turn three times sunwise before starting a new enterprise. The Druids held it in veneration and St. Columba caused a chapel to be built there. On its altar lay a black stone which some say was the original altar stone of the Druids and which was known as the Weeping Stone because it was always wet. Until fairly recently fishermen used to land on the island and pour three handfuls of seawater on the stone to procure favourable winds or to stop bad floods. The Weeping Stone no longer exists, or at least is no longer to be found where the altar once stood.”

I can’t find anything more about this place.  Does anyone know owt more about it?

References:

  1. Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dun Bhuirg, Iona, Argyll

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – NM 2649 2462

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 21638
  2. Dun Cul Bhuirg

Getting Here

Take the road that cuts across the island, west, until you reach the stupid golf-course.  Walk across it, heading for the coast (not the building at Culbuirg), then follow the little footpath up until you reach the large rocky rise about 500 hundred yards north.  That’s it!

Folklore

Dun Bhuirg on 1881 map

Shown on the 1881 OS map of the region, the small remains of this Iron Age hillfort was said to be the place where St. Columba saw a rain-cloud which he predicted would bring a plague of ulcers to the people of Ireland. To prevent such a plague, Columba thence dispatched a monk called Silnan to Ireland, armed with some bread which he’d blessed. This bread was then dipped in consecrated water and given to those afflicted with the plague, who were thereafter cured.

Wee-ird……

Another tradition told that this old fort was once an important meeting place for the druids, though Geoff Holder (2007) writes that this is little more than a “spurious nineteenth century tradition” which he dismisses as without foundation. Though a short distance from here, he also told how one “Fiona MacLeod” (real name, William Sharp) one night watched the ghost of the Culdee, Oran, a couple of hundred yards away, “and so he never went that way again at night.”  In truth, traditions of druidism tend to be animistic traits: legends remembered from pre-christian days, and blanket dismissals of such folklore are themselves untrustworthy—especially on this Isle of the Druids.

References:

  1. Holder, Geoff,The Guide to Mysterious Iona and Staffa, Tempus: Stroud 2007.
  2. MacLeod, Fiona, Iona, Floris: Edinburgh 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.334709, -6.426904 Dun Bhuirg