Broch: OS Grid Reference – ND 3108 395
Archaeology & History
It seems there’s not been a lot of archaeohistory written about this ruined site — with even the Canmore records saying very little. In Richard Feachem’s (1977) gazetteer he described it simply as:
“a turf-covered stony mound some 10ft in height, standing in the middle of an enclosure formed by a ditch with a wall on its inner lip, which is best preserved on the west.”
A common aspect of faerie-lore are incidences of apparent time-lapses — beloved in modern times in certain UFO encounters (Vallee 1969; Keel 1970). Such was the case here, in the story described at this ruinous old site by George Sutherland (1937). He told:
“Two men carrying a small keg of whiskey for the New Year festivities were passing the church of Bruan. They heard stirring bagpipe music and a few hundred yards further on they came to the Bruan Broch and found it open, and saw a number of the little folk in green dancing merrily to the music. One of the men was eager to join them in the dance and went in. The other man was more cautious and remained outside, and waited patiently until his friend would have his dance. A long weary time passed and his friend was not appearing. He went to the open door of the broch and called to his friend to come out. His friend said, “I have not got a dance yet!” After another long wait he shouldered the keg of whiskey and set out for home, never doubting but that his friend would return home before morning. Next day he called at his friend’s house to see if he had come home, and to his consternation found that he had not. Then he went to the broch in the hope of finding him there, but the broch showed no trace of a door, and no trace or soil or stones having been disturbed since the days of King Brude MacBile, and there was no appearance of man or fairy. It was an old belief that in such a case the same scene would be enacted in the same place in a year after, and accordingly on the anniversary of that day he went to the Bruan Broch. It was open, the music and dancing were going on as before, and his friend was there. He put some iron article in the door to prevent the fairies from closing it… He went to the open door and said to his friend, “Are you not coming home now?” His friend replied, “I have not got a dance yet.” He told his friend that he had been a year in the broch, and that it was surely time for him to come home now, but his friend did not believe that he was more than an hour or so there. The man then made a rush at his friend, seized him, and dragged him out by sheer force, and they set out for home together. It was difficult for him to realise that his sojourn with the fairies was such a prolonged one, but the fact that his own child did not recognise him, together with other changes that had taken place, convinced him.”
Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
Sutherland, George, Folklore Gleanings and Character Sketches from the Far North, John-o-Groats Journal: Wick 1937.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian