Legendary Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NT 058 865
Archaeology & History
Travelling along the old road between Crossford and towards Cairneyhill, on the right-hand (north) side, there was until recently a huge boulder, described by the folklorist J.E. Simpkins (1914),
“Its horizontal dimensions above ground are diagonally 18 feet by 21 feet; its vertical height above ground 5 feet… I estimate its weight at nearly 200 tons.”
The stone was proclaimed by 19th century geologists to be a glacial deposit from the upper region of the Forth (the nearest mountain region possessed of this type of stone); although our old petroglyph writer, Sir James Simpson, postulated the Witch’s Stone to be “of meteoric origin.”
But like oh so many old sites with heathen tales attached, the stone was destroyed by a local farmer on 7 February, 1972. The following interesting notes were made in a Crossford & Cairneyhill School log-book, describing its destruction:
“The local farmer blasted the “Witch’s Stone”, situated about 300m East of school at 2.30 this afternoon. Children vacated both buildings and sheltered at West End of main building. All windows were opened. Police informed that further operations of this nature will be carried out at weekend.”
A week later on February 14, all “remains of “Witch’s Stone” removed by blasting at 3pm today.”
On the other side of the road from our Witch’s Stone was another boulder, this time known as the Cadger’s Stone, said by Beveridge (1888) to have got its name,
“from the circumstance of its having formed a landmark for the ‘cadgers’, or itinerant merchants, who were wont to rest themselves and their ponies whilst they deposited for a short while their burdens on the stone.”
The earliest OS-map of the region in 1856 shows neither of these stones, but does highlight a Capel Stane, or Stone of the Horse, very close by.
The stone was obviously of some traditional importance to local people in pre-christian times. David Beveridge (1888) described the position and creation myth of the Witch’s Stone as follows:
“On our right a singular-looking stone of blue limestone appears in a field, and is known as the Witch’s Stone, the popular legend being that a notable witch in this neighbourhood found it on the seashore, and that after she carried it some distance in her apron, the string of the latter broke, and the stone has since continued to lie in the place where it fell. “
A few years after this, the folklorist J.E. Simpkins (1914) wrote:
“The legend connected with this boulder is, that a witch wishing to bestow a valuable gift on the Pitfirrane family, resolved to present to them a cheese-press. With that view, she lifted this boulder and carried it some distance in her apron, but owing to its excessive weight the apron-strings broke and the stone fell to the ground, where it has remained ever since.”
If anyone knows anything more about this old stone, or has any old photos of the fella, please let us know!
- Beveridge, David, Between the Ochils and Forth, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1888.
- Simpkins, John Ewart, Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1914.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian