Old Wife’s Stone, Batley, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone? (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2428 2329

Archaeology & History

Old Wifes Stone on 1854 map

My first hint at the existence of this once valuable archaeological relic came as a result of me seeking out the history and folklore of some hitherto unknown, forgotten holy wells in the Batley and Dewsbury area.  I located the material I was looking for on the old wells, but my fortuitous discovery of this site, the Old Wife’s Stone, blew me away!

It was the place-name of ‘Carlinghow’ about one mile northwest of the grid-reference above that initially caught my attention.  From an antiquarian or occultist’s viewpoint, it’s intriguing on two counts: the first is the element ‘how‘ in Carlinghow, which can mean a variety of things, but across the Pennines tends to relate to either an ancient tribal or council meeting place, or a prehistoric burial cairn: an element that wasn’t lost in the giant archaeology survey of West Yorkshire by Faull & Moorhouse (1981).  But the first part of this place-name, ‘carling‘, was the exciting element to me; for it means ‘old woman,’ ‘old hag,’ ‘witch’ or cailleach!  The cailleach (to those who don’t know) was the prima mater: the Great Mother deity of our pre-christian British ancestors.  Meaning that Carlinghow hill was a hugely important sacred site no less—right in the heart of industrial West Yorkshire!  What is even more intriguing—or perhaps surprising—is that we have no record of such a powerful mythic creature anywhere in local folklore… Or so it first seemed…

Memory told me that no such prehistoric remains were recorded anywhere in that area—and certainly no prehistoric tombs.  I scoured through my library just to triple-check, and found the archaeological records as silent as I first thought.  Just to make sure I spent a day at the Central Library, where again I found nothing… So then I explored the region on the modern OS-maps, only to find that much of the area where the Carlinghow place-name existed was, surprisingly, still untouched by housing and similar modern pollutants. This was a great surprise to say the least.  And so to check for any potential archaeological sites which might once have been in the Carlinghow area, I turned to the large-scale 1850 OS-maps (6-inch to the mile).

This is when I came across the Old Wife’s Stone, marked in the middle of fields on the outskirts of old Batley.  There was no notice of it being a standing stone, or a simple boulder, or archaeological relic—nothing.  But its place-name compatriot of ‘Carlinghow’ was the rising hill about a mile to the northwest.  In days of olde, if Carlinghow was indeed the ‘burial tomb of the Old Woman’ or ‘meeting place of the cailleach’ (or whatever variants on the theme it may have been), it may have marked the setting sun on the longest day of the year if you had been standing at the Old Wife’s Stone – a midsummer sunset marker no less. (There are other ancient and legendary sites scattering northern England and beyond that are dedicated to the Cailleach, like the Old Woman Stone in Derbyshire, the Old Wife’s Neck in North Yorkshire, the Carlin Stone in Stirlingshire, the Old Woman Stone at Todmorden, Carlin Stone of Loch Elrig and many more.)

As if these curious ingredients weren’t enough to imply something existed in the heathen pantheon of Batley before the Industrialists swept away our indigenous history, we find echoes of the ‘Old Woman’ yet again, immediately east; this time where the animism of water and trees enfolded Her mythos in local rites and traditions, thankfully captured by the pens of several writers, and transmuted into another guise—but undeniably Her!  But that, as they say, is for another day and another site profile…

Position of stone in 1894

So is our Old Wife’s Stone (or for that matter, Carlinghow’s old tomb) still in evidence?  A school has been built where it was highlighted on the 1854 OS-map and, from the accounts of local people, seems to have long since disappeared.  The stone looks to have been incorporated into a length of walling, sometime between 1854 and 1888, and a bench-mark of “BM 318.2” carved onto it.  But when the Ordnance Survey lads re-surveyed the area in 1905, this had gone.  I have been unable to find any more information about this site and hope that, one day, a fellow antiquarian or occult historian might be able to unravel more of its forgotten mythic history.

References:

  1. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to 1500 AD – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  2. Goodall, Armitage, Place-Names of South-west Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1914.
  3. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period’, in Faull & Moorhouse, 1981.
  4. o’ Crualaoich, Gearoid,  The Book of the Cailleach, Cork University Press 2004.
  5. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  6. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  7. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: London 1898.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks for the assistance of Simon Roadnight and Julia King in the Batley History Group.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Leachd Nam Braoileag, Dull, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7526 5531

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25049

Archaeology & History

Leachd Nam Braoileag (photo by Michelle Allan)

If you take the path up to Schiehallion (the great hill of the faeries) from the car park near the Braes of Foss, just a hundred yards or so past the first set of trees onto the moorland, keep your eyes peeled for the long stone on your right, a few yards off the path.  Upon its upper elongated surface you’ll notice a series of cup-markings etched onto it, oh so long ago now…

Close-up of cups (photo by Michelle Allan)

Best visited over the winter and spring months (before the bracken encroaches), there are about 25 cup-marks altogether, many of them pecked to about an inch deep, with one of them being more than 6 inches across and 2 inches deep.  Weathering over the ages has effected them.  It seems to have been rediscovered in the early 1970s and is, officially speaking, an isolated carving; this is most unlikely—and needs the keen eyes of fellow antiquarians to find others in this beautiful neighbourhood.

Acknowledgements:  Massive thanks to Michelle Allan for allowing us to use her photos of the Leachd Nam Braoileag carving in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Castlehill Wood, St Ninians, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Dun:  OS Grid Reference – NS 75074 90902

Also Known as: 

  1. Canmore ID 46233
  2. Castlehill Wood

Getting Here

In ghostly mist and bracken

Take the Gateside Road from St Ninians or Polmaise Road out of Torbrex across the M9, heading out west onto the southern moors of Touch Hills, passing the Wallstale dun in the trees and then the Castlehill dun just off the road.  Keep going uphill for just over half-a-mile, keeping your eyes peeled on the right for where the MOD lads play some of their war-games.  Walk along the track here, following the line of the woods, until it gets to the spot where it doubles back on itself.  Just here, about 30 yards in front of you, a rounded walled knoll gives the game away!

Archaeology & History

Artists impression of the reconstructed site (PSAS 1959)

An impressive-looking site, not too far off the moorland road, it is one of more than half a dozen hillforts and duns found to the west of Stirling, all of them relatively close to each other—showing that a lot of human activity was going on here in the Iron Age and, probably, much earlier.  Looking like a cross between a broch and a traditional hillfort, the site is best visited in the Winter and Spring months before the bracken starts to encroach and cover it.

Officially rediscovered in 1952 and excavated three years later, it was thought to have been built in the 1st century AD and used for a few hundred years thereafter.  As you walk up to the eastern edge of the monument, a large entrance, 4½ wide, allows you into the large open space within.  From here, and walking around both the inner and outer walls, you get an idea of the huge amount of work it must have taken to build this structure.  The walls alone which constitute the main of Castlewood Dun are, on average, 16 feet thick!  The Royal Commission report for the area (summarizing the archaeological work of F.W. Feacham in the ’50s) gives the basic architectural features of the place:

“The dun is oval in plan…and measures 75ft from NE to SW, transversely within a drystone wall 16ft thick.  The faces of the wall are composed of large, angular blocks, and the core of boulders, small rubble and earth.  The entrance in the E arc, is provided with door-checks.  Within these, the passage measures 4ft 6in in width, and outside them 3ft 9in.  A few paving-stones were laid to level the rough rock surface of the passage-floor.  Traces of what might have been the bottom step of a stair, rising up the inner face of the wall, were found at a point 8ft N of the entrance.  The dun had no mural stair or galleries, but two sets of mural chambers were located, one in the W and the other in the S acr of the wall.  The former consisted of an entrance-passage, 6ft in length, which varied in width from 2ft at the outer to 3ft at the inner end, where it opened into a circular chamber 4ft in diameter.  From either side of the passage a narrow duct or flue, about 19ft in length and 1ft 6in in width, led off obliquely through the core of the wall to debouch into the interior of the dun.  The construction in the S arc consisted of a similar passage, one flue and a smaller chamber.  Ash and a clinker of very light weight were found in the form of deposits in both passages and all the flues. …The excavator suggested they might have been corn-drying installations.”

Groundplan of site (PSAS 1959)

Entrance details (PSAS 1959)

Apart from a small piece of Roman glass, quern fragments, anvils stones and a pot lid, the excavators found very little inside the dun—not even any hearths.  The walling on the southwest and western edges was built onto a small cliff, making access slightly difficult from that side.

From the site itself, views are excellent, particularly in an arc through the north, east and southeast, with the western skylines being only a short distance away.  This enabled relatively easy tribal communication with people at the other brochs, duns and forts in the area, across an otherwise large but difficult landscape in prehistoric times.  A few hundred yards to the northeast, on the other side of the recently planted tree-farm (forestry plantation), a large D-shaped structure—possibly Iron Age, possibly medieval— is accompanied by lines of ancient walling running down the slopes.

References:

  1. Feachem, R W., “Castlehill Wood Dun, Stirlingshire“, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 90, 1959.
  2. Feachem, R W., “Castlehill Wood, Polmaise”, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1955.
  3. MacKie, E W. “English Migrants and Scottish Brochs’, in Glasgow Archaeological Journal, volume 2, 1971.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  5. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Edinburgh 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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The Croft, Doune, Perthshire

Cists (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 7247 0188

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24760

Archaeology & History

Urns in The Croft cist, Doune

Somewhere in the woodland park, before the area was “ruined”, as Moray Mackay (1984) put it, by “sand and gravel workings”, and within 100 yards of the re-positioned Trysting Stone, there once remained the ruins of ancient tombs—probably neolithic or Bronze Age in nature.  The ‘cists’ as they’re known (stone-lined graves), were described in several short articles at the beginning of the 20th century, shortly after their rediscovery.  Drawing upon the initial article by Joseph Anderson (1902) in the Scottish Antiquaries journal, W.B. Cook (1904) wrote:

“The doubling of the (railway) line from Dunblane to Callander has necessitated the altering of a road at the Crofts, Doune, and on Tuesday, 8 May, while digging, the navvies came across two stone cists containing bones.  The cists were made of stone slabs.  On Thursday, the men came on another cist about five feet from the surface. It was 3 feet long and 2½ feet broad, composed of round stones, and a quantity of bones were found in it, and also an urn. Unfortunately a cart-wheel passed over the urn, smashing it.  The pieces were, however, carefully collected and cemented and they are now in the possession of Mr Smith, Clerk of Works to the Caledonian Railway Company, Doune.  One of the cists first found was quite empty, but the other contained a large number of human bones, the largest about 1½ inches long.  The coffins were about 15 inches from the surface, and lay from east to west.  They measured 2 feet 9 inches in length, and in breadth and depth about 18 inches. They are constructed of local stone, and near the spot there has been a dyke running from the burgh to the sand holes, as the foundation was visible when the soil was being removed.  Some of the stones indicate that a house might have stood near the spot, but there had been no public burying-place nearer than at Kilmadock and at the little chapel of Inverardoch previous to 1784.”

In Mr Joseph’s (1902) article, he told us there wasn’t one, but two urns which, after some considerable effort, were reconstructed.  I’m not a great lover of urns misself, although when found in conjunction with the dead, we must ask, what was in them (if anything) when they were placed with the deceased?  Food? Herbal beverages? Shamanic potions?  In this case, we don’t know; and so all we are left with is Mr Anderson’s description of them:

“Urn No.1 is of the usual type of the so-called ‘food-vessel’, 4¾ inches in height by 5 inches in diameter at the mouth, the lip slightly bevelled inward, and the whole exterior surface ornamented. The ornamentation consists entirely of lines impressed into the soft clay with what seems to have been the roughly broken end of a small twig about ⅛-inch in diameter.  On the level of the lip there are two parallel lines of short scorings going completely round the upper surface. On the exterior surface there is a kind of slightly concave collar half an inch in width immediately under the brim, which is ornamented with short perpendicular indentations about a quarter of an inch apart. Underneath the collar the vessel expands slightly to the shoulder and then contracts to a flattened base of three inches in diameter. The part above the shoulder is slightly concave externally, but the scheme of decoration above and below the shoulder is the same, consisting of a series of short impressed lines scarcely half an inch in length ranged round the circumference in horizontal rows about a quarter of an inch apart, and crossed perpendicularly by lines about half an inch apart, not impressed, but scored into the clay. The perpendicular lines above the shoulder are more divergent than those below the shoulder, which converge towards the bottom in consequence of the tapering form of the lower part of the vessel. The paste is coarse, and mixed with small stones; the wall of the vessel is about a quarter of an inch thick, and the colour a reddish brown on both the exterior and interior surfaces, but quite black in the fractures exposing a section of its thickness.

“Urn No.2 is of the same wide-mouthed, thick-lipped form of the so-called food vessel type, 5 inches high and 5½- inches in diameter at the mouth. The lip is bevelled inwards, and the general shape of the vessel somewhat resembles that of No. 1, except in the lower part, which, instead of tapering to a flat bottom, narrows from the shoulder in a much more gradual curvature to the bottom. The ornamentation also is much more elaborate, though partaking of the same general character, inasmuch as it is a scheme of impressed markings, in bands arranged alternately in vertical and horizontal directions and covering the whole exterior surface of the vessel. On the bevel of the rim is a horizontal band of three lines of impressed markings, surmounted on the upper verge of the rim by a row of shallow oval impressions less than ⅛ of an inch apart. Under this there is a horizontal band of impressed markings as with the teeth of a comb, and below that the general scheme of ornament is carried out in alternate bands of about half an inch in width, running vertically from collar to base. The one set of these bands consists of three parallel rows of impressions of about ⅛ of an inch in width, and ⅛ of an inch apart, which seem to have been produced in the surface of the soft clay by a comb-like instrument, while the other set of bands has been produced by marking the spaces between the triple bands in the same way with a similar instrument, but placing the lines horizontally and closer together.”

A short distance from here, more cists were found. It’s possible that a prehistoric graveyard this way lay, countless centuries ago…

Folklore

Moray Mackay (1984) reports that the Doune fairs used to be held here.

References:

  1. Anderson, Joseph, “Notices of Cists Discovered in a Cairn at Cairnhill, Parish of Monquhitter, Aberdeenshire; and at Doune, Perthshire,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 36, 1902.
  2. Cook, W.B. (ed.), “Antiquarian Find at Doune,” in Stirling Antiquary, volume 3, 1904.
  3. Mackay, Moray S., Doune Historical Notes, Forth Naturalist & Historian: Stirling 1984.
  4. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Edinburgh 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Holy Well, Cambusbarron, Stirlingshire

Holy Well (destroyed?): OS Grid Reference – NS 7787 9252?

Archaeology & History

A small but ancient chapel once existed in Cambusbarron, long ago, located about one hundred yards east of the Chapel or Christ’s Well.  William Drysdale (1904) told that, apart from the Chapel Well and nearby St. Thomas’ Well, “several other wells in the locality were believed to possess healing virtues.”  It was J.S. Fleming (1898) who said that, “attached to Cambusbarron Chapel two other holy but nameless wells are stated to have been in existence in 1866, on the brink of Glenmoray Burn, near the chapel itself.”

A writer for the Stirling Observer in 1871 told that one of these holy wells was in fact to “be seen near the brink of a little burn which trickles from the miniature glen of Glenmoray, visible on the hillside, just below the lowest reservoir” above Touch, more than a mile away (heading up towards St Corbet’s Well).  The other was said to be near Johnnie’s Burn, a mile to the west.  In Fleming’s (1898) opinion however, neither of these sites were feasible, as he walked all along the course of both burns and could find no other wells.  Does anyone know any different?

References:

  1. Drysdale, William, Auld Biggins of Stirling, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1904.
  2. Fleming, J.S., Old Nooks of Stirling, Delineated and Described, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Auchensalt, Thornhill, Stirlingshire

Broch:  OS Grid Reference – NN 6533 0099

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24398
  2. Easter Borland
  3. Keir

Getting Here

Auchinsalt broch, looking south

Take the A873 from Thornhill to Aberfoyle, and literally 1 mile west of Thornhill turn right up the track up and past Easter Borland farm (as if you’re heading up to Auchensalt).  250 yards past the farm, a large field opens up.  Walk 100 yards east along the side of the wall towards the trees and follow the tree-line upstream 250 yards (don’t go into the lovely little glen) until, on your right, you’ll see a reasonably large area of grassland that rises up, with a steep-ish slope down to the burn below.  This is the remains of the broch.

Archaeology & History

Shown as a ‘Keir’ on the 1866 OS-map, this is an old Scottish dialect word, barely used at all nowadays (folk need to start using it again!) which meant “an ancient fortification” or “rude forts”.  The word is mentioned in early Statistical Accounts in 1795 and in the Second Account of 1845 the “Kiers at Auchinsalt” are mentioned specifically, albeit in passing….

Auchinsalt ‘Keir’ on 1866 map

When we visited the site yesterday, very little could be seen due mainly to the summer vegetation covering the area.  A very small section of open walling was noted on its western side, and beneath the undergrowth a roughly oval structure was in evidence on the rise between the edge of the field and the drop into the small glen below.  Something obviously man-made lies beneath the grasses, but in the last 100 years or so there has been debate as to whether it was a fort, a dun or a broch.  The consensus at the mo, tells Euan Mackie (2007), is that it’s a broch!

Auchinsalt broch, looking east

Measuring some 25 yards across, the walling that makes up the broch was between 4-6 feet wide all round, and about 2 feet high.  There seemed to be aggregates of large scattered stones inside and outside the main oval feature.  If there was an entrance, it seemed to be at the western side, but I wasn’t sure about this. In truth, unless you’re a hardcore broch fanatic, you’d be truly disappointed with the dilapidated state of this monument.  Much better ones can be seen just a few miles away…

References:

  1. Chrystal, William, The Kingdom of Kippen, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1903.
  2. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 5, SNDA: Edinburgh 1960.
  3. MacKie, Euan W., The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC-AD 500, BAR: Oxford 2007.
  4. McCulloch, Stuart J., Thornhill and its Environs, Munro Trust: Perth 1995.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Paul Hornby for getting us here. Cheers matey!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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St. Peter’s Well, Houston, Renfrewshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference — NS 40764 67503

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 43125

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1863 map

Located on the north side of the village, in a field east of Greenhill Farm, this old Well was once (still is?) covered and protected by an old well-house.  References to its mythic history are few and far between.  St. Peter’s Day was June 29, which may relate to the last vestiges of midsummer rites local people held here; or perhaps when the genius loci was more notable.   The Old Statistical Account of 1790 told that the burn which runs past the well was called St. Peter’s Burn; but T.C.F. Brotchie (1920) thought that an old place-name given to the village is telling:

“Houston is a very ancient village,” he wrote, “and it was known long ago as Kilpeter, which is the ‘cell or church of Peter’.  The name of the farm near to the well is Chapelton, ‘the place of the chapel’, and I venture to think that when the saintly Peter came a-wandering to Renfrewshire, he established his habitation or cell adjacent to the well, blessed its water, and in that medieval times a chapel was also built there, its memory being enshrined in the place-name Chapelton.  Crawford mentions that on St. Peter’s Day vast numbers of people used to come to Houston.  He does not state the reason, but I fancy these people came to pay their devoir at the holy well of St. Peter.”

Mr Brotchie was probably right!

(I haven’t yet visited this site.  If you travel to this site, please send us your field notes and accompanying photos to let us know of its present condition. All due credits will be given to any and all contributors, obviously.)

References:

  1. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  3. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Our Lady’s Well (2), Liberton, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2763 6970

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 51720
  2. Christening Well
  3. Lady Well

Archaeology & History

Our Ladys Well on 1855 map

Mentioned in passing by John Geddie (1926)—who was skeptical of any ‘holy’ associations here—this was one of two holy wells in Liberton parish with the same name.  Whilst one is on the northwest side of the parish, this was closer to the centre of the village on the piece of land known as the Kirk Brae.  It was some 200 yards northeast of the old church at the crossroads, originally dedicated to St. Cuthbert, whose feast day was March 20 — or right next to the Spring Equinox, perhaps when the waters here had greatest virtues.

Highlighted on the earliest OS-map of the region, little is known of it via the written records.  Our primary account comes from the Name Book of 1852, where they told:

“An ancient well, known by more ancient settlers as the Christening Well, from the circumstance of this being the only one, from which water was taken in Ancient times for Baptizing; the water being considered the purest; hence it was dedicated to the Virgin.”

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA: Alva 2017.
  2. Geddie, John, The Fringes of Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers: Edinburgh 1926.
  3. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Dalry, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2421 7317

Archaeology & History

Standing Stone of Dalry, 1853

Not far from Edinburgh city centre, heading out towards Haymarket just off Morrison Street where the large car-park is, once stood a possible prehistoric standing stone. Not that long ago either…  It was highlighted on the OS-map of 1853, but had been destroyed by the end of the 19th century when the Industrialists cut railway lines across its ground.  The stone was shown in non-antiquated lettering, indicating there was no tradition of its prehistory.  It may have been part of a folly, but I can find no account to indicate this.  Do any Edinburgh historians or researchers know anything more about it? Help!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Tobair na h-oige, St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Sacred Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NA 100 000

Also Known as:

  1. Well of Eternal Youth

Folklore

An old story told in previous centuries by the indigenous folk of Hirta (St. Kilda) described a long-lost well that was thought to be an abode of the little people, known as the Well of Eternal Youth.  Not to be confused with the Well of Virtues near the Amazon’s House less than a mile west, the rough whereabouts of this site is cited by J. Sands (1878) in the folklore section of his otherwise historical account on these faraway Atlantic islands.  He wrote:

“Once on a time an old fellow, in going up Connagher with a sheep on his back, observed a Well which he had never seen or heard of before.  The water looked like cream, and was so tempting, that he knelt down and took a hearty drink.  To his surprise all the infirmities of age immediately left him, and all the vigour and activity of youth returned. He laid down the sheep to mark the spot, and ran down the hill to tell his neighbours. But when he came up again neither sheep nor well were to be found, nor has any one been able to find the Tobair na h-oige to this day.  Some say that if he had left a small bit of iron at the well—a brog with a tacket in it would have done quite well—the fairies would have been unable to take back their gift.”

Explorations of old maps and texts has failed to show with certainty where this legendary well may have been (the grid-ref is an approximation), but it was reported in Mrs Banks’ Scottish Calendar Customs (1937) to have been “issuing out of the face of a rock on the north-side of the east bay…only accesible by the inhabitants, no stranger daring to climb the steep rock.” Some of us would try!

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folklore Society: London 1937.
  2. Sands, J., Out of the World; or Life in St. Kilda, Maclachlan & Stewart: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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