JUST a few months after neolithic round houses were found on the site of a housing development on the outskirts of Forres, a man living on the other side of town has unearthed more evidence of the area's historic past... continues...
A survey by Tim Blackie and Colin Macaulay
The aim of this survey was to produce an up-to-date and comprehensive list of The Pictish and early Christian sculptured stones which have been found in the modern county of Caithness, and to provide brief details about the stones which might be of interest to the general reader... continues...
Some small stones have been found [in the parish of Wick], which seem to be a species of flint, about an inch long and half an inch broad, of a triangular shape, and barbed on each side. The common people confidently assert, that they are fairies arrows, which they shoot at cattle, when they instantly fall down dead, though the hide of the animal remains quite entire. Some of those arrows have been found buried a foot under ground, and are supposed to have been in antient times fixed in shafts, and shot from bows. Some stones also of a flinty nature have been found, which when broken contained the shape of serpents coiled round in the heart of the stone.
From the Statistical Account of 1791-99 vol.10 p.15 : Wick, County of Caithness.
Not only the common people, but even the clergy, and better sort, in the interior of the Highlands, till about sixty or seventy years ago, believed in ghosts, fairies, brownies, hob-gobblings, and the like. I fell in with an old man, that positively insisted he had seen them, and that a gentleman, belonging to the parish of Boharm, upon shooting among fairies, who were dancing round a green tumulus, one summer evening, wounded one of them, so that it could not fly off with the rest; that he caught it and kept it all night; but that, recovering, it flew away in the morning.
p409 in 'Travels in Scotland, by an unusual route' by James Hall (v2) 1807. (But maybe Boharm was a parish in Moray, rather than the Highlands. Far away enough not to let the truth interfere perhaps).
just a little note the Z-rods that I have given locations of below are the doubledisc-and-Z-rod type only, I have not included the 'broken' rods i.e Z-rod on it's side with either a snake/serpant or with what could be a house /fort (symbol numbers 23 & 45 in the Pictish trail).
Location of Class II Z-rod & V-rod stones
From the book I mentioned earlier in Head heritage ('The Pictish trail') the following information might be of use:
Class I stones are the simplest with only symbols cut into their surface.
Class II stones have symbols but also are dressed and the symbols are in relief and have a cross carved on the other side.
Class III stones have no symbols they have other figures and a cross (a magnificent example being the Sueno's stone ('Sven's stone'), near Forres, Moray, it is thought to illustrate the slaughter of Picts (depicted in groups of 7) that occurred during the unification of Scotland by Kenneth MacAlpin).
All the known symbols on class I & II stones come in pairs except for the mirror and comb, which, if present, is always placed towards the bottom of the stone almost touching the lower of the pair above. Some designs occur only once but apart from these there is a core of 28 symbols plus the mirror and comb. The most frequent symbols found on the stones is the crescent -and-V-rod found in 75% of all pairings, next is the double-disc-Z-rod occurring in 40% of all pairings. (this is both class I & II stones taken together).
It is thought the V- rod is a divining rod and as with the crescent could possibly mean the lineage was involved with determination of moon phase tides etc. The Z-rod may be associated with power and the broken rod may represent the dead (as I think someone mentioned this earlier).
As requested below are V & Z rod stones with cross (class II) locations. The grid ref that I am giving is the original location although some are now in museums. I will not mention all the symbols present on these as with out the illustrations some are quite hard to describe, and I donÕt have a scanner sorry.
Orkney V-rod HY 2398 2850
Caithness V-rod ND 1255 6879
V-rod ND 1309 6205
Sutherland V-rod +Ogham NH 837 002
Ross V-rod NH 915 840
Z-rod + V-rod +mirror & comb NH 8730 7688
Z-rod +V-Rod + mirror (no comb) NH 737 576
Hebrides V-rod NG 5467 3677
Nairn V-rod + Z-rod NH 9364 4253
Moray Z-rod + Ogham NH989 584
Z-rod+ V-rod NJ 2159 6285
Aberdeen Z-rod, V-rod (side by side) NJ 875 154
Z- rod NJ 436 068
Angus Z-rod +V-rod NO 5223 5555
Z-rod NO 389 544
Z-rod + V-rod NO 400 500
Z-rod NO 378 352 (lost)
Z-rod +mirror & comb NO 4953 3235
V-rod NO 4953 3235
Group of 6 stones St Vigeans (1-6) 1,3,5 & 6 Have Z-rods, St Vigeans1 also has a mirror & comb, some of the symbols are not determined on 2,4 & 5. NO 638 429
Perth Z-rod NO 2432 4878
V-rod NO2872 4459(meigle 4)
Z-rod + mirror& comb NO 2872 4459 (meigle 7)
Z-rod ,V-rod (side by side) NO196 212
V-rod NN 9462 5635
Z-rod + V-rod NN 928 240
V-rod NO 096 392
Fife Z-rod NO 423 035
If you want the same information on class I stones either buy the book 'The pictish trail: a travellers guide to the old Pictish kingdom' Anthony Jackson Orkney press 1989, or buy me a scanner! Caroline
"Caithness is well-known for its spectacular prehistoric monuments, but few of us are as familiar with the remarkable
archives that relate to some of them. From the mid-19th century its Neolithic chambered tombs and Iron Age brochs attracted a who's who of Scottish antiquarians and scholars, and the county was amongst the first to be surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS 1911). This was in itself a remarkable piece of work, documented in a journal written by Alexander Curle, the first Secretary of the Commission, who visited the majority of the 597 monuments then known between May and September 1910 (RCAHMS MS/36/2). Since that survey, the Royal Commission has carried out relatively little archaeological work in Caithness, so an approach in 2003 by the Caithness Archaeological Trust to carry out a survey of the landscape around Loch of Yarrows and Loch Watenan presented an exciting opportunity...."
The archaeology section of the Caithness Community Web site has a growing list of articles and directions to sites in the county of Caithness. There are pages on groups that have an interest in archaeology and history in the area. Caithness Field club is supplying articles from its annual bulletins. Many photogrpahs of brochs and other sites are being added to the web site.
This typed compilation of information about the souterrain comes from the Highland HER. It seems that the names of the clans responsible for bad behaviour / revenge are fairly loose. I guess it depends on the ancestry of who's telling the tale.
An excerpt from a booklet written in the 1970s says:
The cave [..] is thought to have formed a refuge for persecuted worshippers at various times in its history. There is also an old legend that it was built by giants while giantesses carried the soil to the River Spey in their aprons.
Again there's the curious assertion that the cave was only discovered in the Victorian era, yet it's simultaneously stated it was used after the Jacobite rising of 1745! Remember, things do not really exist until a Victorian man belonging to an Intellectual Society has looked at things Properly.
The photos on the Megalithic Portal suggest this place is rather superb. Far from being discovered in 1835 (as the Canmore record suggests), this souterrain must surely have been known for long before that? The story is a bit wordy but bear with me.
In the time of the later Jameses, a noted freebooter of the name of Cumming, with his eleven sons, was the scourge of Strathspey and the more distant glens of Perthshire, and long baffled the feeble efforts of the law.
An artificial cave, the retreat of the band, is still entire, and is known locally as "Uamh Mor," the great cave or den. It is cut in the face of a green hill, about a mile and a half east from Kingussie [...]. The cave is crescent-shaped, and about fifty feet from end to end; and, as the soil is friable, it must have been formed with great difficulty.
At the centre, the width is about six feet, and the height about seven; but towards the western end, both height and breadth contract so much that, at the mouth, the space will only admit, by crawling eel-like, one man at a time. A few feet from this narrow entrance, the passage has been guarded by a strong door; and the boles built in the walls show that the bar must have been a tree of at least three feet in circumference: at the eastern end, the cave widens to a breadth of eight or nine feet, adn the roof is of about an equal height, so that a somewhat spacious chamber is formed. The walls of the cave are of large stones, rudely built together; the roof consists of a series of large flagstones stretching from wall to wall; and the floor is of earth or clay. To the centre of the cave there is a second entrance, by a flight of steps, that seems to have been concealed by a trap-door.
Cumming and his eleven sons were all, according to tradition, tall and powerful men; and the cave was formed by them in the night time; the earth, as it was thrown out, being carefully carried down the hill and cast into a deep dark pool of the Spey. The stones for the walls and the roof were brought from a higher part of the hill; and such was the strength of the sons, it is said, that only two of them were required to carry one of the great flagstones down the hill.
To save you from the waffling, I'll summarise. The murderous Cummings finally wound up a Macpherson enough that he vowed to rumble them. He pretends to be a gravely ill beggar to gain admittance to the bothy (it's not explained how he actually knows about the bothy). He notices the old women are baking far more bannocks than they can eat and realises they're being transferred to the cave below. He dashes to Perth to call the authorities. The authorities haul them out one at a time and don't even bother with a trial, they just despatch them there and then. Which seems rather unfair. But there is an afterword:
This is the story told by tradition, and I give it without attempting to prove its truth. I have, however, visited the cave; and the story was told to me as I sat within the dark, grave-like, chamber.
I may add that, to this day, according to the belief of the district, the descendants of the Macpherson who betrayed the Cummings are troubled with the disease, the pains of which were feigned by their predecessor.
Druidical Temples in Scotland.
Severeal of the Druids' places of worship are still to be seen in the Highlands. [..] In our own neighbourhood, above Dochmaluag, there is a pretty large one, the stones of which, it is maintained by many of the peasants in the district, are said to have been, at one time, human beings, which were overtaken with judgment for dancing on the Sabbath day, and that the position of the stones exactly corresponds with the different attitudes of the dancers. Hence the name Clachan Gorach, or foolish stones. -- Rossshire Advertiser.
From the wonderful Tordarroch circle keep heading west on the minor road then take the road south west. Go past Loch a' Chlachain and the beautiful Loch Duntelchaig taking the track south westish after Midtown.
West Town, the farm, is at the end of the bumpy track, the chamber cairn being thru several gates on a track just to the north of the farm. Plenty of gates and plenty of chickens, ducks and other farm type things.
The cairn (possibly clava type) remains at over 20 meters in width and stands at almost 2 meters in height. Four stones remain standing whilst several kerbs remain in place. Sadly field clearence and a 'sink' have also been dumped here.
Still the cairn had fantastic views over Loch Duntelchaig and the surrounding mountains. Spring was becoming evident and the sun shone.
Just up the road from the Mains Of Gask this standing stone, as HG and I discovered, takes quite a lengthy walk. Having asked directions at a nearby farm we were directed to forestry walks about a mile north of the famous cairn. From the car park it is a wonderful walk thru the woods heading in a south easterly direction. Follow the track until it becomes a path until it eventually becomes a natural 'meeting place'. Ancient clans met here, the stone acting like a type of pulpit or lectern. More recently the clans met here before the disaster at Culloden, which made me wonder how many brave clansmen made it back after the battle. The trees also give the place an atmosphere, making it feel very old but friendly and welcoming.
Funnily enough a short walk leads to the edge of the forest and view of the farm at which we asked directions, it was less than 500 yards away. Even more oddly we asked a chap, walking his dog, for directions to the stone. He replied, Callanish (I love walking but this was as daft an answer as I've ever heard) was the only circle he'd heard about and then said he'd lived in the area for over 30 years.