In Arran, the belief in fairies still lingers in the minds of the older inhabitants, and many curious stories are told of the pilfering habits and cunning tricks of the wee-folks, who held their midnight meetings within the stone circles and old forts of the Island.
Many of the minor relics of the stone period have been found beneath the moss and heath of the Arran glens and hills, but few of them have been deemed worthy of preservation. Arrow-heads of stone and flint are frequently picked up by the natives whilst digging peat in the moors [..] They are called elf-shots by the Islanders, and are supposed to have been used by the fairies long ago.
[..] As we find the little flint arrow-head associated with Scottish folk-lore as the elfin's-bolt, so the stone hammer of the same period was adapted to the creed of the Middle Ages. The name by which it was popularly known in Scotland, almost to the close of the last century, was that of the Purgatory Hammer [.. so the inhabitant of the burial cist could] with it thunder at the gates of purgatory..
McArthur also talks of the highly polished stone balls found in cists and the "Baul Muluy" (the stone globe of Saint Monlingus): a goose-egg sized stone of jasper, which could cure diseases. People swore solemn oaths on it, and "even during the present generation it has been consulted by the credulous Islanders". Curiously it could remove 'stitches from the sides of sick persons' and if it didn't cure you and you died, "it moved out of bed of its own accord."
St Molingus was said to have been chaplain to the McDonalds, and they carried the ball with them into battle for good luck. It was next held by the MacIntosh family as a hereditary privelege, but "this curious relic was lost a few years ago by a gentleman to whom it was entrusted, who partook too much of the scepticism of the present age to appreciate its value."
A final bit of related folklore: "The perforated pebbles of the British barrows [..] are still known in the Scottish Highlands by the name of Clach Bhuai , or the powerful stones, on account of the inherent virtues they are believed to possess."
From p68-71 of 'The antiquities of Arran' by John McArthur (1861).
The traditions.. which float around this class of the Arran grave mounds [chambered cairns] are associated with the fierce raids and clanish feuds of early times; and it is said that the ghosts of the buried dead were wont to rise from their graves and renew the combat in the shadowy folds of the evening mists.
From p22 of 'The Antiquities of Arran' by John McArthur (1861).
The Book of Arran by J A Balfour (1910). Contains lots of diagrams and photos of sites and finds from the island - chambers, stones, cup and rings, urns, allsorts. The back page is a rather interesting map with all the locations marked.
Well, three years on there's no improvement; this struck me as one of the loneliest circles I've visited despite being only a few yards from the main road. I also managed to miss it at first (following my usual pattern) but with careful scrutiny was able to make out a path that was just trodden enough to guide me through the undergrowth as well as indicating that it does receive some visits. I was surprised to find it so overgrown when on the ferry coming over there was a cartoon-type map of the island with a symbol of three monoliths marking its spot hence I expected a sign and a cleared location. I'm not saying I wanted it surrounded by a neat little fence a la Torrylin or Auchgallon but surely it wouldn't take much effort for the local authority or Scotish Heritage or whoever to cut back the bracken on a regular basis so we could see what's left of the circle as its makers intended. I'm glad I went but left feeling a little sorry for it.
I had added this strange little news item a week or son ago but it has disappeared. Perhaps it was thought to be of little interest, but I feel this is important.
This appears to be a personal excavation by Brian Robertson (no Thin Lizzy connection) on a site covered by Historic Scotland and RCAHMS. The excavation does not appear to have been carried out by either of these organisations. This is a rock art site of national importance. From the picture the turf appears to have been stripped back substantially and from the text appears to have involved weeks of "digging"... mibbe with a spade?
I am sure if a local well-meaning individual decided to strip back the turf on Priddy Henges or Stonehenge we would all be reading about it here. Especially if they found that people had been burying treasure "caches" there in recent years.
Mairi’s treasure unearthed near Brodick
on November 16th,2012
Brian Robertson of Brodick has unearthed an interesting little treasure cache just outside the village. For some weeks he has been clearing a prehistoric Neolithic cup and ring site in Stronach Wood and has found some buried treasure no more than seven years old.
He said:‘ On the fourth day I came across this small plastic box. ‘When I took it home and opened it I found nine coins,one of each denomination and the newest being dated 2005.
‘There was also a small decorative dolphin,a piece of agate and a heart-shaped stone,plus a small card with red ink writing. ‘It was addressed to ‘Miss Mairi Dare,with bunches of love’,and said inside:‘Well done Mairi! You’ve found the treasure. Now give your Mum and Dad a kiss. Much love from Great Aunty Fiona xxx’.’
Do you know who Great Aunty Fiona or Mairi? Read the full story in the Arran Banner edition of November 17 2012,or on line at www.arranbanner.co.uk/digital and let us know if you know who these people are.