Monday, October 20, 2008

Wallace’s Putting Stone

Our next geological star is known as Wallace’s Putting stone, and is located within the hill fort on the summit of Barra hill. (NJ 8024 2570). It is an example of a glacial erratic, and is described variously as a green or serpentine rock. It is also the largest of our trio with a girth of 24 feet. Quite how it acquired the name is unclear, because to my knowledge William Wallace has no particular connection with the area, but as will be seen he is incorporated into the mythology of the battle. It is one of three stones of the same name, the other two being located in the borders one near Galashiels, and the other on Raeberry Hill in Dumfries and Galloway.

There is a local folktale about Jock o’ Bennachie, a giant who guarded Bennachie.
Jock by all accounts was massive even for a giant but had numerous enemies, the main one being Jock o’ Noth. The two were said to have “traded compliments, in the shape of large bolders” which they hurled at each other. Wallace’s putting stone being one such bolder which went astray.
In one ballad Jock’s love, the Lady Anne, left him for Jock o’ Noth, and in his grief, Jock throws a boulder as the lovers stood on Tap o’ Noth, killing them both.
In the second Jock encounters a mystical woman whom he mistakes for the Lady Anne, and when he kisses her they both sink into the mountain and are never seen again. However legend has it that Jock is only asleep and when an enchanted key is found he will awaken and be free.
This legend is interesting because it was said that Bruce’s followers, during the period of his NE campaign, were spreading tales of a prophesy of Merlin.
One element of Arthurian legend is that Arthur is not dead, but sleeping, and will arise at the time of greatest need and lead the Celtic peoples to victory.


The Rev. Bisset, give the following account of the local legend of William Wallace and the Battle of Barra.

……..Jist at this time, whan a stir began amo’ them, (Comyn’s troops), Sir William Wallace, as wus agree’t on wi the Bruce, up’s wi’ a stane like a house-side, and wi the strength o’ 10 Galiahs, bungs’t frae the tap o’ Bennachie; and that they micht ken fa the compliment cam’ fra, he first prented the initials o his name (W.W.) i’ the side o’t. Fung it gaed thro’ the air and lichtin’ i’ the middle o’ the camp kill’t not a few, and gart the yird stot to the very clouds. The hurly wus noo complete, and oot o’er ither’s heeds like as mony sheep oot o’ a fauld………

And that is how the stone came to lie on the top of Barra hill in the middle of Comyn’s camp

Pictures courtesy of Moira Gregg

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