Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Stannin Stane o Kirriemuir

The Stannin’ Stane o’ Kirriemuir currently measures 9 feet (2.7 m) in height and 6 feet 6 inches (1.9 m) in girth at its broadest, standing proudly on the Hill of Kirriemuir.  I say currently because there are tales that it was once twice the height that it is now, or that it once stood on another stone that was even more immense.  This is because a fallen stone, measuring nearly thirteen feet, once lay beside it.  The most well-known story says that they were part of the same stone which split itself in two.  Once a band of robbers say down, ill-advisedly, to rest in the shadow of the great stone.  While they were busy gloating over their stolen loot, the Stannin’ Stane broke in half and the fallen section killed the thieves.  Anyone who dug beneath the recumbent boulder, says the legend, would find several unhappy skeletons beneath, and under them possibly a whole lot of lovely treasure. Apparently the prone stone had vanished by 1909 (as noted by Alan Reid in The Regality of Kirriemuir published that year)– where had it gone? 

   Now, the squashing of the criminals may have been a happy accident.  It is not unknown for ancient standing stones to fall over occasionally.  Not far from Kirrie, the ancient monument known as The Carlinwell Stone, near Airlie, fell over in the winter of 2011 as the result of thawing frost.  I think that the Kirriemuir stone was once regarded as having human characteristics by the locals and deliberately killed the caterans, acting as a guardian for the townsfolk.  It still guards the burgh today. (The standing stone features incidentally in J.M. Barrie’s The Little Minister.)

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