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Wednesday 18 September 2013

Clach an Aisteir / The Devil’s Stone

This short anecdote was taken down by Calum Maclean from John MacDonald of Highbridge on the 29th of May 1951:
Tha àite shìos anns an Apainn ris an abrar iad Leac an Tuim. Is tha clàch am bràigh an rathaid ann is tha i na iongnadh aig mòran a tha a’ tighinn an rathad. Agus ’s iomadh duine a tha a’ dol a choimhead oirre. Agus tha làrach nan ceithir corragan agus an òrdag anns a’ chlach. Agus cuiridh sibh a-staigh iad oirleach anns a’ chloich. Agus tha iad a’ bruidhinn air agus i teth, a’ chlach. Agus tha iad a’ bruidhinn air shìos an rathad agus aig seann-sluagh gur h-e an Donas a chuir a chorragan innte. Agus their iad Clach an Aisteir rithe gus an latha an-diugh.
There is a place down in Appin which they call Leac an Tuim. And there is a stone on the upper end of the road and many who come by that way are taken by surprise. And many a person goes over to view it. The stone is marked by four fingers and a thumb. And you can put them [fingers and thumb] an inch into the stone. They speak of the stone being hot. They speak of this down by the way and the old folk reckon it was the Devil himself who put his fingers into it. They call it Clach an Aisteir / The Devil’s Stone to this very day.
Possibly a variant spelling of the rock could be Clach an Àbhaisteir. There are numerous place-names with a connection to the devil and other supernatural entities throughout the Highlands and Islands as well as elsewhere. Probably one of the most famous place-names is Bod an Deamhain usually translated (rather politely) as The Devil’s Point which is in the Cairngorms. In Scots tradition there are also examples of ‘The Devil’s Stane’ at Kemnay, Aberdeenshire; one at Invergowrie, Perth and Kinross; one in Belmuire Wood on the north side of Ythan, also Aberdeenshire. The latter has been described as a stone with “some curious marks resembling cloven hoofs, being the impress of the devil’s feet.”
A similar tradition also informs the naming of stone called Clach Ceann a’ Mheòir which is located in Easter Ross:
In the parish of Rosskeen there is a large boulder-stone called Clach ceann nam meur, the “Stone of the Finger Ends,” at the east of the Farm of Dalnacloich, “the field of the stone.” Connected with this stone is a tradition which shows it as a horrible memorial of feudal times – that a laird of Achnacloich, when settling marches, asked a youth, whom he had taken to witness the settlement, whether he would remember that as the march-stone. On his replying that he would, the Laird commanded him to lay his hand flat upon the stone, and with a stroke of his sword cut off the tips of the lad's fingers, saying, “You will remember it now.” And posterity still remembers it.
J. M. McPherson, Primitive Beliefs in the North-East of Scotland (London: Longmans, Green, 1929)
Rev. William Taylor, ‘Names of Places in Easter Ross’, The Scottish Geographical Magazine, vol. 2 (1886), pp. 1–20
SSS NB 9, p. 876
The Devil’s Stane, Invergowrie, Perth and Kinross

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