A Scottish Storyteller

Why Stone Circles Should Be Left Alone!

I have heard this story told many times. Sometimes the story is attributed to "a stone circle in Auchterless," but in some versions the stone circle involved is the Hatton of Ardoyne recumbant stone circle on the road from Oyne to Old Rayne in Aberdeenshire. This is interesting as one of the circle stones has been used as a gate post - and has been returned to its original place! Nine stones of a possible original thirteen still stand. Only one flanker remains.

The story is set in relatively modern times - in the last 100 years or so when farming methods were becoming more modern, yet animals were still used to pull things. And perhaps when attitudes towards the old traditions were becoming more modern, yet some superstitions held fast.

There was once a farmer who lived a hundred years ago or so, at a farm not too far from here. The farm had been left to him by his father and he was becoming a wealthy man. He grew crops on his land and kept sheep, cows and had a couple of horses and oxen for use on the land. His family was growing! He had a fine son to inherit the farm from him when he grew old, and another child on the way.

Now, one day this farmer had been hard at work in the fields. He'd hired in some help to repair the old dry stane dykes and some new gateposts were needed to finish the job off. Luckily, on his land there was an ancient recumbant stone circle - the type that is very common in the north east of Scotland - which had a couple of tall stones of perfect girth that would do the job just fine!

The farmer took his two strongest oxen up to the top of the hill and, despite the warnings from his family and neighbours, used them to slowly drag the giant stones, one by one down the hill. The poor oxen were exhausted as the stones were very heavy indeed but the farmer was happy with their work and had his son feed them well and rub them down while he and the stone dyker (who was muttering words of warning) put the new gateposts in place.

Well, it wasn't long before the fortunes of the farmer and his family began to change. The once profitable farm fell to a series of droughts, blights and terrible weather. Soon all that was left of the original farm animals, was one boney old mare - the farmer and his family had been forced to eat or sell the other farm animals just to survive! His wife had lost her child and his son was ill and weak.

Finally, after much persuasion from his friends and neighbours, he pulled down the two gateposts and with a great sigh, tacked up the horse ready to drag the stones back up the hill to what remained of the circle. He truly expected the old mare to die of exhaustion on the way. But to his great surprise, the horse effortlessly pulled both stones up the hill to where they belonged! With the help of a neighbour, the stones were stood upright in their original places and the farmer returned to his home.

In no time at all his son recovered and his crops grew once more and, within time, his fortunes were restored.

The story of the farmer and his experiences with the stone circle spread and perhaps stone circles are protected today by superstition as much as they were in days gone by!

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