the witch’s grave

The River Moriston is peaceful and idyllic, it can be icy in winter and angry during a flood but it is tame these days. However, deaths have occured here and men have drowned in the river. Local tradition says, twenty men drowned in a rock pool some time long ago. The place is not to be found on the map. Linne Fichead, the pool of twenty, is not far from Invermoriston. Why these men drowned nobody can remember. Were they murdered, pursued, or did they break through the ice? No answer is given.

Graveyards of Scotland Fatal Falkirk Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

Just as mysterious is a location nearby that is known as the witch’s grave. Apparently a party of men carried the body of a witch from Glengarry to Glenmoriston to be interred there. The funeral was met by the men of Glenmoriston who wanted the wicked woman not buried in their soil. The Glengarry men should take the corpse back where it came from. 

They had a heated discussion about the issue but could not agree, so they decided to bury her right at the spot where they were standing. They put a stone on the grave to mark the witch’s last resting place and left as fast as they could.

Tales of witches are rather uncommon in the Scottish Highlands. The phenomenon is more likely to be found in the Lowlands. The assumption is that the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders blamed the fairies, i.e. the supernatural beings, rather than their neighbours. Witch hunts were therefore much less common in the Gaelic culture than in the south of the nation.

I think I managed to find the stone after a long search. It sits right next to the road from Bunloyne to Invermoriston.

One meter next to the stone lay the skeleton of a roe deer, virtually intact. I took it as a sign that it was indeed the burial place of a witch. If you look closely, there even seem to be markings on the stone.

The stone, the Clach na Caillich, the stone of the old woman/witch is foklore. Its identity pure conjecture on my part. If anybody knows, please get in touch.

The witch was probably not the Cailleach Nam Muc, the old woman with the pigs, an alleged witch who lived with a number of pigs and was eventually eaten by them. She bore the devil’s mark on her forehead and kept it covered carefully. No wonder considering the treatment she was given as a reputed witch. (MACKAY)

sources and further reading:

William Mackay: Urquhart and Glenmoriston: Olden Times in a Highland Parish, 1893 Fichead

Liked the read? There’s more here…

The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

My main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. 

This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share my passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps. 

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available @Amazon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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