« PreviousContinue »
The most important relic of the churchyard, however, is a large slab of the coffin-cover type (fig. 22), known as a "Templar Stone," but differing in many respects from the somewhat severe examples of its class already known to us. Perhaps this handsome sculpture might most correctly be regarded as an example of a transitional type of memorial, occupying a fairly definite place between the shrine-shaped tombstones of early periods and the flatter and more ornate slabs of later developments. It
measures 5 feet 4 inches in length, 17 inches in breadth, and 12 inches in depth or thickness. This massive stone is sculptured on all its faces, which are five in number, counting the bevelled angles that give it a pyramidal form. The ends also are splayed and sculptured, that at the west, shown in the photograph, bearing the worn impress of a petalled ornament, not unlike a Gothic quatrefoil.
In all probability this ornament is the head of the cross whose shaft is still fairly traceable along the somewhat narrow top of the stone; and,
if that be so, we have here an example of a cross type that may fairly be regarded as uncommon.
The ornamentation on the splay resembles drapery arranged in a series of loops, the regularity of the design being broken to allow the interpolation of a symbolic feature resembling a pair of shears, and a curious cross-hilted knife or dagger. A twist in the blade adds mystery to the
latter symbol, which may well demand a revised reading. The opposing bevel shows a hand or glove, life-size, with a few worn lines that suggest a sword with an ornamental hilt and, presumably, a scabbard. The flat or base portion of the same side bears the long incised figure of a key, the ward checks appearing quite clearly, though the encrustation and weathering are not very helpful in deciphering the details. No design is apparent on the flat portion of the side shown in the illustration, and the sloping end, not shown, is similarly destitute of
ornament. It is panelled, simply, by the roll bead that runs round all the angles of the stone. The incised carving on the upper or face portion of the slab, unfortunately, is much injured, but what remains suggests either the shaft of a cross or a sword and scabbard. Some inglorious vandal has chiselled clean away about a foot of the upper portion of the design, and on the flat surface thus secured has incised some base initials, thus intensifying one of the most interesting problems connected with the churchyard memorials of the district.
STONE-CIRCLES AT GRENISH, AVIEMORE, AND DELFOUR,
In his Vacation Notes in Cromar and Strathspey, 1875, Sir Arthur Mitchell gives a brief account of the Grenish stone-circle. In 1877 Mr Angus Grant, then schoolmaster in Glen Urquhart, but previously resident at Aviemore, read a paper to the Inverness Scientific Society and Field Club, in which he gave an account of several stonecircles, including those at Grenish and Aviemore. James Robertson, in the account of his tour, No. 858 in Sir Arthur Mitchell's List, reports a circle near Aviemore, apparently the Grenish one, as having in 1771 something like cromlech in the middle; there is now no such structure there. In vol. vii. of the Proceedings of this Society, Mr John Stuart reports at the Aviemore circle a flat stone with three cup-marks; this stone seems to have disappeared. Of the Delfour stone-circle a brief account is given in the 1845 New Statistical Account; a considerable change seems to have been made in its appearance since that time.
I here record observations made by my wife and me during the spring and summer holidays of 1905, when we spent several days at these circles.
The Grenish Stone-Circle.-This circle stands about 2 miles E.N.E. of Aviemore Station, and about 350 yards east of the nearest point of
the main road, on the south side of the little Lochan nan Carraigean, "Loch of the Standing Stones." The site of the circle seems destitute of any decided features; it is not the highest point of the moorland, nor is it notably an elevation at all. One hundred and forty feet, centre to centre, to the south-east of the circle is a low, almost structureless cairn. This rises about 3 feet above the surrounding ground, has a diameter of about 22 feet, and seems to have been disturbed. On the north side of the lochan is another cairn, showing even less structure, and easily overlooked.
The stone-circle (fig. 1) consisted at one time of three concentric circles ; the outer one, of eleven or perhaps twelve megaliths, had a diameter of about 103 feet; the middle one, of stones somewhat closely set, a diameter of about 56 feet; and the inner one, also of stones closely set, a diameter of about 24 feet. The ring enclosed between the second and third circles, about 16 feet wide, is entirely filled with loose stones, to the level of the tops of the set stones of these circles, thus forming a sort of low circular wall, a "ring cairn" as Sir A. Mitchell calls it. The space within the third circle was probably originally left free from loose stones, but now there are many lying in it, but not to any depth. A twin-stemmed pine-tree (A) grows in this inner space. Round the outside of the second circle there is a slight embankment of earth and stones.
The outer circle consisted originally of either eleven or twelve megaliths; of these but two remain, and they are prostrate. The southwesterly one (B) is just over 9 feet long, and has a trapezoidal section with a major diameter of over 3 feet. The more westerly one (C) is 7 feet long, and in section is an oblique parallelogram with a major diameter of 3 feet 7 inches. These have fallen, the first one outwards, and the second one inwards. Sites may be seen for four more (D, E, F, G), slight depressions in the ground, with small loose stones lying near, which I regard as packing to fix and steady the megaliths. Nearly due east of the common centre there is no sign of the former presence of a megalith (H), and the current account is that no stone stood there.
The sites of four megaliths on the northern side cannot be determined because of the growth of long heather, and to the north of east a site is doubtful (J). It seems that nine or ten of the megaliths have been
removed, some of them to be used in the foundations of the threshing mill at Aviemore House. In connection with the removal of another of these stones a curious story is told. It was taken to be used as the lintel of the doorway of a byre. When the byre was finished,