Thursday, 22 March 2012

Lifting Stones - 1

The Diary had never heard of a Lifting Stone until contacted by Peter Martin, a retired police officer living in Ayrshire. Peter searches for these stones, which are known as Clach Thogalaich in Gaelic. So far he has found twenty-five in the Highlands, from Balquhidder in Stirlingshire to Durness in Sutherland.,

Peter says, "There is a worldwide interest in these stones of strength, especially from the USA, and many cross the Atlantic each year to visit Scotland just to try and lift one. I am not a stone lifter but have an interest in the subject especially the history and former culture surrounding the lifting of these stones. Unfortunately, there are extremely few of these stones to be found on the western seaboard. In fact, the only stones of this type on the western mainland are to be found in Glen Roy which is rather unfortunate as there must be quite a few that still exist or have just been forgotten about."

Peter is now is looking for lifting stones on Ardnamurchan. He has kindly sent some material to describe them, and is appealing to anyone who knows the whereabouts of such stones to contact him through this blog.

Peter continues, "The actual stones themselves come in all shapes and sizes dependent on their use. The Inver Stone is probably the most famous lifting stone in the world. It is portrayed as a Manhood Stone but in reality, even hundreds of years ago, there was no actual community at Inver so youths could not have lifted the stone to become a man as implied as there simply weren’t any youths within 5 miles or so. The stone existed due to the presence of a old Inn, probably a shebeen which lay on a well known whicky smuggling trail. The stones in Glen Roy are simply stones that were lifted for fun while men stayed in high summer shielings.

"A heavy stone can also be found usually near the last coffin stop of any established coffin roads. It was not part of the formal funeral celebrations but alcohol was, and often this would result in an informal stone lifting competition. Perhaps the most famous of these stones is the Puterach at Balquhidder which is long lost but the plinth that the stone was lifted onto and which doubled as a coffin stop is still extant.

"THE INVER STONE – Situated at Inver in Royal Deeside, this stone is probably the most visited and lifted traditional stone in Scotland. It is situated in the garden of a private house and the owner, an elderly lady called June Richards, is the keeper of the stone and she maintains a log book of visits. Perhaps more vanity than sense, strength athletes only record successful lifts of the stone. The intention of the visitors book was to record all attempts. It is commonly referred to as a clach cuid fir – a stone of a mans portion or manhood stone. This is wrong. At 265 lbs it is far too heavy and secondly the hamlet of Inver did not have a population that could be spoken off to have a stone for aspiring youths. The stone is associated with the old Inn or shebeen as it used to be in the 1600s. Used by Highlanders walking the Whisky Smugglers trail etc and its position is purely due to being near the convergence of two tracks.

"THE GLEN ROY STONES – Perhaps my personal favourite as they have not been lifted in about 50 years or so and no-one in the strength world knows exactly where they are. If they ask the locals in Glen Roy they do not know either. Glen Roy up until the 1970s was the last remaining fully Gaelic speaking community on the Scottish mainland. Only one remaining family survive and it is they who told me about these stones and there whereabouts. They have been known as lifting stones within the glen for centuries and the grey granite stone was the primary lifting stone which was lifted to the lap and then replaced onto the shiny oval stone...the plinth. The plinth stone was also known to have been lifted but in essence both were lifted for pure amusement more often with copious amounts of whisky.

"THE BAREVAN STONE – This is situated in an old graveyard to the south of Cawdor near Nairn and no-one has identified it as a stone of strength. There are various books that refer to it as a lifting stone and can be dated to at least the 1600s. It sits beside a stone coffin the purpose of which was as a punishment for miscreants. They were placed inside and a large stone slab was placed on top, their face was exposed and the lifting stone was also added to give more weight. Those attending church were expected to spit on the face of the person punished as they passed by."


  1. Dave McFadzean - Moniaive23 March 2012 at 12:49

    Brunachan in Glen Roy was once famous for quern stones. These were in great demand over a wide area around Glen Roy and further afield. There is a place down here in Dumfriesshire called Liftingstanes. I wonder if it comes from that same ancient sport?

    1. Dave, I think that you are referring to "Lifting Stane farm" at Closeburn? The stone had a large iron ring attached and was supposedly found outside the farm..Sadly the stone was lost sometime prior to 1808 but it along with other lifting stones in the Dumfries area that are also lost show that this activity was not solely restricted to the Highlands...Goodness there was one in Coatbridge as well.


  2. Dave McFadzean - Moniaive27 March 2012 at 11:31

    Aye Peter you have the correct location below Closeburn on the back road. I wis brocht up in Thornhill and we aye cried it Liftingstanes, plural even though it seems tae be singular with the OS. Guid luck in you quest for mair infromation.