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September 2nd 1745

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The magic of the Clachs

Many of the old Highland chiefs were men of great sophistication and education. Yet they were also capable of accepting without question the efficacy and powers of certain ancient stones and talismans.

The Clach Dhearg (Red stone) of Ardvorlich is a case in point. It was said to have been brought back from the Crusades in the 14th Century. It was a crystal ball mounted in silver and was owned by the Stewarts of Balquhidder.

Owners of sick cattle from a large area would come with kegs of water to Ardvorlich. There, the custodian’s wife would dangle the stone by a chain in the water, rotating it three times clockwise while reciting a Gaelic charm. Providing the owner took the keg of water straight home without entering any house on the way the water was deemed a sure cure for sick cattle.

The importance of the Clach Dhearg was such that in a dispute over the chieftainship of the Stewarts of Balquhidder, the issue was settled on Mac Mhic Bhaltair because he had possession of the stone.

The Robertson of Struan also had a magic stone, Clach na Brataich. This was also much in demand for sick cattle and sick men too. Even as late as 1799 the owner could state “Frequent application is made to the present proprietor of this stone, not only by his own tenants but by people at a great distance, and all of them he has had occasion to examine on the subject seem convinced of its efficacy; insomuch that many of the present generation in Perthshire would think it very strange to hear the thing disputed.” 

The Clach na Brataich was also said to be very useful in times of war when by changing colour it was able to tell whether the outcome would be victory or defeat. The Clach na Brataich is now in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

Lastly there is the Clach Bhuaidh (Stone of Virtue), which is at Glenlyon House at Fortingall. This had the property of bringing the warriors back alive from battle. It is related that before the men of Glenlyon set off to join Prince Charles’ army they all drank water in which had been dipped the Clach Bhuadaidh, all except one man and he alone was among the dead at Culloden.

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