Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Punishment Stone

Punishment Stone  - the hole can be seen a foot below the top
A brilliant photo of Canna’s Punishment Stone at Keils, taken by Olivia Abbott, is on the cover of the current issue of Scottish Islands Explorer. Something not shown in that picture, which you can see in the above image of the stone, is the reason for its name. A few years ago, while I was taking photos of the stone, one of the archivists working at Canna House came by. He told me the name comes from an odd hole, a foot below the top of the stone. Supposedly the thumb of the poor offender was jammed in the hole, and they were left there for a while. 

It’s an odd tale. But even odder is that the RCAHMS page on the Punishment Stone references page 205 of Seton Gordon’s ‘Afoot In the Hebrides’. A check there shows that Gordon was referring to a three foot high stone that stands near the Norse Grave, two miles from A’ Chill. Next time I’m on Canna I will have to look for it. And it makes me wonder if the hole in the stone at Keils dates from when soldiers used the nearby Canna Cross for target practice.

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