Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hoy - The Dwarfie Stone

I made a seven hour hike on Hoy last week. One highlight of the walk was crawling into the Dwarfie Stone. It is a unique tomb, consisting of two chambers carved out of a large, flat sandstone boulder. It is thought to have been made around 3000 BC, and I wanted to see the stone because of the writings of two authors: Sir Walter Scott, and the geologist Hugh Miller. 

In his novel The Pirate, Scott made use of the legend that the stone was once home to 'Trolld, a dwarf famous in the Northern sagas.' In chapter 19 there is an encounter inside the stone between Norna of the Fitful Head, and the dwarf Trolld. Norna gets the best of the encounter, and Trolld vanishes 'in a thick and sulfureous vapour'.
The Dwarfie Stone
Hugh Miller, in his book The Cruise of the Betsy, describes how he visited the stone and crawled inside to shelter from the rain. There are two small chambers in the stone. One is a simple round space, the second is a rectangular cell separated from the first by a low ledge. This cell looks like a miniature bedroom, as it has a pillow carved in the stone at one end. There are several names carved in the pillow, which Miller mentions seeing during his visit. And while waiting for the rain to pass Miller decided to carve his own name in it:

'The rain still pattered heavily overhead; and with my geological chisel and hammer I did, to beguile the time, what I very rarely do, added my name to the others, in characters which...will be distinctly legible two centuries hence.'

Miller did carve his name deep, and I found it low on the face of the pillow. 168 years have passed since he carved it, and the name was distinctly legible:  'H. Miller  1846'. Here is a photo of the bed-chamber with its pillow-stone. 

The bedroom - stone pillow at the back
Here's a close up of the pillow (the black line points to Miller's name). The last photo is a highly contrasted black & white which shows his name a little better (but not much).  I resisted the urge to add my own name - I'd forgotten my chisel, anyway.

The pillow - the pointer shows where Miller carved his name: 'H. Miller  1846'

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