Monday, October 24, 2016

The Grey Stone of Inchcailloch

In the ancient burial ground on Inchcailloch (Loch Lomond) you'll find many old tombstones. One of them stands out historically. Known as the Grey Stane of Inchcailloch, it marks the grave of Gregor MacGregor, cousin to Rob Roy, and 15th Chief of Clan Gregor, who died in 1693.

The Grey Stane of Inchcailleach
This stone is sacred to the Macgregors. Sir Walter Scott used it in his novel Rob Roy, where Rob gives a guarantee of good faith with the oath: "I swear to ye upon the halidome of him that sleeps beneath the grey stane of Inchcailloch."

In his book Vanished Waters, Alasdair Alpin MacGregor describes how his father (the Colonel) taught him the importance of the stone:

    "Swear by the Grey Stane on Inch Cailleach!" the Colonel would command, when disciplining us in matters of truthfulness and honour. This ancient emblem of the Macgregors meant much more to him than did the historic Black Stone of Iona, upon which the most sacred and binding oaths were taken in olden times.
    One day he took me, as on a pilgrimage, to see the Grey Stane. We travelled Loch Lomond by steamer from Balloch to Balmaha. There we disembarked, and, hiring a rowing boat, ferried ourselves across to Inch Cailleach, the Isle of Old Women - the Nuns. Through long grass we went, following a path among dense and hoary woodlands. And there, sure enough, in a clearing just by the gate of an old Macgregor burial-place, in the heart of the Isle, was the Grey Stane itself. The occasion was one of great interest to us both; but I could see from my father's demeanour that, for him, it was a solemn moment.

MacGregor goes on to say, in his book Islands by the Score, that "In the Highland home of childhood and boyhood, one was called upon to swear by this ancient MacGregor emblem, rather than upon the Bible."

Burial ground of Inchcailloch
The stone
Like Alasdair Alpin Macgregor and his father, most visitors these days make their way to Inchcailloch via Balmaha, where you can hire a boat at Macfarlane's Boatyard, or take one of their regular foot-ferry crossings. You can find a guide to Inchcailloch here.

Inchcailloch ferrry
Inchcailloch seen from Balmaha

The view on an overcast day from the summit of Inchcailloch

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