British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Kempock Stone

The Kempoch Stone

Overlooking Kempock Point, on the Firth of Clyde, is the Kempock Stone, a grey monolith as tall as a man, presumed to have been erected in prehistoric times for some unknown purpose.

The stone was an object of reverence for centuries, it is vaguely human in shape, resembling a bent old crone, and was often known as Granny Kempock or Kempoch, in line with the custom of addressing elderly witches and wise women as 'Granny'.  Marriages in the district were not regarded as lucky unless the married pair passed round the monument and thus received Granny Kempoch's blessing, and the stone was also credited with great powers over wind and wave. Earth from around its base used as ballast was thought to protect a ship from evil, and according to the Rev. David Macrae in 1880, 'sailors and fishermen were wont to take a basketful of sand from the shore and walk seven times round Granny Kempoch, chanting a weird song, to insure for themselves a safe and prosperous voyage.' A coven of witches once planned to assault the stone, as reported in the confession of Mary Lamont at Inverkip.

Many standing stones are reported to move at midnight, and Granny Kempoch was rumored to turn around three times as the hour struck. Other local legends variously had it that a monk used to sell bus blessing to shops on this spot, and that a witch who for years lived beside the stone sold favourable winds to sailors. The practice was widely known; Bessie Miller and Mammie Scott were both reported to have traded with sailors for fair winds in Stromness.

As belief in the stone's magic faded, some people became less reverential. On Hogamany night, the Gourock lads would go and dress Granny Kempoch in a shawl, cap, and apron, ready for New Year's morning. Nonetheless the well-known landmark was fondly regarded, visible to shops sailing up or down the Firth of Forth, and a paddle-steamer was named after her in 1940.