British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain

Stone of Quoybune

Stone of Quoybune

R. Menzies Fergusson wrote in 1883 of a 'Druidical Stone' in the parish of Birsay with a strange and tragic tale attached to it. This is the Stone of Quoybune, which is said to walk or move towards the Loch of Boardhouse every New Year's Eve as the clock strikes midnight. When it reaches the edge of the Loch it quietly dips its head into the water, and then returns to its post.

In the late 19th century it was considered very unsafe for anyone to witness this event. Many stories circulated of people who dares to watch and who were found dead the next morning beside the stone, like a young Glaswegian whose curiosity compelled him to stay out on December 31:

As time worn on and the dread hour of midnight approached, he began to feel some little terror in his heart, and an eerie feeling crept slowly over his limbs. At midnight he discovered that, in his pacing to and fro, he had come between the stone and the loch, and as he looked towards the former he fancied that she saw it move. From that moment he lost all consciousness, and his friends found him in the grey dawn lying in a faint. By degrees he came to himself, but he could not satisfy enquirers whether the stone had really moved and knocked him down on its way, or whether his imagination had conjured up the assault.

Another tale was that one December a ship was wrecked on Birsay, and all on board were drowned except one man, who then found shelter in a cottage close by the stone. Hearing the story of its yearly march, he resolved to see the phenomenon for himself; in spite of all remonstrance he went out on the evening of Hogamany and sat on top of the very stone itself.

There he awaited the events of the night. What these were no mortal man can tell; for the first morning of the new year dawned upon the corpse of the gallant sailor lad, and local report has it that the walking stone rolled over him as it proceeded to the loch.