History Index : Legends

Jock o 'Bennachie : The Horseman's Stone : The Maiden Stone
Jock o 'Bennachie

It was believed that a friendly Giant named Jock o' Bennachie lived on the Bennachie mountain range. His bed was said to be between two of the tors on the north-eastern ridge from Craigshannoch, a distance of about 200 metres, known as Little John's Length.

The Horseman's Stone

There are many similar legends and stories which tell of warring giants throwing huge rocks and boulders at one another, and these stories have developed in order to explain how such enormous rocks came to be scattered all over the landscape.

The Horseman's Stone
The Horseman's Stone

The Horseman's Stone is a large rock, which lies in the middle of the River Don near the House of Monymusk. When the stone's flat surface is visible above the water level it is safe for a horse and rider to cross the water, but if the surface is below the water it means the river is too deep and it would be very dangerous to attempt it.

Below are two versions of the local legend.

"Once upon a time there were two giants who lived on the top of two mountains. Jock lived on Bennachie and Jack lived on Tap O' Noth, and they were always arguing and fighting with each other.

One day, during one of their many fights, a boulder came hurtling down in the direction of the Priory. It seemed to be heading perilously close, but fortunately the Monks were very holy and 'by stint of furious prayer' they are supposed to have altered the course of the boulder so that it landed in the river instead, where it can still be seen today."

"Once upon a time there was a giant who lived on Bennachie, who would often come down from the mountain during the night to steal food from the castle kitchen. The kitchen staff became very annoyed with him and eventually decided to put iron bars on the windows to keep him out for good. This angered the giant so much when he found out, that he threw boulders down from Bennachie in a temper. Fortunately he missed the castle, as seven miles is a very long way to throw with any kind of accuracy, and the boulder landed in the middle of the River nearby instead, where it still lies to this day."

Adapted from 'A Childhood in Scotland' by Christian Miller

Legend of the Maiden Stone

Long ago there lived a family called Maitland in the district of Chapel of Garioch in Aberdeenshire. They were a hard-working folk who had farmed there for many generations and were much respected by their neighbours. It was late summer and time to gather in the peat from the moss, which had been laid out earlier in the season to dry. Husband and wife, their two sons and an orraman (general farm labourer) all set out leaving the daughter at home to look after the farm and prepare supper. It would be a hard day's work and the daughter knew they would be extremely hungry when they returned.

So she set about baking and began to sing merrily as she worked. It was a beautiful sunny day so she opened the back door and looked outside. Rising above her was the striking outline of Bennachie with its peat-moss reaching to its lower slopes. The area was so beautiful, but she knew it could also be extremely treacherous. Eight years earlier her grandfather had become lost in the moss. He had gone out one evening to see if the peat was ready for gathering in when a thick mist had come down out of nowhere causing him to stray from the track. His body had been found the next day in a deep water filled peat-hag. It was hoped that one day a good cart road would be made through the moss, which would prevent such accidents ever happening again.

Suddenly, there came a knock at the door and a young man popped his head round the door. He looked about her age and she instantly liked his friendly eyes and smile. Soon they were chatting and joking together. When she gave him a bannock he told her she was a very good cook and said he thought she was the prettiest girl in all the Garioch wondered how he might win her hand in marriage. Obviously flattered she replied in jest that if he could build a good road across the moss in time for her family bringing in the peat that evening, then she would accept his proposal. It was of course such an impossible task that she suddenly got the giggles. The stranger said nothing but simply turned and bid her farewell.

Once the girl had returned to her work she thought no more about the young man. When it was nearing the time for her family to return she went to the back door to look out for them. She shielded her eyes against the sun and gazed out towards the moss. Something looked different. There appeared to be something glinting in the sunlight, winding like a snake across the moss. She could not think what could it be.

The dreadful truth slowly dawned on her and she felt an icy chill down her spine. There was a paved path winding right across the moss and leading straight to her door. She realised in horror that the friendly young man had actually been an evil warlock in disguise and she had made a bargain with him. Suddenly the warlock appeared at the door and she shrank back in terror as this time he had come in his true form and he was truly grotesque. He snarled that he had done as she had asked and that now he had returned to claim her as his bride.

The girl rushed past the warlock fleeing for her life, but the warlock at once gave chase and almost had her in his grasp. She screamed out in anguish that she would rather be turned to stone than marry a warlock. In fury the warlock proclaimed that he would again grant her wish. As he caught her by the shoulder there was a sudden blinding flash and instead of the girl there stood a large grey boulder. Her wish had indeed been granted and she had been turned to stone. From that day onward the monolith was known as the Maiden Stone, and it can still be seen on that very spot to this day.

Reproduced/Revised from: See Bibliography Wyness, Fenton; Legends of North-East Scotland

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