Fertility Stone Remains In Place After Women Protest


Aug 19, 2003
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Fertility stone remains in place after women protest
By David Lister, Scotland Correspondent

A PLAN to move an ancient phallic stone said to contain the spirit of a Celtic god has been abandoned by councillors after locals threatened to stage a sit-in around the monument. Councillors confirmed last night that they had shelved a proposal to shift the Stone of Mannan just five yards from its site in the Scottish town of Clackmannan after furious opposition from local women.

Harry McLaren, a local councillor who proposed moving the stone while repairs were made to an adjacent 16th century Tolbooth, said last night that he had been astonished by the level of opposition to the plans and had shelved them indefinitely. “I’m afraid it kindled up a vast reaction, more than we’ve seen for anything for ages, and just about everyone was against this,” he said. “We’ve now said that we won’t consider moving the stone unless there is very good reason for it.”

The Stone of Mannan, a whinstone boulder three foot long by two foot high, occupies pride of place in the town’s main street, where it has perched on top of a monolithic plinth since 1833. Although locals dispute how long it was at its previous location, near an old road by the River Forth, legend has it that the stone has played a role in the community since pagan times, when it was worshipped for supposedly containing the spirit of Mannan, a Celtic god of the sea and fertility. Even today locals joke that the stone continues to confer virility on local men and fertility on the town’s women.

According to another myth, the stone is also said to conceal the gauntlet of Robert the Bruce after the Scots patriot apparently lost a glove while hunting in the area.

Mr McLaren said that the council had wanted to apply for funding to restore the Tolbooth and another monument on the same site, a stone pillar where prisoners used to be chained while awaiting trial, but decided that they would use the opportunity to move the Stone of Mannan to a more prominent position.

“There did seem to us to be a possibility that funding might be available to upgrade the three monuments, as the whole area they occupy is very untidy,” he said. “There was a position that we thought would give the stone a much more commanding site, on the crossroads where it would have been seen as you approach the village from all directions. It would only have been five yards away.”

Davina Armstrong, 74, who has lived in the town for 50 years and organised a protest meeting attended by around 50 locals this month, said that people were worried that the stone might suffer damage by being moved. “We just didn’t want it shifted,” she said. “All the ladies at the meeting decided that we would learn how to sing ‘We shall not be moved’ and sit around the stone if it came to that. People have just got used to it being where it is, I suppose the women more because they are always in the village for the shopping. They didn’t see any sense in the council coming along and saying they wanted to shift it.

“It makes me quite happy that they’ve now said it won’t go ahead. Had the people of Clackmannan wanted the stone shifted, I would have been happy with that, too, but they clearly didn’t.”

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