Glencoe Stone

by Gordon Christie

I picked up a stone, just a few inches across, which must have lain for millenia in the cold, clear (I’ve never seen clearer outdoors) burn which alternately flows and tumbles from the falls at the head of Glencoe in Western Scotland, down towards the lochan. Until yesterday I had never been near that burn. Like most people I had stopped at the car parks and gazed in awe. Yesterday I walked the jumbled scree, tough grass, heather and occasional thistle patch that jostle for life, warmth and space there.

How the stone got there, one among millions, whether it has been moved by the force of water when the burn was in spate during stormy weather, whether it was part of a larger boulder split down and cracked by Nature, will never be told. It’s entirely possible that it was deposited by a glacier during the last Ice Age.

What has it witnessed this humble stone? Has blood flowed over it in this, the Valley of Death? Did it “see” innocent families die from violence or cold when the Massacre took place? Like the glen itself, it tells no story. It is silent and in its own way, I think, majestic.

A tiny mountain.

I can’t describe its colours adequately and the photo which I took doesn’t really show them.

I thought I would keep it but it does not seem to “belong” here on Scotland’s east coast, where I live. It is as much a part of Glencoe as the mountains themselves. It belongs in the fractured west where the bare bones of the Earth give scant sustenance to the sheep – descendants no doubt of those that were brought to this country a couple of hundred years ago, displacing the people during the “Highland Clearances”. Descendants of those people are now scattered across the globe but when they see pictures of this ancient land of Scotland, many of them are still “called”.

They may not return here, but this stone will return to where I found it.

I will take it there and think of the millions of other stones all over the world that have silently witnessed, and continue to witness, human cruelty.

Gordon Christie lives and works near Edinburgh, and writes because some people say that he can!

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