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Publication Account

Date 2011

Event ID 887253

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Since the late 19th century a single standing stone is all that has remained to mark the site of this stone circle, and even this has now fallen. Measuring 3.1m in length, it has been an impressive monolith, but curiously neither it nor its parent circle is shown on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Aberdeenshire 1869, lxiv). Situated in a field on the rising ground west-northwest of Nether Coullie, it is perhaps the exception that proves the general rule that in enclosed farmland upright stones that do not appear on the 1st edition OS map are more recently erected rubbing stones (Gannon et al 2007, 68). In this case, however, the sources are insistent, if slightly conflicting. Coles, drawn to the site by a passing reference in a history of Monymusk Priory (MacPherson 1895, 10–11), elicited merely that the surviving monolith had apparently stood within a circle of nine stones until about 1860 (Coles 1901, 203). However, James Ritchie seems to have tapped a much more detailed vein of local knowledge, visiting the site of the circle with the tenant, William Connon, who put the clearance of the last stones some 40 years earlier. Ritchie’s account was published in 1917, though he had been collecting information on stone circles since at least the turn of the century. Coles’ date of about 1860, however, at least puts the demolition of the circle before the OS surveyors mapped the area in 1864–7. According to Connon, the circle measured between 22m and 24m in diameter and comprised eight stones, though in common with Coles’ source he put the surviving stone in the centre. Nevertheless, as Ritchie got Connon to point out the positions of the various stones that had been removed, he concluded that this had been a recumbent stone circle, the surviving stone being the western flanker of the setting, its eastern pair apparently lying buried a little to the south-east (Ritchie 1917, 43–5). Their attempts to locate this buried stone by probing ended in failure, but Ritchie photographed two blocks in the field boundary to the south that were said to have been taken from the circle, and several others there show evidence that they have been blasted. Alexander Keiller followed Ritchie’s interpretation (1934, 21), and Nether Coullie has been accepted as the site of a recumbent stone circle ever since (Burl 1970, 60, 68, 78; 1976a, 352, Abn 81; 2000, 421, Abn 84; Barnatt 1989, 293, no. 6:66; Ruggles 1984, 60; 1999, 187). The evidence, however, cannot be regarded as conclusive, and in view of the wide range of other types of circle that the present survey has recorded in the North-east, Nether Coullie has been rejected until further evidence is brought forward to show that it once included a recumbent.

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