I was passing by the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room when Iain was lecturing the Several Annies on a subject that was dear to his heart: ‘There are a number of dolmens — ceremonial standing stones — scattered about the Kinrowan Estate. And these are not Victorian follies built to look like the real things, but are all very real dolmens situated where a number of ley lines come together, forming a nexus of supernatural energy.’
He went on to say that ‘The Victorian follies were new constructs, dolmens and water wheels to use two examples, made to look very old. So the water wheel would be broken, or the dolmens falling down. I think there were Greco-Roman temples built on some of the Estates. Fortunately it was something the prim and proper Edwardians disdained, so it ended as fast as it began.’
A Several Annie asked a question: ‘Do we know the purpose of the dolmens?’ Iain said, ‘No, not really. They’re far too old to have either oral or written histories that could be considered reliable. Sacrificial sites to whatever bloody gods the culture believed in is entirely possible, given many dolmens have a flat centre stone in them. Leyden’s ‘Ballad of Lord Soulis’ describes one such sacrifice at Skelf Hill — it was a horrid affair by any standards!’
I asked from the doorway where I was listening in, ‘So were the ley lines there before the dolmens were constructed? Or did the sacrifices bend them to where the dolmens had been raised?’ Iain looked at me and said, ‘Absolutely no idea. Archaeologists admit they have not a clue, though lots of New Agers think they know. Me, I know that those here on the Estate who’ve The Sight, including myself, know that some of them are safe to be around and some of them feel bad.’
He went on to say, ‘If you’re uncertain ask me, Tamsin, or Finch, as we can advise you. And never visit any of them without taking one of the Russian Wolfhounds with you as they’ll give you warning if a safe dolmen has changed its nature, as they ofttimes do. Someday I’ll tell you the story of Bloody Bones, who appeared as a shade out of one of the dolmens that had been quiet for years…’
With that, he broke off the lesson as it was afternoon tea time.
Oh, and here’s the tale in ballad form as recounted in Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain.
In a circle of stones they placed the pot,
In a circle of stones, but barely nine
They heated it red and fiery hot
‘Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.
They rolled him up in a sheet of lead
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall.
They plunged him in the cauldron red,
Melted him, lead and bones and all.
At the Skelf Hill the cauldron still
The men of Liddesdale can show
And on the spot where they placed the pot
The grasses they will never grow.