Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First of His Tribe to this Fair Vale

                                            Loch Tay

'What aspect bore the man who roved or fled,
 First of his tribe to this fair vale -
 What hopes came with him?'
                                                            - Wordsworth -

Lindores Abbey and Its Burgh of Newburgh:  Their History and Annals
Alexander Laing, George Seton, Anthony Hamilton
Chapter 1:  Prehistoric, page 1.

It needs no evidence to prove that men who navigated our shores and rivers, in canoes hollowed out of single trees, had made but little progress in the constructive arts.  About sixty years ago two canoes, so made, were found in the bed of the Tay, opposite Lindores Abbey, the largest was twenty-eight feet long, and was quite entire. [1]

Another relic, telling of a condition and aspect of country widely different from the present, was discovered in the neighbourhood of Newburgh, in the end of the last century.  In draining what was called the Session Loch, at Mugdrum, the skull of a 'Great Ox,' Bos primigenius, or Urus, was found.  So huge was this skull, that even in that unscientific age the people flocked to see it.  Dr. Fleming, in his 'History of British Animals,' records that it was 27 1/2 inches in length. [2]  He says nothing of the kind of strata in which it was found, for geologists to build deductions on; but the cutting was carried through a great ridge of sand and river gravel, and the head was discovered at a considerable depth below the surface.  The Urus was little inferior to the elephant in size; one skull measured by Cuvier gave the proportions of the animal to be 12 feet in length and 6 1/2 in height.  Other skeletons have been found of much greater magnitude, affording indubitable evidence of the gigantic size of these wild denizens of the ancient Scottish forests.

The wild ox was a favourite object of the chase among our barbarian forefathers, and it was counted a great feat for a young man to bring home the horns of a Urus; they edged the finest of these horns with silver, and used them as drinking cups at great festive gatherings.[3]

[1]  These canoes were taken out of the Cruive bank opposite Lindores Abbey.  They were cut up and used for lintels in the erection of granaries at the west shore of Newburgh.  The largest canoe ever found in Scotland was 36 feet long and 4 feet wide - it was discovered at Carron - Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, Ed. 1851., p. 32.  Out of a list of about fifty ancient canoes, recorded as having been discovered in the west of Europe, only three are mentioned as larger than the largest found at Cruive bank.  There is one which was found in the Rhône, preserved in the museum at Lyons, 41 feet long. - Figuier's Primitive Man, p. 17.

[2]  Wilson's Prehistoric Annals, Ed. 1851., p. 23.

[3]  The representation of hunting scenes, on so many of the 'Sculptured Stones of Scotland', of which Mugdrum Cross is an instance, is enduring evidence of the importance of the chase among our forefathers.

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