Past & Present
Clach Mhic Leòid
Clach Mhicleoid (Photo: Chris Whitelaw)
A local farming family set up this huge standing stone, probably over 5,000 years ago. For the people who erected it, this stone represented their links with the land and their ancestors. They wouldn't have been known as MacLeods – that is a much more recent association.
The standing stone gave out a clear message: this land is well-used, it is ours and has been for generations. This was a rich land when Clach Mhic Leòid was erected in the prehistoric Neolithic period. The landscape was one of small-scale agriculture and open woodland. Any rough grazing or peat was confined to the high hills, and even the sea was some distance away.
Tradition sometimes associates standing stones with burials but archaeologists rarely, if ever, find contemporary evidence of burials at the base of single stones. It wasn't until around 4,500 to 3,800 years ago, in the later Neolithic and early Bronze Age, that individual burials became common-place.
Nevertheless, it is possible that Clach Mhic Leòid continued to be important to the local people, even as times and beliefs changed. There are a number of large stones showing through the turf close to this magnificent slab. Was the area eventually used as a place of burial? Without archaeological investigation we will never know. Nevertheless, the medieval naming of the stone, Mhic Leòid, reflects valued links with the distant past.
The MacLeods of Harris and Dunvegan were the clan chiefs who held Harris from the 13th or 14th centuries until the late 1700s. Perhaps the clan name was given to this standing stone to link the MacLeods to long-departed ancestors, real or imaginary, and thereby emphasise their right to power over the land and the people.
By Jill HardenNext Section