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Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish at Balquhidder

By Peter Lawrie, ©2019
The Pudrac
The Pudrac monolith with the puterach stone at its base, photo by Peter Lawrie   On Sunday, 22nd September 2019, I was invited to contribute to the filming of ‘Clan Lands’ created and produced by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, (the stars of Outlander) and Sam's production company Great Glen Productions with Alex Norouzi. I understand that 'Clan Lands' will be released in 2020. We discussed the Pudrac or Puidreag standing stone near the Kirkton of Balquhidder and later whether or not Rob Roy is actually buried at Balquhidder kirk.

The Pudrac is probably Neolithic in origin so at least 4000 years old and originally formed part of a sacred landscape centred on the site of the modern church. The site was taken over by the Christian monk Angus in the 7th century CE. Nearby is Tom na croich, ('hillock of the cross', or sometimes translated as 'gallows hill') a probable ‘moot hill’ where local justice was dispensed in the medieval period. Clachan Aoraidh in the field to the west of the Pudrac could be a Neolithic stone circle but is much disturbed. The clachan was once the site of the Angus Fair held each April.

Balquhidder is said to derive from Gaelic both phuidir – pronounced Bo_fudj_yir - possibly meaning 'the dwelling or holy site of the Puidir'. This could be the name of a kindred of unknown date or the original name of the glen, from which the Pudrac, a monolith of probable Neolithic date, derived its name. Other authorities derive Both Fuidir to mean 'Fodder Homestead', suggesting good farmland. Balquhidder people are referred to in Gaelic as Puidirich. [1]   Some MacGregors had this name, such as Alasdair pudrach (d.1598), a natural son of the chief Alasdair roy and brother of Gregor roy.
There are various 'lifting stones' around Scotland but the Puterach, in particular, was brought to our attention by the late Peter Martin, a retired Police Sergeant from Prestwick, Ayrshire. Peter wrote that lifting the Puterach has an abundance of history that attaches itself to Clan Gregor and Balquhidder. Peter's study on the Puterach was printed in the Clan Gregor Society Newsletter 80 in 2015.

The Puterach stone was used for demonstrations of manhood by lifting it on to the flat top of the Pudrac monolith. This is most likely to have taken place during the Angus fair each spring, when the young men of the glen would compete with each other. The church frowned on the practice and in the 19th century the minister had the original stone removed. It is said to have been incorporated into an extension wall of the manse. In 2011 a replacement, weighing around 220lbs (100kg) was found from the river and since then strongmen from around the world have visited to test their strength. [2]  

Sam Heughan (Jamie in Outlander) is on the left, recovering from his exertion! On the right is Sam's colleague, actor Graham McTavish with Peter Lawrie to the left of Sam.

click on the images for a full size view.
  Sam Heughan relaxing after he had lifted the puterach
Sam Heughan decided to "give it a go" himself. After several false starts, he got a good grip of it and heaved it up on to the top of the Pudrac. The assembled film crew gave him a hearty round of applause.

Watch Sam lift the Puterach

Following the excitement of Sam's success in lifting the Puterach, we returned to Balquhidder kirk yard where Donald MacLaren of MacLaren was waiting to discuss his claims that Rob Roy MacGregor was not buried here.

For the debate, adjudicated in front of the cameras by Sam Heughan see my webpage here - Rob Roy is buried at Balquhidder kirk

[1] Angus Watson, PhD thesis. "Place-names, Land and Lordship in the medieval Earldom of Strathearn", University of St Andrews, 2002. page 41

[2] Peter Martin, "The Puterach and Pudrac Stones", Article published in the Clan Gregor Society Newsletter 80 in Summer 2015, page 28