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December 24th 800

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St Fillan's magic stones

Beside the Falls of Dochart at Killin is a tweed mill. It was on this site that the old St Fillan’s Meal Mill used to stand, reputedly built by the saint himself. Here he used to preach to the people and here he cured the sick. He had a collection of eight stones each used to cure a particular part of the body.

There was a large stone shaped somewhat like a head with two polished stones representing the eyes and a mouth cut into the stone. This was used for mental troubles. There was a stone with marks like the joints of the backbone which was of course used for back troubles. Another with a single hole was used for breast troubles. There were other stones used for stomach troubles and for different sides of the body.

Like other relics of St Fillan, the healing stones were kept within one particular family. Even as late as 1836 the stones were in the custody of an old woman, whose ancestors had been hereditary keepers of the stones and who in virtue of her office lived rent free in her house in Killin. She was not permitted to charge a fee for her services but it was in order, and indeed advisable, to leave a present if requesting her services. She would rub the stone three times in a clockwise direction over the afflicted part, then three times the reverse way and finally three times round the whole body. All this while she repeated a Gaelic incantation. Even the minister of Killin at the time of the 2nd Statistical Account testified to their powers. “Stones which had been consecrated by the saint and endowed with the power of curing diseases.” 

Until 1988 the stones could be seen in a small recess in the loft of the mill guarded by iron bars. Each Christmas Eve the keeper, the owner of the mill, went to the river bank to gather rushes that had been washed up and substituted these for the bed of rushes on which the stones had lain for the previous twelve months.

There was one other custom that was observed. On January 20th, St Fillan’s Day, no work was performed at the mill, no maintenance was carried out and no repairs were undertaken. It was believed that bad luck would befall anyone who broke this rule.

Today the stones are in the safe keeping of one of the banks in the village.

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