Guinevere’s Rock

There are many, sometimes conflicting, King Arthur stories.

Mine is true and accurate, of course.

One of my ancestor families, the Watsons, moved from Scotland to Canada around 1855. They met and intermarried with Skinners who had emigrated from the tiny village of Marwood in Devonshire in the west of England near where the story of Lorna Doone takes place. Also in the mix are some Cunninghams from Ireland but I have no other details on my Irish connection. And while each family has significant history, it is the Scots that have a possible King Arthur connection in my roots.

“Possible”, I said.

You see, the Arthurian legend of interest says that Guinevere — she was also known as Guanora and Vanora — was kidnapped by some Scottish highlanders. We could then kindly say that, as sometimes happens, the sentiments of the kidnapped were swayed by her abductors.

Or we could just say she slept around and be done with it.

Bust on church exterior wall, Meigle Scotland

Bust on Meigle Scotland Church, Overlooking Graveyard

Regardless, the story says that after a considerable passage of time, King Arthur rescued Guinevere but soon learned of her infidelity. In anger, King Arthur had her tied to a rock one night and left for the wolves.

The next morning, all that remained was her hand. It was buried at what is known today as “Vanora’s Mound” in the graveyard at Meigle Scotland.

My connection to this story is by proximity to where the Watson’s lived, the stone to which Guinevere was tied and to the graveyard.

My Watson ancestors lived in a small stone cottage next to the King’s Road (of that time) where it passed through the Lang Logie farm in Perthshire. Coaches with passengers, wagons on their way to market, even horse-mounted riders using that road that had been built by the King would stop and pay the toll.

My Watsons of the 1850s were the toll collectors.

In today’s map museum in Edinburgh, a copy of a late 1700s survey of the area shows Glenora’s Rock a few hundred yards west of the toll house by the King’s Road through Lang Logie. And in the Meigle churchyard, Vanora’s Mound is well known. There are several other features bearing Arthurian-related names in the immediate area.

At THIS LINK, the King’s Road is the brief dark line coming in from the left. Today it is lined with trees, one on either side of the old right of way but it is otherwise completely grown over with grasses and bushes. The Watson’s stone cottage is at the southeast intersection thereof. Also, toward the top of this view, the current highway, A94, can be seen running parallel to the old King’s Road. If you drive through the area today, look for the “Langlogie” sign on the south side. Turn there and you’ll find the cottage and the remnants of the old King’s Road a few hundred yards down.

While I’ve only researched my family history in that area back to the 1850s, I have been there and walked the paths and seen the locations. With a good walking stick to help you over the occasional stream, and wearing suitable boots for the mud, these places are all within walking distance. You’ll need to stop first at the Edinburgh map museum, however, and get a copy of that 1700s survey map to locate them all.

So, it is possible there is connection in my family running back much farther on the Watson line, perhaps even the several hundred years to King Arthur’s time when some “wild oats” were being shared around.

The Skinner name itself is also possibly of Scottish origin and may be derived from the Skean Dhu, a short-bladed knife favored by assassins, but that’s another [true?] story.

And just east of Lang Logie is Glamis Castle, said to be the most likely location of Shakespeare’s MacBeth — another cheery story about those happy-go-lucky Scots — purported to be the most haunted castle in Scotland. It is said there are more windows on the outside than can be counted from the inside suggesting that a room, along with its still living occupant according to one account, was permanently walled off from the rest of the castle. But again, that’s yet another story. Or is that two?

Regardless, you’ll find several variations on Guinevere’s later life in the ancient literature but most agree that she was an affectionate soul. (Ask Lancelot!)

Who knows? Maybe some of her genes are coursing through my arteries and those of my descendents right now.

Slàinte, sonas agus beartas!
(Health, wealth and happiness!)