The Prophet Peden Stone
The Peden Stane near West Benhar is a mysterious object. Named after the Covenanting field preacher, Alexander ‘Prophet’ Peden (d.1686), it lies in a moss in Shotts parish, Lanarkshire, close to the shire boundary with Linlithgowshire.
The earliest reference to it I have discovered so far was in 1866:
‘A large boulder to the S[outh] of Benhar farm-house is known as Peden’s Stone, and to it is now attached an iron slab with the inscription ‘This stone, according to tradition, is one of the places where Peden and others preached to the Covenanters, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. – Erected by a Committee from proceeds of sermons, 1866.’ (Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland.)
The main body of the inscription’s text is slightly different from that given above:
TRADITION , IS ONE OF
THE PLACES WHERE PEDEN
AND OTHERS PREACHED
TO THE COVENANTERS’
The inscription refers to Hebrews 11.38: ‘(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.’
The only evidence for Peden’s preaching at Benhar is local tradition, certainly before 1866. However, the association of the stone with Peden is less firm than the later monument may suggest.
A second stone in the immediate vicinity has strange associations. On General Roy’s mid-eighteenth century map, a nearby farm to the north of the Peden Stone is called ‘Paxstone’, or on the early OS map as ‘Paxtane’. The ‘Pax Stone’/’Packs Stone’ is associated by Guthrie with the wizard Michael Scot, a figure who inhabits similar uncanny terrain to Peden in the popular imagination.
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