Making History: The Mystery of the Moving Martyr’s Stone

John Hunter Martyr's Stone

Can you resolve the mystery of the Martyr’s Stone of John Hunter? Can you find it? Can it be photographed?

The Martyr’s Stone marked the traditional location of the shooting of John Hunter by Colonel James Douglas in 1685. He is buried in Tweedsmuir churchyard. You can read Hunter’s story in full, here.

The place where Hunter was shot may still be marked by the Martyr’s Stone.

When it was first recorded on the Six Inch OS map, which was surveyed in 1857, the stone lay on the west side of the path below the Strait Step and above the Devil’s Beef Tub. (Dumfriesshire, Sheet IX)

The stone is simply described on the map as ‘Martyr’s Stone John Hunter shot here 1685’ and is marked by a rectangle at the bottom left of the ‘M’ in Martyr’s Stone and above the ‘hn’ of John.

It appears in the same location on the second edition of the Six Inch map which was revised in 1898. (Dumfriesshire Sheet IX.NW)

However, on the modern OS map it is marked at a short distance off to the east of what appears to be the same path. That location appears to accord with the circle and dot after ‘Stone’ on the original map.

Map of the Martyr’s Stone

Aerial View of Area of the Martyr’s Stone

It is clear from the original map that the circle and dot are common contour spot-height markers, rather than the Martyr’s Stone.

The Martyr’s Stone, or stones, was described in 1892 by a minister who had visited it:

‘The spot where Hunter was killed is marked by large blocks of undressed stone piled one upon another and grey with moss and lichen, and the surrounding scenery being stern and wild, is a most fit theatre for such a tragedy.’

Is it still there? Any information or photographs that would help to resolve this mystery would be appreciated. Any contribution will be acknowledged.

My contact email can be found here.

Access to the Martyr’s Stone
The easiest point of access for any search for the Martyrs Stone is from the Annandale Way, a new walking route which runs around the top of the Devil’s Beef Tub and meets the path down to the Martyr’s Stone above the Strait Step.

Map of the Annandale Way and the Martyr’s Stone

The Annandale Way can easily be joined at from the A701 above the Devil’s Beef Tub. There is plenty more to see on the route. See the official website here.

Street View of Access to Annandale Way from A701

Good Luck.


martyrsstonePhoto of the Martyr’s Stone reproduced by the kind permission of Ronald Turnbull

Ronald Turnbull has visited the site and kindly sent me the following report of it.

‘I [have] pinned down the OS location of the ‘Martyr’s Stone’ as marked on the current Explorer map at NT 06681 12972 . This is 10m above (east of) the current signposted path leading from Corehead to the Strait Step. There is an old and tumbledown cairn on one of the many hillside stones hereabouts, alongside a small peaty spring. The accuracy of the gps should make the cairn within 10m at most of the dot marked on the OS map. …It’s an excellent short stroll to the stone from A701 via Annanhead Hill and the Strait Step, but it’s more easily accessed from Annandale on the signposted path via Corehead.’

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on February 5, 2013.

3 Responses to “Making History: The Mystery of the Moving Martyr’s Stone”

  1. […] The Strait Step lies directly above the traditional spot for Hunter’s death. […]

  2. […] To help resolve a mystery concerning the site of Hunter’s death, see here. […]

  3. […] What Should You Look For? As mentioned above, it is not clear what the stone looked like. However, one would expect it to look like other Covenanter stones, which were either prominent natural boulders/stones, or a cairn of stones. For examples see, Dempster’s Stone, McWhann’s Stone, Smith’s Stone, the Preaching Stone and the Martyr’s Stone. […]

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