Liam O’Flaherty and stone lifting

Here is a curious story.

Received the communication below from Peter Martin, a retired Police Officer from Prestwick, Ayrshire in Scotland.

Peter is looking for information on the ancient practice of “Stone lifting” as written about by Liam O’Flaherty.

Can anyone help? Use the comments or email to


“Dear Sir/Madam,
My name is Peter Martin and I am a retired Police Officer from Prestwick, Ayrshire in Scotland. You may find this email rather strange but I do hope that you will be able to assist.
I am currently carrying out research on the rather strange topic of “stone lifting”. I am not a strong man nor indeed have I any notion to test my strength against any of the known stones of strength in Scotland however my interest is purely due to my Gaelic roots (from Islay and Skye) and a deep desire to examine a “Gaelic strength culture”. It is pretty much excepted that for those that are interested in strength, that Scotland is the the home of this activity. Personally I dislike the national label associated with such as this as the culture of “stone lifting” – lifting heavy stones to prove strength is Gaelic and not set by a national identity. It is pretty much accepted that the basic elements of what may be called a “Scottish strength culture” originated in Ireland and there can be no dispute regarding this.
For the past three years I have visited many of the more remote Scottish Island where the Gaelic is primarily spoken and I have also visited North West Wales where stone lifting also exists due to a strong Irish influence many centuries ago. Unfortunately, and although I have sent many emails to academics, news papers in Ireland, no one would appear to have knowledge of the subject.
One of my strong references to the fact that stone lifting was part of an Irish Gaelic culture is through the work of Liam O’Flaherty and one of his short stories called “the stone” is in essence a story that could also have been repeated any where on the Hebrides or Highlands of Scotland. I would go as far as saying that I know that this culture existed but by using Scotland as an example, knowledge of it is fast disappearing and this is what I want to capture before it is too late.
Do you have any knowledge of any traditional lifting stones on the Aran Islands? or is there any knowledge of this culture still retained within the more senior community. I am sure that O’Flaherty wrote of what he experienced and that there should be a stone somewhere on the islands that was used as a trial of strength amongst the young men.
I would state that if there is, it would be a great attraction amongst the worldwide strength community who through the strong ties between Ireland and Scotland as well as the attachment of Gaelic folklore to Scottish stone lifting, know quite a considerable amount Finn McCool, the Fionn etc etc. It is strange but true.
Again, I know this may be a strange email but if you could assist with any knowledge I would be most grateful.
Peter Martin “

5 thoughts on “Liam O’Flaherty and stone lifting”

  1. From Richard M Finn on Facebook
    .” Other than it was a Celtic ritual of strength, bravery, a prowess from the old tales like Finn Macool and Cuhulain… no. The Irish clan of the Dalreida probably brought the practice to western Scotland, when they invaded that area, and is now part of the Scottish Clan gatherings around the world today! At least they are not doing a Haggis toss accros rivers, it always gets messy”
    From Aengus O’ C Onghaile on Facebook.
    “There is definitely a stone on inis meain that was used for this purpose.
    I’m not exactly sure where it is or how heavy it is. I’ll look into it and get back to you in the next month or two. i might even be able to get a photo.”

  2. Teresa/Fiona/John
    I cannot even begin to express what this information means to me personally. Over the past few years I have emailed so many Historical societies/News Papers etc and the general reply is that my request for information is from some sort of a crank. Stone lifting has always been a part of Gaelic culture yet is sadly being lost.
    What I have seen of the Aran islands via the web is that it is so similar to the Hebrides, especially Uist where the culture of stone lifting still lingers and of course, the first language is the Gaelic.
    Knowledge of the existance of a stone is one thing, the most important aspect is the culture or the reasons for it being lifted and the people who have lifted it.
    I have yet to speak to my wife but rest assured, as her Great grandfather was an O’Neil who arrived in Scotland speaking only the Gaelic, that this will prompt a visit sooner rather than later.
    Thank you all so much.


  3. Hi,
    There is a bolder on a rough pathway down toward Port Bhéal an Dún, in Gort na gCapall, that the locals used to lift and is the bolder that Liam O’Flaherty wrote about. I pretty sure it is still there. Hope this is of some help.
    Regards Fiona.

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