NGR: SV 8904 0848. At the east side of the little Island of Gugh (below Kittern Hill, south-east side) which is connected by a sand bar (tombolo) to the larger St Agnes Island, in the Scilly Islands, is a tall granite standing stone (menhir) called ‘The Old Man of Gugh’, that is thought to date from the Bronze Age. This odd-shaped pillar stone is 9 foot high and is slender and jagged, and leans at an angle towards the east. It is aparently ‘the only’ standing stone in the Scilly Islands, but there are 17 other prehistoric monuments close by, on Kittern Hill, including ‘Obadiah’s Barrow’. The standing stone was first recorded in 1756, but it was not excavated until the beginning of the 1900s at which time nothing much was found. Coming over from Penzance, Cornwall, one is able to reach the Island of Gugh, firstly, by ferry-boat to St Mary’s, the main island of the Scillies, and then the local boat service must be availed of to get you to St Agnes Island, and then [“at low tide”] walk along the sand/shingle bar to the Isle of Gugh, following the main footpath across the island, to reach the standing stone, at the east side, close to the sea cliffs.
F. Gibson tell us that: “Gugh has many Megalithic remains. Unfortunately none are cared for by the Ministry of the Envi-ronment, as on St. Mary’s, but they can be seen amongst the bramble and bracken…….. In the centre of the island is a single stone monolith, considered to have been placed there in the Bronze Age. It is about nine feet high. This is the Old Man of Gugh. It is an interesting fact that this monument stands on the southernmost point of the British Isles, and that a similar stone stands on the most northern point in the Shetland Isles.”
Dixe Wills (2018) says with regard to the sea-birds nesting on the island’s cliffs and their angry calls, that ……“you can strike up an altogether less frenzied acquaintance with the Old Man of Gugh, a 9ft-high leaning menhir (or standing stone). Etched with long grooves and placed here sometime during the Bronze Age, he may have served as a memorial or merely as a territorial marker. Apparently, there are over a dozen ley lines radiating from the Old Man, but when the ground around the stone was excavated no further clues were found.”
Wills goes on to say that: “A walk around the island is like a trip in a broken time machine, hunting its occupants backwards and forwards apparently at random. Head towards the heather-strewn hillock at the southern end of Gugh and you’ll come upon the Carn of Works Civil War Battery. Built by Cavalier troops to hold two guns that would defend the southern approaches to the Isles of Scilly, the battery’s designers appear to have pressed an ancient entrance grave within its walls into use as a magazine, which one would have thought was an act of sacrilege. Perhaps such matters matter less in times of war.”
The Historic England monument list no. is: 1014791.
Sources / References & related websites:
Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher not known, and un-dated).
Wills, Dixe, Tiny Islands — 60 Remarkable Little Worlds Around Britain, AA Publishing, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2018.
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.