one of the nails, the last relic of the countless offerings of sufferers who had been brought to the holy waters at its foot. To each of the hundreds of nails, he says, "was originally attached a piece of the clothing of some patient who had visited the spot."
The earliest allusion to the healing powers of the well is the mention of it in 1656 as the resort of the lunatic. In 1774, Thomas Pennant describes how the patient "is brought into the sacred island, is made to kneel before the altar, where his attendants leave an offering in money. He is then brought to the well, and sips some of the holy water. A second offering is made; that done, he is thrice dipped in the lake." The last recorded appeal to the well was made about 1857. Sir A. Mitchell, writing in 1860, says: "In our own day, belief in the healing virtues of the well on Inch (Island) Maree, is general over all Ross-shire, but more especially over the western district. The lunatic is taken there without consideration of consent. As he leaves the island he is suddenly pitched out of the boat into the loch, a rope having been made fast to him; by this he is drawn into the boat again, to be a second, third, or fourth time unexpectedly thrown overboard during the boat's course round the island. He is then landed, made to drink of the waters, and an offering is attached to the tree."
We asked our gillies how the healing waters had dried up, and were told of a man who desecrated the well by bringing a mad dog for cure. This incident Mr. Dixon relates in detail as told him by a Kirkton man. The date given was 1830. The dog died the day following, and the
- Sir A. Mitchell, "The Various Superstitions in the N.W. Highlands and Islands of Scotland, especially in relation to Lunacy," Proceedings Antiquarian Soc. Scotland, vol. iv. Edinburgh, 1862.
- Sir A. Mitchell, op. cit., p. 11.
- A Tour in Scotland aitd Voyage to the Hebrides, Thomas Pennant, 1772-4. Part 11, p. 330.
- Mitchell, op. cit., p. 14.
- Dixon, op. cit., p. 157.