The Old Village of Lawers And The Famous 17th Century Scottish Soothsayer

Loch Tay (Scottish Gaelic, Loch Tatha) is a freshwater loch in the central highlands of Scotland. Long and narrow the Loch is about around 14.55 miles (23.42 km) long, around 1 to 1½ miles wide, and over 490 ft (150 m) deep in places. Loch Tay has a long history of human use and settlement and in the Iron Age man-made islands on the loch, known as crannogs, were made. More than 20 submerged crannogs have been found. A unique reconstruction of one of these ancient loch dwellings can be visited on the south side of the loch at the Scottish Crannog Centre.

Beside the loch, on its north shore, are the ruins of the village of Lawers, one of many old abandoned villages to be found around the highlands of Scotland. Many of which have the dark and tragic events of the highland clearances to thank for their demise. The tumbled down stone ruins of Lawers has its own mysterious past. Within the trees are the remains of the House of Lawers, the Church and associated buildings, the village dwellings, mill, barns and cemetery. There is also the remains of an old jetty jutting out into Loch Tay used for the old ferry that used to transport goods and passengers across the Loch.  Some say that the village is haunted and that people who once lived here still roam between the deserted tumbledown buildings. It is also well known in the local area as the place where the Lady of Lawers (Baintighearn Labhuir), who lived there in the middle of the 17th century made a number of prophecies that over the years appear to have come true.

Baintighearn Labhuir or the Lady of Lawers is said to be a Stewart of Appin, in Argyll, and to have been married to one of the lairds of Lawers. The Lady of Lawers made a number of predictions in her native Gaelic, some vague but others quite specific. Amongst the predictions she made was that the ridging stones for the new church, which was being built at the time, would never be put in place. Sure enough a storm brewed and the boat bringing the stones across the loch sunk and the material was never recovered. The Lady of Lawers had more predictions about the church. When she planted an ash tree beside the building she said: "and when it reaches the height of the gable the church will split asunder." In 1833 when the height of the tree reached that of the gable the church roof collapsed. Some have suggested that the split in the church could also have referred to the 1843 Disruption when the congregation of Lawers left the Church of Scotland to join the Free Church.  

She also prophesied that anyone who damaged the tree that she had planted would meet a bad end. In the 1870s, even though he had been warned of the prophecy, local farmer John Campbell chopped it down. He was later gored to death by his own bull, his assistant went mad, and the horse, which pulled the farm cart, dropped down dead. Another prophecy related to the tree was that when it reached the church roof, the House of Balloch  would be without an heir. This was seen to be accurate when in 1862 the Marquis of Breadalbane died without a successor. The Lady of Lawers made a number of other predictions concerning the area including this dark warning of the coming Highland Clearances: “The land will first be sifted, then riddled of its people. The jaw of the sheep will drive the plough from the ground. The homesteads on Loch Tay will be so far apart that a cock will not hear its neighbour crow.” In the end the Clearances devastated the population of the area reducing it from around 3,500 to about 500 with the land no longer being cultivated and used for the grazing of flocks of sheep.

There were many other prophecies made by the Lady of Lawers, some of which remain unfulfilled and we will have to see what the future holds for the old village of Lawers. The site on which the village now sits is up for sale for offers of over £100,000. However, it is thought that any purchaser would be unlikely to be granted permission to construct a permanent property on the land. Previous such applications have been turned down due to the historical importance of the site and other factors. Perhaps it would also be wise for potential purchasers to look carefully at the predictions of The Lady of Lawers for an indication of what the future for the village might hold.


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