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All About Memorial Cairns

A cairn is a man-made pile (or stack) of stones. The word cairn derives from the Scottish Gaelic càrn, which is essentially the same as the corresponding words in other native Celtic languages of Britain and Ireland, including Welsh carn (and carnedd), Irish carn, and Cornish karn or carn.

Burial cairns and other megaliths are the subject of a variety of legends and folklore throughout Britain and Ireland. In Scotland, it is traditional to carry a stone up from the bottom of a hill to place on a cairn at its top. In such a fashion, cairns would grow ever larger. An old Scottish Gaelic blessing is Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, "I'll put a stone on your cairn".

Cairns in the region were also put to vital practical use. For example, Dún Aonghasa, an all-stone Iron Age Irish hill fort on Inishmore in the Aran Islands, is still surrounded by small cairns and strategically placed jutting rocks, used collectively as an alternative to defensive earthworks.

Some cairns are merely places where farmers have collected stones removed from a field. These can be seen for example in the Catskill Mountains of North America where there is a strong Scottish heritage.

Modern cairns may also be erected for historical or memorial commemorations. One example is the memorial cairn at Culloden Battlefield marking the site of the last stand of the Jacobite cause in Scotland.

The Clan MacMhuirich Memorial Cairn will be situated near the remains of the MacMhuirich blackhouse at Stilligarry on the island of South Uist. The cairn will follow the design of another cairn dedicated to a South Uist bard, Donald MacDonald. The one major difference in the MacMhuirich Cairn will be the integration of stones submitted by clansfolk from around the world, intended to demonstrate the international scope of this far-flung bardic dynasty.

Photo Gallery - A Collection of Cairns