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  Orkney's Giant Folklore

The giant, Cubbie Roo

"In the days of miracles and other supernatural appearances there lived a mighty giant named Cubbierow beside the Fitty Hill of Westray. He seems to have had a feeling of enmity towards some unlucky individual, and was determined to punish him severely.

Although his foe had fled to Rousay, a distance of about eight miles, the giant took up his position on Fitty Hill; and seizing the huge slab, he hurled it at his enemy across the intervening sound....the marks of Cubbierow's fingers are to be seen on that stone unto this day."
R. Menzies Fergusson - Rambles in the Far North - 1884

Orkney's best-known giant was Cubbie Roo, a creature of such monstrous proportions that he was said to use Orkney's many islands as stepping stones.

Cubbie Roo's traditional home was the island of Wyre, but there are many tales of his exploits and these were not restricted to that small island. Evidence of his deeds can be found throughout the North Isles in the form of "Cubbie Roo" placenames, such as Cubbie Roo's Burden and the Cubbie Roo Stone.

In an exact parallel to the tales of the Norse jotuns, and their bridge building exploits, Cubbie Roo was renowned for his numerous attempts at building stone bridges to link the islands - a strange obsession for a creature supposedly large enough to stride across the stretches of water separating each island.

In all these cases, however, Cubbie's bridge building efforts wer in vain. The basket he strapped to his back to carry the stones nearly always breaks and the stones fall, later becoming some well-known landmark, mound or skerry.

For example, Cubbie Roo was responsible for attempting a bridge between Rousay and Wyre. The stones for this structure fell and formed the mound now known as Cubbie Roo's Burden.

While creating a bridge to Eynhallow, Cubbie inadvertently created the "Skerry o the Soond", while a failed construction attempt between Eday and Westray formed the Red Holm. Dane's Pier in Stronsay was said to be the result of a failed attempt to build a bridge between Stronsay and Auskerry.

Cubbie Roo's megaliths

In addition to his many bridge-building efforts, Cubbie Roo was responsible for throwing a good few rocks around Orkney.

In Rousay, by the Sourin shore, is the monolith known as the Fingersteen. This stone is said to be marked with Cubbie's fingermarks, when he threw it from Westray. According to tradition, he was aiming for another giant on Kierfea Hill, but missed.

The Cubbie Roo Stone, lying in the Evie hills, also bears the marks of Cubbie's fingers. This is in addition to two other stones on Rousay - one at Marlayer, the other in the hill near Onziebust.

Meanwhile, a boulder lying in Stronsay was also said to have been hurled by Cubbie - this time in an attempt to wake a brother giant who was too slow to rise in the morning.