28 April 2015
Robert McCafferty of the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead tells the story of one of the museum’s most poignant exhibits. ...
Robert McCafferty of the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead tells the story of one of the museum’s most poignant exhibits.
The Museum Of Lead Mining, Hidden Treasures in Wanlockhead has gathered a huge amount of artefacts for its collection since its humble beginning in 1974. One which is on show every year is the Jennie Miller stone.
As a museum guide, I have had many opportunities to experience the effect that this stone has on people, from making them cry at the sad story, to the lights flickering when we talk about the stone, to the strange and eerie temperature change in the room housing Jenny's stone. Yes, it makes you wonder if Jenny is still about.
The stone, now in two parts and you can touch the icy cold stone to sense the history of Jenny and her journey, as well as the locals who spent time remembering her after her sad death.
THE STORY OF JENNIE MILLER
Jenny (Janet) Miller was born in 1858 in Leadhills and died on 3 January 1877. If you believe some accounts, she can still be seen with her wicker basket in the hills above Wanlockhead when it’s misty.
This account from the Sunday Post of 14 August 1977 tells the story:
Lloyd Richards and his wife were spending a holiday with Mrs Richard's family in the village of Leadhills in Lanarkshire. One day, Lloyd was walking alone in the Lowther Hills above Wanlockhead when a mist came down, though it was mid summer. Suddenly, out of the mist, came a young woman dressed in strange clothes, carrying a wicker basket. She seemed distressed. As Lloyd went towards her, he heard her say ‘look in the stones!’ But before he could reach her, she disappeared into the mist.
Lloyd told his family of the strange encounter and they informed him that 100 years previoulsy, a young girl called Jennie Miller set out to walk over the hills from Kirkhope farm, where she worked, to her sister's wedding in Wanlockhead. She carried a wicker basket and in it was a teapot, a present for her sister. As she crossed the hills, she was caught in a blizzard, and stumbled into the workings of an old lead mine. Her body was found there a few days later.
The locals built a cairn at the spot and on a piece of stone carved the words ‘In memoriam, Jenny Miller 1877’. The cairn still stood, but the inscription had disappeared.
Intrigued, Lloyd and his brothers in law Douglas and Tom Cowell, set out to find the cairn. Sure enough there it was by the old lead mine. Then Lloyd remembered what the strange figure had said ‘look in the stones’. One by one he searched through the rocks in the cairn and buried there in two halves, he found the stone bearing Jenny's name.
The rich history of Wanlockhead has given birth to the Museum of Lead Mining. Here, you can visit to wonder over many past artefacts from the mining era as well as enjoy a guided tour of a real lead mine, period cottages and the second oldest miners’ subscription library in Europe.
Museum of Lead Mining, Wanlockhead, Biggar, Lanarkshire ML12 6UT; tel: 01659 74387; website.
Read more about Scotland's past with our expert history guides.
(Museum image copyright Colin Smith; Jennie Miller stone copyright Museum of Lead Mining)