Norrie’s Law LAR A NO410074 1 374 185m
Norries Law 1829 RHP320
Norrie’s Law 1845 NSA ix, 439
Norries Law 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn
Norrie’s Law or Norroway’s Law 1887 Wood 1887, 3 [see discussion]
Norrie’s Law 1895 Millar 1895 i, 9
pn Norrie + Sc law
Norrie’s Law is the name of a prehistoric tumulus or cairn which stands on a low spur of land on the northern edge of the farm of Bonnyton LAR (OS Name Book 19, 27; Wood 1887, 3), and within c.5 m from the LAR/CER boundary. The cairn is recorded in 1933 as ‘a mound 53 feet in diameter, surrounded by a circular trench, 16 feet wide, inside of which was a rough wall of boulders, and inside that again a second and concentric walling of stones ...’ (NMRS NO40NW 3). Norrie would appear to be a personal name, found also in two field-names on the nearby (but not contiguous) lands of Carskerdo CER, Norriesknow and Norrieswell (1813 Sasines no. 9661). While Norrie is a modern hypocoristic of the name Norman, it may also be associated with Norway, as Wood’s alternative Norroway’s Law suggests (1887, 3). If this latter is the case, then the name is probably an antiquarian coining of the eighteenth century, when it was common-place to associate burial mounds and other prehistoric features with the Norse.
There are various local folk-traditions about the origin of the name Norrie’s Law. One states that underneath nearby Largo Law there was known to be a great deal of gold guarded by a ghost or spectre. The spectre appeared one night to a local shepherd, promising (in verse):
If Auchindownie cock disna craw,
and Balmain horn disna blaw,
I’ll tell ye where the gowd mine is in Largo Law.
To make sure these conditions were satisfied, the shepherd killed all the cockerels in Auchindownie and asked the cowherd at Balmain (Tammie Norrie) not to blow his horn. When the ghost re-appeared to the shepherd, and was on the verge of revealing the secret of the gold mine, Tammie Norrie blew a blast on his horn. The ghost vanished, but not before cursing Norrie:
Woe to the man that blew the horn,
for out of the spot he shall ne’er be borne.
Norrie died, and local people found his body, but were unable to move it from where it lay, so they built a cairn over it and called it Norrie’s Law.
Other local traditions give a different account, however. Walter Wood writes: ‘On a tumulus north of Largo House, called Norrie’s Law, or Norroway’s Law, and which tradition had long pointed out as the burial-place of a warrior, to whom it gave the name Tammy Norrie, some antiquities were discovered about the year 1819’ (1887, 3; also Cunningham 1907, 71).
In spite of fairy-stories about gold under Largo Law, the real buried treasure in this parish was not found there but at Norrie’s Law itself, where a large hoard of silver was found in about 1819. While most of it was melted down for scrap, a few fine pieces did fortunately survive, on the basis of which James Graham-Campbell has suggested that the hoard comprised for the most part seventh-century Pictish silver, with some remains of Late Roman treasure, and was deposited at some point in the second half of the seventh century, or perhaps in the early eighth. For a full discussion of these views, and an account of the finding of the hoard and its fate, see Graham-Campbell 1991.
Norrie’s Law was also where part of a Pictish symbol stone was found in the nineteenth century (for more details of which, see LAR Introduction, Early Christian Activity).
Norries Law Cottage lies 200 m north-east of the cairn (OS 1:10,000 map, 2006).
This place-name appeared in printed volume 2