Mound of Death

Published on 8 July 2021 at 06:50

And another contribution by Duncan Harley, author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire, The Little History of Aberdeenshire and Long Shadows - Tales of Scotland's North East.


Picture the scene. It’s the very eve of D-Day on June sixth 1944. Continental Europe is on the verge of an invasion on a scale not seen since Napoleon set course for Moscow. Stalin’s armies are advancing from the east and in just less than a year, Hitler will be dead and the Western Allies will declare Victory in Europe.

Meanwhile in Inverurie, near Aberdeen, a pair of psychic paranormal investigators - John Foster Forbes and Iris Campbell - have been checking out the ‘Mysterious Mound of Death’.

Forbes was a local man and can really only be described as an inquisitive eccentric. Born at Rothiemay in Aberdeenshire in 1889, he had served in the First War as an intelligence officer before embarking on a brief career as a teacher.

He had a fascination for prehistory and took to investigating the many Neolithic and Pictish monuments of his home county. Less is known about Iris Campbell beyond the fact that she practised ‘Psychometry’ and was described in the telling of the tale as a psychic. The ‘Mysterious Mound of Death’ was of course the Bass at Inverurie. Consisting of two flat-topped conical hillocks, it was once a motte and bailey and stands to this day alongside the River Urie at the point where it meets the Don. Such castles were once common throughout Scotland, although many have been overlaid by later stone-built fortifications. Indeed, the neighbouring town of Kintore once boasted a similar motte and bailey but the Victorians pulled it down to make a railway embankment.

Inverurie was relatively untouched by that Hitler war although troops and POWs inhabited the town at various points. The Railway repair works must have been high on the Luftwaffe list of bombing targets, but the place was never attacked from the air. Things were different underground however.

Iris and John concluded their investigation less than 24 hours before the first troops landed on the Normandy beaches and were traumatised by what they experienced.

There are various accounts of the investigation. In one account, they conclude that the Bass was in fact a burial pit used by Picts to erase a race of evil monsters’ intent on destroying humanity. In another, they ascribe the place as having Druidical powers intent on frustrating the “Evil Earth Magnetism of the Mound of Death!”

Either way, the investigations were overshadowed next day by the invasion of Europe and the Bass nowadays presides over the inhabitants of Inverurie’s Old Cemetery.

Inverurie has, of course, another claim to fame in the form of the 7th century Tomb of Eth (or Aodh or Aed) of the Swiftfoot (or Whitefoot). This Pictish burial mound at Conyng Hillock is nowadays little known and lies partially-hidden in a private back garden near Kellands Park in Inverurie. In 1902 fragments of a burial urn – now lost, were found at the site and some charred wood was reportedly dug up.

Local lore suggests that the six-metre-high artificial mound is the resting place of this Eth (or Aodh or Aed). This Pictish king was slain in battle nearby and buried at Inverurie in AD 878. Eth was seemingly named for his “abnormal nimbleness of limb”, enabling him to “outstrip all his fellows in a running match.”

Clearly his extreme nimbleness failed to save him from death in battle however and the jury is still out on the Inverurie burial claim since seeming King Eth is also reputed to be interred amongst a host of other Scottish kings on Iona. Yes, I know. It is a bit confusing.


Duncan Harley

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Duncan Harley
3 years ago

Hi Dirk. Have had a computer malfunction. Can you please remind me of your e-mail.