Martin and the Dragon

“Tempted at Pitempton,
Draigled at Baldragon,
Stricken at Strathmartin,
And kill’d at Martin’s Stane.”

By Rebecca Brown

The City of Dundee is full of Dragons. In the Murraygate, you’ll find a green statue prowling among shoppers with children clambering over its folded wings. Atop the spire of St. Andrews church near the Wellgate, a dragon watches the city moving below, and the crest of Dundee bears two dragons whose tails are intertwined

The answer to Dundee’s dragon-fever rests in a field at the foot of Craigowl Hill, just outside the village of Bridgefoot in Angus. Here, surrounded by a protective fence, is Martin’s Stane.

Martin’s Stane is a 6th-7th century Pictish stone recording the tale of Martin and the Dundee Dragon. While the stone has undergone some weathering in its many years, the shape of the fearsome beast and the hero on horseback can still be discerned. The story of the dragon’s slaying is recounted in the four lines:

“Tempted at Pitempton,
Draigled at Baldragon,
Stricken at Strathmartin,
And kill’d at Martin’s Stane.”

The rest of the story goes like this… 

The farmer of Pitempton lived with his nine beautiful daughters. One day, seemingly like any other, the farmer sent his eldest daughter to fetch some water from the well. As the morning turned to afternoon, the farmer grew worried for his daughter, and so sent the second eldest after her. When evening came, neither of the daughters had returned. 

The next day, the farmer sent each of his daughters in turn to find their siblings and bring them home, until only he remained on the farm. 

On the second evening, a young man by the name of Martin called by the farm, searching for the farmer’s eldest daughter. Much dismayed, the farmer told Martin that all of his daughters had disappeared and that he was at a loss of what to do. 

Martin, so in love with the farmer’s eldest daughter, promised the farmer that he would find the nine young women, and at once, he ventured into the night. 

Martin saw nothing strange on his journey, until he reached well, where he was met with a most upsetting sight. The well was gone, replaced by a sprawling nest of bone and smouldering coal. Martin wept when he sighted the nine mangled bodies of the farmer’s daughters, and presiding over them all, a mighty, slumbering dragon. 

Martin, enraged by what he had seen, wasted no time in hurrying back to the village and to the smithy where he worked. He saddled his mare, collected a spear, and galloped straight back towards the dragon’s nest as the sun was rising in the East. 

The dragon was awake by the time he got there, eyes glinting at the promise of a new meal when it spotted Martin on his mare. It lunged for him, but Martin was faster. He darted across the fields with the dragon in pursuit, circling the beast and confusing it. Martin aimed his spear, but at no point could he find a moment to strike. 

His mare tiring, Martin was growing desperate, and as he lured the dragon to Baldragon, a great many villages rushed to meet him. They had heard the ugly news from the farmer, and had gathered to help, for no small number of them had lost loved ones to the dragon. As the dragon approached, the crowd lured the dragon into a nearby body of water. With an almighty splash, the dragon took to the water and let out a yelp. It struggled out, spraying water across all who had gathered, and fled as the angry mob pursued. 

The dragon was injured and heavy with water when the villagers, led still by Martin, met it in the field at Strathmartin. Martin approached the beast, who lashed out in fear. He gripped his spear, but hesitated, for one miscalculated throw and the dragon would surely engulf them all in its rage. 

The villagers, excited and anxious to see the dragon struck down cried, “Strike, Martin!” 

Martin didn’t wait a second longer, and hurled his spear as hard and fast as he could straight at the dragon’s heart.

The dragon let out a shriek as it crumpled to the ground, and the villagers cheered and celebrated that the beast was no more. To remember his nine daughters, and Martin’s brave victory, the farmer had a stone erected at the very place the dragon fell, to document the deeds of Martin, which can still be seen to this day. 

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