CAIRN // PITCAIRN: Past, present & place

A Cairn is as a man-made stack of stones found worldwide, marking varying significant sites throughout many different cultures. There are lots of fables which merge legend and history within the making of cairns - from hunting grounds, preparation prior to battle and significant sites of burial ceremony - whilst modern day Cairns support their own kind of ritual, to which I discovered this weekend whilst climbing the Watkin Path to Snowdon.

The conditions were seriously less-than-ideal; misty due to a continual downpour and a steep incline on a slippery slate path. I was aiding my mum up these hills, when our friend and guide nodded towards the cairns that emerged above us. He explained that in the name of tradition and as a good omen to walkers by, you are to pick up a nearby stone and throw it onto the pile of rocks to acknowledge the help of those who’d gone before you and guide those who are to come after you.

Recognised as trail markers worldwide, a Cairn steers walkers in the right direction throughout snow & fog; most notably in high places, such as on mountains and come into their own in Winter when the track hasn’t been cleared yet.

You see, one of my four given names is actually Pitcairn - a strange and difficult to pronounce surname; for which I only understood to be there as a nod towards my ancestral heritage in the name of tradition. People often can’t quite pronounce it and are quizzical when I reveal it as one of my middle names.

Coincidentally, it had only been that very morning before we set off that had I been speaking to my parents over breakfast about the wider picture, including the specifics of understanding what kind of role Lewis & I have to play. As per usual, they were extremely complimentary and insightful whilst I was somewhat insecure.

My mum took the significance of stumbling across the Cairn as confirmation for what she’d spoken over me earlier that day and I took it as a great comfort. I’d never really understood ‘Pitcairn’ before now and this moment felt like a few things were aligning - the past importance of a chosen name was being acknowledged and associated itself to the predetermined placement of my present, up there amongst the Cairns.

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