Katie Thirsty’s Well, Logie, Stirlingshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 81787 97653

Getting Here

The olde tree of Katie Thirsty’s Well

Not too tricky to locate, as long as you get onto the right footpath!  Take either road (both steep narrow and very bendy in places!) up from Logie on one side or Bridge of Allan on the other, towards Sheriffmuir and head to the Faerie or Highlandman’s Well.  About 150 yards before this, note the small car-park.  From here, go through the gate as if you’re walking to Dumyat, but 50 yards along the footpath it splits into two.  Take the lower right-hand path and keep walking for another 600 yards until you see a large worn hawthorn tree on your left, with boggy land just in front of it that runs to the path you’re walking on.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

‘Katie Thirsty’ is a most intriguing character who pops up at a number of healing wells, primarily in Scotland.  Dedications to her are known near Abernethy, Falkirk, Innerleithen, Killearn, Kilsyth and elsewhere, with one example just over the Scottish border in Northumberland.  So who was she? And what’s the story behind this little known example, close to the ruinous Iron Age village east of Dumyat?  The truth is, we don’t know for sure as yet.  Tales are told of a local lady called ‘Katie’ at the wells near Abernethy and Kilsyth, each with their own domestic myth—but it seems that a wider mythic status underlies this dedication.

One very fine notion comes from the pen of Pictish researcher Ronald Henderson (2008; 2014), who tells that the name derives from a corruption of both St. Katherine of Alexandria [Katie] and the Pictish King, Drust or Drustan [Thirsty].  The latter etymological postulation finds faith in the fact that the great crags of Dumyat less than a mile to the east is universally credited with being the last Pictish stronghold at the old hillfort there.

The flowing clear waters

…This well on the hills north of Logie village—with its old hawthorn for companion above the old path to medieval Fossachie village—flows nicely, and its freezing waters are very good to drink.  Twenty yards east of the boggy overflow are the overgrown remains of an isolated Iron Age ‘homestead’ or hut circle, and the waters of Katie Thirsty’s Well would have been the primary drinking supply to the people living there in ancient times.

Very little is known about the specific history or folklore of the site and it is mentioned only in passing by David Morris (1935) who told us simply:

‘“Katie Thirty’s Well’ was the old name of a clear spring on the hillside by the track leading to Dumyat.”

It’s a beautiful spot to visit, with lovely views for many miles to the east, south and west.  If you’re going to visit the Fairy or Highlandman’s Well nearby, take time to visit Katie Thirsty’s refreshing flow too.

As for Katie herself: does anyone have their own ideas about her…?

References:

  1. Henderson, Ronald W., Rex Pictorum – The History of the Kings of the Picts, Perth 2008.
  2. Henderson, Ronald W., “Drust… of the Hundred Battles,” in Celtic Guide, 3:4, April 2014.
  3. Morris, David B., “Causewayhead a Hundred Years Ago,” in Stirling Natural History & Archaeological Society Transactions, 1935.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Mineral Well, Glen Lyon, Perthshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 72110 47768

Also Known as:

  1. Iron Well

Getting Here

Mineral Well, Glen Lyon

From Fortingall village, head west and turn down into the incredible beauty that is Glen Lyon.  As you enter the trees, a half-mile along you pass the small gorge of MacGregor’s Leap in the river below.  2-300 yards pass this, keep your eyes peeled for an old small overgrown walled structure on the left-hand side of the road, barely above the road itself.  A large tree grows up above the tiny walled enclosure, within which are the unclear waters that trickle gently….

Archaeology & History

In previous centuries, this all-but-forgotten spring of water wasn’t just a medicinal spring, but was one of the countless sites where sympathetic magick was practised.  The old Highlanders would have had a name for the spirit residing at these waters, but it seems to have been lost.  The site is described in Alexander Stewart’s (1928) magnum opus on this stunning glen, where he wrote:

“Still a few yards more and Glenlyon’s famous mineral wishing well is seen gushing up, surrounded by its wall of rough stones now sadly in need of repair.  It has a stone shelf to receive the offerings of those who still retain a trace of superstition or like to uphold old customs as they partake of its waters.  The offerings usually consist of small pebbles, but occasionally something more valuable is found among them. The roadmen may clear that shelf as often as they like, but it is seldom empty for long.”

A local lady from Killin told us that she remembers the stone above the well still having offerings left on it 20-30 years ago. Hilary Wheater (1981) sketched it and called it the Iron Well.

Close-up of the waters (photo by Paul Hornby)

The waters in this small roadside well-house actually emerge some 50 yards up the steep hillside (recently deforested) and in parts have that distinct oily surface that typifies chalybeates, or iron-bearing springs – which this site is an example of.  Its medicinal properties would help to people with anaemia; to heal women just after childbirth; to aid those who’d been injured and lost blood; as well as to fortify the blood and stimulate the system.

Across the road from the well, Stewart (1928) told of a giant lime tree that was long known to be the meeting place for lovers (perhaps relating to the well?), and the name of the River Lyon here is the Poll-a-Chlaidheamh, or ‘the pool of the sword’, whose history and folklore fell prey to the ethnic cleansing of the english.

References:

  1. Stewart, Alexander, A Highland Parish, Alexander Maclaren: Glasgow 1928.
  2. Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Clochoderick Stone, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire

Rocking Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 37363 61280

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 42329

Archaeology & History

The Clochoderick Stone

On the outer southern edge of Kilbarchan parish—right near the ancient boundary line itself—this giant stone of the druids is seems to be well-known by local folk.  Located about 40 yards away from the sacred ‘St Bride’s Burn’ (her ‘Well’ is several hundred yards to the west), it was known to have been a rocking stone in early traditions, but as Glaswegian antiquarian Frank Mercer told us, “the stone no longer moves.”  The creation myths underscoring its existence, as Robert Mackenzie (1902) told us, say

“This remarkable stone, thought by some to have been set up by the druids, and by others to have been carried hither by a glacier, is now believed to be the top of a buried lava cone rising through lavas of different kind.”

The huge Clochoderick Stone

The site was highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1857, but the earliest mention of it seems to be as far back as 1204 CE, where it was named as Clochrodric and variants on that title several times in the 13th century.  It was suggested by the old place-name student, Sir H. Maxwell, to derive from ‘the Stone of Ryderch’, who was the ruler of Strathclyde in the 6th century.  He may be right.

Folklore

Folklore told that this stone was not only the place where the druids held office and dispensed justice, but that it was also the burial-place of the Strathclyde King, Ryderch Hael.

References

  1. Campsie, Alison, “Scotland’s Mysterious Rocking Stones,” in The Scotsman, 17 August, 2017.
  2. MacKenzie, Robert D., Kilbarchan: A Parish History, Alexander Gardner: Paisley 1902.

AcknowledgementsBig thanks to Frank Mercer for use of his photos and catalytic inception in this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Whin Well, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 7934 9412

Archaeology & History

Whin Well on 1858 map

Shown on the 1858 map of the city, this ‘Well of the Gorse’ (from the old folk-name ‘whin’, or Ulex Europareus) on the northern side of the old town, about 300 yards east of Stirling Castle, has long since gone.  An old cottage of the same name was once to be found at the end of the appropriately named Whinwell Road, which also preserves its memory.  Although the folklore of the site has seemingly been forgotten, it may be that the waters here had medicinal qualities akin to those given by the plant – i.e., jaundice, intestinal problems and to strengthen the heart. (see Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal)

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Drumend, Easter Rattray, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NO 20175 45825

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 30760
  2. Old Rattray

The survivor from the South

Getting Here

Just less than a mile east of Blairgowrie, the site is situated about 200 yards along a farm track that runs north from the A926 Rattray – Alyth Road.  This road is narrow with a lot of bends and very busy, with no safe parking places. It is best to walk from Rattray, the stone will be seen in the field just east of Drumend Farm.

Archaeology & History

Site on 1867 OS-map

There is one stone here that survives from a megalithic ring that was progressively destroyed some time between the publication of the 1792 Old Statistical Account and the publication of the 1867 OS map.  Reverend James Smith, writing in the 1792 Statistical Account, told us:

“Above the river, SE from the village, in a beautiful situation, is a Druidical temple, much defaced, and many of the stones carried off. The farm upon which it has been built, is called Standing Stones.”

Reverend William Herdman wrote patronisingly in the 1845 New Statistical Account;-

“If large graystones be entitled to the appellation of antiquities, or are any indication of the religious worship of our ancestors, a few of these appear in a field, thence called Standing Stanes, which are supposed to be the ruins of a Druidical Temple.”

Close up from the south

Many years later, in the first few years of the 20th century, the great northern antiquarian and megalith writer, Fred Coles, visited the site and gave this description in 1909:

“Standing Stone on the Farm of Standing Stone, Old Rattray.  [A] monolith attracts our notice, in a field on the north of the main road, one mile and a quarter east of the middle of Old Rattray village. The height above sea-level is 270 feet. This monolith …[has a] mineralogical composition …more analogous to the quartziferous schists so frequently found in the vicinity.

The top is smooth, with an inclination towards the south-east, and the whole mass is squarish and pillar-like. It is set up with the longer axis N.E. 50° and S.W. 50°. The highest point is 5 feet 1 inch above ground, the basal girth 8 feet, but rather more than mid-way up it increases to 10 feet 4 inches.

In this lower-lying district, comprising an area of about 35 square miles, the megalithic remains are extremely sparse. Agricultural operations, doubtless, have swept away some monoliths, and possibly also whole circles of stones; but at any rate it is somewhat significant that only four Standing Stones are now left, and that there is no record on the maps of any other variety of sepulchral structure.”

This brave survivor has a commanding position over the valley of the River Ericht, and again we can only lament the loss of its companions, but be thankful it too didn’t fall prey to ‘agricultural improvements’ or religious bigotry.

References:

  1. Smith, Rev.James, Old Statistical Account, Perthshire, Parish of Rattray, 1792. #
  2. Herdman, Rev. William, New Statistical Account, Perthshire, Parish of Rattray, 1845.
  3. Coles F.R., ‘Report on stone circles surveyed in Perthshire (South-East District), with measured plans and drawings; obtained under the Gunning Fellowship’, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., vol. 43, 1908-9.

© Paul T Hornby 2019

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Boskenna Cross, St Buryan, Cornwall

Wayside Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SW 42579 24266

Also Known as:

  1. Historic England Grade II Listed Building No. 1007955

Boskenna Cross on 1887 map

Getting Here

Travelling along the B3315 from Penzance to Lands End, the Cross is on the south side of the road at the junction with the minor road to St Buryan, past the Merry Maidens circle.

Archaeology & History

The Cross is assumed to have been carved perhaps a century after the cross in St Buryan churchyard. Its upright figure of the crucified Jesus, forward facing, wearing a knee length tunic, and with feet out at right angles is stylistically similar to the churchyard cross, which probably dated from the time of Athelstan’s charter, and which Ann Preston-Jones and Andrew Langdon state is very similar in style to crucifixions on crosses in the north of England for which a 10th or early 11th century date has been suggested.

During the mediaeval period St Buryan church was noted for its privileged sanctuary which extended beyond the church and churchyard, which privilege may have been granted by the charter of King Athelstan (924-939). Preston-Jones and Langdon (Andrew) consider that the Boskenna Cross, as well as having been a roadside way marker, may, with others ‘perhaps once have marked the sanctuary’s limits‘.

Arthur Langdon (1896), in his magnum opus on Cornish Crosses, describes this wheel-headed wayside cross:

Sketch from Langdon’s 1896 book

The only ancient part of the monument is the little cross at the top, which is mounted on a base made up of an extraordinary collection of apparently disused circular granite stones. Immediately beneath the cross is a cylindrical piece, the upper edge of which is roughly rounded off. Beneath this comes a short drum, about two inches wider than the piece above and nine inches deep. The next two stones are much wider but not so deep as the last, the bottom one consisting of the lower portion of an old cider-press, with its surrounding channel and lip !

Its roadside position.

There is a good deal to admire in the feeling which prompted this effort to once and for all preserve so ancient a relic, and the care bestowed in the erection of this curious substructure goes far to remove its incongruity.

Front — The figure of our Lord here sculptured is quite the best example in which He is represented wearing the tunic; the expanded sleeves are especially apparent, as well as the outline of the garment above the knees. The feet are very large, and turn outwards at right angles.

The Crucifixion face

Back — On the head is a cross with expanded limbs, flush with the surface of the stone. The four triangular sinkings, or recesses, which form the background are not of uniform size, the lower being considerably larger than those above, thus making the lower limb the longest. The inner portion of each sinking is raised, forming bosses in low relief.

Dimensions — Total height of the monument, 6 ft. 10 in; height of the cross, 2 ft. 4 in; width of head, 1 ft. 8 in; width of shaft, 12½ in.

The cross has had a chequered history. It is not known when it was demolished from its original position. Langdon, once more, takes up the story:

The opposite face.

Mr. J. H. Johns, landlord of the “King’s Arms”, St. Buryan, informed me of the circumstances connected with the discovery of this cross. It appears that formerly one of the angles at the intersection of these roads was so sharp and awkward for traffic that, in 1869, the local authorities decided to ease this corner by rounding off the hedge, which was then about ten feet thick. Mr. Johns’ father was one of the men employed on this work, and shortly after commencing he found the cross buried in the hedge. By the advice of His Honour Charles Dacres Bevan, County Court Judge of Cornwall, and then residing at Boskenna Mansion House, the cross was erected on the triangular piece of grass in the middle of the roads, a spot on which it is extremely likely it originally stood.

Side view from the east.

In 1941 and 1942, the Cross was demolished by road vehicles, whereupon the council removed it to its present roadside position. It was again hit by a vehicle in 1992. And in 2002 there was another incident, reported by Meyn Mamvro:

..In February the top of the cross was found lying by the roadside. It is not known whether this was the result of deliberate vandalism or a road traffic accident, but local village witch Cassandra Latham acted quickly in alerting Cornwall Archaeological Unit, who took it away for repair and restoration…

The report on the restoration notes that the pedestal was hit by a vehicle on 27th February, and it was likely the impact caused the Cross head to fall off. The Cross was restored during June and July 2002, when the opportunity was taken to move the pedestal away from the road, 2m south east of its former position.

References:

  1. Langdon, Arthur G., Old Cornish Crosses, Truro, Joseph Pollard, 1896.
  2. Langdon, Andrew, Stone Crosses in West Penwith, The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, 1997.
  3. Preston-Jones, Ann & Langdon, Andrew, St Buryan Crosses, Cornish Archaeology, No 36, 1997.
  4. Meyn Mamvro, No 49, Autumn 2002, p. 4
  5. Preston-Jones, Ann, Boskenna Cross St Buryan Cornwall, Restoration – Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Truro, November 2002
  6. De’Mazzinghi, Thomas John, Sanctuaries, Stafford, Halden & Son, 1887 (A general introduction)

© Paul T. Hornby 2018

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Lady Well, Tibbermore, Perthshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 05190 23479

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 26862
  2. St Mary’s Well

Getting Here

Lady Well on 1866 map

Approaching Tibbermore from Huntingtower, turn left in the village and the site of the Lady Well is visible in fields on the left, just to the north of a bush growing on the north-south boundary fence on the east side of the roadside paddock before you get to the church.

Archaeology & History

On the day of my site visit I wasn’t able to get close to the site, owing to the subdivision of the roadside paddock by wire fences and the presence of horses. Growing crops barred access from the east. But it appears that all physical traces of the well have been destroyed, and the actual site of the well as shown on old OS maps now shows no evidence of it, but a large bush a few yards south may indicate the present site of any vestigial spring.

The site of the Well to the left of the bush

Hew Scott, in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae wrote that the church at Tibbermore was dedicated to St Mary, and that there was a Well of St Mary. Tibbermore was a mensal parish of the Bishop of Dunkeld – i.e., its parish revenues etc, were accrued to the Bishop, who maintained a residence in the parish prior to the Reformation.  Pennant wrote in 1772 that the church of Tibbir-moor took its name from a holy well dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
John Inglis in the Old Statistical Account wrote that the name Tibbermore was understood to be compounded of two Gaelic words, tuber and more, which signify a large well—referring probably to a plentiful spring of water immediately adjoining to the church-yard.

Watson, in his Celtic Place Names writes:

Tibbermore or -muir near Perth is supposed to mean ‘big well’ from a fine spring near the churchyard, but as this used to be called “the lady well”, the meaning may be ‘Mary’s well’, tiobar Moire, like Tobar Mhoire, Tobermory in Mull.

Can it be inferred from this that the spring was historically of great importance; firstly to have given its name to the parish and village and secondly to have been named after the Virgin Mary rather than a ‘lesser’ saint, and to have been a pre-Christian place of
veneration and pilgrimage? Adding to this speculation is the presence of several cup marked stones within a mile or so of the holy well, which may possibly indicate a very ancient sacred landscape.

References:

  1. Pennant, Thomas, A Tour In Scotland 1772, London, Benjamin White, 1776.
  2. Inglis, John, Old Statistical Account for Tibbermore, Perthshire, 1791-99.
  3. Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, Vol. IV, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1923.
  4. Watson, W.J., The Celtic Place-Names Of Scotland, Revised Edition, Edinburgh, Birlinn, 2004. (originally published 1926).

© Paul T. Hornby 2018

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Denoon Law, Glamis, Angus

Hill Fort: OS Grid Reference – NO 35464 44395

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 32139
  2. Law of Denoon

Denoon Law on 1865 map

Getting Here

Travelling north through Balkeerie on the Newtyle/Glamis road, turn right onto the Denoon road and follow it to the T-junction.  Turn right and, a few hundred yards on to your left, the large hillfort of Denoon Law rises up to your left.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Denoon Law from Murleywell

Denoon Law is an impressively lush and green hill fort hidden away in the Sidlaw Hills, in the Denoon Glen, parallel to the Vale of Strathmore. It can be entered froma gap in the ramparts on the north side. Be careful of the precipitous drop from the south east side!

In the County Angus survey by the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland (1983), they describes it thus:

This fort crowns the summit of Denoon Law, a steep-sided volcanic plug on the NW side of Denoon Glen, a narrow valley at the N end of the Sidlaw Hills. The fort is roughly D-shaped on plan with the chord of the D formed by a long straight rampart that stands above the precipitous SE flank of the hill. It measures 105m from NE to SW by 55m transversely within a rampart that measures up to 17m in thickness and over 5m in external height but is clearly of more than one phase. Where the differentiation is clear, the latest phase of rampart measures about 6m in thickness and overlies the remains of a much thicker earlier rampart. Intermittently visible at the SW end of the fort is an outer face to the later rampart, comprising drystone walling that has, in places, been displaced downslope by the weight of core material behind. This outer face comprises no more than four or five courses of thin sandstone slabs and, although what is currently visible will only be the top of the surviving wall-face, a wall constructed of such material cannot have stoodto  any great height and what we see today is likely to be the remains of some form of comparatively low revetment. In both the earlier and later ramparts there is very little evidence of stone within the core and it appears that the material (boulder clay) for both has largely been derived from several large quarries within the interior of the fort. At the SW corner of the fort most of the rampart has been removed, leaving only the lower part of the outer talus. The fort, or at least its latest phase, had two entrances, one on the NE and another on the NW, both of which are crossed by the remains of a narrow, later, wall that runs around the entire circuit of the fort and may be associated with at least some of the buildings within the interior.

Outwith the main rampart there is a series of three outer ramparts, again with very little evidence for the use of stone in their construction, which run from the edge of the very steep slope at the NE end of the fort, around the N side to the entrance on the NW. All three lines of defence have been reduced to little more than terraces, though there is no evidence for them ever having been cultivated. At the entrance on the NW, the terminals of these ramparts (on both sides of the entrance) are obscured below outwash deposits from the slope above. To the SW of the entrance it is not at all clear what the relationship is between the defences of the fort and the enclosure that occupies the rocky and extremely uneven SW flank of the hill. This enclosure, which has an entrance on the W, could be some form of annexe or it could represent the SW end of an enclosure that once took in both this area and the rest of the summit.

Within the interior of the fort there are the remains of at least nine rectangular buildings, two of them large and open-ended and each overlain by a smaller, later structure. The freestanding buildings are represented by the footings of walls with inner and outer stone faces; close to the entrance on the NE, however, there are two buildings represented by simple rectangular platforms cut into the rear scarp of one of the prehistoric quarries in one case and the hollow of the entrance passage in another. On the N flank of the hill, overlying the outer defences, there are a number of structures, either taking the form of subrectangular structures with walls (and in one case an entrance) or simple scoops into the slope.’

Entrance from the NW

David Dorward’s definition of the name Denoon is from the Gaelic:

‘dun obhainn (+ Scots law) – [hill of the] fort of the streamlet.’

The streamlet is the Ewnie Burn flowing south-east of the Law.

The lush green centre

Folklore

James Cargill Guthrie, in his The Vale of Strathmore: Its Scenes And Legends, gives the following story from an,

early time, weird-like, a legend’s muffled chime ‘.

The Hill of Denoon was at that remote period accounted sacred or haunted ground. It was the mythical abode of the elfins and fairies, and formerly a fitting haunt for their midnight revelries.

When the silvery moonbeams lovingly slept in dreamy beauty on the green slopes of the enchanted Hill, and the blue bells and the purple heather were wet with the dew of angels’ tears, arrayed in gossamer robes of bespangled gold, with wands of dazzling sheen and lances of magical bright-ness, would the troops of elfins flauntingly dance to the music of the zephyrs, until the shrill cry of the chanticleer put an end for the time to their mystical enchantments.

Suddenly, as in blue clouds of vapour, they noiselessly vanished away, no sound remaining to break the oppressive stillness, save that of the mountain rivulet, as it fretfully leapt from crag to crag, as if piteously regretting the mysterious departure of its ethereal visitors.

South-east rampart

Having forsworn the presence and companionship of the terrestrial inhabitants of earth, it was a sacred dictum in the code of the fairies that no habitation for human beings should be permitted to be built within the hallowed precincts of the enchanted ground. Unable of themselves to guard against such sacrilegious encroachment, they had recourse to the aid of, and formed a secret compact with the demons, or evil spirits, whose sole avocation consisted in doing mischief, and bringing trouble and misfortune on those under the ban of their displeasure. By this compact these evil spirits became solemnly bound to prevent any human habitation whatever from being erected on the hill, and to blast in the bud any attempts whensoever and by whomsoever made to break this implacable, unalterable decree.

It was about this time the alarm-note was sounded, as the Queen of the Fairies, who, with an eye more observant than the rest of her compeers, observed one evening in the moon-light, certain indications of the commencement of a human habitation. Horror and dismay were instantly pictured on the fair countenances of the masquerading troops of merry dancers as the awful truth was ominously revealed to them by the recent workmanship of human hands.

The sheer slope to the south-east

A council of war was immediately held, when it was determined to summon at once the guardian spirits to their aid and protection.

“By our sacred compact,” cried the Queen, “I command the immediate attendance of all the demons and evil spirits of the air, to avenge the insult now offered to the legions of Fairyland, and to punish the sacrilegious usurpers who dare infringe the sanctity of their mystical domains.”

These demons instantly obeyed the haughty summons, and, in the presence of those they had sworn to protect, they in a twinkling demolished the structure, hurling the well-proportioned foundations over the steep rock into the vale beneath !

The builder, doubtless very much surprised and chagrined when he returned to his work in the early dawn of the following morning, was sorely puzzled to account for the entire disappearance of the solid foundations of the great castle he intended to be erected on the Hill. He did not, however, waste much time, or use much philosophic argument, on the matter, and gave orders to prepare new foundation of even a more durable character.

The demons, to show their invincible power, and for the sake of more effect, allowed the new foundations to rise a degree higher than the former, before they gave out their fiat of destruction. In an instant, however, they were again demolished, and the builder this time gravely assigning some fatal shock of Nature as the cause of the catastrophe quietly resolved to repair the damage by instantly preparing new and still more solid foundations.

Additional and more highly skilled workmen were engaged, and everything for a time went favourably on, the walls of the castle rising grandly to view in all the solidity and beauty of the favourite architecture of the period.

Biding their time, the demons again ruthlessly swept away as with a whirlwind every vestige of the spacious halls, razing the solid massy foundations so effectually that not one stone was left upon another !

Things were now assuming a rather serious aspect for the poor builder, who, thinking that he had at last hit upon the true cause of these successive disasters, attributed his misfortunes to the influence of evil spirits. A man of courage and a match, as he imagined, for all the evil spirits of Pandemonium, supposing they were let loose at once against him by the Prince of Darkness, he unhesitatingly resolved to keep watch and ward on the following night, and to defy all the hosts of hell to prevent him rebuilding the projected edifice. The night expected came ; but, alas, alas !

His courage failed when on the blast
A demon swift came howling past,
Loud screeching wild and fearfully,
This ominous, dark, prophetic cry
“Build not on this enchanted ground !
‘Tis sacred all these hills around ;
Go build the castle in a bog,
Where it will neither shake nor shog !”‘

So, if you are planning to visit Denoon Law – remember: RESPECT THE FAERIES!

References:

  1. Guthrie, James Cargill, The Vale of Strathmore: Its Scenes And Legends, Edinburgh, William Patterson, 1875.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Central Angus, Angus District, Tayside Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 18. Edinburgh, 1983.
  3. Dorward, David, The Sidlaw Hills, Forfar, The Pinkfoot Press, 2004.

©Paul T Hornby 2018

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Chapel Well, Berryhill, Bankfoot, Perthshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 02179 34749

Also Known as:

  1. Beltane Well
  2. Canmore ID 27045

Getting Here

Note the position of the Well vis-a-vis the wall and the burn.

I accessed the site by parking up at Little Tullybelton, walking up the hill and crossing into the field on the left just north of the wood, then walking due west (crossing barbed wire fences) until dropping down into the valley of the Ordie Burn and following the track into the wood, then, noting where the burn crosses south of the old stone wall. The site of the well is marked by some tussocks of cotton grass. Don’t confuse with a patch of nettles and docks 2-300 hundred yards east where you enter the wood.

Archaeology & History

All that remains is a clump of Cotton Grass.

This well was destroyed about 170 years ago and the site of it is quite hard to find as the land has been turned over to forestry. It was near a chapel and burial ground that were also destroyed by the farmer of the time. The old wall formed part of the boundary of the detached portion or enclave of the neighbouring parish of Methven.

The Reverend Thomas Nelson, Minister of the Parish of Auchtergaven, has this to say in the New Statistical Account of 1845;

Superstition formerly invested St Bryde’s, and Chapel Well, and perhaps some others, with a sacred character, and made then places of resort for pious purposes.

‘On the south march of Berryhill Farm, in the same lands of Tullybeagles, there is the site of.. a chapel, where there was a burying-place, where human bones have been recently dug up; and, till of late, the people in the neighbourhood used, on the first Sabbath of May, to drink out of the Holy Well there. This sacred place is on the banks of the Ordie.’

The OS Name Book has the following entry regarding the Well: 

The site of a Holy Well which has been traditionally associated with the adjacent chapel. The water of this well is now carried by a covered drain into the adjacent stream, and the well filled in‘.

And this regarding the Chapel: 

Part of the ancient roadway to the Well and Chapel

The site of an ancient chapel on the north bank of the Ordie Burn, the chapel was demolished and the graveyard rooted up some years ago by the present tenant of the farm, who has pointed out the site, the dedicatory name is not known‘.

I could find no evidence of the culvert which discharges the waters of the Well into the Burn. What does seem to have been missed is the survival of part of the ancient sunken roadway or pilgrim path to the site, which is still clearly visible.
The fact that it was visited by locals on the first Sabbath in May would point to it having originally been a Beltane well, and therefore of pre-Christian origin.

References:

  1. The New Statistical Account for Auchtergaven, Perthshire, 1845
  2. Ordnance Survey Name Books for Perthshire, 1859-6

© Paul T Hornby 2018

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St. Finglassin’s Well, Kinglassie, Fife

Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NT 22797 98814

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 52894
  2. St Finglassin’s Well 
  3. St Glass’s Well 

Finglassins Well on early OS-map

Getting Here

In Kinglassie village, from the Main Street follow Redwells Road and turn right where it forks and follow the track until you get to the derelict ground; then turn left up the slope, following the eastern (right hand) edge of the wall up to the well.

Archaeology & History

Under its bower of hawthorn & elder

Sheltered under its bower of hawthorn and elder bushes, at a distance it has the romantic look of an ancient holy well.  But close up, the spring issuing from Finglassins Well shows evidence of having been connected up to the public water supply, with ugly brickwork and pipes obliterating any previous structures that may or may not have existed there. There even seems to be doubt as to its name. Ordnance Survey and Nicolson Street Atlas show it as ‘Finglassins Well’. According to the Canmore citation, which lists it as ‘St Finglassin’s Well’ or ‘St. Glass’s Well’:

This spring is now piped into a trough. There are several boulders nearby but no dressed stone and it is doubtful if there was ever any structure here. It is known by both names.

A well of fine water…

Past industrial despoilation..

So who was the patronal saint, who is remembered variously as Finglassin, Glass, Glascianus, and Glastian? There seems to be some difference of opinion among the various sources, even as to whether any saint existed at all.  Alban Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, tells:

“St. Glastian, Bishop and Confessor in Scotland: HE was a native of the county of Fife, and discharged in the same, during many years, the duties of the episcopal character with which he was honoured. Amidst the desolation which was spread over the whole country, in the last bloody civil war between the Scots and Picts, in which the latter were entirely subdued, St. Glastian was the comforter, spiritual father, and most charitable protector of many thousands of both nations. He died in 830, at Kinglace in Fifeshire, and was particularly honoured in that country, and in Kyntire. According to the ancient custom of that country, his name is frequently written Mac-Glastian, the word Mac signifying son.”

Bishop Forbes of Brechin, writing of St Glascianus in Kalendars of Scottish Saints:

“Of the life of the saint we have no details. The collect in the Breviary runs in these terms – ‘Grant we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we, who celebrate the anniversary of blessed Glascianus, Thy confessor and bishop, may by the intercession of his devout prayers, be deemed meet to attain to eternal joys through out Lord’ He is known in the parish of Kinglassie (or Kinglassin), near Kirkcaldy, of which frequent mention is made in the Register of Dunfermline.”

In the Old Statistical Account of 1792, Reverend James Reid, writing of the origins of Kinglassie:

“It is the opinion of some, that the name is originally Gaelic, and expressive of the situation; others trace it from a saint, whose name was Glass, and point out a well of fine water, called St. Glass’s well.”

Reverend J.M.Cunnynghame, in the New Statistical Account of 1845 wrote:

“While some have supposed that the village after which the parish is called, derives its appellation from a spring denominated St Glass’s Well, others, with apparently greater reason, have traced the name to Gaelic words signifying the ‘head of grey land’. This idea seems to be corroborated by the large extant of inundated, marshy, and mixed surface which….still stretches itself to the immediate vicinity of the village. The preferable conjecture concerning the the derivation of the name acquires additional support from the circumstance, that a locality, somewhat elevated above the channel, along which the water runs from the swamp alluded to, has received the appropriate designation of ‘Finglassie’ signifying the ‘termination of the gray land, or mixed bog.”

W.J.Watson, in The Celtic Place Names of Scotland gives the derivation of Kinglassie from the gaelic ‘cill glaise’ – ‘church of the brook’, and further:

“A well near the church is known as St Glass’s Well or St Finglassin’s Well. Here again, the stream ‘glais’ on which the church stands has been made into a saint; Findgassin is ‘find glaisín’ – ‘holy streamlet’. Near the church is an eminence called Finmont, for ‘finn monad’, later ‘fionn mhonadh’ – ‘white hill’, here probably ‘holy hill’. The real saint of Kinglassie is unknown.”

A closer view

I am inclined to discount Cunnynghame’s laboured interpretation in view of Watson’s later linguistic analysis, as well as bearing in mind he was a minister of a Kirk that went out of its way to deny and denigrate the native pre-Reformation saints. Because of its position and ambience despite past industrial despoilation, I am inclined to a saintly attribution to the well, which as in so many cases in Scotland has lost its true history owing to the depredations of the Reformation. If Watson’s interpretation of ‘Finmont’, ½ mile north-east of the well, is indeed ‘Holy Hill’ then Finglassins Well may have been a part of an ancient, perhaps heathen ritual landscape.

References:

  1. Reid, James, Parish of Kinglassie, Old Statistical Account, Fife, 1792.
  2. Cunnynghame, J.M. Parish of Kinglassie, New Statistical Account , Fife, 1845.
  3. Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers,Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, James Duffy: Dublin 1866.
  4. Forbes, Bishop A.P., Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmiston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1872.
  5. Watson, W.J., The Celtic Place Names of Scotland, (revised edition), Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2004 (originally published 1926).

© Paul T. Hornby 2018

Posted in Fife & Kinross, Holy Wells, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment