Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NO 5840 5682
Also Known as:
The well is situated at the roadside on a grassed area at West Drum Cottages, to the east of the minor road from Hillhead of Burghill to Westerton of Aldbar, south of Brechin. The spring issues into a small circular pool, which drains as a burn southwards.
Archaeology & History
James Murray Mackinlay wrote in 1904:
“Murdoch – probably the St Mordouch invoked among the martyrs of the Dunkeld Litany……if we may believe Dempster [Thomas Dempster, 1579-1625 – Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotarum, “Ecclesiastical History of the Scottish Nation.” Bologna 1627], who says that he was a hermit, and had a humble cell near a certain lake in Argyll, his cell being called Kilmurdah. Dempster further says that there was a life of the saint in nine lections, and that the events narrated in it were depicted on the walls of his cell. He is described as the last of the bards, and is said to have lived about 800 a.d.”
Dom Michael Barrett described Murdoch as a bishop, and wrote further in 1919 :
“No very reliable particulars can be ascertained as to the life of this saint. Traces of the honour shown to him are to be found in Forfarshire, the district which seems to have been the scene of his missionary labours. At Ethie, in the parish of Inverkeilor, in that county, are the remains of an ancient church and burial-ground which bear his name.”
Near Ethiebeaton, in the parish of Monifieth, are traces of an old church which goes by the name of ‘Chapel Dockie’. This is believed to be another dedication in honour of St. Murdoch.”
Murdoch may be an anglicisation of either Muireadhach, now Murray, or Muircheartach, which is now Murtough. Murdoch’s Saint’s day is 2nd September, but 5th October and 23rd December have also been given. And Barrett also writes of a Saint Moroc, who, if what Mackinlay writes is correct, may be the same person as St Murdoch.
The spring was flowing strongly on the sunny February day of my visit, but its neat appearance gives no idea of it being a Saint’s Well to the passing traveller, who would probably think it to be just a pleasant water feature of the garden of the adjacent house. Perhaps there should be some representations made to the local tourist office for a sign to be placed by the well.
A mile or so to the north, hiding at the edge of a small copse of trees, is the little known holy well of St. Ouret.
- Barrett, Dom Michael, A Calendar of Scottish Saints, Abbey Press, Fort Augustus 1919.
- Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh 1872.
- Mackinlay, James Murray, Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-Names, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh & London 1904.
© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2016