St. Ouret’s Well, Brechin, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 5869 5904

Getting Here

‘Spring’ in enclosure shewn lower right on 1865 map

‘Spring’ in woodland, lower right on 1865 map

Travel north towards Brechin on the B9134, and cross the River South Esk at Stannochy Bridge.  Immediately after crossing the bridge, go through the double tubular steel gates to your right, descend the steep slope and walk along the boundary fence dividing the riverside field from the sloping woodland until you reach a tubular steel pedestrian gate. Go through this gate, over the burn and keep walking 150 yards or so to the right and St. Ouret’s Well is seen near the top of the slope.

Archaeology & History

Alexander Penrose Forbes, Bishop of Brechin wrote in 1872 :

Ouret – Close to Brechin, on the north bank of the Esk, near the Stannochy Bridge, is S.Ouret’s Well.”

IMG_6476

The issue of the spring that flows south into a burn that flows into the river South Esk

Perusal of the 25″ OS map of 1865 shows an enclosure marked ‘spring’ with a short pathway to the north-east, as the only water feature answering the written description. My field visit just over a century and a half later found a spring issuing at that point from the embankment, with the remains of old rough stone walling on either side of the spring. There was no sign of the pathway. The walling around an otherwise unremarkable spring located away from habitation would imply to me that this is the Saint’s Well.

As the good Bishop mentions the Well as the last entry in the Auctaria of his 1872 book—an afterthought as you will—it seems reasonable that the knowledge of St. Ouret and his well may have been at that time on the point of oblivion. The well is not noted as such by the earlier Ordnance Survey map,  nor can I find his name in any other of the hagiographies at my disposal.

IMG_6472

On both sides of the well, old walling is still visible

Intriguingly, ‘Ouret’ is a modern Basque surname, and while it is tempting to think of a Basque Holy Man walking the Pictland, the name is more likely a transliteration into Scots from a now lost Pictish or Gaelic name. Or possibly, the name has pre-Christian origins as a corruption of the Gaelic ùruisg , meaning inter alia ‘water god’ ‘diviner’. Unless anyone can add more.

A mile or so south of here is the holy well of St. Murdoch.

References:

  1. Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas: Edinburgh 1872.
  2. Dwelly, Edward, Gaelic – English Dictionary, Garmin Publications: Glasgow 1988

© Paul T. Hornby,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SC046359

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Angus, Holy Wells, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to St. Ouret’s Well, Brechin, Angus

  1. sunbright57 says:

    Sounds like a French saint. Maybe Breton?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s