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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