Sacred Well: OS Grid Reference – NO 19430 14758
Also Known as:
From Abernethy village, go west along the A913 road for half-a-mile, then turn left up the long and winding Glenfoot road up the Abernethy Glen. About a mile up on your left-side is Craigden Farm and, just a bit past this, the forestry plantation. Just before the trees, cut up the field and head uphill, passing the near forest of gorse, until you reach the huge detached house of Turflundie. In the field immediately east, right up against the barbed-wire fence where it meets the depleted forestry, a very small trickle of water emerges beneath a small pile of rocks. You’re here!
Archaeology & History
Long since thought to have been lost, the trickling remains of this old Well of the Devil are, in fact, still running beneath the pile of stones just over the barbed-wire fence on the edge of the forestry section. A cluster of other worn rounded rocks scatter the ground just to the rear of where the water first comes out of the ground, suggesting, perhaps, that a small well-house covered the spring; but this is me being speculative, as there’s no mention of this in the early writings of the Ordnance Survey lads, nor is one shown on the first OS-map of the area in 1860. And you’ll see on the OS-map how the well is slightly lower than where it presently trickles, but this is down to the fact that the source of it was piped-off at sometime in the not-too-distant past, as evidenced by remains of such piping laying just over the barbed-wire fence close to the source. In truth, unless you’re hardcore, there’s very little to see.
The dedication of this water-site to the christian ‘devil’ is obviously a corruption of its original traditional name, which may have simply been to the Bodach, or ‘Old Man’ in Gaelic and northern British lore. The bodach‘s consort is the great prima Mater of the northern realms known as the Cailleach, but I can find no dedication to Her anywhere nearby. The best we have are the ‘Witches Graves’ a half-mile to the northwest, below the edge of the geological ridge overlooking Abernethy, where folklore tells us 22 women were murdered and buried by the local christians several centuries ago.
In the Ordnance Name Book of 1859, they recorded that,
“A small Spring well on the farm of Turflundie, so called from the mark of a cloven hoof on a near, supposed to have been made by his Satanic majesty when he stopped to quench his thirst at this well during some of his midnight rambles.”
There’s no apt word that follows the word “near”, but assume it was meant to be a “stone,” although we could find no such stone close by and there are no known petroglyphs that could account for that ingredient.
- Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian