Temple Tree, Templeton, Newtyle, Angus

Sacred Tree: OS Grid Reference – NO 31339 42894

Getting Here

The tree is at Templeton on the west hand side of the Newtyle to Balkeerie Road travelling north, just before the bend in the road at Templeton Farm.

Archaeology & History

The only written record of the tree is in Strathmore Past and Present by the Reverend J.G. M’Pherson (1885): 

Standing Proud

“After driving two miles eastward from the village of Newtyle along a most excellent level road, we enter the united parishes of Eassie and Nevay.  The time-honoured boundary-mark is a conspicuous old ash, which popularly goes by the name of the Temple-tree. Tradition cannot guess its age. It is of considerable diameter, but quite hollow from the ground upwards for twenty feet. The bark is stripped off in several parts, and the thin shell of wood exposed is quite worm eaten; here and there being quite worn through, forming a rude door and rugged windows for the weird like interior.

“Large branches spread out, half dead-and-alive, with some foliage, scantily furnished with the life-giving root-sap. Could it speak it would tell of many a strange incident in its vicinity or underneath its arms. Its appearance might almost take one back to the time when the Templars left the neighbourhood; thus fixing its curious appellation”.

Sadly the tree described in the above quotation from 1885 has perished, but, just as it was not growing at the time of the Knights Templars’ local involvement, it is not unreasonable to speculate that it was a daughter of an ash tree that had formed a parish boundary marker of the original estate at the time of the Templars or even before.  And now a daughter tree of that venerable 1885 tree grows in its place, the Temple-tree of the present day.

Various writers have attested to the Templar presence in Meigle, indeed M’Pherson writes:

“When the Knight Templars were in pomp…they had considerable interest in Meigle, several lands in the parish still being known as the Temple Lands. We prefer this derivation to the common one of templum, any religious house”.

In describing the now famous Meigle Pictish stones in the New Statistical Account, the Reverend William Ramsay (1845) writes;

“…A more satisfactory account of them has been suggested by Captain T.P. Mitchell, …He considers them as neither more nor less than the monuments of the Knights Templars, who unquestionably had a burying-ground at Meigle”.

While Mitchell was wrong in his attribution of the carved stones, he was clearly aware of the continuing memory of the Templars.

Modern research has shown that many of the Templar estates and lands in Scotland remained as separate fiscal entities within the Hospitaller lands up until at least the Reformation, which may explain the enduring Templar nomination of our tree.

Note: The tree formed the 19th century boundary of the parishes of Eassie and Nevay to the north, and Newtyle, both in Angus.  We must assume the Templar lands boundary has been incorporated into the later parish system.

Note: This is not a clooty tree – please treat her with respect.

References:

  1. Rev William Ramsay, Parish of Alyth, The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845. 
  2. Rev J.G. M’Pherson, Strathmore Past and Present, S. Cowan & Co: Perth, 1885. 
  3. Robert Ferguson, The Knights Templar And Scotland, The History Press: Stroud 2010

© Paul T Hornby 2020, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.572946, -3.119094 Temple Tree

Torrnacloch, Dalbog, Edzell, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 5871 7189

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35190

Archaeology & History

‘Site of’ stone circle, 1865

When the Ordnance Survey lads visited this area in 1860, they stood upon this small knoll that was known as Torrnacloch – or the Knoll of the Stone.  They were informed that a ring of stones had stood here, but had been destroyed about 1840, apparently by a local farmer.  The stones were described as being about 3 feet high.  They subsequently added it on the earliest OS-map of the area, but also made note that a cist was found within the site.  The circle was included and classed as a stone circle in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus, but had previously been classed as a cairn with “a kerb of large boulders” by the Royal Commission doods. (1983)  They based their assessment on the appearance of some of the stones found on a gravel mound behind the farm which had apparently been removed from the circle when it was destroyed.  Andrew Jervise (1853) gave us the following account:

“The Chapelry of Dalbog was on the east side of the parish, due west of Neudos.  The time of its suppression is unknown; and though no vestige of any house remains, the site of the place of worship is still called the “chapel kirk shed” by old people, and, in the memory of an aged informant, a fine well and hamlet of houses graced the spot.  This field adjoins the hillock of Turnacloch, or “the knoll of stones,” which was probably so named, from being topped in old times by a so-called Druidical circle, the last of the boulders of which were only removed in 1840.  Some of them decorate a gravel mound behind the farm house; and, on levelling the knoll on which they stood, a small sepulchral chamber was discovered, about four feet below the surface. The sides, ends, and bottom, were built of round ordinary sized whinstones, cemented with clay, and the top composed of large rude flags.  It was situate on the sunny side of the knoll, within the range of the circle; but was so filled with gravel, that although carefully searched, no relics were found.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Jervise, Anrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. MacLaren, A. et al, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.836629, -2.678338 Torrnacloch

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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  56.587005, -3.052467 Denoon Law hillfort

Culhawk Hill, Kirriemuir, Angus

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NO 3530 5620

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 32209

Getting Here

The largest stone in the ring

From Kirriemuir central, head up the Kinnordy road, going straight across the main road and continuing past the Kinnordy turn-off for just over a mile towards Mearns, stopping where a small copse of trees appears on your left.  From here, walk along the track to the west. It goes gradually uphill, cutting through a small cleft with a hillfort on the north and a cairn circle on the south until, ⅔-mile along, you reach the moorland.  Keep going on the same path for another ½-mile west where the grasslands level out.  Here, on the flat bit between the two hills, a small incomplete ring of stones lives, with one stone sticking out.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

This is a curious site on several levels—not least, that its definition as a ‘stone circle’ is a fragile one; although to be honest, we do find here a large unfinished arc of stones in what looks like either an unfinished ring, or a deliberately constructed large arc.  But you won’t find it in the standard megalithic gazetteers of Burl, Barnatt or Thom as it was only relocated in the 1980s by local researchers Sherriff and MacKnight. (1985)  They didn’t have much to say about it either, simply telling that they’d found,

“A stone setting representing the remains of either a denuded cairn or a stone circle lies in the saddle between Culhawk Hill and Castle Hill. One erect and 4 prone boulders describe a portion of a roughly circular site some 10m in diameter.”

Arc of fallen stones, looking NE

Faint low ring, looking W

This is roughly the gist of it, with the largest and most prominent of the stones—barely three feet tall—standing on the western side (this is the stone which draws your attention – otherwise you’d never even notice it).  The rest of the stones seem to have been knocked down some time ago.  A barely discernible embankment constructed around the edge of the ring can be seen around the northern side.  It seems unlikely that it was a cairn, as no inner piles of stones were in evidence when we visited the site.  It may be a large hut circle.  But in truth it could do with an excavation so that we can suss out its exact nature.  Beneath the grasses we found an additional stone to those counted by Sherriff & MacKnight; but more intriguing is what Frank Mercer and I found before we even reached the small circle….

Trackway leading to the circle

More visibly distinct than the ring itself were two artificial raised embankments, running parallel with each other 3-4 yards apart.  The raised edges of these embankments were about a yard across, on both sides, with the inner area slightly lower than the outlying natural background.  These distinct linear earthworks are, quite simply, an early medieval or prehistoric trackway—and it leads directly into the circle!  It’s quite unmistakable and is clearly visible as it drops down the slope to the south and away into the fields below.  Sadly when we found it last week, darkness was falling and so we didn’t trace the trackway any further.  But the most notable thing was that it stopped at the circle and did not continue on its northern side, implying that it was constructed with the circle as its deliberate focal point.  The trackway and its embankments are roughly the same size as other recognized prehistoric routes, such as Elkington’s Track on Ilkley Moor and the other ancient causeway that runs past the prehistoric ring known as Roms Law.

Regarding the ring of stones: unless you’re a real megalith fanatic, you’ll probably be disappointed by what you see here.  It’s a bittova long wander to something that may once have been just a hut circle, but the avenue leading up to it is something else – and much more intriguing!

References:

  1. Sherriff, John R. & MacKnight, O., “Culhawk Hill (Kirriemuir p): Stone Setting,” in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1985.

Acknowledgements:  Thanks as always to Nina Harris and Frank Mercer; and to Paul Hornby for use of his photos.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.693039, -3.058092 Culhawk Hill stone circle

St. Murdoch’s Well, Brechin, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 5840 5682

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 34760

Location of the Well

Location of the Well

Getting Here

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.

Looking into the waters

Looking into the waters

The small run-off from the well

The clear waters of the well

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.

References:

  1. Barrett, Dom Michael, A Calendar of Scottish Saints, Abbey Press, Fort Augustus 1919.
  2. Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh 1872.
  3. 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

 

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  56.701166, -2.680800 St Murdoch\'s Well

St. Mary’s Well, Lethnot, Edzell, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference — NO 5425 6814

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35005

Getting Here

General view of the site

Turn left in Kirkton of Menmuir towards Bridgend past the giant hillfort and rock art of White Caterthun, cross the Bridge of Lethnot, and continue to the holiday caravan park at Drumcairn, where you can park up.  Walk along the farm track on the south side of the caravan park and enter the field through the steel gate, and keep walking along the edge of the field  until you come to the spring below the old manse.

Archaeology and History

In the Ordnance Survey’s Name Book of 1857, the well is described as:

 ‘…a spring emitting from the foot of a natural bank. There is no built-up well about it.’

Andrew Jervise (1882) writes in his History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays,

…the Blessed Virgin was patron of Lethnot, and, during the incumbency of the late Mr Symers, several votive offerings, consisting of pieces of silver money, were found in the fountain near the church, which still bears the name of St.Mary’s Well…”

W.J Watson in his classic The Celtic Place Names of Scotland:

“..in Forfarshire is Navar, now Lethnot and Navar (the parish in which the Well stands)..the first part is doubtless nemed…”

Watson defines ‘nemed‘ as a derivative of nemeton – “a sacred place”, or “an institution originally pagan, taken over by the Church.”

C.P. Will, writes of the parish of Lethnot and Navar, in which the well stands:

Heifers drinking the holy waters

Site on the 1865 map

“..they record the existence here of an early settlement of the Celtic Christian church…Lethnot means Half-churchland, one portion of it, or as we might now say, one of two glebes…while Navar is Churchland-head, the top or extreme part of it, or Glebe-land. The two are complementary as to situation… Ultimately each had its parish church, the buildings being less than a mile apart and in full view one from the other, The “nemet” appearing in both names was a pagan shrine and, as such spots were commonly taken over by the Church on the advent of Christianity, the subsequent Gaelic neimheadh and neimhead came to mean a church site with the lands belonging to the church, latterly accepted as equivalent to glebe.”

On the day of my field visit, the field in which the spring flows was occupied by skittish cattle who spent their time drinking, so I didn’t get close up to it, but it appears that any housing to the spring has been removed.

Visible to the south are the hillforts of White and Brown Caterthun; and 1¾ miles south east of St Mary’s Well, on the southern slope of the Brown Caterthun is the site of the Hermitage Notre Domine Maria de Kilgery, while its sub chapel and adjoining Lady Well of Chapelton in Menmuir are 2¾ miles away to the south-east, which may suggest a pre-Christian ritual landscape dedicated to one of the Earth goddesses.

References:

  1. Jervise, Andrew,  The History and Traditions of the Land of The Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1882
  2. Jervise, Andrew, “Notices of the Localities of the Sculptured Stone Monuments at St Vigeans, Inchbrayoch, Pitmuies, and Menmuir, in Angus and of Fordoun in the Mearns – part IV,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 2, 1855-56.
  3. Watson, William J., The History of the Celtic Place Names of Scotland, Birlinn: Edinburgh 2004.
  4. Will, C.P., Place Names of Northeast Angus, privately printed: Edzell 1963.

© Paul T. Hornby 2016, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.802533, -2.750667 St Mary\'s Well

St. Aidan’s Well, Kirkton in Menmuir, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference — NO 5339 6413

Also Known as:

  1. St. Iten’s Well 
  2. Canmore ID 35137

Getting Here

The spring seems to be on a modern property boundary

The spring seems to be on a modern property boundary

Just before entering Kirkton from Fearn, turn right down the minor road to Lochty. Park up just beyond the southern boundary of the woodland on the left and enter the field on the left, and follow the line of woodland on your left until you come to a break in the barbed wire protected by a tube of sponge rubber. Cross here into the old woodland and keep walking until you reach the top of a slope. Turn 45° to your left and walk down the slope among recently planted trees, and the spring will be seen at the bottom, bubbling into a pond.

 Archaeology and History

The Well shown on the 1865 6" OS Map

The Well shown on the 1865 6″ OS Map

The well was named after St. Aidan, the first Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died in 651, and whose Saint’s Day is 31st August. It was possibly named by his successor, St. Colman of Lindisfarne, who is believed to have sojourned in the area following the Synod of Whitby in 664

According to Jervise’s Land of the Lindsays, quoted on the Scotland’s Places website:

A fountain near the church, now lost by drainage, long preserved his (St. Aidan’s) name in the metamorphosed form of St. Iten, and was believed to perform miraculous cures on such as were afflicted with asthma and cutaneous diseases’.

The OS Name Book notes;

The spring was bubbling vigorously on the day of my visit

The spring was bubbling vigorously on the day of my visit

‘The place where the well was can be seen in the hollow which it has left. The water issues from a spout at the roadside, of which some care seems to have been taken as it is built around’.

Since that was written in the mid nineteenth century, the topography of the vicinity of the well has changed, and no trace of any previous building was visible to me. Prior to my locating the well, I enquired about it from a local who said it had ‘gone’ and no-one knew where it had been.

The spring now issues into a recently constructed pond

The spring now issues into a recently constructed pond

On my late winter field visit, the spring was bubbling away strongly, and was deliciously clean tasting.  I felt it had a spirit of its own, which of course it did before the Christian times.  I noticed that the barbed wire surrounding the area of the well had been broken down in a couple of places, and sponge rubber protection put over it. Maybe it is not just Northern Antiquaries who visit, and there are local people who still celebrate the old well….

References:

  1. Forbes, Alexander Penrose, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh 1872.
  2. Cardinal Patrick Moran, Irish Saints in Great Britain, M.H.Gill and Son & Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 1879
  3. http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk

© Paul T. Hornby 2016 The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.766572, -2.764083 St Aidan\'s Well

 

St. Ouret’s Well, Brechin, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 5869 5904

Getting Here

‘Spring’ shown 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.”

The spring flows south into a burn then 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.

Old walling still visible low down

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

 

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  56.721122, -2.676627 St Ouret’s Well

Templelands, Auchterhouse, Angus

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 355 360

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 31855

Archaeology & History

In Mason Inglis’ (1888) fascinating history of the village of Auchterhouse, he describes a number of prehistoric antiquarian remains—some destroyed, others still in place.  But this old ring of stones is another of our ancient monuments that has fallen in the wake of the Industrialists with their ‘progress’ and ecocide.  Mr Inglis told,

“South of the Templelands another group of these mysterious circular stone relics of pagan times at one time stood, and was also held in much regard, and recognized as an ancient place of worship.  This group, however, unfortunately was demolished during excavations for railway purposes.”

He goes on to describe the finding of other prehistoric tombs and “unhewn slabs…in regular rows and at equal distances apart” in the same area.  It seems that many of these have also been destroyed.

References:

  1. Inglis, W. Mason, Annals of an Angus Parish, John Leng: Dundee 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.511821, -3.049642 Templelands stone circle

Tods Stone, Monifieth, Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 486 339?

Archaeology & History

The only reference I can find about this site is in A.J. Warden’s (1880) massive survey of the county of Angus—previously called ‘Forfarshire’—where, in his discussion of the hillforts of the area, he told us that,

“About a quarter of a mile distant from The Laws is the Gallow Hill of Ethiebeaton.  In a field, a little to the south, there formerly stood a large upright stone called Tods Stone.”

All trace of it disappeared when quarrying operations were undertaken there, also destroying a number of prehistoric tombs close by.  The monolith may have had some association with the tombs, but we cannot be certain.

The name of the stone, tods, probably derives from the word ‘foxes’, although we cannot be certain of this either, as there are a variety of other Scottish dialect words relating to ‘tod’that may have had bearing on the name.

If anyone has any further information about this long lost site, we would gladly welcome it.

References:

  1. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 9, SNDA: Edinburgh 1973.
  2. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire – volume 1, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1880.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.494765, -2.837092 Tods Stone