St. Patrick’s Well, Dunruchan, Muthill, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 77905 17365

Getting Here

St Patricks Well on 1863 map

Take the B827 road between Comrie and Braco. If you’re coming via Comrie, going uphill for 3.1 miles (5.1km); but if from Braco Roman Camp go along and eventually downhill for 6.6 miles (10.6km), watching out for the track to Middleton Farm by the roadside.  Walk along for 125 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the boggy ground below on your left. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Immediately east of the prodigious megalithic complex of Dunruchan, bubbling up amidst the usual Juncus conglomeratus reeds, are the boggy remnants of St. Patrick’s Well—one of two such sacred wells dedicated to the early Irish saint in Muthill parish. We’re at a loss as to why this Irish dood has such sites in his name in this area.  No doubt some transitional shamanic character was doing the rounds in this glorious landscape, muttering words of some neo-christian animism, eventually settling a mile from the great megalithic complex, perhaps hoping—and failing—to convert our healthy heathen populace into ways unwise.

The site of St Patricks Well

The shallow boggy waters

Whatever he may have been up to, a small stone chapel was built hereby and, it was said, even a christian graveyard, to tempt folk away from the ancient plain of cairns whence our ancestors had long since buried their dead.  But the christian’s chapel and graveyard has long since gone; and when historians before me had visited the place, St Patrick’s Well had also fallen back to Earth in the drier summers, taking the blood of the Earth back into Her body.  The heathen megaliths still remain however, standing proud on the moorland plain in clear sight from these once healing waters, whose mythic history, on the whole, has long since been disregarded….

Folklore

St Partick’s day on March 17—”a date very near the Spring Equinox,” as Mrs Banks (1939) reminded us—may have been the dates when the waters here were deemed particularly efficacious, although we have nothing in written accounts to tell us for sure. But in the 19th century Statistical Account we find that the site was “much frequented once, as effectual in curing the hooping cough.”  E.J. Guthrie (1885) told of an ancient rite regarding the drinking of the waters for effect of the cure, saying:

“In the course of this century a family came from Edinburgh, a distance of nearly sixty miles, to have the benefit of the well. The water must be drunk before sunrise or immediately after it sets and that out of a “quick cow’s horn”, or a horn taken from a live cow, and probably dedicated to this saint.”

Also in Muthill parish, Guthrie told, St Patrick’s memory was held in such veneration that farmers and millers did not work on his day.

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
  2. Booth, C. Gordon, “St Patrick’s Well (Muthill Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, New Series volume 1, 2000.
  3. Guthrie, E.J., Old Scottish Customs, Thomas D. Morison: Glasgow 1885.
  4. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  5. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Patricks Well

loading map - please wait...

St Patricks Well 56.332868, -3.976376 St Patricks Well

Giant’s Knowe, Culloch, Muthill, Perthshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 7848 1762

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24797
  2. Crock-nafion
  3. Fingalian’s Knowe

Archaeology & History

Landscape of the Giant's Knowe (image credit, Marion Woolley)
Landscape of the Giant’s Knowe (image credit, Marion Woolley)

Amidst the colourful and nurturing landscape close to the gigantic Dunruchan standing stones and just along the road from the solitary Craigneich stone, in the field across the road above Straid farmhouse could once be seen a fascinating-sounding prehistoric site that has sadly been destroyed.  Some of the remains of this old monument can be found in the field-clearance of stones just over the fence, above the top of the field (many fields round here have scatterings of large stone clearings at the field edges), but we have no detailed accounts of the site.  It was mentioned in early notes by the Ordnance Survey to have been,

“A large circular heap of small stone and gravel entirely removed in 1831. An urn filled with ashes and several stone coffins were found under it.”

The local historian John Shearer (1883) later told us that,

“A small mound of earth on the farm of Strayd, called Crock-nafion or the Giant’s Knowe, or the Fingalian’s Knowe, was cleared away several years ago.  An urn containing burnt bones was discovered.”

Any additional information about this site and its folklore, would be greatly appreciated.

Folklore

To the west along Glen Artney whence our view takes us from here, old legend told that the valley was once the abode of a great giant who lived in a cave in one of the mountains thereby.  In mythic lore, giants were the creation deities of hills, mountains and other geological forms, whose narratives were overturned and demonized by the incoming christian cult many centuries ago.  It is likely that this once great tomb was deemed as the burial-place of our local giant – which would make this prehistoric site neolithic in age. But — logical though it is — this idea is pure speculation…

References:

  1. Hunter, John, Chronicles of Strathearn, David Philips: Crieff 1896.
  2. Shearer, John, Antiquities of Strathearn, David Philips: Crieff, 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Giant's Knowe

loading map - please wait...

Giant\'s Knowe 56.335363, -3.967143 Giant\'s Knowe