St. Serf’s Well, Crieff, Perthshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NN 8457 2323

Archaeology & History

St Serfs Well on 1866 map

A mile to the west side of Crieff, in the grounds of the 18th century mansion known as Ochtertyre House, could once be seen the little-known sacred well of St Serf.  Sadly its waters seem to have disappeared beneath the rising waters of the loch known as St Serf’s Waters—which is a pity, as the place was of importance in the annual traditions of the local people, who left offerings to the spirit of the place, as was common in days of olde.  It was described in Mr Porteous’ (1822) account of Monzievaird parish, in which he told that,

“Nigh to this place is St Serf’s Well, and the moor whereon St Serf’s market is held.  He was the tutelary saint of the parish of Monivaird.  This well is a plentiful spring of water.  About sixty years ago, our people were wont, on Lammas day, to go and drink it, leaving white stones, spoons, or rags, which they brought with them; but nothing except the white stones now appear, this superstitious practice being quite in oblivion.  It has been useful in a strangury, as any other very cold water would be; for a patient, taking a tub full of it immediately from the well, plunging his arms into it, which were bare to the elbows, was cured.

“St Serf’s fair is still kept on the 11th of July, where Highland horses, linen cloth, etc., both from the south and north, are sold.”

Although the well is deemed to be ‘lost’, it is possible that its waters might be seen after a good drought.  Please let us know if that happens.

Folklore

St. Serf was said to have been a hermit and tutor of the more renowned St. Mungo.

References:

  1. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  2. Porteous, A., “Extracts from a History of the Parishes of Monivaird and Strowan“, in Archaeologia Scotica, volume 2, 1822.

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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  56.387202, -3.871200 St Serf\'s Well

St. Oswald’s Well, Cathcart, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 5883 6056

Also Known as:

  1. Kirk Well

Archaeology & History

St Oswald, or the Kirk Well, on 1863 OS-map
St Oswald, or the Kirk Well, on 1863 OS-map

St. Oswald’s Well was described in Hew Scott’s (1920) magnum opus as being  beside the parish church of the same name, but other references to it are scant.  An old well-house was built besides or over the waters, which subsequently became known as the Kirk Well due to its proximity to the church, 125 yards to the northwest.  All trace of it appears to have gone.  The road to the west of the site also 125 yards away, called Kirkwell Road, seems to be the last piece of folk memory that remains.

St. Oswald himself was a British tribal leader of Northumbrian descent who, legend tells, went to Iona and became a christian.  He had to leave the island eventually and go back into Yorkshire to bring peace back into the northern counties.  Whether this Well of his was dedicated to him as a result of his journey from back south from Iona, we do not know. His saint’s day is August 5—very close indeed to that old heathen celebration time of Lughnasadh or Lammas.  Most likely this is not just a coincidence, but will have related to what local folk were doing before the christian impositions.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 2: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Candlemas to Harvest Home, William MacLellan Glasgow 1959.
  3. Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae – volume 3: Synod of Glasgow & Ayr, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1920.
  4. Steele, Joyce, Seeking Patterns of Lordship, Justice and Worship in the Scottish Landscape, Glasgow University 2014.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.817576, -4.254658 St Oswald\'s Well