By the side of the stream known as St Andrew’s Burn, in the small wooded glen to the rear (west) of the Crosslaw Caravan Park (right by the side of the A1107 road), you can still find the flowing waters of this all-but-forgotten holy well that was dedicated to Scotland’s patron saint, god knows how long ago! The first description I’ve come across relating to the site is in William King’s (1858) early work on Coldingham Priory, where he told that,
“In a dean a little westward from the village, and on the border of the property of Bogangreen, is a spring of excellent water, called St Andrew’s Well, from which the monastery was supplied by leaden conduits, portions of which are occasionally turning up to view. These pipes are thick and well made.”
Fifty years later when Adam Thomson (1908) penned his magnum opus on Coldingham parish, the well was still in a good state of affairs. Hereby there grew much chamomile which, he thought, “the monks were wont to cultivate for the healing of the sick.”
St Andrew’s feast day is November 30 and is known as Anermas.
Hunter, William K., History of the Priory of Coldingham, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1858.
In Pete Chalmers (1844) historical brief about the long lost chapel and hospital of St. Leonard (and its associated holy well), mention is made of this long forgotten relic. Its memory was preserved in an old place-name, and was to be found less than half-a-mile southeast of St. Leonard’s sites on,
“the high part of the road, about a quarter of a mile to the south, the Spital-Crosshead, (named) from a pillar which, according to tradition, was erected there, decorated on the top by a St Andrew’s Cross, and removed probably towards the close of the 16th or 17th century.”
The cross is believed to have been erected in the 15th century.
In John Dickson’s (1899) fine work on the history and antiquities of the Forth islands, he describes a number of all-but-forgotten holy and medicinal wells that could be visited in the 19th century—this one included! It was highlighted, without name, on the 1855 OS-map of the island, a short distance west of the curiously named Holyman’s Road. Aerial views of it today seem to indicate that the well was surrounded by walling, which may have been an old well-house—although the archaeological record here is silent. Mr Dickson told us:
“St. Andrew’s Well, beside the Altar Stones, contains the best water on the May and is entirely used for domestic purposes. This spring frequently dries up during the summer months and, in these circumstances, the islanders obtain a supply from Crail.”
Although it is still shown on modern large-scale OS-maps (as ‘St Andrew’s Well’), its present condition is unknown. If this has become boggy and overgrown, it is a sure case for renovation, despite its desolate geography; and especially considering that St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, whose festival date is November 30 (thought originally to have been Samhain, or Halloween—the old heathen New Year’s Day). If any visitor or islander could send us photos of the site, that would be awesome!
Dickson, John, Emeralds Chased in Gold; or, The Isles of the Forth, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1899.