Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NO 33410 54961
Travelling away from Kirriemuir towards the Braes of Angus on the B951, park outside the now disused Church of Scotland, and walk up the hill past the adjoining house, and turn left through the farm gate into the field. The site of the Well will be seen in front of you on the slope as a patch of nettles between an electricity supply pole and its ground tensioning wire.
Archaeology and History
According to Hew Scott’s Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticae (1925), ‘The church of Kingoldrum was dedicated to St Medan, and not far from it is St Medan’s Well‘. The Canmore record in respect of finds in the churchyard (Canmore ID 32254) has the following note in respect of a field visit by a Canmore official on 12 November 1975: ‘According to Mr Mackintosh, session clerk, St Medan’s Well (name verified) was a spring well situated on a hill slope “some 50 yards S of the cottage of the SW of the church. The ground was improved within living memory, and there is now no trace of the well.”‘
Despite what was stated in the above quote, the site of the well is visible as a patch of nettles exactly where stated, the adjoining house owner confirming that the water is now piped to a cistern in front of the house, and marked by a blue painted stone.
The well is not recorded in the Ordnance Survey Name Books, nor is its position shown on the maps, and that usually reliable source of information on the history of this area, Andrew Jervise, does not mention it in his Epitaphs and Inscriptions in North East Scotland. As this writer does not have access to the works referenced by Hew Scott, he feels that, in common with other saint’s wells, there may be some uncertainty as to the exact identity of the patron saint of the well, but it is likely to be a separate person to Saint Madden who gave his name to St Medan’s Knowe at nearby Kirkton of Airlie. The argument for this separate identity is strengthened by the discovery in 1843 of a quadrangular bronze coated iron bell that had been buried with other artifacts in the Kingoldrum churchyard. The history of the bell of St Madden of Kirkton in Airlie is historically recorded.
Alexander Forbes (1872) refers to a St Medan whom he identifies as Saint Medana, and who may be the patron of the well and the original owner of the bell, but he records this Irish born saint as having been active in Galloway, but that she “ended her days near the blessed bishop and confessor Ninian” who was active in Angus. He writes of her: “A native of Ireland, fleeing from the admiration of a soldier, came in a vessel with two handmaidens only to Scotland…where she lived a life of labour and poverty. The soldier pursued her, whereupon she and her maidens embarked upon a stone, which floated thirty miles to a place called Farnes….the soldier still pursued her, and passed without noticing it, the house where she lodged with her maidens, but his attention was drawn to it by the crowing of a cock. She now climbed into a tree, and finding that it was her face and eyes that were the soldier’s attraction, she plucked out her eyes. The soldier repented, and the virgin descending from the tree washed her wounds in a fountain which then and there sprang up“. It seems we can not know if this is the mythic history of the origin of St Medan’s Well.
- Forbes, Alexander, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh, 1872.
- Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, the Succession of Ministers in the church of Scotland from the Reformation – Volume V, Oliver and Boyd: Edinburgh 1925.
© Paul T. Hornby 2016 The Northern Antiquarian