Monday, 29 December 2014

Holy Wells in Angus

Corryvannoch Well, on the lower slopes of Mount Keen was once the most renowned healing well in Angus.  Sick children were frequently brought here to drink the water, even in the middle of the night.  In gratitude for their cure patients would leave a scrap of cloth on the bushes beside the well.  At the feast of Beltane locals would visit the place and light great fires to protect their cattle during the coming year.
   St Sinavy's (or Sunny Vie) Well was near Mains Castle, just north of Dundee.  Its name contradicted its reputation, because it was said that the sun never shone here.  This tradition may be linked to the lore attached to other wells which were reputed to be so icily cold that anyone daring to drink from them would immediately die of shock.  The identity of Sinavy is a mystery, though the name may be a garbled form, possibly a corruption of St Ninian.  There are other wells which still exist, having being rediscovered, in some cases lost more than once, whose original characteristics and dedications are long forgotten.  One such well exists in Balmossie Den, near Broughty Ferry. It is known as a 'holy well', but holy to whom?  The well here was revamped in the mid-19th century. Among the wells which have entirely vanished is the Carlin Well, which was in a field near Craigton of Airlie.

   Benvie, in the far south west of the county, was once haunted by a White Lady.  She was the ghost of a local woman who died of the plague and she could not rest in peace because she was buried in un-consecrated ground.  Her form was often seen gliding slowly alongside the Fowlis Burn, weeping as she proceeded.  Her appearances unsettled the Benvie villagers so much that they asked the minister to get rid of her.  Armed with a bible the holy man boldly approached the spirit one night, demanding to know why she haunted the place.  The White Lady told the priest her story and vowed to quit the district if her body was reburied in a corner of the kirkyard.  If this happened she promised that a spring would rise up in the spot of her first burial place.  She was re-interred and the spring did appear; its water cured many people of the plague, as the White Lady said it would.  Her form was never seen again.
   White Ladies are thought by some to date back to Diana, the Great White Goddess.  Other Angus White Ladies haunted the castles of Glamis, Ethie, Careston, and Claypotts, plus the woods of Leuchat in Glen Lethnot.

   Another famous healing well was the Medicine Well in Montrose, which became a fashionable spa in the 18th century.  A well in the churchyard of Logie-Pert was used to treat sores, while a well in nearby Martin's Den was efficacious for scurvy. Kirkden parish had a well which helped reduce swelling in the feet and legs.  In 1652 Auchterhouse kirk session prosecuted a woman for carrying her sick child to a healing well at Beltane.  This well was probably St Anthony's Well, south of Henderson Hill in the Sidlaw Hills.

   Non-healing wells in the county include Queen's Well in Glen Mark, named after a visit by Queen Victoria.  It was originally Tobar na clachan gualaich, the Well of the White Stone. Arbroath had its Silver Well, so called from the proliferation of coins dropped into it.  To the west was the even more exotically named Wormie Hills Well.

   St Bride's Well is on the lands of Templeton, near the border of the parishes of Newtyle and Nevay.  Templeton signifies ownership at one time by the military Knights Templar, but the Celtic dedication to St Bride and the root of the place-name Nevay point to an ancient place of worship.  The parish boundary here was at once time marked by an old, hollow and worm eaten tree called the Templar Tree.  It may be the latter was the later survival of a pagan sacred grove.  Nevay comes from Nemeton, meaning (pre-Christian) 'sacred place'.
                                                              Queen's Well, Glen Mark

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