Discover Scotland's Saints, some are well known, but most of the rest will not be. Piecing together the lives of these early Catholics in Scotland is not easy and is beset by legend, poor translations and often quite scant information. However, there is much to learn, not least it tells us something about the people who venerated these men and women.
St Marnock evangelised Moray leaving a church in Aberchirder in Banffshire. He had previously been under the rule of St Columba of Iona before he was sent to the mainland of Scotland. After his death, in either Aberdeenshire or the Borders, the veneration of this Saint spread with his relics (a head) being placed in a church in what is now Kilmarnock. He was also honoured on an Island near Bute, Argyllshire and Dunkeld.
St Conval, 9th Century
Listed as a good King that received the commendation of St Columba. A King Convallus who reigned between 819-824AD is recorded in the Dunkeld Litany.
St Mahew, 534AD?
St Mahew could possibly be St Mochta of Louth who was a follower of St Patrick and succeeded him in Armagh. St Mahew is honoured in Argyle across the Firth from Port Glasgow at Kilmahew near Cardross. The Irish histories don't seem to tell of St Mochta coming to Scotland, however he was not originally Irish, but like St Patrick a Briton who came to Ireland. The Oengus Martyrology adds this interesting poem to his name:
"Poverty abode not
With the family of Mochta in his fort of Louth ;
Three hundred bishops and one hundred priests were there with him.
Eighty psalm-singing noble youths
Were his household: royal is the enumeration:
Without ploughing without reaping without drying of corn,
They laboured not, save at learning only."
St Mochta is most famous for his defence of the Scotic Church which was Ireland, in 460AD when on his trip to Rome to study found himself writing a tablet of his beliefs due to the memory the Roman Church had of a heretic from Ireland who St Jerome strongly rebuffed, and it is his rebuttal that lasted in the memory:
"Satan, though silent himself, barks through a huge and corpulent mountain dog, who can do more damage with his claws, than even with his teeth ; for he is by descent of the Scotic nation, which is adjoining Britain, and like another Cerberus, according to the fables of the poets, must be struck down with a spiritual club, that thus he may be silent for ever with his master Pluto."
The tablet itself dwelt on the Blessed Trinity and the Apostles Creed and was found in 700AD at Bobbio.
St Magnus, 1075-1116AD, Martyr
These were the days when Orkney was under Norwegian control and the British Isles still at this time buffeted by Scandanavian powers. It is in Orkney that only one of two pre-reformation Scottish Cathedrals lay undisturbed by the violence of the 16th century. In 1137 the great Cathedral was put up over the body of St Magnus by his nephew, St Rognvald, and it is quite possible it is still there to this day. St Magnus was of noble Norwegian birth, son of the Earl of Orkney.
The King of Norway chose Magnus as his attendant and accompanied him on pillaging in the Western Isles before turning to the Isle of Anglesey where the Norwegians slaughtered the Norman armies of Chester and Shrewsbury. However, St Magnus did not accompany the King in this slaughter and remained on the boat praying. After this he escaped to the court of King Malcolm III of the Scots, remaining there until the king of Norway died, which meant Magnus could take up his claim of the Earldom of Orkney.
However St Magnus was opposed by his cousin, Haakon, and so to prevent war Magnus went to meet his cousin to work things out peacefully, but Haakon had no intention of an amicable settlement. Haakon's forces surrounded Magnus, who became aware of the treachery too late and so Magnus took death with great fortitude, partaking of the Sacraments and prayer before being murdered. Magnus took the title of Martyr and has been held up as an example of one who seeks peace rather than war. He is also an example to us in the way he faced his death.
St Donan, 617AD
St Donan (Donnan) was Irish and although some have thought he was connected with St Columba and Iona there is evidence that points to him being of a non-Dalriadic Scot origin. His Muinntir (Monastic Community) was based near modern day Kildonan by the Helmsdale River in Sutherland. From there he and his missionaries began daughter churches in Fordyce (St Talorcan) and Strathmore (St Ciaran) and a number in Sutherland itself. There is also a Church at Auchterless in Aberdeenshire with a special connection to him as it was said his Staff resided here prior to the Reformation.
St Donan evangelised the Isle of Eigg and established a Muinntir that was found in 2012 by Archaeologists from Birmingham University. It was Eigg that it is said he and 52 other monks were martyred for their faith, which was actually a rare moment of Christian blood being spilled on Scottish ground. Scotland saw relatively few episodes of this sort of martyrdom in its history of evangelisation.
Please read the in depth article on St Maelrubha by Dr Carly Macnamara of Glasgow University which you will find on our website here.