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 Ethernan/Adrian/Odran | d. 875AD
The Aberdeen Breviary mentions an Ethernan as an exemplary Bishop with associations at Rathen in the North East, Madderty in Perth Shire, Kilrenny on the Fife Coast and on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth. No miracles or other particulars are recorded. However the Isle of May has a strong association with St Adrian, whose name bears striking similarity. St Adrian seems to have been mixed up with Saints from Hungary to Nicodemia; but according to Forbes in his ‘Kalendars of Scottish Saints’ this Adrian was of Irish origin who left Ireland to get away from the Viking attacks plaguing the land at the time. He was then given the Isle of May as place of prayer in the 9th Century possibly due to St Andrews becoming the Bishopric See of the Picts. Elsewhere it is recorded an almighty clash between the Angles and the Scots occurred in 875AD which corresponds to the date and story of St Adrian and his companions martyrdom on the Isle. The name of Odran also appears to have a a connection with St Adrian, being the Irish version of the name and with associations in Macduff, Fife and around St Andrews. St Adrians Feast day is the 4th of March. The Isle of May was a place of prayer and devotion for a long time with a beautiful priory on the Island being placed under Benedictine Rule which was a favourite place of King James IV to pilgrimage to - as was for many other Scots.
St Constantine III | 915AD
St Constantine III was King of the Scots reigning for more than forty years before taking on the pilgrims staff and retiring to ‘the monastery on the brink of the waves and died in the house of the Apostle’. This is supposedly referring to St Andrews where he lead a ‘Culdee’ before his death. There is also Constantines Cave on Fife Ness near Crail just south of St Andrews. The cave itself has crosses incised within it and was a site of pilgrimage.
St Buite | D.521AD
St Buite was of Irish origin and was compared to the Venerable Bede in a Latin vita written of him in the 12th Century in Melifont Abbey in Co.Louth which was near or possibly was the monastery our Saint formed after his travels. St Buite went to Italy and after a period there made his return journey with copies of Holy Scripture, vestments and relics. Whilst passing through Germany he appears to have picked up some followers who desired to live under his rule and together continuing West found there way to Northern Britain and the land of the Picts. St Buite prayed for the healing of the local King (or his daughter) and was thus rewarded with the fort in which the miracle took place. This was possiby Kirkbuddo in Angus or nearby Dunnichen. He then continued on his way and passing via Co.Antrim in Ulster established ‘the Monastery of Buite’ in Co. Louth.
Nothing is known of our Saint but there was a very vibrant cultus around him in Perthshire and was patron of Perth bakers. On December 10th Obert’s Eve there would be a torchlight procession of mostly apprentice bakers with one wearing the ‘devils coat’ and a horse shod in mens shoes. By 1581 processions and fairs such as these were unwelcome to the Puritans and the local Kirk outlawed them ‘especially against the Sanct Obert’s Play’. However the bakers were not to be deprived of what probably became a bit of fun and less about the holy life of a Saint and so in 1587 once again the Kirk required [the bakers] ‘to take order for the ammendment of the blasphemous and heathenish plays of Sanct Obert’s pastime’. However an example had to be made of these heathenish bakers and in 1587/88 a group of these ‘insolent young men’ were imprisoned for continuing in the ‘idolatrous pastime’ of St Obert’s play. Not only were they fined they could also find themselves exiled from Perth. No other references were made again to St Obert which probably means the practice had finally been quashed by our zealous Kirk.
St Flannan | 7th Century
West of Lewis lies the Flannan Isles on which you will find Teampull Beannachadh (St Flannans Chapel) on the main isle of Eileen Mor. It appears Flannan was Irish and is the patron Saint of Killaloe in County Clare where he had been consecrated Bishop and was remembered as a great preacher.
Saint Manire/Minir/Manirus, Bishop and Confessor | 824AD
St Manire was one of Scotlands Pictish Saints who operated in Deeside at Ballater and Braemar. His mission was to Picts who had been evangelized but much of their previous belief still persisted. The Aberdeen Breviary mentions that the early (Gaelic) missionaries were less adept in the language of the people here (Picts) and so this obviously effected the efficacy of their preaching and teaching. St Manir on the other hand, could speak both languages, Gaelic and Pictish, and even the dialects of the areas he worked in.
There is evidence that his muinntir was at a place called Rhynabaich just North of the Aberdeen-Braemar Road where you will find a standing stone - all that is left of the building. Local place names like ‘Pollmanire’ (Pool of Manire) and ‘Creag Eaglais’ (the hill of the Church) point to the Saints activities in this area. It is believed that he was buried at Crathie, Ballater - in his church. However the current Crathie Kirk that stands just south of this shows no remains of a building older than the medieval period.
This is one of those names that appears often in Irish Martyrologies with spellings that include Kieran and Ciaran. There are some famous Saint’s of this name so therefore we must tread carefully. This St Caran who is mentioned in the Aberdeen Breviary seems chiefly to have operated in the East of Scotland with a well and associated fair at the Kirkton of Premnay just south of Insch in Aberdeenshire and also Fetteresso to the west of Stonehaven.
St Mayota, Virgin | 6th Century
St Mayota or Mayoca’s seems intertwinned with two stories. One was that she was part of the nine virgins that travelled over with the great St Brigid of Ireland and established a convent at Abernethy under the Superior St Darlughdach. In earlier editons we covered St Fyndoca and Fyncana who was also said to be in this group. St Mayota was known for following the example of St Brigid better than any other and many miracles were wrought by her. Another is that she was one of the nine maidens whose father was St Donald of Glen Ogilvy in Forfarshire. After his death they were given a place at Abernethy. In addition there is also an entertaining story of the nine maidens and a dragon! Whatever the exact truth is, Abernethy is consistently a location associated with nine holy women. She is also associated with Dalmaik at Drumoak near Banchory.
In a letter Pope John IV, who died in 642AD mentions this Saint as especially associated with Scotland - the letter itself was sent by the Pope to chastise the Northern Irish clergy in particular about the correct dating of Easter and condemn monothelitism. The actual letter is mentioned by Bede in his histories but but the text itself has not actually come to light. The chief place St Bathan is associated with is the Abbey of St Bathans in Berwickshire. There is also a well that apparently never freezes alongside the Burn that it flows into. We know nothing else of St Bathan.