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, A.D 625
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 Monan (Moinenn of Clonfert?)
St Monans is a small picturesque village on the Fife coast that was named after one of possibly two characters - or at least bits of them both. One St Monan came along with St Adrian to the Isle of May on the East coast and after having preached the gospel on the mainland near to the present village named above and was martyred along with the others on the Isle by the Danes. The other story is St Monan is of Irish descent and Bishop of the major monastery of Clonfert. Barrat writes that his relics were brought to this part of Fife by Irish monks trying to evade those murderous Danes! Depending on who we are talking about it, we could be looking at the 6th or even 9th centuries for his period of earthly activity. The relics of our Saint resided in the Chapel of Invere as described by the Aberdeen Breviary which is also the name of a burn that runs on the west side of the Parish. Many miracles took place including to David II who was healed of a an arrow that his own doctors could bring little comfort to; and a woman who was demon possessed was made well again.
St Baldred, A.D 608
St Baldred was a disciple of St Kentigern, who, upon the death of his master removed himself to the Bass Rock off the coast of East Lothians. It is said his favourite meditation was upon the passion of the Lord. But St Baldred was not a total hermit and would make missionary journeys to the mainland which gave him the honourable name of Apostle of the Lothians. St Baldred died on the Bass Rock but was subsequently buried near Haddington with a number of wells, houses and chapel ruins associated with him. What is interesting about St Baldred is that there may have potentially been two of similar name. There was also a St Baldred of Tyninghame who lived the following century in the same area. His story has some similarities with the earlier Baldred in that their locus is Bass Rock but does not include any reference to St Kentigern which makes sense looking at the dates. The later Baldred is associated with Lindisfarne and the Kingdom of Northumbria where he was known as Saint Balther or Saint Baltherus. So which Baldred are we looking at? I would posit we might be dealing with two similar Saints, places like Bass Rock were the ideal sorts of places for those who wanted to remove themselves from the world to pray and mediate on God without life’s distractions. In that then St Baldred was not alone and it is therefore possible Bass Rock has a history of this.
To read more about this Saint click the button that will take you to the blog site of Stephen Mark Holmes, Priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) and Rector of the Church of the Holy Cross, Davidson’s Mains, Edinburgh who is also looking into other Lothian Saints.
St Duthac, A.D 1068
St Duthac birthed the town of Tain in Eastern Ross-Shire in the Highlands. To read more click on the button. Read On
St Kessog of Luss, A.D 520
Son of the Irish Kings of Munster, Patron of Lennox, venerated by Solidiers and martyred for his faith. St Kessog is predominatly known in the Lennox region of Scotland in the Vale of Leven on Loch Lomond. It is possible he was Scotlands first Patron Saint, being invoked by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn and his relics being carried into that battle. It was this King who granted John of Luss charter, 'for the reverence and honour of our patron, the most holy man, the blessed Kessog'. You can find his name venerated in places like Kessock in Inverness, Auchterarder and Callander and not withstanding St Kessogs RC Church in Dumbartonshire. There are two martyrdom locations, Luss or in some 'foriegn land'with his body brought back to Luss and buried.
St John Ogilvie, 1579-1615
St John Ogilvie was from Keith in the North of Scotland and is thus greatly revered in the Parish of that town. Michael Collins, a Keith man himself writes about this man who was caught up in the Reformation. Read On
St Curetan, 8th Century.
This Saint has had a rather confused hagiography thanks to the Aberdeen Breviary who named him St Boniface, an Israelite who was ordainedd by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and sent to evangelise the Picts. In fact this Saint was from the British Isles, some say a Pict himself, others of Irish origin who was a major part of the British Churches reform in regards Easter. Bede writes that King Nectan had sent an invitation to the Pope of the time to help them bring the Pictish Church to Rome’s understanding of the Easter dating - which had been a major issue in Britain up until and no doubt after the Synod of Whitby. St Curitan was said to have been from Rome to take up this invitation, first landing in Invergowrie up the Tay, beginning a Church there before continuing northward to the Church at Rosemarkie, originally founded by St Moluag. It is said he started many Churches, ordained many Priests and Bishops, which however seems a bit fanciful. It is clear though he had a major impact on the North of Scotland and in the Pictish acceptance of Easters dating. He was in particular fond of St Peter and many of his churches seemed to have been dedicated to him. St Curetan is strongly associated in Ross-Shire and the rest of the Black Isle, along Loch Ness and in other parts of Inverness-Shire.
St Charmaig, A.D 640?
Little seems known of who this Saint actually was but it appears his main centre of devotion was in Argyll in North Knapdale and the parish of Keills in the same area, which he had started a Church at. Like many a Saint he was a holy and devoted man and resided on Eilean Mòr (maccu Cormaic) an Island in the Sound of Jura off the Kintyre coast. It was here he died and was buried in a chapel he himself had built. This chapel still exists but is now known as St Cormacs Chapel.
St Charmaig seems to have had a lively afterlife which was recorded in Old Statistical Account in the 1790s (OSA XIX, 315-6). He seemed to be quite protective of this Island making sure nothing could be stolen from it. At one time a sea captain took a fancy to the Cross that was there and having loaded it on the boat set sail through the Mull of Kintyre. But the vessel was struck by a violent storm and so the Cross had to be thrown overboard. The cross then floated back to a harbour named ever after Portnacroish, which is actually a village on the mainland off Loch Linnhe further to the North. Eilean Mor also had a special cave that was said would make you infertile if you entered it. Unfortunately for a rather amorous couple who had thought to take the chance one evening the caves abilities in this area had ceased by then and the woman left pregnant. The Saint’s desire to protect and cause miracles on this Island may well have come to an end due one woman’s prayer request. She stood on the opposing shoreline and called out:
"'S mise bean bhochd a' Braidealban "A m' sheasamh air lic Mha' Charmaig "So naomh ann an Eilean na fairge "Thig's tog a bhuineach o m'earbal."
Translated, the woman had said: "I'm a poor woman of Bredalbane, standing on Mo Charmaig's slab. There's a saint in the isle of the sea; come and lift the s***e from my tail".
She had been suffering dysentery, was healed by our Saint, but this was the last miracle St Charmaig ever reportedly did!
St Cuthbert, A.D 634 - 687
St Cuthbert was born in Northumbria to a family of status and like many a boy of that rank learned the arts of war. On the night St Aidan died, the young Cuthbert witnessed a strange light descend and then ascend to the heavens. It was that night he made the decision to join a Monastery and to Melrose he went. He eventually became Abbot of Melrose and Lindisfarne becoming known for his missionary work, healing ability and as a spiritual guide. He later became a hermit believing he was to fight the spiritual battle in prayer. Eventually the King and Church asked him to become a Bishop which he did and travelled extensively. He died in his hermitage at Inner Farne and his body brought back to Lindisfarne. Eventually his body was moved to Durham Cathedral and to this day you can pray by his relics.
St Finian/Frigidian, A.D 579
St Finian has different names depending on where you might be. St Finian was an Irish Princeling, sent to Whithorn, where a great school of learning had arisen around the tomb of St Ninian. Upon his return to Ireland his fame spread making his monastery at Molville a popular destination, attracting the young St Columba who did not distinguish himself well with St Finian. St Finian went to Rome and recieved a beautifully adorned Gospel of Mathew and also became consecrated as Bishop in Lucca, his miracles and holiness spreading amongst the people of Tuscany and garnering comment from Gregory the Great. Frigidian was the name he was given their. He also spent time in Ayrshire doing similar miracles, known by the name St Wynnin, giving the West coast town it's name Kilwinning. The Saint died and is buried in Lucca in the Church venerating him.