Scotland's Marian Roots:
Many years ago on visiting Medjugorje, I was deeply touched by the affectionate Croatian term ‘Gospa’ used solely for Our Lady. I remember thinking with what love and devotion must it have sprung, for a whole people and culture to call on Our Blessed Mother with such gentle familial intimacy; before woefully lamenting that this loving tenderness was never shown her from my own kin and country.
Or was it?
Indulging my long-held desire to research our true Scottish Catholic heritage; I’ve been struck by just how closely our Celtic culture, language and faith were inseparably interwoven over the centuries to the extent there were no divisions between faith, prayer and work. To the Gaels, living and breathing was an act of perpetual thanksgiving with every activity an opportunity to render praise, thanksgiving, consecration or supplication. Even the language itself is infused with a beautiful witness to faith with no harsh boundaries between the spiritual and earthy realms. One of my favourite discoveries is the saying ‘a body without a head is a man without confessor’ with the traditional term for confessor ‘anam-chara’ translating literally as ‘soul friend’. Soul friend; truly that’s what a good confessor is and should be, applying the medicinal balm directly from Christ Himself to cleanse, heal and bind up our wounds and impart divinely inspired spiritual counsel to arm us for the next battle.
How my heart soared to discover that we Scots are truly Catholic to the marrow of our bones and yes, that includes adorning our Blessed Queen with an affectionate name only for her. Alleluia!. Mary in Gàidhlig is Mairi (a Mhairi) however Moire (a Mhoire) is reserved only for our dearest Heavenly Mother and is still on the lips of many Gaelic speakers today.
Her place in our fore-bearers hearts and their devotion to her and the profusion of saints who walked our land is also evidenced by the hundreds (thousands..?) of holy wells scattered across our country (Banff, Cullen, Cromarty, Tain, Haddington, Rothes, Turriff, Reay, Kirkcaldy, Melrose, Ladykirk, Alness, Aberdeen to name but a few Marian wells) and the vast number of towns and villages named after them is evidenced by their Gaelic roots: Tobermory (Tobar Mhoire; Mary’s Well ), Crois MoLiubha (Crossmyloof; cross of St Liubha), Gleann Fhionnainn (St Finnans glen), Ceathramh Mhoire (Kirriemuir; Mary’s quarter), Cill Mheàrnaig Kilmarnock (St Mernòc’s church). The list goes on. Sprinkle in places like Poll Mac Dè; pool of the sons of God, Cater Tobar (St Catherine’s Well; Watten) and Loch nan Cilltean / Loch nan Ceall; the Loch of the Churches and a rich picture of Catholic Scotland begins to emerge.
The well which gave rise to the Lanarkshire town of Motherwell (Tobar na Màthar; Well of the Mother) was said to have quenched St Patricks thirst as he passed on his way to the Roman camp on the banks of the Clyde. It is sadly now under a road having had it’s water source cut off in 1883 by the sinking of a coalmine. Water trapped in the pit-shaft & piped to the pit ponies was still considered to have healing properties even then. The cop-stone is still located in a nearby garden, and although no-one has been able to partake of the healing waters for near 150 years, the outskirts of Motherwell is still the location Scotlands National Marian shrine, Carfin Grotto (albeit the other side of town).
I’ve also had the pleasure of re-discovering many of her Scots titles; as recorded in documents from the 1400’s including Our Ladi Lycht of Prestwic, Ouer Lady Luge of Dun-dè, Our Lady of Grace in Kile and in 1505 she seemed to share the Feastday of her Nativity with St Gordon ‘.. inwith the oct. of the natiuite of our lady on Sanct Gordanis day’. I’ve managed to find documented titles for her in all but two of our dioceses (Glasgow and St Andrews & Edinburgh) so if anyone likes a good treasure hunt I’d love to complete the Litany I’ve begun to pray (below). I’ve also been told by an elderly gentleman that in Glasgow they prayed to ‘Our Lady of Motherwell’ as late as the 1980’s (whilst in Motherwell itself she is honoured with the title ‘Our Lady of Good Aid’) so it would be useful to glean some documentary evidence. Another mystery I’ve yet to shed light upon is that of Sanct Gordanis as I can’t find him listed in later Scottish Calendars. Please get in touch if you can fill any gaps!
Wouldn’t it be grand if we once again sought refuge in her Immaculate Heart under her Scots titles; as pilgrims to the very same wells and places where she bestowed untold graces upon our fore-bearers! As Mother of the true wellspring and water of life, Jesus Christ Himself and as our Mother, she is calling us back to Him from a land in which He has been largely forgotten. I pray we let our own voices join with those of our kin long past to once again shower Mother Mary and all our Scottish Saints with veneration and grateful love in ways they’ve not heard for way too long. They are longing for us to ask for their intercession for the country and people they love so dearly. Maybe then, will we be able to bring the whole of Scotland back under her protective mantle.
Ouer Laidy o’ Aiberdeen; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ th’ Isles; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ Paisla’; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ …Glasgu…; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ Mitherwall; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ Preswic; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ Dunde; Praye for us
Ouer Laidy o’ …Dunfaurlin…(?); Praye for us
Ouer Leddy O Guid Succese, Praye for us
Haily Mither o Gode, Quein o Scots, Praye for us
A Bànrigh na h-Alba; A Mhàthair naomh Dhè, Guidh air ar son