Imagens da página

were attracted in their Christian warfare to these by the denseness of the neighbouring population. St. Columba, on his first mission to Pictland, sought out at once the royal seat of Brude, near Inverness, and he may have been led to the verge of Buchan by the

presence of the chief and his followers at one of his residences. It is probable that the clerics tarried at Aberdour for a time, and

founded a monastery on the land which had been granted to them. In later times the parish church of Aberdour was dedicated to

St. Drostan."

It was placed by the brink of a gorge, on a ledge or

table-land overlooking the burn of the Dour, at a spot about 150 yards distant from the shore of the Moray Firth. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the bones of the saint were here preserved in a stone chest, and many cures were effected by means of them.' In the face of the rock, near where the stream falls into the sea, is a clear and powerful spring of water, known as St. Drostan's Well. The legend states that thereafter they came to another of the mormaer's “cities,” which being pleasing to Columcille, as full of God's grace, he asked it in gift. This the ruler declined. Thereafter his son became sick, and was all but dead, when the mormaer besought the prayers of the clerics for his recovery, and gave them an offering of the “town” which he had formerly refused. They complied with his request, and their prayers were heard in the recovery of the son. On the land thus granted the clerics founded a monastery, which came to be known as that of Deer. But this having been done, the island saint must hasten to other districts to diffuse the precious seed entrusted to him, and establish other colonies of missionaries. Before doing so, however, he transferred to Drostan all his authority over the newly-founded church : in the words of the legend, “After that, Columcille gave to Drostan that town, and blessed it, and left as his word, that ‘whosoever should come against it, let him not be many-yeared [or] victorious.' Drostan's tears came on parting with Columcille. Said Columcille, Let Dear be its name henceforward.” This “town” was about twelve miles inland from the first settlement of the clerics at Aberdour. It was placed on the fertile banks of the river Ugie, sheltered by wooded heights, on one of which it is probable that another rath of the mormaer was placed;” while the district seems to have been the seat of an abundant population, of which many traces yet remain. The Book of Deer is a memorial of the monastery thus founded by St. Columba and his disciple. It contains the Gospel of St. John complete, and portions of the other three Evangelists, in writing probably of the ninth century, besides a collection of Memoranda of grants by the Celtic chiefs of Buchan, written in Gaelic at a later time. In subsequent chapters of the Preface translations of the latter will be found, together with notices of the condition and polity of Celtic Scotland, designed to illustrate the bearings of the Book of Deer on an early and obscure period of our national history. I need, therefore, only here advert to the great interest and value of these memoranda. On various points connected with our early history, regarding which the historical student has hitherto had to grope his way, amid faint light and doubtful analogies, these entries supply new and solid standing-ground. They enable us to discover the condition of the Celtic population of Alba, separated into clans, under the rule of the mormaer, with their chiefs or toisechs, and their brehons or judges. We discover the division of the country into town-lands, with fixed boundaries, and can trace the different and co-existing rights in them of the ardrigh, the mormaer, and the toisech. We are likewise furnished with notices of various kinds of burdens' to which they were subject. The period embraced in these entries is towards the conclusion of the Celtic period, while the patriarchal polity had not yet given way to the feudal kingdom; the monastic system—at least in the northern districts—was yet flourishing, and the parish and territorial diocese were unknown. Of what great interest is it, then, to have preserved to us in the Gaelic notices of the Book of Deer such authentic glimpses of the departing economy, which they enable us to understand, while they at the same time throw light on the origin of some of the institutions which superseded it ! I have attempted to sketch the progress of events which, shortly. after the period of these memoranda, led to the development of the monastic into the parochial system, and to the substitution of the church of the parish, in the room, and often on the site of, the earlier church of the monastery (chapter v. p. cvii.) At an early period, the possessions of some of the chief monas

Beginning with his first supposed settlement, we find that the three neighbouring churches of Strogeath, Blackford, and Dolpatrick, in Perthshire, were all dedicated to St. Patrick, according well with the idea that the founder was a missionary fresh from the influence of the Irish church. The church of Wick in Caithness was dedicated to St. Fergus himself—a fact which may be held to support the legendary statement of his visit to that country. The parish church of Lungley, or, as it has long been called, St. Fergus, is dedicated to him, and preservesthe memory of his labours in Buchan, while the parish of Glammis, where he finished his course, also owns him as its patron saint. Here his memory is associated with a holy well, which still freshens the glen in which the hermitage of the saint is said to have been placed. And, finally, the alleged removal of the saint's head to Scone may be held to be established by the following entry in the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer

of Scotland, recording one of the many like offerings made by King James IV. at the shrines of saints : xi October 1503. To the kingis offerand to Sanct Fergus heide in Scone xiiii. s. * According to the legend of St. Drostan in the Breviary of Aberdeen, he was descended of the royal family of the Scots. His parents, in consequence of his devotion to religion, sent him to his uncle, St. Columba, in Ireland, to be perfected in his studies. Afterwards he became a monk at Dalquhongale or Holywood, of which place he came to be abbot. Desirous of a stricter life, he retired to Glenesk, in Angus, where he led an eremitical life, and founded a church or monastery by the side of lonely Lochlee, where his memory still survives in such names as “Droustie's Well” and “Droustie's Meadow,” after all other trace of his foundation has long vanished.— (Land of the Lindsays, p. 61.) The parish of Edzell, in Glenesk, is said to be dedicated to St. Drostan. The parish of Skir-durstan, on the banks of the Spey of Insch in the Garioch, and of Rothiemay

(now united to Aberlour), had St. Drostan
for its patron. He was also patron of the
parish of Alvie, higher up the river; and
a chapel at Dunaughton, in that parish,
was dedicated to him.—(A Survey of the
Province of Moray, pp. 261, 286 ; Elgin,
1798. Shaw's Hist. of the Province of
Moray, p.371 ; Elgin, 1827.) The churches

on the Deveron, belonged to St. Drostan,
besides those of Deer and Aberdour. In
Caithness his name was had in reverence,
as we find a church dedicated to him in
the parish of Halkirk, and Cannisbay was
also one of his churches.—(Origines Paro-
chiales Scotiae, vol. ii. pp. 758, 792)
* Breviar. Aberd. Part. Hyemal. fol. xx

* As to the name of Deer, see p. The spelling of the word has varied at different times. In its first form it is Déar, “tear,” in harmony with the traditional belief of its origin. In the charter of David I. it is Dér. It afterwards appears as Deir, Dere, and Deer. The last has been the ordinary spelling for a long time, and I have retained it, in the belief that, as the word is commonly pronounced, this is nearest to the earliest form of it.

* On the hill of Biffie (the Bidben of the grants), and on the opposite hill of Bruxie (of old Altrie—the Alterin of the records), circular foundations are still traceable, and others have been obliterated in recent times. In the district there was formerly a great number of stone circles; and many cists, flint weapons, and other indications of early settlement, have at various times been discovered within its


* The amount of some of these was de- instance in our records of a system, which termined by the number of davochs com- at a later period formed the basis for apprised in the territory, affording the earliest portioning the national taxes.

teries in Alba—foundations of Culdees, such as St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Abernethy—had been secularised, and when our earliest records enable us to understand their position, they appear in the hands of laymen. It was not so in the case of Deer, the clerics of which, down to the middle of the twelfth century, were still receiving, from the bounty of the Gaelic chiefs of the district, additions to their monastic inheritance, in the whole of which they were secured by King David I., with full immunity from all secular exactions. It is plain, however, from the terms of the royal charter, that attempts had been made to “enslave” the monks, probably in the same way as the chiefs of Ireland usurped the rights of the monasteries of that country, and that they were able to maintain their “freedom” in virtue of the grants recorded in their “Book,” being the venerable volume now printed for the Members of the Spalding Club. There seems little reason indeed to doubt that we may trace the occurrence of these memoranda to the attempts made by laymen to usurp the property of the clerics, and to the changed circumstances which demanded written evidence to maintain them in possession." But this was only for a time. The parochial arrangements which had been spreading in the southern parts of the kingdom, very soon after came to supersede in the north as well, the earlier condition of things. One result of the change was the conversion of the churches of the smaller monasteries into parish churches.

* The forged charters, which are of such to grants which had originally been made frequent occurrence among the records of by unwritten symbolical gift; and in others religious houses, seem to have been in to replace some written grant which had many cases attempts to give a legal form been lost.

« AnteriorContinuar »