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A Calendar of Scottish Saints

The following is from A Calendar of Scottish Saints by Dom Michael Barrett, O.S.B.


1--St. Egidius or Giles, Abbot, A.D. 714

This saint never laboured in Scotland, yet the honour shown to him in the country is sufficient reason for the mention of his name here. He is said to have been an Athenian by birth, who fled from his native land to escape the admiration excited by his extraordinary sanctity. He settled in France and founded a monastery in the neighbourhood of Nismes, where many disciples placed themselves under his guidance, and where he died and was laid to rest. His cultus extended from France into other countries. St. Giles was honoured in Edinburgh as early as 11 50, when a monastery existed under his invocation. He became the recognised patron saint of the city, and his figure appeared in the armorial bearings of Edinburgh, accompanied by the hind which is said in his legend to have attached herself to the saint. Since the Reformation the figure of the saint has disappeared, though that of the animal remains.

The beautiful Church of St. Giles was re built in the 15th century, and was erected into a collegiate church by Pope Paul II. It still continues to be the glory of the Scottish capital. This church possessed an arm-bone of the saint, for which a rich reliquary was provided by the city. Fairs were formerly held in honour of St. Giles at Moffat and also at Elgin, where the parish church bore his name.

2--St. Murdoch, Bishop

No very reliable particulars can be ascertained as to the life of this saint. Traces of the honour shown to him are to be found in Forfarshire, the district which seems to have been the scene of his missionary labours. At Ethie, in the parish of Inverkeilor, in that county, are the remains of an ancient church and burial-ground which bear his name. Near Ethiebeaton, in the parish of Monifieth, are traces of an old church which goes by the name of "Chapel Dockie." This is believed to be another dedication in honour of St. Murdoch.

9--St. Queran or Kieran, Abbot, A.D. 548

This saint was born in Ireland and became abbot of the monastery known as Clonmacnois. He passed over to Cornwall, and there laboured as a missionary for some years. Many churches in that district are known by his name, which appears there under the form of Piran.

The saint afterwards journeyed to Scotland, where he preached the Gospel in the western districts. He settled at Dalruadhain, near Campbeltown, and the cave to which he was accustomed to retire for prayer is still to be seen there. He died in A.D. 548. St. Kieran came to be regarded eventually as the patron saint of the whole of Kintyre. He became very popular in Scotland, on account of the great affection with which St. Columba regarded him. Every year his hermitage and holy well were the resort of pilgrims who came to honour his memory. A rock near the sea shore is said to have been marked by the impress of his knees, from the frequency with which he would kneel there to pray with arms outstretched, looking towards his beloved Ireland.

Several churches in Scotland are dedicated to this saint. Besides a church in Campbeltown, others at Kilkerran in Kintyre, Kilcheran in Lismore, Kilkeran in Islay and Barvas in Lewis were named after him. Those of Strathmore in Caithness, Fetteresso and Glenbervie in Kincardineshire and Dalkerran in Ayrshire are dedicated to a saint of the same name, but whether it is this particular St. Kieran is disputed. There is a well of "St. Jargon" at Troqueer (Kirkcudbright), which is thought to be St. Kieran's.

15--St. Mirin, Bishop, 6th century

Born in Ireland, he became a pupil of St. Comgall in the monastery of Bangor on Belfast Lough, where no less than three thousand monks are said to have resided together. In the course of time Mirin was made Prior of the Abbey. No authentic record relates that he left Ireland to labour in Scotland; but Bangor, like Iona, was a great missionary centre, from which the brethren started to evangelise the various countries of Europe, and this fact lends credence to a tradition that St. Mirin came to Scotland. Paisley has always claimed the honour of possessing his remains, which became in after years an attraction to many pilgrims.

When in the twelfth century Walter Fitz-Alan founded a Benedictine abbey there, he placed it under the patronage of St. Mirin, jointly with Our Lady, St. James and St. Milburga, the patron of Wenlock, Shropshire, whence the first community came. Lights were burnt around St. Mirin's tomb for centuries, and a constant devotion was cherished towards him. The seal of the abbey bore his figure, with a scroll inscribed, "O Mirin, pray to Christ for thy servants." The chapel in which his remains repose is popularly known as "The Sounding Aisle," from its peculiar echo.

A fair was formerly held at Paisley on the saint's feast-day and during the octave. Other churches in the south of Scotland were dedicated to him. In the parish of Kelton, in Kirkcudbright, are the remains of an ancient chapel and burial-ground known as "Kirk Mirren." On Inch Murryn (Mirin's Island), in Loch Lomond, are the ruins of his chapel. At Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, is "St. Mirin's Well." There are other traces of him at Coylton, in Ayrshire, where a farm is called "Knock Murran," and at Edzell, in Forfarshire, where there is the "Burn of Marran."

16--St. Ninian, Bishop, 5th century

He was the first bishop residing in Scotland of whom there is any authentic record, and one of the earliest missionaries to the country. He was born about A.D. 360, in the district now known as Cumberland. His father was a converted British chieftain. Ninian had a strong desire to study the Faith at its fountain-head, and journeyed to Rome in his twenty-first year. The Pope of the time, St. Damasus, received him very cordially, and give him special teachers to instruct him in the doctrines of the Church. After he had spent there fifteen years, Pope St. Siricius made him priest and bishop, and sent him to preach the Faith in his native country. Ninian settled in the district now called Galloway. The recollection of the churches he had seen in Rome awoke in him a desire to build one more worthy of God's worship than the simple edifices of that early age in these northern countries. By the help of his friend, St. Martin of Tours, he obtained Prankish masons for this purpose, and built the first stone church ever yet seen in Britain. It was called Candida Casa, or "White House" (still the designation in Latin of the See of Galloway). The point of land on which it stood became known as the "White Home," from which Whithorn derives its name.

Besides converting the people of his own neighbourhood, St. Ninian, by his zeal, brought into the Church the Southern Picts, who inhabited the old Roman province of Valentia, south of the Forth. He is therefore styled their Apostle. He was more than seventy when he died, and was laid to rest in the church he had built and dedicated to St. Martin. Later on it was called after him and became illustrious for pilgrimages from England and Ireland, as well as from all parts of Scotland. So many churches in Scotland bore his name that the enumeration of them would be impossible here, while almost every important church had an altar dedicated to him. An altar of St. Ninian was endowed by the Scottish nation in the Carmelite Church at Bruges in Catholic ages. There is a portion of a fresco on the wall of Turriff Church, Aberdeenshire, which bears the figure of St. Ninian. The burgh of Nairn was placed under his patronage. Many holy wells bore his name: at Arbirlot, Arbroath, Mains and Menmuir (Forfarshire); Ashkirk (Selkirkshire); Alyth, Dull (Perthshire); Mayfield (Kirkcubrightshire); Sandwick (Orkney); Penninghame, Wigtown (Wigtownshire); Isle of Mull. That at Dull is said by a Protestant writer of 1845 to have been greatly frequented by invalids from far and near, on account of its reputed healing powers.

St. Ninian's fairs were held at Whithorn (for four days), and also at Arbroath. The saint's feast, which had previously been longobserved in the diocese of Galloway and at the Benedictine Abbey, Fort-Augustus, was extended to the whole Scottish Church by Leo XIII in 1898.

16--St. Laisren, Abbot, A.D. 605

He was a cousin of St. Columba. He ruled for some years the Abbey of Durrow in Ireland, and afterwards that of Iona, of which he was the third abbot.

20--St. Marthom

A fair was held annually at Ordiquhill (Banffshire) for eight days from September 20, under the name of St. Marthom's fair. Nothing isknown about the life of the saint.

22--St. Lolan, Bishop

Many extraordinary miracles are related of this saint, but his real history is involved in obscurity.

The crozier and bell of St. Lolan were long preserved at Kincardine-on-Forth, Perthshire, and were included in the feudal investitures of the earldom of Perth. They are alluded to in documents of the 12th century, and the mention of the bell occurs in one as late as 1675. Both relics have long disappeared.

23--St. Adamnan, Abbot, A.D. 704

25--St. Barr or Finbar, Bishop, 6th century

He was born in Connaught and was the founder of a celebrated monastery and school on an island in Lough Eirce (now known as Gougane-Barra), in County Cork, and to this house, says Colgan in his Acta Sanctorum, so many came through zeal for a holy life that it changed a desert into a great city.

St. Finbar became the first Bishop of Cork, where he founded a monastery almost as famous as the former. St. Finbar, like so many Irish saints, made a pilgrimage to Rome. Missionary zeal led him later on to Scotland, and for some time he laboured in Kintyre.

Devotion to St. Barr was very great in Catholic Scotland, as numerous dedications attest. His churches are chiefly to be found on solitary islands, which seem to have had a special attraction for him. Thus in the parish of Kilkerran, Kintyre, is an island now known as Davar; it was formerly called St. Barre's Island. The island of Barra takes its name from him; traces of his cultus lingered on there long after the Reformation. At Kilbar (sometimes called Shilbar), for example, an image of the saint, which was long preserved, used to be clothed with a linen robe on his feast-day in comparatively recent times. Other curious customs also prevailed in the island in connection with him; his holy well is there. St. Barr was the patron saint of the churches of Dornoch, and of Eddleston (Peebles-shire); at both places a fair was annually held on his feast-day. In Ayrshire is theparish of Barr, and in Forfarshire that of Inch Bare. At Midd Genie, in Tarbat, is Chapel Barre.

28--St. Machan or Mahon, Bishop, about 6th century

St. Machan, born in Scotland, was like many of his contemporaries, sent to Ireland, then renowned for its schools, to be educated. After he had returned to his native land and had become a priest, he laboured in various provinces of Scotland.

At Rome, whither he had gone as a pilgrim, he was consecrated bishop in spite of protestations from his humility; later he returned to Scotland and to the apostolic ministry. After many years of fruitful labour he died and was laid to rest at Campsie in Lennox. His name still survives in Ecclesmachan (Church of Machan) in Linlithgow, of which he is patron. The parish of Dalserf, Lanarkshire, formed at one time the chapelry of St. Machan, and was known as Machanshire. It was connected with the church of Cadzow (now Hamilton). An altar in St. Mungo's Cathedral, Glasgow, was dedicated to him. A fair in honour of this saint was held annually at Kilmahog, Perthshire.



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