Friday, 15 April 2016

Wells Once More

I knew this would happen - and it’s entirely my fault.  No sooner had I feverishly compiled a ‘hot list’ (or should that be ‘wet list’?) of over a hundred famous and not so famous wells and springs in Angus and satisfied myself that it was over and done with, then a new batch of well information came to my attention.
    Never mind that I added a precognitive mention in the previous post that the Well List was liable to be un-comprehensive.  Secretly I was smug and thought I had done the job properly.  But that turns out not to be true, and I apologise.
   Here is more details about the Wells of Angus.  Wells which have been mentioned before are marked with an asterisk.

Starting in the north-west, near the parish church of Glenisla which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, there was a Lady Well.  There were at least five other Lady Wells in Angus, as previously noticed.  The Glenisla well was filled in some time before the late 19th century.  After noting this fact, the historian of Angus, Alexander Warden, cryptically remarked:  ‘There is a perennial spring which cannot be filled up, a well of living water, out of which all are invited to drink, without money and without price.’  The Rev James Watt, author of the parish entry in the New Statistical Account, noted that the Lady Well was usually 48 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Corryvannoch Well*, also in the parish and at the foot of Mount Keen, was two degrees cooler.  Watt repeats the tradition of people visiting the Coryvannoch on the first Sunday morning of May, especially about day break, to cure sick children.  They would leave a trinket in thanks for its watery wonder working.  But he noted that people no longer believed in it by his time.  Nobody drank from it, except perhaps ‘the passing shepherd, or those whom curiosity, arising from its former reputation, induces to pay it a visit.’  A formerly popular ‘mineral spring of the chalybeate kind’ in Panbride parish had become neglected in the 18th century, as noted in the Old statistical Account.  Among the many oddly named wells was the Crew Well, near Auchtertyre, parish of Newtyle.
   Other once renowned holy or healing wells were losing their aura with the ‘common’ folk by the Victorian age, although bookish folklorists were backfilling their interest by documenting historical associations with these once renowned places.  Many of the amateur collectors of lore were local clergymen, though those who contributed to the Statistical Accounts in the 18th and 19th centuries only mentioned local beliefs and antiquities as a sideline to other matters concerning their parishes.  The haunted well at Benvie*, west of Dundee, was noted by the Rev George Addison in the New Statistical Account, as being ‘formerly in great repute as a tonic, and was applied externally in cutaneous disorders, but is now entirely neglected’.  In the same source, the Rev James Headrick mentions a small chalybeate spring in his parish that helped stomach complaints, though he does not comment whether it was well or poorly frequented. On the borders of this parish and Kirkden * parish was a perennial well which helped with swellings and ulcers which had effect when doctors’ cures had proved ineffectual.

   A few named wells note previously mentioned include St German’s Well at Kinblethmont, which may have a connection with the Knights Templars who once owned this land.  Another well in the burgh of Dundee was St Francis’s Well, which was piped to provide water for one of the town’s religious houses in pre-Reformation times.  Another well with possible religious associations in Monk Mudie’s Well at the foot of Carmyllie Hill.  Who was Monk Mudie?  I don’t honestly know.  The Bra Well*, previously mentioned at Stracarthro, seems to be synonymous with Braul's Well, which the historian of Angus, Andrew Warden, states was also known as St Brule's Well.  This in turn, he states, derives from St Rule. 
   Near Battle Drum Wood there is a Battle Burn, Battle Cairn and Battle Well.  All of these mark, reputedly, a bloody encounter between Romans and Picts.  The burn was polluted with blood for much of its length and, for centuries, herdsmen used to throw a bit of bread into Battle Well, just in case the water turned to blood.  The act possibly records some forgotten superstition.
   King’s Well*, near Keillor, Newtyle, is supposedly the place where Macbeth halted as he fled northwards from Dunsinane.  (Also in the same parish is the Crew Well near Auchtertyre).
    The well in Balmossie Den, by Balmossie Bridge and the eastern entrance to Lintrathen House and on the banks of the Dichty is the Cauld Water Well*, also known as The Wishing Well or the Cat Craig Well.  No wonder I got it wrong in a previous mention.  The Cat Craig is a nearby rock.  The stone surround of the well is inscribed:


                   Whosoever drinketh of the water shall thirst again.  T E 1847



A well with too many names?   Balmossie Den.