A quiet walk along the banks of the gently flowing Glamis Burn leads to this visually uninspiring and yet beautifully situated well. The small well basin is tucked into a shallow recess in a rock outcrop that forms the river bank. Unfortunately, it is now surrounded by stone paving slabs, recently laid to protect the area from the many pilgrims which visit this ancient spiritual centre. But the trees, abundant wildflowers and the crystal clear waters of the burn provide a beautiful setting known locally as the Den of Glamis.
The well is also dedicated to St. Fergus who, according to the Reverend John Stirton, is said to have lived next to the well in a hermit cell. The cave has been reduced to little more than an overhang because of subsidance in the bank brought about by nineteenth century lead mining. Although St. Fergus certainly lived at Glamis for some time, the idea that he lived in the cave is likely to be a romanticised version of the truth.
Tradition tells us, however, that Fergus used the water from the well to baptise early converts to christianity. It is good to see that this tradition is still practised in the present day church. Even more so that the well is also used as a site of occasional worship. In 1992, on the 750th anniversary of the dedication of the church, three people were baptised at the well itself in this natural cathedral.
Fergus was an Irish missionary and established churches in Caithness and Buchan before arriving at Glamis in the early eighth century CE. There he established a tabernacle to the God of Jacob. The present church at Glamis was dedicated to Saint Fergus in 1242 and lies a short distance south of the well.
In 721, Fergus attended a council in Rome and was referred to as the "Scottish Bishop of Picts". A title that reflects his significant influence in the church and his standing in the community at that time. He died at Glamis "full of years" and his body was enshrined there. But such was his importance that in 1504 his head was taken to the monastry at the Pictish capital of Scone by King James IV in a silver reliquary.
Recent restoration work revealed thirty old pennies in the well basin, a find that has led to it being considered as a wishing well. This is scant evidence for any long tradition of hydrolatory at this site. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, there are no records of votive offerings, legends or folklore attached to this well.
In the manse garden, opposite the church, is a fantastic hybrid Class I/II Pictish symbol stone which is worthy of a close look. And a great collection of carefully carved gravestones depicting the professions of the interred, with skulls, hourglasses and other icons of mortality.
Stirton wrote that "the spirit of the ages can be felt at the side of the burn. It is a place where the idle may be tempted to become studious and the studious to grow idle." A sentiment i would certainly mirror. There is a great deal of energy here and something for everyone, whatever your faith. It is a good example of an early or even pre-christian site that has been thoughtfully managed by the church so that everyone to enjoy it.
|NO 388 470 (54).|
|Glamis village. 2 miles SW of Douglastown, 5 miles SW of Forfar.|
|Turn off the A94 from Forfar at the signpost for Glamis. In the village follow the signs for the folk museum. Car parking space is provided at the church. The best approach is along the signposted path which leaves the churchyard & follows the burn northwards.|