the vanished well

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

Aberdour was a place of worship for centuries, here the pilgrims would come in large numbers but not to see a shrine or the church itself, they came to see the holy well that is no more. It once existed behind this wall in what is now a private garden but has long since been laid dry.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

The well does not exist anymore. Its water was supposed to have the power of healing. And people flocked to Aberdour to see it.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

A nunnery once stood here, where the sisters of St. Francis worked and prayed. In the hospital of St. Martha, a large building that once stood on the north end of the graveyard, they took care of the weary travelers who came looking for treatment of sore eyes.

This is what the water of the well promised to provide.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

This row of old headstones came from within the church, when it lay in ruins (1790 – 1926). Aberdour buried the dead within the sacred walls of the church, now that it has been restored, the stones have been removed. They even had to remove a large tree that had grown within the building.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

But this wall is not the only wall that tells a story in this graveyard. It also shares a wall with Aberdour castle with access to the castle grounds so the various owners of the castle had private access to church and graveyard.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

The Countess of Morton greatly disliked being so close to the church; she had a new one commissioned further away. The decline began. The countess is long gone, the castle a ruin, too.

graveyards of Scotland Aberdour holy well Fife church

St Fillan’s goes back to the 12th century. The church was granted to the nearby Inchcolm Abbey. The bell in the tower came from the ruined St Bridget’s church in Dalgety Bay. It is a place of worship still. The healing well is gone forever.

sources and further reading:

Undiscovered Scotland

Scottish churches

John Geddie (1848-1937): The Fringes of Fife. Chambers, London & Edinburgh

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. 

Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

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