Saint Fergus Cruithneach

Pictish Bishop of the Scots, Patron Saint of Glamis Kirk

Picture Of A Part Of A Stained Glass Window Showing Saint Fergus No one knows for certain when Fergus was born or where. The name is of Pictish origin and he is recorded as Fergus, a Pictish Bishop, so it is generally considered he was from the north east of what is now called Scotland. In the Aberdeen breviary he is called Fergustian and "he occupied himself in converting the barbarous people".

He is also thought to have trained in Ireland or the south of Scotland, possibly both!

Many places in the north east of Scotland bear testimony to people having thought so well of him that they named places and churches in his honour. None more so than St. Fergus Kirk, Glamis.

He was a contemporary of St. Drostan and St. Donevaldus, is thought to have first settled at an area to the west and north of present day Perth setting up churches dedicated to St. Patrick. Churches as far north as Wick are also thought to have been set up by him.

Before setting up a church at Glamis in 710 A.D., he would have often travelled through the area preaching the Gospel in the surrounding countryside going to or coming back from the north of Scotland.

There was a cave, long since gone, and a well (which is still there) named after him just behind the present church.

The church Fergus built was "a tabernacle to the God of Jacob" and here in Glamis would have been in the Celtic "mud and wattle" style, not far from the present site.

Where St. Fergus' Well trickles into the Glamis Burn, another small stream flows into the burn just a short distance away. Sites like these were very important to Pictish Celtic people because places "where three waters meet" were, and still are, considered sacred. Fergus baptised local people here.

St. Fergus had been at a council where he signed the Acts of the synod in Rome in 721 A.D., which condemned irregular marriages of various kinds, sorcerers, and clerics who grew their hair long. This would be in the time of Pope Gregory II. It is noted that he was there with Sedulius and twenty other bishops.

He travelled extensively throughout the north east of Scotland where just north of Peterhead, North Sea oil and gas come ashore, there is another tiny church named after him, though now a ruin. The small village nearby also bears his name.

In about 750 A.D., Fergus died and was buried at Glamis "full of years", his feast day is on the 27th of November, although other sources say November the 18th.

King James IV of Scotland, in the 16th century, had Fergus' head placed in a silver casket and kept at the Abbey of Scone near Perth and the Abbot was reputed to have provided a magificent marble tomb for the body in Glamis. Unfortunately, no evidence of this exists today.

It is also thought an arm-bone and a finger was encased in silver and went to Aberdeen. An inventory of valuables from 1464, a reference is made to a silver-plated reliquary in the form of an arm, described as "brachium argenteum sancti Fergusii cum ossibus ejusdem". The silver arm of St. Fergus with the bones of the of the arm.

Probably these, along with other items belonging to many saints, were lost at the time of "The Reformation" in Scotland when all things "Popish" were to be, sadly, destroyed.

St. Fergus was also the patron saint of Wick and in pre-reformation times, it was supposed to have been near the east end of town. A statue of him had existed in 1613 when it was destroyed by the Reverend Dr. Richard Merchiston of Bower, known for his eagerness to dispose of "Popish" things. The locals were so angry at this act of "vandalism" that they drowned him in the river of Wick while he was on his way home. A story was put out that St. Fergus himself carried out the drowning and had been seen standing over the minister while pushing him under the water!

Doubtful though that story is, should you visit Glamis or the other sites associated with St. Fergus Cruithneach, rest assured the saint is unlikely to dish out such treatment. Instead, take the time to relax and think on these words from a past minister at Glamis, the Reverend John Stirton, when he wrote about St. Fergus' Well,

"...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."

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