Brighid, Goddess and Saint
Places in Scotland and Man
The Outer Hebrides Na h-Eileanan an Iar lie off the west coast of Scotland. It consist of the islands of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra along with smaller islands including the remote island of St. Kilda which lies 65 kilometres to the west. The islands are strongly Gaelic speaking. Lewis and Harris are Protestant whereas South Uist is 90% Catholic and Barra 81%.1 Christianity came to the islands from Ireland as earlier as 500ce.
The village of Melbost, Borve (HS2 0RR) on the far north west coast of Lewis has the most northerly well dedicated to St. Bride in Britain.2 Tradition tells us that Brigid came ashore, with an oyster catcher on each wrist, at Kilbride Cille Bhride (HS8 5TR), South Uist.3 The remains of St. Bride's Church remain in a burial ground overlooking the shore.
In the Catholic south St. Mary and St. Bride have a special place in the lives of the people. In Gaelic the word Moire only refers to the Virgin Mary. The ordinary word for Mary is Mairi. When the Ministry of Defence decided to build a rocket testing site on South Uist resistance built up and a plan was laid to erect a huge statue of Our Lady of the Isles on the hill of Rueval that would overlook the proposed military base. The statue was dedicated on the Solemnity of the Assumption 1958. Just eight months later the Ministry of Defence announced that the proposed base would be considerably scaled down.
St. Bride's, Gerinish, South Uist (HS8 5RW). Simple Catholic chapel of ease opened in 1966.
Cille Bharra, Barra (HS9 5YE). 16th century chapel and 12th century ruins. There has been a chapel on the site since the 7th century dedicated to the Irish St. Finbarr who preached there. The chapel has an interesting collection of furnishings relating to St. Bride and a replica of the 10th Century Kilbar Stone that once was located in the graveyard..
The Inner Hebrides Na h-Eileanan a-staigh consist of the islands of Skye, Islay, Jura, Mull and Rum along with smaller islands. The Gaelic language is strong in some areas. Iona lies off the coast of Mull. In the 6th century St. Columba arrived on Iona and set up a religious community that subsequently brought Christianity to much of Scotland. A much larger abbey was built in the 12th century followed by an Augustinian Convent. Iona has been a place of pilgrimage since. The abbey (PA76 6SQ) was restored in the 20th century by the founding members of the Iona Community. Iona also has a Catholic House of Prayer, Cnoc a' Chalmain. Tradition tells us that St. Bride was cast adrift from Ireland and was washed ashore on Iona. Fiona Macleod wrote, "When I think of Iona I think often, too, of a prophecy once connected with Iona… the old prophecy that Christ shall come again upon Iona… so that the little Gaelic island may become as the little Syrian Bethlehem… the Shepherdess shall call us home." On the Hebrides Christ is called, The Shepherd and St. Bride, The Shepherdess."
There is a Kilbride Point on the coast of Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, connected to the mainland by a bridge. The Isle of Bride Eilean Bhride lies off the coast of Jura. Jura is one of the least populated islands with a population of 196.4>
Arran Eilean Arainn is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. It was colonised by the Irish in the 6th century and became a noted religious centre. The 19th century clearances led to a decline in Gaelic culture but some sites related to Brighid remain.
Kilbride Burn, Bennan (KA27 8SJ) cascades over a cliff down from Kilbride Hill and the ruins of Kilbride Bennan, now just bumps in the earth. Heather Upfield writes, "It is only accessible from the beach, and the beach is only accessible when the tide is out! It involves wading through a stream and scrambling over the skerries before reaching the beach. Once you have done that, it is the most perfect place on Earth. Miles of flat sand with oystercatchers in flocks."
Brodick is one of the largest towns on Arran and its harbour serves the ferry to the mainland. St. Bride's Kirk (KA27 8BY) is a sandstone building erected in 1910 and restored in 1959.
Lamlash is the largest village on Arran and is just 5 kilometres south of the ferry port. The remains of a 14th century church dedicated to St. Bride and graveyard (KA27 8LL). The dedication suggests a much earlier foundation as does its proximity to Holy Island just off the coast. The new parish church of St. Bride (KA27 8LR) is a sandstone building erected in 1886 to replace an earlier kirk built in 1773. An ancient cross from the monastery on Holy Island stands in the grounds.
Lochranza is a village on the north coast of Arran. St. Bride's Church was originally dedicated to St. James but this dedication fell into disuse in the 17th century. It was dedicated to St. Bride in 1929. The present church was built in 1795 and renovated in 1835. In 1843 most of the congregation left to join Free Church of Scotland. By the close of the 19th century the congregation had increased sufficiently for a refurbishment in 1895.
St. Bride’s Chapel, Kildrummy (AB33 8QU). Remains are part of a chapel dating to the 14th century. The early 19th century church is built alongside. Both are sited within a circular enclosure. There was once a St. Bride's Well but no sign remains of this. To the north is Lulach’s Stone an impressive solitary standing stone 2.7 metres tall.
St. Bride's Monifieth (DD5 4BD,) Catholic church founded in 1880 and rebuilt in 1983 noted for its modern St. Bride Window by Gail Donovan. The area was held by the Culdee monastic order until granted to Arbroath Abbey in the early 13th century. The Culdee were an ascetic order orginating in Ireland that established itself in Scotland. They lived a monastic life without taking religious vows.
St. Bridget's Church, Panbride (DD7 6JP) There has been a church here since 1147. It was in the possession of Arbroath Abbey until its dissolution at the Reformation. It was rebuilt in 1851. There is a small museum onsite. In the early 19th century the area suffered from the Lowland Clearances.
Brydesbanck, (Bankglen KA18 4QG). A hill on the B741 west of New Cumnock is thought to be a Bride’s Mound.
Kirkbride, Dunure (Dūn Iūbhair, Yew Hil) The ruins of the ancient church are in a field 250 metres south west of Dunduff Farm (KA7 4LH) on high ground overlooking the Firth of Clyde. It is first mentioned in the 12th century and was still being used for worship in the early 17th century. There is now a seven circuit labyrinth in Kennedy Park (KA7 4LW).
West Kilbride is a village by the Firth of Clyde and looks across to the Isle of Arran. A local tradition tells us that St. Bride landed on the shore near West Kilbride in 500ce and built a church. St. Bride's Catholic Church (KA23 9EX) was opened on the 3rd May 1908 to serve immigrant Irish families. Kilbride Burn flows through Glenbryde before meeting the sea at the Seamill Mill (KA23 9NB).
Dumfries and Galloway
Brydekirk (HDG12 5LY,) Remains of of an enclosed 12th century church dedicated to St. Bridget. St. Bryde's Well is located to the north. A new kirk was built in 1835 and restored in 1900. A map showing the well, old and new kirk can be accessed here.
The Kirkbride farm and hill Auldgirth, Dumfries DG2 0SP off the A76 to the north of Dumfries.
After 500ce a number of churches dedicated to Irish saints were built on the Mull of Galloway. St. Bride’s Church, Kirkbride once stood at Kirkbride, Port Logan, Stranraer DG9 9NP.
St. Bride’s Hill rising to 206 metres, St. Bride's Plantation and earthworks, Cleuchfoot (DG13 0LR) to the west of Langholm off the B7068.
The Roman Fort of Blatobulgium (Birrens DG11 3LJ) to the south east of Midddlebie, Lockerbie was built about the year 80ce. It stands at the northernmost edge of the Roman occupation. A stone altar bearing a relief of the goddess Brigantia was found there. The goddess is crowned, robed in Roman dress, and carries symbols of victory. The inscription on the altar reads, 'BRIGANTIAE S AMANDVS ARCITECTVS EX IMPERIO IMP F'" (To Brigantia, Sextus Amandus, former Imperial Architect, faithful to the emperor).
St. Bridget's Kirk, Dalgety Bay (KY11 9LH) This beautiful ruin is on the shore of the River Forth. Permission for its foundation was given in a Papal Bull written by Pope Alexander III in 1178 and it was served by Augustinian Canons. The church was consecrated in 1244 and in use until 1830.
St. Bridget's Catholic Church, Baillieston was designed by Peter Paul Pugin and opened in 1893.
St. Bride's Episcopal Church (G12 9UX) "An oasis of calm in Glasgow’s bustling West End." In 1891 a small wooden chapel that had been on land belonging to Douglas Castle was moved to Glasgow. In 1899 it was moved to a new site on the Hyndland Estate. The present church was consecrated on the 1st of February 1915. There is a statue of St. Bride on the exterior west wall and a mural in the crypt.
Ben Nevis (Beinn Nibheis) is Britain's highest mountain rising to 1,345 metres. The story of the Cailleach, Bride and Angus is an ancient Scottish myth.5
The Cailleach is as old as time, the mother of all the gods and goddesses of Britain. She ruled winter and raised all the mountains as her stepping stones. Ben Nevis was her throne. The Cailleach held captive a beautiful young woman called Bride. She treated her with great cruelty, dressed her in rags and set her to work in the kitchen. One day she was scrubbing clothes beneath a waterfall when she spied some snowdrops. She picked some to show the Cailleach thinking they would assuage her cruelty. But the Cailleach became distressed and called her hags to kill the flowers by casting snow over the land. The Cailleach had a son, Angus who lived in the Land of Youth out in the Atlantic. He dreamed about a beautiful woman who would be his queen when he became the summer king. So in February he borrowed three days from August to warm the land, still the storms and find the woman of his dreams. One day he beheld Bride surrounded by Spring flowers. The Queen of the Fairies transformed Bride's ragged clothes into a white dress inlayed with silver. Bride and Angus were married, Spring came and the Cailleach's strength left her. With the little strength left she rode to the Well of Youth and was restored. As Autumn past she was restored and drove Bride and Angus from Scotland and ruled again as Queen of Winter. And so the cycle of the seasons continues.
St. Bride’s, Onich (PH33 6RZ) Episcopal Church of Scotland built in 1874 with stained glass depicting St. Bride and a Bride Shrine.
St. Bride’s, Newtonmore (PH20 1DT) Church of Scotland built in 1958. The graveyard in Newtonmore is on a site once occupied by a 6th century chapel dedicated to St. Bride.
St. Bride's Catholic Church, Bothwell (G71 8BA). There was a pre-Reformation church dedicated to St. Bride erected by the Earl of Bothwell Castle. A parish was established in 1910. The present church was opened in 1973.
St. Bride’s, Douglas (ML11 0RB). There has been a church here since the 12th century. Much of the present church dates from 1330. The clock dating from 1565 is the oldest working clock in Scotland. The choir was re-roofed in the 19th century.
St. Bride's Catholic Church, East Kilbride (G74 1NN). East Kilbride is a new town. However, there was a Celtic monastic cell located on a pre-Christian sacred site where the parish church (G74 4JS) now stands. This gave the name Kilbride6 to the village. The present church was opened in 1964. It was designed by Gillespie, Kidd & Coia who were famous for their use of modernism in the design of churches. The exterior is quite brutal but the interior is strangely beautiful. This beauty is enhanced by the radical use of light tubes to channel light to important parts of the church.
Kirkbride, to the south west of Traquair on the B709 (EH44 6PU). First recorded in 1116, nothing remains of the pre-Reformation Church. The present church was built in 1778 and restored between 1998 and 2002. St. Bride’s Well was on the glebe nearby. In 1662 the minister went to Traquair to prepare witches for death and to watch their execution.
St. Bride’s Well, Logiebride (PH1 4DQ) with a standing stone nearby.
Abernethy Chapel (PH2 9JJ). Founded by Nechtan, king of the Picts c460 ce and dedicated to St. Bride. The old church was demolished in 1802. The present chapel is 19th century. There is a local legend that Bride is buried at Abernethy.
St. Bride's, Old Blair (PH18 5TL) The ruins of St. Bride's Kirk stand on a mound in the grounds of Blair Castle which is open to visitors. It is first mentioned in 1275 but was probably founded much earlier.
St. Bryde’s, South West of Kilbarchan (PA10 2PG). Site of former chapel by St. Bride’s Burn and close by St. Bride’s Mill. Clach-na-Druidh (Stone of the Druids) is close by.
The Isle of Man
The Isle of Man Ellan Vannin is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. Gaelic influence began in the 5th century. The island has its own Gaelic language, Manx. The last native speaker died in 1974 but there were recordings of the spoken language and there is a contemporary revival. At the far north of the island lies the parish of Bride, named after St. Brigid. Some 4.5% of the population of this parish speak some Manx. The parish church dedicated to St. Bride is situated in the village of Bride. The original church dates from around 1200ce but it was rebuilt in 1876.
- 2011 Census of Scotland
- Mother of the Isles, Jill Smith, dor dama press 2003 ISBN 0 9518859 7 9. pp61-62
- Op. cit. p58
- 2011 Census of Scotland
- Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, Donald Alexander Mackenzie, 1917 reprinted by Forgotten Books 2016 ISBN 1440039739. See also Storytelling on the Music, Stories and Songs page.
- East Kilbride and West Kilbride were both originally called Kilbride but changed their names to avoid confusion as they are less than 65 kilometres apart by road.