Virtual Pilgrims’ Progress

DAY 13

 

Today, by 9.20 pm, we have covered a futher 175.84 miles.
 
From Belfast to Downpatrick (21.7 miles), where Ken and Bruce advised at Zoom coffee that St Patrick was buried. All you could want to know about St Patrick can be found here: https://www.saintpatrickcentre.com/historical-notes#1520982712069-b988dbed-5fec. He was born in Romanised Britain, taken as a slave to Ireland, escaped, and then returned to evangelise particularly the northern part of the island. Evidence suggests that Christianity had arrived in Ireland before Patrick, although this might have been focused in the southern part; in any case, Patrick’s life associates him with just about everyone in the 5th C church, so his influence was decisive. Also the snakes: he and Hilda had something in common. According to Wikipedia, Downpatrick was re-evangelised by John Wesley, but there is no account that he banished anything.
 
Here is a stone circle close to Downpatrick:
 
 
By Ardfern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 
 
From  Downpatrick to Armagh (44 miles): Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. It has two cathedrals, both dedicated to St Patrick. St Patrick seems to have ousted a pagan centre of religion in order to found his church in 445; one account tells of his disagreement with a pagan chieftain over the land to build the church, where 
By the 7th C, Armagh was the site of the most important church, monastery and school in the north of Ireland; there was the Book of Armagh prepared, containing some of the earliest examples of Old Irish. The book is described here: https://www.confessio.ie/manuscripts/dublin#1 
Here is a photo of one of the cathedrals, built on the original site:
 
 
By JohnArmagh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 
 
From Armagh to Tobernalt in County Sligo (88.7 miles). Like Armagh, the sacredness of the well at Tobernalt predates the arrival of Patrick and Christianity. The well itself is a natural spring in a forest, and the name (Tobar na nAlt)  is understood to refer to its curative powers for body pain. It took on a new role during the early 18th C when English law forbad the mass, as peripatetic priests would arrive in the area and word would spread of the opportunity to hear mass at the well. The Celtic feast of Lughnasa – a harvest festival held at the end of July – has been turned into Garland Sunday. The first mass since the Penal Times was held at the well on Garland Sunday in 1921, and the tradition has grown subsequently. 
 
 
 
Above is a drawing of Tobernalt by William Wakeman in 1882.
 
And below is a photo of the Sligo landscape:
 
 
Photo by Keith Richardson on Unsplash
 
 
And a mural for key workers in the town of Sligo:
 
 
 
Photo by Sibeesh Venu on Unsplash
 
 
We have 21.44 miles in hand, but we will stop in Sligo for the night! The map shows our progress today:
 

 

 

 

DAY 12

 

Today we have travelled 221.07 miles, encouraged by Jim W’s  International Limerick Day contribution:
 
Sustained by a hearty break fast
A pilgrim set off for Belfast
As he went on his way,
Folk heard him say
“I’m not sure my knees will last!”
 
 
From Furness Abbey, we are heading first for Morecambe (41.5 miles), and the ferry for the Isle of Man. As a town Morecambe came after the bay: the name derives from the Roman name for the bay,  Moriancabris Aesturis, which appears on Ptolemy’s maps. Its famous children include Eric Morecambe and Thora Hird. The bay is beautiful, but known to be treacherous.
 
 
 
Photo by Owen Woodhouse on Unsplash
 
 
 
Heysham appears as an older settlement, with stone-hewn graves dating from the 11th C, at St Patrick’s Chapel: Patrick is meant to have founded the chapel here here after crossing from Ireland, but alas, the chapel is 300 years too late. St Peter’s Church has in its yard, hogback grave stones, only found in places where Vikings had an influence. Heysham also has a pre-Roman labyrinth carving, the like of which has only been found in Tintagel and in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow. (I couldn’t find a Creative Commons photo of the carving, but see here for the Tintagel one: https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/cornwall/ancient/rock-valley-labyrinths.htm)
 
From Heysham to the Isle of Man (78.1 miles): The Isle of Man became a UNESCO Biosphere in 2016, which reflects a commitment both to the nature and the landscape of the island and its self-understanding of its history and culture. To find out more about the scheme, see here: https://www.biosphere.im. It’s been an important site of settlement for many centuries, shown by the evidence of Neolithic chambered tombs, Celtic and Norse crosses (including some with runes), and Peel Castle, on St Patrick’s Isle on the west, which become the fortress of Magnus Barelegs in the 11th C. It even – allegedly – has a ghostly black dog, the Moddey Dho. On the Isle there are about 200 keils: an early Christian chapel dating from before the introduction of the parochial system in the 12th century. These were inhabited by hermits of a kind, known as Culdees from Cele De, servants of God. Culdees also lived at St Andrews, so finding them on the Isle of Man was a surprise for me! St John’s Church is having an event this May, ‘Praying the Keills’, a kind of pilgrimage around all these sites: https://www.ourisland.im/whats-on/praying-the-keeills-p1382021.
 
 
Photo by James Qualtrough on Unsplash: 
 
 
 
From the Isle of Man to Belfast (104 miles), where we will stop. Here is the Corrymeela Community, founded in 1965 by Ray Davey, John Morrow and Alex Watson, to establish a place of gathering, ‘an “open village where all people of good will” could come together and learn to live in community.’ (https://www.corrymeela.org/about/our-history) In the explanation of its programme on public theology, the community explains its approach:

• Our sense of faith assumes uncertainty rather than certainty;

• We use scripture to open and extend conversations, not to end them.

• We enter the public square not with set doctrines we hope to convince others of, but with faith and curiosity: trusting that God is already present in and speaking through the lives and experiences of others.

• Although we do not approach such conversations with set outcomes in mind, but we do employ an ethical framework to help us draw out the voices of the marginalised in society; to analyse the use of power within contentious issues; to amplify voices that disrupt accepted narratives; and to consider the impact our theologies have on the most vulnerable among us.

 
And it offers this prayer of courage:
 
Courage comes from the heart
And we are always welcomed by God,
The Croí of all being.
We bear witness to our faith,
Knowing that we are called to live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
In the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day.
We bear witness too, to our failures
And our complicity in the fractures of our world.
May we be courageous today.
May we learn today
May we love today.
 
* Croí is the Irish word for heart.
 
This is our resting point for the day. Tomorrow we will set off for Downpatrick, Armagh and a diversion to County Sligo before heading back to Kells.
 

 

DAY 11

 

Today we started from Clydebank, heading into Glasgow (7.5 miles) and then on to Whithorn.
 
Our first stopping-off point is Glasgow Cathedral and what was until the Reformation the shrine of St Kentigern (518-614) also known as St Mungo: Kentigern was his baptismal name, while Mungo means something like ‘dear one’. His biography and his evangelism were recorded by Jocelin of Furness, a 12th C hagiographer. His birth narrative gets tied up with Arthurian narrative in ways that make your head hurt, but he was brought up by St Serf in Culross, and then went to evangelise the kingdom of Strathclyde on the west, at one point in his career moving to Gwynedd to escape persecution, where he set up a cathedral at Llanelwy. He is commemorated in Glasgow’s arms, and in a well-known rhyme: 

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam[9]

The verses refer to the following:

  • The Bird: Mungo restored life to a robin, that had been killed by some of his classmates.
  • The Tree: Mungo had been left in charge of a fire in Saint Serf’s monastery. He fell asleep and the fire went out. Taking a hazel branch, he restarted the fire.
  • The Bell: the bell is thought to have been brought by Mungo from Rome. It was said to have been used in services and to mourn the dead. The original bell no longer exists, and a replacement, created in the 1640s, is now on display in Glasgow.
  • The Fish: refers to the story about Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde who was suspected of infidelity by her husband. King Riderch demanded to see her ring, which he claimed she had given to her lover. In reality the King had thrown it into the River Clyde. Faced with execution she appealed for help to Mungo, who ordered a messenger to catch a fish in the river. On opening the fish, the ring was miraculously found inside, which allowed the Queen to clear her name. 
 
Glasgow Cathedral is the most intact medieval cathedral in Scotland: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/glasgow-cathedral/overview/
 
Our route onwards takes us first to Whithorn, home to another evangelist of Strathclyde, Ninian. The route we’ll take is 108 miles. Our first stop is Hamilton. Its associated family, the Hamiltons, Earls and Dukes of, had a significant part to play in late medieval and early modern Scotland, but in terms of Christian witness, probably the most interesting export is David Livingstone, who lived in Hamilton in adulthood before going out to Southern Africa. He’s buried in Westminster Abbey, a hero to his contemporaries – https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/david-livingstone
 
From Hamiton to Lesmahagow,  site of another early Celtic monastery, this time founded by Mahagw, whom we know better as St Malo, one of the 7 Breton saints, where he went after Scotland. (I hope he wasn’t looking for better weather!) The ruined priory dates from the rule of David I (again!!!), and was a Tironensian foundation and a daughter house of Kelso Abbey. 
 
Lesmahagow Priory:
 
 
By Elliott Simpson, CC BY-SA 2.0, 
 
 
St John’s Town of Dalry was the centre of the Pentland Rising of 1666, a brief and quickly suppressed Covenanters’ rebellion: the provocation was allegedly Covenanters encountering government officers threatening an elderly man for not paying a fine. The rebellion was savagely repressed, with 36 executed and a significant number transported to Barbados. The Covenanters is all over Dumfries and Galloway, and it is not a happy period in Scottish history. 
 
Newton Stewart was founded in the 17th C, although there had been a ford (used by Robert Bruce on the way to Whithorn) and a bridge earlier. Here is the bridge over the Cree:
 
 
 
 
Wigtown is known as Scotland’s Book Town, and contains a large number of second-hand book shops, including one where you can holiday (https://bookmanity.net/bookshop-holiday/). Its parish church is also dedicated to St Mahagw. In the church there is a Celtic interlaced cross shaft dating to around 1000AD. From Wigtown we reach our next destination of Whithorn, the site of the first recorded Christian church in Scotland, Candida Casa, founded by Ninian in the 5th C. This and the churches built here and on the Isle of Whithorn were important pilgrimage destinations: James IV also came here on pilgrimage, and was accompanied by a boat of musicians when being ferried across, an early form of car stereo.
 
St Ninian's Priory, Whithorn
St Ninian’s Priory, Whithorn (C) Elliot Simpson
 
 
 
Whithorn marks the end of another leg, but we still have 152.5 miles in the bag, so we can complete the next leg to Furness Abbey. Before we set off, though, here is a heartfelt limerick from Jim W:
 
A pilgrim on his way to Furness
Felt a compelling need to confess:
His spirits were falling,
His armchair was calling;
Three more miles, nonetheless!
 
 
 
And so, we set off again…
 
After Whithorn, our first port of call is Dumfries. Near to Dumfries are the ruins of Lincluden Priory, founded as a nunnery in the 12th C, probably with Cluniac sisters from France. In the 14th C, Archibald the Grim, 3rd Earl of Douglas, claimed that the nuns were unchaste and turned them out of the priory (possibly for financial reasons). A little later he refounded it as a collegiate church, in which he and his family were buried.
 
 
 
 
From Dumfries, then to Gretna Green: the famous site for runaway marriages, because of the difference between Scots and English law, and then we cross back into England. The next stop after Gretna is Carlisle. Carlisle Cathedral was founded originally as an Augustinian priory and became a cathedral in 1133, although there had been Christian foundations there earlier. Carlisle became a highly contested city – rather like Berwick on the other side – and there are spots of melted lead from the roof on the stairs in the cathedral from a Scottish attack. Carlisle was also focus of reiving in the 16th C, and the reivers became such a nuisance that in 1525 Bishop Gavin Dunbar cursed the city beginning: “I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.” It is a deeply thorough curse, and possibly not the best idea for Carlisle City Council to have it carved into public display for the Millennium.
 
From Carlisle, to Keswick. Keswick is home to the Keswick Convention, an annual gathering of evangelical Christians.This gathering was first held in 1875, organised by an Anglican and a Quaker. The convention is 3 weeks in July and August, and draws Christians from all over the UK and beyond. (https://keswickministries.org)
 
Photos from Keswick:
 
 
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash
 
 
 
Castlerigg at Keswick: Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash
 
From Keswick to Coniston – another photo of the Old Man of Coniston:
 
 
Photo by Samuel Arkwright on Unsplash
 
 
And finally, Furness Abbey, home to Jocelin, the biographer of Kentigern. Founded by King Stephen 1123, this Cistercian abbey was one of the richest in England until the Reformation. Its lands extended to Keswick, and there were close associations with the Isle of Man. Aside from the various apparitions residing at the abbey ruins, Furness Abbey was used to stage large scale mystery plays from 1958-1988. Arches from Furness: 
 
 
By Neil Piddock from UK – Furness abbey, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6079336
 
 
Here is the map of the second leg completed today: 

 

 
 
 

DAY 10

 
By 10.30 tonight our total distance travelled for the day was 236.4 miles, allowing us to arrive at Iona , even with a diversion to go and look at the Glenfinnan viaduct.
 
Right, out of Gairlochy to Kilmallie, the origin of which was a church founded by Màillidh, many centuries ago. More recently, in the 19th C, the Free Church of Scotland was given land to build a church, but it was claimed that the land was so boggy that the church was never stable, so in 1976 the church was demolished and a new building put up in the neighbouring village Caol.
 
From Kilmalle to Glenfinnan, home to the famous viaduct and to the monument to the raising of the standard for the Jacobite Rising in the ’45,

 

the monument
 

 

 
By WyrdLight.com, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 

 

and the viaduct:
 
 

 

The next stop is Strontian, where strontium the element was first identified. from a locally mined mineral. More importantly(!), Strontian has a church built in the 1820s by Thomas Telford, one of the 32 ‘Parliamentary Churches’ he designed for the West of Scotland after the government decided that churches needed to be built in the most thinly populated parishes. The church and the manse together could cost no more than £1500. Strontian was also allegedly the site of the first moored boat church in the country, set up after the Disruption of 1843, when what became the Free Church left the Church of Scotland. 500 members of this schism petitioned the local landowner for permission to build a new church, because worshippers attending outdoor services in inclement weather were getting ill. He refused, so the congregation collected £1400 to have a boat built in Glasgow and moored 150m into Loch Sunart.
 
The Isle of Mull (https://www.isle-of-mull.net) is famous for a Womble (Balamory), cheese, whisky and some impressive wildlife. It is also the birthplace of Catherine Mackinnon (1778-1858) governess to the future Tsar Alexander II, who abolished serfdom in Russia, Margaret McKellar (1861-1941), the first medical missionary at Neemuch, India, and Colin Gubbins head of SOE during WW2.

 

The Isle of Mull

 

 

 

At Fionnphort on Mull is where the Iona ferry runs. Iona is as an important place in these islands’ Christian history as Canterbury. The religious house was founded by Columba in 563; Columba was seeking refuge after a violent altercation in Ireland, slightly unexpected for a man whose Latin name means ‘dove’. He was an energetic evangelist, taking Christianity to the Picts in the north and the north east, and advising and supporting the Gaelic warrior kings around him. He died in 597, but the monastery flourished. Columba’s reputation was sealed by the Life by his successor as abbot Adomnán; Iona became the burial ground of Scottish kings (Macbeth was the last one to be buried there), but the abbey was sacked by the Vikings in 794, and 50 years later the abbey’s glory had passed. Columba’s relics were taken in 849, and some of them seem to have ended in the Monymusk Reliquary.

 

 
 
Photo by Lynda B on Unsplash

 

The Iona Community was founded by George Macleod in 1938, when he took unemployed skilled workers and trainee clergy to rebuild the Abbey. Since then, the Iona Community has played an important part in the church in Scotland, through the Wild Goose Worship Group (led by John Bell and Graham Maule for many years), through their members’ involvement in the Church of Scotland’s Church and Nation committee, and through their many members in the Church of Scotland clergy. Usually, the Abbey is open for visitors and guests, and offers programmes for youth groups: all visitors are encouraged to experience the ‘nearness’ of the place, the presence of God in the landscape.

 

 
 
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

 

More details can be found on the buildings and the history here:
and on the Community here: https://iona.org.uk. It is possible to join worship from the Abbey everyday: Daily offices for May 10 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzkqNM7-4nU) and May 11 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3jvrBHST40)
 
We still have 131 miles in the bank for today, however, and that takes us all the way back across Mull, down Loch Lomond, and as far as Clydebank. We passed through Taynuilt, the site of the last parliament conducted in Gaelic in 1308. It was also close to the seat of the BIshop of Argyll in the Middle Ages, and claims to have had the first monument to Nelson.
 
On the west bank of Loch Lomond is the village of Luss, which was evangelised by St Kessog some time in the early middle ages, but certainly by the 7th, since grave stones survive from that date.
 
Lizzie has sent us some photos of Loch Lomond – good for the soul:
 

 

 
 

 

Our destination tonight is Clydebank. There are claims that St Patrick was born at Old Kilpatrick, now included in the boundaries of Clydebank, although, alas, there is no evidence for this.
 
Here is our map for the day, as far as Iona…

 

 

and then from Iona to Clydbank: 

 

   

 

DAY 9

 
Our total for today is 154.3 miles, boosted by the Seniors and Youth Group whose socially distanced walk in Wollaton Park which added 28.3 miles. This has taken us down the Great Glen to Gairlochy.
 
As we travelled down the coast, we went through Golspie and Helmsdale, both notable as planted villages arising from the Highland Clearances, where people were moved off the land in favour of sheep, and given work in the herring fishing. The trauma experienced by the people forced off the land in this way is explored in the novels of Neil M Gunn.
 
 
 
Looking across to Golspie: By Christine Matthews, CC BY-SA 2.0,
 
 
From there, our next stop is Tain. This is the location of the shrine of St Duthac, of whom very little is known. He probably flourished in the 8th or 9th C, but his shrine was so important that it was mentioned in the charter of 1066 making it a royal burgh. Duthac became an official saint in 1419, and his shrine became an important place of pilgrimage. James IV visited it annually, partly to ensure that he was known in all parts of his realm, and partly from genuine piety – we will see him again on pilgrimage to Whithorn for much the same reasons. Duthac’s early chapel was also a place of sanctuary, where fugitives would be safe: the most notable fugitives to use it were Robert Bruce’s wife and daughter, but unfortunately Bruce’s enemies violated sanctuary and handed them over to the English (who reputedly kept them in cages in public view).
 

St Duthac’s chapel By Dorcas Sinclair, CC BY-SA 2.0,
 
 
From Tain to Dingwall. Although quite an old royal burgh, and although its name derives from the Old Norse Þingvöllr (Council meeting place) –  Dingwall has no medieval saints to its name. It is, however, the birthplace of the folksinger Julie Fowlis (associated with the film Brave) and a Covenanting theologian, James Fraser of Brea. James Fraser abandoned law for theology in his studies and became a licensed preacher for Presbyterians in 1672: his views were so radical that by 1674 he was arrested and escorted to prison on the Bass Rock by 12 horsemen and 30 foot (quite dramatic). He continued his studies in prison, keeping a journal of gratitude and learning Greek and Hebrew. He became known for developing a doctrine of universal atonement (although not universal salvation).
 
 
The next stop is Beauly, with its priory for Valliscaulian monks. This order were austere, like the Cistercians, with whom they eventually merged. The priory was founded in 1230 by John Byset of the Aird, and more details can be found here: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/beauly-priory/history/
 
 
Beauly Priory By Wojsyl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 
 
At Drumnadrochit we arrive at Loch Ness. This is very close to Urquhart Castle, the site of which Columba may have visited, to preach to an elderly Pictish nobleman, Emchath. Columba persuaded him and his household to faith. For more information on Urquhart Castle, see here: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/urquhart-castle/history/
 
Columba was not merely a successful evangelist of humanity on his journey up Loch Ness. His biographer Adomnàn (writing about a century after) records him as banishing a water monster into Loch Ness, after the monster had killed a Pictish man and tried to bite one of Columba’s followers. Columba’s authority over the creature impressed the Picts greatly and helped make his mission successful.
 

Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle. By Gregory J Kingsley
 
 
On down Loch Ness to Fort Augustus: this Gaelic name of this settlement suggests that it was originally named after the church founded by a follower of St Columba,  St Cummein. It was renamed and rebuilt after the Jacobite rebellion in 1715, when General Wade built a fort there and named it after the Duke of Cumberland. When it came into the hands of the Frasers of Lovat, they gave the fort to the Benedictine order as a monastery, which ran from 1876-1993. Invergarry has a ruined castle but not much more. Kilfinnan is just north of Loch Lochty, and is distinguished by a waterfall:
 

 
By John Naisbitt, CC BY-SA 2.0,
 
 
Our stop tonight is Gairlochy. Like the other places on this route, it is very small, but is distinguished by its proximity to a major lock on the Caledonian canal.

 

 

Read about Day 1 – 8 here: Vitual Pilgrims’ Progress – Week 1.