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Going Green

St. Fillan     Neish Island     St. Fillans Chapel     Dundurn Hill

What better way to begin our local history tour than with a brief word on the story of St. Fillan himself?

Throughout and beyond his lifetime, the name of St. Fillan was associated with miracles. Born towards the end of the seventh century AD, into a family of Irish royal blood, it was clear from the beginning that he was in for a holy life. The child was born with some sort of facial deformity, prompting a disappointed father to toss him into the nearest lochan (a small loch or lake) to drown. However, young Fillan was rescued from this fate by angels, who left him in the safe hands of local bishop.

Thus he was brought up in the Christian faith, and around 703 A.D. he crossed the Irish Sea to bring the word of God to Alba, or Scotland as we now know it. At that time, Scotland was a divided land - the kingdoms of Dal Riada and the Picts battled for control of her straths and glens, and Christianity battled with pagan religions for the salvation of her souls. It was into this climate that St. Fillan set forth, his staff in one hand and his bible in the other, and began preaching. It wasn't long before he settled in the glens above St. Fillans, and in time, people came from far and wide to hear his sermons and witness a miracle or two.

Among the stories which have survived through the generations, perhaps most remarkable is that of the Mayne. The story goes that, late one night, a lay brother was passing through the glen when he noticed an unusually bright light coming from a crack in the wall of St. Fillans cell. Drawing close for a better look, he found that the source of this light was nothing other than the saint himself - a wonderful stream of white light spilling out of his left hand! And so it was that, for the rest of his days and late into the nights, St. Fillan would read scripture and write sermons in the light of his divine lantern. However, the lessons of even our greatest teachers must one day cease to be heard first-hand, and shortly before St. Fillans died, five of his dearest lay brothers were chosen to be the Deoradh, preservers of the saint's memory. They were each entrusted with an important relic of St. Fillans, which they were to pass from generation to generation. One of these relics, known as the Mayne, was the bone of the saints miraculous left arm. The duties of the Deoradh Mayne were passed down through the generations and did not die out until the Reformation some eight centuries later! Indeed, the medieval historian Boece tells us that it was an encounter with this very arm bone on the 23rd of June 1314 which inspired Robert the Bruce to victory in the Battle of Bannockburn the next day!