Saint Drostan, Hermit of Glen Esk

December 15 is the feast of Saint Drostan, Hermit of Glen Esk
“Saint Drostan (d. early 7th century), also Drustan, was the founder and abbot of the monastery of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire. His relics were translated to the church at New Aberdour and his holy well lies nearby.
aberdeen breviary
A Scottish abbot who flourished about A.D. 600. All that is known of him is found in the “Breviarium Aberdonense” and in the “Book of Deer”, a ninth-century manuscript, now in the Cambridge University Library, but these two accounts do not agree in every particular.
book of deer
He appears to have belonged to the royal family of the Scoti, his father’s name being Cosgrach. Showing signs of a religious vocation he was entrusted at an early age to the care of St. Columba, who trained him and gave him the monastic habit.
Drostan was one of the twelve companions who sailed from Ireland to Scotland around 563 with St Columba. These twelve became known as the ‘Brethren of St Columba’. He accompanied that saint when he visited Aberdour in Buchan, about 45 miles from Aberdeen.
According to the Celtic legend St. Columcille, his disciple Drostan, and others, went from Iona into Buchan and established an important missionary centre at Deer on the banks of the Ugie on lands given him by the mormaer or chief of the district whose son he had by his prayers freed of a dangerous illness.
The Pictish ruler of that country gave them the site of Deir, fourteen miles farther inland, where they established a monastery, and when St. Columba returned to Iona he left St. Drostan there as abbot of the new foundation which some sources say received royal support because of its proximity to the Pictish capital of Craig Phadrig, near Inverness. On the death of the Abbot of Dalquhongale (Holywood) some few years later, St. Drostan was chosen to succeed him. Afterwards, feeling called to a life of greater seclusion, he resigned his abbacy, went farther north, and became a hermit at Glenesk. Here his sanctity attracted the poor and needy, and many miracles are ascribed to him, including the restoration of sight to a priest named Symon.
When St. Drostan died at Glen Esk his remains were conveyed back to Aberdour where they were deposited in a ‘tumba lapidea’ or stone coffin. Here his bones were said to work miraculous cures upon the sick and afflicted. The Breviary of Aberdeen celebrates his feast on 15 December. The monastery of Old Deer, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt for Cistercian monks in 1213 and so continued until the Reformation.”
The ruins of Deer Abbey. Columba and his nephew Drostan founded a monastery here in the 6th century, of which no trace remains. The Book of Deer is a most interesting relic of the monks, which was discovered in 1857 in the Cambridge University library by Henry Bradshaw. It was probably stolen during the Wars of Scottish Independence by English troops. It is a small manuscript of the Gospels in the Vulgate, fragments of the liturgy of the Celtic church, and notes, in the Gaelic script of the 12th century, referring to the charters of the ancient monastery, including a summary of that granted by David I of Scotland. These are among the oldest examples of Scottish Gaelic. The manuscript is also adorned with Gaelic designs. It had belonged to the monks of Deer and been in the possession of the University Library since 1715. It was edited by John Stuart for the Spalding Club, by whom it was published in 1869 under the title The Book of Deer (Leabhar Dhèir in Gaelic).
“The Church of St Dreostan at Aberdour was established by St Drostan when he landed at Aberdour shore in the 6th century A.D. St. Drostan had parted from St. Columba with a view to bringing the gospel to the north east of Scotland. Aberdour is therefore, a fountainhead for Christianity in Scotland and this above all, drives us on to proclaim God’s word in this parish. The original Aberdour church was built near the shoreline on a site whose history dates back to Celtic times. When St. Drostan died at Glen Esk his remains were conveyed back to Aberdour where they were deposited in a ‘tumba lapidea’ or stone coffin. Here his bones were said to work miraculous cures upon the sick and afflicted. The earliest parts of the old kirk possibly belong to the 16th century but the piscina (basin used for washing communion vessels) and a hexagonal baptismal font appear to be of an older date. The latter was brought from Chapelden, about four miles westward where there was another ancient place of worship. This first Aberdour church was replaced in 1818 by the present building up in New Aberdour”
“Saint Drostan is only know about at all because he appears in two old manuscripts, the Book of Deer (or Book of Deir) an illuminated manuscript whose origins date back to the 900s, and Breviarium Aberdonense, (the Aberdeen Breviary) produced by Bishop William Elphinstone in Aberdeen in 1510, though the two do not tell a completely consistent story about him. His name is also attached to various churches and to other features, such as St Drostan’s Well at Aberlour in Speyside, now the water source for Aberlour Distillery.
St Drostan seems to have been a son of the royal family of Dalriada, whose father was called Cosgrach. Presumably being a younger son, he was trained to become a monk on Iona by St Columba. He accompanied Columba on at least one of his missions to the Picts, and together they travelled to Aberdeenshire, possibly with St Fergus. The Pictish King they were visiting gave Columba a site for a monastery at Deer. Having worked together to set up the monastery, Columba appointed Drostan to be its abbot, and returned to Iona. Drostan later became Abbot of “Dalquhongale” Abbey, which some have associated with Holywood Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway. Still later he became a hermit in Glen Esk in Angus, and is said to have performed many miracles, including restoring the sight of a priest named Symon. After his death, Drostan’s relics were kept in a church at Aberdour, close to the site of the village of New Aberdour in northern Aberdeenshire.
The dates for all this revolve around two fixed points. The first is the suggestion in the documentary sources that Drostan was abbot of the monastery at Deer in 600, and the other is the date of the death of Columba, which happened in 597. It therefore seems reasonable to suggest a foundation date for the monastery at Deer in the 580s. The original monastery at Deer fell out of use and when Deer Abbey was founded by William Comyn, the Earl of Buchan, in 1219 on a site half a mile to the west. Drostan’s original monastery was probably on the site later used for Old Deer Old Kirk.”
glen esk
Glen Esk is a glen in the Braes of Angus, Glen Esk occupies the valley of the River North Esk. The village of Edzell lies at the mouth of the glen.

See also


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: