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ST FERGUS' WELL.
No longer sounds the convent bell,
AMONG all the classical and interesting spots in and around Glamis, none is so full of the mystic associations of the past as St Fergus' Well. Though less known to the cursory visitant than those other places more loudly celebrated in story and song, it is, nevertheless, a most interesting spot, and worthy of its quiet fame as the romantic site of some ancient and almost forgotten monastery.
A pathway immediately to the north of the churchyard, leads to the wood-shaded dell in which the well is situated. Winding pleasantly around its base, the waters of the burn flow peacefully onward to their junction with the Dean. Above and around, the silent dead of many a grade and generation sleep quietly, and undisturbed, their last, long sleep. When you sit by the well, you may hear in the sweet summer time, the subdued and muffled voices of the youthful villagers at play on the village green, and the plaintively mellow notes of the happy birds as they sing their even-song unseen among the green spreading boughs of the burrounding woods; but the voices and songs, spiritualised and softened by distance, seem to come from afar, and pensively fall upon the ear like the distant sounds of music of another world than ours.
When I last sat by the well—now a good many years ago -I thought I had never till then so fully realised the touching sentiment of the beautifully expressive line
“How still and peaceful is the grave !" All was so silent, so solemn, and the woodland surroundings so appropriate to the quiet resting places of the dead! A grey linnet perched itself on the overhanging boughs immediately above where I musingly sat, and chanted very sweetly its summer song; but not being joined by any other of the songsters of the grove, and not wishing to intrude, as I imagined, on my then overwhelming grief, it soon ceased its flute-like warblings, and flew quickly away across the burn to the waving woodland beyond
Birdie ! hie thee on thy way,
Fill up thy time of gladness,
Aught e'er of joy or gladness.
Merrily revel in thy joy,
Each bursting joyous morrow,
To drink its bitter sorrow. Ornamental cemeteries are new and not unimposing features in our Scottish landscape. Is it not to be feared, however, that, while these statued burying-grounds give full scope for the display of taste, they may at the same time serve gradually to uproot the reverential and solemn feelings universally experienced by our countrymen, even at the sight of a single grave? We enter a Pere la Chaise, or Necropolis, not with the feelings of those who are entering the “place of graves," but with the intention and desire of beholding works of art; and while we admiringly gaze on the monumental pillars and sculptured tombs which surround us, the slumbering dead who lie mouldering beneath are not in all our thoughts.
I love the quiet, secluded burying-ground, with its little green hillocks and rudely-sculptured tombstones, surrounded
with the solemn grove of lofty oaks or wide-spreading elms; beautified, it may be, by some tiny, murmuring rivulet, and overlooked by the modest, yet venerable house of God. All these characteristics are in the highest degree combined in the churchyard of Glamis, than which a sweeter or more romantic “resting place” is not to be found among all the beautiful scenes of our beautiful land. Full of such thoughts, as I sat on the occasion alluded to beside St Fergus' Well, beneath the dark shadow of the rock from which it springs, and encompassed by a deeper shadow of the heart crushed and broken under its great sorrow, I could not refrain from exclaiming with Bernard Barton
“ Then be our burial grounds as should become
A simple, but a not unfeeling race ;
As best befits the quiet resting place
Appointed for the prisoners of grace,
When the last trump shall sound, the trembling base
Although no authentic history is on record, and no vestiges of any buildings remain, it has, with every probability, been supposed that the name of this romantic well had its origin in some ancient monastery, of which St Fergus was the patron saint and chief. No site for an Abbey or a Monastery could have been finer, or more appropriate; and the imagination is left free and unfettered to fill up the picture as best it may.
We can thus wing our thoughts away at our own free will to that dark-shadowed, remote age, when this romantic sylvan den was rife with friars and monks and nuns, and vocal with the choral hymns and orisons and vesper songs of the cloistered Abbey, with all its splendid garniture of sculptured nave and pillared aisle ; the crosier, mitre, jewelled cross; the marble altars in the dimly-lighted choir, at whose holy shrines the shaven priests do minister in their variegated robes, from the sober hues of mottled grey, to the royal purple aglow with precious stones, and bedight with glittering trappings of burnished gold.
As is my wont, however, I wish to surround St. Fergus Well with some living, human interest, and to connect its hallowed precincts with the present as well as with the past.
About the middle of the last century there was born in the neighbourhood of Glamis, of humble, yet industrious and respectable parents, the seventh son of the family. Joe Wightman, although an ailing and sickly child, grew up apace, and by the time he went to the village school he had grown into a fine, stout, healthy boy. After mastering the rudiments, he pursued his studies, such as they were, with the greatest application and industry. He excelled in arithmetic, his great delight being in the successful manipulation of figures. The climax to him was reached at last when he was taught a smattering of algebra and mathematics, and had fairly mastered all the other branches of education then common to his class.
It was now that the golden dreams of the future fitted fitfully across the mind of the adventurous and aspiring boy. He had high ambition, but his ambition was to be great and rich. While his youthful brain was teeming with these gilded visions of power and renown, he used to retire every evening to the shady quietude of St Fergus' Well to “ build his castles in the air,” and ruminate on the steps to be taken to secure the reality of his fondly cherished dreams.
Of this truth he became early and thoroughly convinced, viz., that if he would be great and rich, he must work to attain these ends. Being of a practical turn of mind, he duly balanced and weighed the probabilities and improbabilities of his ever being so successful in life as to reach the summit of his ambitious hopes. Feeling persuaded in his own mind that he had sufficient energy, nerve, and perseverance to achieve success, if he only knew how to set about it, he resolved to make himself acquainted with the histories of those who had, by their own unaided exertions, become great and good.
Books and libraries not being so plentiful in those days, the only volume pertaining to the subject he could obtain was the “Life and Career of Whittington,” who, from a poor friendless boy, became thrice Lord Mayor of London. This was sufficient for young Wightman ; he had read enough ; his resolution was unalterably taken ; he would go to England and strive by every means in his power to reach the summit of his ambition.
Like all persons, man or boy, who are of a resolute, determined turn of mind, our hero was very reticent as to his future plans and purposes, concealing his high aims even from his nearest and dearest relations, unburthening his mind and the projects by which it was filled to none but himself and God. This is scarcely, however, literally correct. He had a "familiar," and that familiar was St Fergus' Well! Strange as it may seem, this ancient well and classical surroundings had from the first been the recipients of his thoughts, and with whom he had taken counsel as with animate intelligent beings. Not that the young aspirant was of a dreamy, poetical temperament. He had not the most infinitesimal particle of that in his composition. If he had had, he would never have achieved success as a plodding, moneymaking man of business.
Before advancing further in his career, his parents had now to be consulted. This he did with all the fervour of emotional feeling, yet with due respect and affection to those who had done well their part to him, and whom he most tenderly and reverentially loved. To his inexpressible delight, his father encouragingly approved of his plans, while his mother did not object, although it was apparent her negative consent was given reservedly and with great reluctance.
It having been arranged that Joe was to sail for London from Dundee, he paid his last visit to St Fergus' Well on the evening previous to his departure, to bid a final adieu to scenes which had become incorporated with his very nature. It was a beautiful summer evening, but Joe saw not its beauty; the