This third issue of Scalan News is half as big again as its two predecessors and there is an accompanying faint doubt as to whether it will still go out to members with an 18p stamp. If this expansion continues it will no longer be possible to read it over breakfast (even now a hearty breakfast is implied) but on the other hand your subscription of £5 begins to look like money well spent rather than just support for a good cause. (Have you renewed, by the way? We have 80 new members since summer but are not sure how many old ones are still with us.)
No decision was made but - like you know who - it just growed. The second part of the Chisholm Trail is not overwordy in bringing us (in imagination) up from Preshome to 5calan and on to Tomintoul. Then it seemed necessary to your editor, who has been personally involved in a three-part serial, to write a full account of this year's Scalan Mass. The remaining contents are made up of shorter pieces, mainly emanating from the two meetings of the Committee which have taken place since the sununer.
It could have been longer, or at least wordier. In defending his creation from the editorial blue pencil Dr McNamee was heard to mutter something about the space being taken up by Peter Anson's drawings. No doubt these will eventually run out, but this number starts with an illustration in support of the Chisholm Trail's detour by way of Tombae in Glenlivet. Mgr Copland's childhood home is up the hill.
In the last issue we signalled our intention to approach a range of grant-awarding trusts in the hope that at least one would come up with cash for Scalan. So far our President has received a range of replies, from polite regret through promises of future possibilities to actual money. £2000 was given by the Scottish Churches Architectural Trust. Historic Scotland (which looks after old buildings and ancient monuments) made quite encouraging noises but said their cupboard was bare for this year. Moray District Council will probably pay 25 per cent of certain costs once we can demonstrate that we have put the building contract properlY out to tender. And Trusthouse Forte have asked for photographs to be submitted under their Community Chest programme: 'monthly grants of between £100 and £1,000 - no project is too big or two small.'
We thought we had two local firms lined up to submit tenders, both with a good track record in the restoration of old buildings. One would have been willing to start in late summer but the other was slow to reply and now finds himself overcommitted elsewhere. Other firms have been approached and we are reasonably sure that work will begin as soon as weather permits in the spring. At one time the cautious view was that we should wait till we had the money before giving the order to go ahead, but there is a certain urgency about what now looks like a first, save-the-fabric, phase (second phase, improvement of the interior: from the Catholic archivist at Columba House in Edinburgh we know what colour of paint was used on the walls of the seminary) and it appears that the money will be there soon enough: there was £16,500 in the bank at the last count. Your continuing subscriptions are of course an important part of these calculations.
Those who have been to Scalan in the last eighteen months or so must have been impressed by the beautifully painted notice at the gate. There is now something equally splendid inside the building, created - surprise, surprise - by that gifted signwriter in retirement, Bill McEwan. He calls it a Scala nometer, since the most prominent feature of this second notice board depicts a thermometer marked off in thousands of pounds. It starts with a hearty 'Welcome Visitor!' and goes on to explain what the building is about and why money is needed to preserve it. It ends with contact addresses for joining the Scalan Association. Somewhere in the middle is a reference to £21,000, of which '£14,000 has already been subscribed', but that was a while ago. During the first month after the Scalanometer had been placed in the room to the right as you go in, .£40 was put the collection box. As Jane McEwan said at our meeting, 'You'll need to get your paintbrush out again Bill!'
Two watery topics came up.
Mgr. Copland was keen that the Bishop's Well should have a signpost of its own telling people about the gurgling source which enters the Crombie close to the site of the
original seminary. A plaque-pluscup is what he has in mind. As the modern fashion for returning to 'green' nature reminds us, wells were among the most ancient focuses of primitive belief, and it may have been the existence of a well which caused Scalan to be where it is, Christianising that old paganism. In the century or so after the Reformation, at any rate, pilgrimages to wells became a way of showing devotion to the 'old faith'.
At this point Bill Grant of Eskemulloch came up 'Nith the very latest in local knowledge. It seems that during October broad-gauged plastic tubing was all over the place in the vicinity of Scalan. It is to be dug into the landscape, so that is not a problem - and indeed there is no problem. But consider this! The water of Glenlivet which served up to 200 whisky stills in the 18th century is now to be sold as water to Europeans and Americans who don't trust what comes out of the tap. Whether they use it to accompany the malted product or as an alternative to alcohol with meals is their affair. Bill thinks it is to sell (and sell, and sell) as 'Caledonia Glenlivet', but the Scalan Association is not sponsoring it.
That's a joke, but in all seriousness some members (most members?) fear that Scalan will be spoiled if commercial interests come into the area. It would certainly be alarming if the great world of high finance and business acumen wanted water from the Bishop's Well, but in fact the pipes are going up the hillside to the first burn of Slochd. Hardly an eyesore up there.
The annual Mass took place on the first Sunday of July as usual and was both typical and a little better. The weather was fine, and people were there in great numbers. Quite a few drivers risked their cars on the track from Eskemulloch and some even drove over the wooden bridge. There was a very nice feeling of slow gathering from shortly before 3 o'clock. The place already seemed pleasantly full when a further column was seen approaching along the other side of the Crombie. A bagpiper came do .... '11 from the hills and played his way into camp with 'Faith of Our Fathers'.
Scalan is in the Aberdeen diocese.
To the delight of all present, Bishop Mario Conti appeared to remind us that the event was a return to the roots of the Catholic Church which has built up in Scotland over the last two hundred years. His homily made a natural link between ScalaI'. as a nursery of priests in the eighteenth century and the present need for vocations.
was no shortage of priests on the day. We had Mgr John Copland up from Keith, Fr Peter
Moran from Blairs, and Fr Colin Stewart who is parish priest of Tomintoul, Tombae and
Chapelton of Glenlivet. The Jesuits were represented by Fr Charles Skelley, a veteran of
Tomintoul's cold winters but now retired
but now retired10 the Mediterranean climate of Fochabers.
Fr Michael Briody came from East Kilbride at the head of his parishioners had two very attractive photographs of ScalaI'. on offer and the possibility of a framed picture. He encouraged us to leave with lightened pockets, but the only other 'commercial' aspect was provided by Bill and Jane McEwan, both in sunhats and signing up new members over a card table.
Bishop Conti invited us to share his feelings about Abbe Paul .MacPherson's chalice, donated in 1827 by Pope Leo XII in gratitude for the Scalan-born priest's service to the Church Universal during the Nap':: oleonic Wars. It is inscribed ad Ecclesiam Glenlivatensis - 'to the Church of Glenlivet'. Monsignor Cop land then took his turn at 4he microphone and passed on th2 architect's opinion that two hard winters could bring down the walls of the old seminary, but then reassured us that work was about to begin. Afterwards in conversation our President (Mgr. Copland) was enthusing about what could be done to make the interior of Scalan more reminiscent of its original function.
There was a chance to speak to many people before and after Mass. Alistair Cherry of the National library of Scotland bustled about seeing to the needs of the more elderly members of his bus party. It was fortunate for several that cars were available and drivers glad to offer lifts. And David McNamee was there talking about the old railway stage of his Chisholm Trail. A Dundee couple had read about the event in a parish bulletin at Gairloch on the north-west frontier of the diocese and brought their trailer-tent to visit a site they had only vaguely heard of. But the furthest travelled was surely the lady from Gerrard's Cross, Bucks, who times her visits north with the annual Scalan Mass in mind.
Sandy Matheson was quietly present at the corner of his house, properly dressed for the occasion in suit, tie and bonnet. After the piper had given his promised rendering of 'The Little Spree' (Sealan News 2) he gave Sandy the promised dram of Chi vas Regal (Sealan News 1). After a while Sandy began to speak about dancing on the green in the days of his youth. The grass in front of the seminary had been cut the day before by Bill Grant of Eskemulloch, who felt that he qualified for some kind of travel award for the number of times he was up and down the track from Chapeltown. In particular he saved the day - and the liturgy - by returning with an altar cloth.
The Hansford family add a new dimension to Scalan now that they have moved into the chapel-house at Chapeltown. Lucie and Marie greeted arrivals by handing out hymn sheets at the bridge. Later on
Ann, the oldest, proved her skill as a linguist by addressing the family dog in Czech. Their father Robert padded about on bare feet to relieve the great blisters he had received coming across from the Well of the Lecht. Mark Hansford, inspired to try it on an earlier occasion by something he'd read, was able to reassure the group who gathered there that it was possible to cross from Scalan by bike (with a good deal of carrying) and it was he who led the Lecht party over to Scalan on foot.
Jo Smith who lives at Chapelhouse, Corgarff (simply the only kind of address for this occasion) was able to demonstrate that practically anybody can cross by the old southern route. In May she had an operation on a knee which had been badly damaged in collision with a mad Mafioso driver near Naples, yet she only brought her stick with thoughts of throwing it away and claiming a Scalan miracle. She made it anyway, along with two friends who were up from Edinburgh.
All this Well of the Lecht business confirmed that the map at the picnic site is misleading in its precise depiction, borrowed from the Ordnance Survey, of a path. Even with people scattered over the heather like grouse beaters it was impossible to discern any track leading up from the Lead Mill. In order to tramp one into place (as we surely will in time) a line of posts or cairns will have to be created.
Several members of the Roberts family were conspicuous by their absence from the Scalan Mass, and your editor was seriously distracted while scanning the horizen for them. Those who recall 'Lost in the Mist' from Scalan News 1 will understand why he alludes with some care to the fact that Deirdre, the mother and organiser of all, led a substantial part of her brood 'on ahead' - straight for Tomintoul. Fortunately a tractor-driver was in the way at Lynavoir. Once the party was pointed in the right direction for Scalan (perfect visibility on this occas-ion but still no compass - or map!) it was only a matter of time before young Kieran - already known as 'pathfinder' to his older brothers and sisters - arrived with Stephen. Catherine came a poor third.
At least they were in time for Communion but (possibly for the first time in her life) Oeirdre missed Sunday Mass! Her penance was total exhaustion and an altered family perspective on who can't find the way to Scalan. We rarely speak about it. Catherine drove us home through a thick fog which. began shortly after leaving 'Boutie's' (The Boultenstone Hotel in Strathdon) where we dined well and played pool. There was much advice from white-knuckled passengers in the back, as the journey to Aberdeen turned into a new version of 'Lost in the Mist'.
Anyone else who headed east that day must have had the same bizarre experience of long miles of near invisibility to contrast with memories or bright sunshine on the Braes of Glenlivet. One of Scalan's most distinguished alumni, Alexander Geddes, had the opposite impression when he wrote to a fellow student who was down with his family on the Moray Firth: 'Pray be so kind as to make inquiries after the health of the Sun. Fail not to pay my compliments to him and tell him I still hope that I shall one day be able to renew a personal acquaintance with him.' The sunshine and shadow aspect strengthened our L.'npression of this year's ScalanMass as a time out of time. The crowd dispersed slowly, leaving Sandy to his peace and quiet.
Are you familiar with Canon Robert Macdonald's booklet Churches & Places of Catholic Interest in Moray? It came out recently in an improved edition, so that there are now 23 places in the index including Sealan. There is an interesting new item on Sacrament Houses, described as 'aumbries' or wall cupboards which replaced the hanging or standing pyx in the sixteenth century for reasons of security. Based on an article by Mgr. Oavid McRoberts in The Innes Review for 1965, the entry points out that these have been echoed in modern times:
'After the Second Vatican Council, the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in a separate place of honour was encouraged, leaving the altar as simply the place of sacrifice:' And as the drawing below shows, there is a fine example of a Sacrament House at Deskford, near Preshome. If you would like a copy of this excellent compilation send £1.50 (including postage) to Canon Robert MacDonald, St Sylvester's, Institution Road, Elgin IV30 1QT.
The Chisholm Trail
[Part 2: Preshome to Tomintoul]
There will be more than enough road walking before this pilgrimage ends so all opportunities to escape from the tarmac should be taken. There is such an opportunity as you leave Preshome. Just east of the church is a farm track leading south towards a disused railway line, which can be followed in a southerly direction to the junction with a forest track at OS 28 NJ 411 592. Much of this old line will provide carefree walking with panoramic views (looking back) over the Moray Firth to the hills of Sutherland, but for the occasional fences it will be prudent to have half a metre of split garden hose to keep the barbed wire at bay. The forest track leads up the hill, and just before the summit a right fork should be taken which leads down to Keith.
For those who know their Catholic heritage Keith means the birthplace of St John Ogilvie, S.J., born in 1579 the eldest son of Walter Ogivie of Drum-na-Keith. A farm named Drum lies about two kilometres east of the town, and the. house of St John's birth is thought to have been nearby [Another view favours the castle which you pass on the way from the railway station - Ed.J but a visit to the site is not recommended. The landscape is dominated by pylons imd the farm is simply a mess. Far better to visit the distinctive church of St Thomas, founded in the 1830s with help from King Charles X of France, who was given a warm welcome by the Keith loons when he visited. Here you will be able to read the story of John Ogilvie's martyrdom in 1615.
Keith is 24 km. from Preshome and offers the possibility of a comfortable overnight stop. B & B addresses can be obtained from the Information Centre (05422 2634) and there is a fine camp site in summer where hill-walkers are welcome. Duff town is 15 km. from Keith by the B9014, but a judicious use of minor roads out of Keith and estate roads into Duff town reduces traffic encounters to a minimum. It would be tactful to ask the factor (054281 225) for permission to use the estate roads. Duff town has two churches of interest: St Mary's RC chapel erected in 1825 shortly before Catholic Emancipation, and Mortlach, a site of Christian worship since the sixth century and now in the care of the Church of Scotland. The leader of the Celtic monks from Iona who established a monastery here is believed to have been St Moluag, a name we shall meet again at the end of the Chisholm Trail. Whatever remains of the Columban church is deep underground, along with the medieval remains, but it is unlikely that much survived the terrorist raids from Scandinavia. (After 1200 years it is difficult to appreciate how seriously the development of Scotland was affected by these attacks on the spiritual and cultural resources of Celtic monasticism. The few illuminated manuscripts which have survived, such as The Book of Deer, can only hint at what was lost when the libraries were sacked.)
54 km. of quiet roads and heather tracks lie between Duff town and the village of Tomintoul. The wise pilgrim should carry food and camping equipment because at least one overnight stop will be necessary. Leave Duff town by the A941, noting Auchindoun Castle on your left about 3 km." beyond the town. Mass was celebrated there before the victory of the Catholic earls at Clenlivet in 1594. In the course of this battle Patrick Cordon of Auchindoun was killed: according to one of the army's Jesuit chaplains it was because he had neglected to paint a white cross on his surcoat like the others!
After the passing of the first Relief Act in 1793, Catholics no longer had to hide in the hills of this area and in 1794 a new mission was opened at Keithock near Auchindoun. As you continue south the Trail moves briefly to another map OS 37. After 10 km. strike off to the right at Bridgend, going counterclockwise around a small hill to ShenvaJ.. You are now in that wild country known as the Cabrach and less formally as the 'Siberia of Scotland' to the missionaries who served here in a sort of exile. Catholics from Mortlach sought refuge from the Penal Laws in this remote area, and from 1728 to 1793 Shenval was the centre of its devotional life. Little is left now of the former chapel and presbytery. The trace of a boundary wall marks the priest's domain, and a solitary rowan tree stands in what was once the garden. It is difficult for a modern Catholic to visit this lonely spot without beingmoved.
The next section of the Trail, which calls for good equipment and map reading, is thaught to. be the raute which was mast aften used by missianaries maving between the Braes af Enzie and Glenlivet. [The mass-site at Tomnagylach in Glenrinnes proves it was not the only route, however - Ed.] Scalan lies sauth-west af Shenval and the middle sectian af this stage is an tracks, same quite narraw but all shawn an the map. One sectian is nat very clear, hawever. A new farestry plantatian blacks the direct raute fram Shenval to. Blackwater Lodge and a detaur may prave necessary: certainly no. stiles were there in the summer af 1991. Fram Blackwater Ladge, fallaw the indicated path to. Suie and cantinue alang the River Livet until it begins to. swing narth. Abandan the track at this paint and head due sauth by way af Demickmare and Carry to. Scalan. It might help to. mark the pasitian af Scalan an the edge af yaur OS 37 map, with OS 36 ready far the next sectian.
The site yau are abaut to. visit served as a seminary between 1716 and 1799, mare or less cantemparaneous with Shenval (1728-1793) They shared the same principal feature af isalatian and far the same lang-term reasan - the Penal Laws. The immediate reasan far opening Scalan had been the enfarced clas'" ure of the seminary an Lach Marar after the 1715 Rising, when shelter was saught fram the secand Duke af Gardan.
The 1745 Rising which ended at Culladen led to. the destructian af the aId turf and heather-thatched hause. It was first rebuilt and then replaced (in 1769) by the simple building which is familiar to members of the Association. The primitive character of the older premises which were in use for the first fifty years, due to lack of funds and resources, did not serve as an excuse to dilute the training given to the future priests who received all or part of their formation at Scalan. To obtain a flavour of the life of a young seminarian, consider the rules for scholars which were drawn up by Bishop Gordon in 1722:
'They may learn also according as they advance something of Geography, Chronology, History, Critick, by and by, without much trouble or application. It is fitt that they learr. some litle of the Greek & likewise of Rhetorick, when they know the Latin prety well. And those who are well advanced in Philosophy or Divinity may learn somewhat of the Hebrew, if they have a genius fo:: tongues. But all that must be left to the prudent mangement of the master.
'They should rise in summer at five and in winter at six, and accordingly go to bed at nine or ten at night; for eight hours of rest and sleep is thought generally to be sufficient for any body in health. The house being chiefly dessign'd to educate them in piety, more regard must be had to it than to learning and more care must be constantly taken to instill it into them as certainly it is infinitely more valuable than learning, and without it learning is but a sword in a madman's hand. [OMeN's emphasis.]
Before leaving Scalan you might remember to pray for Peter Anson who did so much to remind cradle Catholics of their heritage. In a
1938 book called Caravan Pilgrim he wrote: 'It is sad to find this venerable sanctuary in such a neglected state. For over a century it has been used as a farm and its present condition is a reproach to its owners. It is a pity that Scalan cannot be purchased by the Scottish bishops and put to better use. For it is a witness to the fidelity and loyalty of Scottish Catholics during the worst times of persecution.' This timely reproach was not ignored and the building (but not the land around it) was bought by the Church.
The route from Scalan to Tomilltoul follows a metalled road from Chapeltown to Knockandhu and north to Tomnavoulin with a slight detour to T ombae. At Chapeltown the present church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, replacing that of Abbe Paul MacPherson; dates from 1897. Together with its school (now closed) Chapeltown suggests by its very name a harmony of life and environment which today's world has little time for.
In view of the distance walked from the Duff town road, it seems appropriate to mention the Pole Inn, conveniently situated at the point where you join the B9008 at Knockandhu. A kilometre north of it there is a track off to the right and a bridge over the River Livet leading to the Church of the Incarnation, Tombae. In preparation for a recent visit of the Moray Field Club, Elizabeth Beaton wrote: 'The Rev James Gardon of Tombae raised funds to build his church in 1829 by touring Ireland and elsewhere, for his parishioners were mostly too poor to subscribe, though they carted stone, lime and slates - the latter from Foudland near Huntly, by a caravan of fifty horses.' The Aberdeen architect James Gall was asked to design a building capable of holding 700, too large even at the time for the Catholic population of lower Glenlivet. Father Gordon lived and farmed at Tombae farm, where he also took in boarders to help defray his expenses. For a number of years the rear of the church upstairs was used as a school until a separate building could be provided.
From Tombae head for Tomnavoulin, re-crossing the River Livet by the distillery footpath, and take the track which leads first west and then south from the centre of the village. It follows the burn to Westertown and then meets the Speyside Way after Craighead. Take the Way into Tomintoul At this stage your thoughts are likely to be focused on the simple pleasures of life: food, bath and bed, and you should be able to find all you need in the village. There is also a youth hostel in the old, more austere, tradition and camping is permitted in the field used for the annual show at the high end of the village. The Glenavon Hotel also offers a rough patch for tents as well as access to washing facilities.
Once established you may be inclined to explore the Catholic heritage of Tomintoul. The foundation stone of the church of Our Lady and St Michael was laid in 1837, and pilgrims may be surprised to find evidence of an Irish presence at the time of the Great War. The Roll of Honour lists names of obvious Irish
extraction, due to the practice of sending Catholic orphans from Glasgow to Catholic families in the north, no doubt to their mutual advantage. Adjacent to the church is the former Convent of the Sisters of . Mercy who ran a school on this site. It is now the St Michael's Youth Centre in the charge of the Diocese of Aberdeen, and for youngsters in organised groups this is the obvious place to spend the night. Leaders should phone ahead (08074226) as the Centre is well used.
[The next section of the Trail follows the River Avon before passing over to Deeside.]
As mentioned at the beginning, we know that the Scalan Association is recruiting new members all the time but we're not sure how many we have because, inevitably, people forget to send in their fivers. It has been suggested at the Committee that we should issue banker's order, forms. Another idea is that some people might like the chance to become life members at, say, £40 something for the AGM to decide next summer. Meanwhile the address, as ever, for subs and even letters/ articles for the editor is:
Mrs Jane McEwan, Ogilvie Cottage, GallowhiIl, Glenlivet AB3 9DL