of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick Parish Church and
History of Saint Devenick
patron Saint of Banchory-Devenick was one Devenicus, a disciple of St.
Columba. Like most of the good men of Iona his history is obscure.
Trained in the rigorous school over which the great Saint presided, he
was sent forth, like the other disciples, from the little island to the
rough mainland with its rougher people, to endeavour to convert them
from Paganism. After wandering on his mission through various districts
of Scotland, he founded a church at Methlick, in which parish, on the
second Tuesday of November, till within recent years, a fair or market,
called St. Devenick’s Fair, was regularly held. His chief connection,
however, lay with the parish of Banchory-Devenick, which took its name
following legends, in prose and verse, are translations from latin
biographies of the Saint:—“ While the most blessed Fathers, Columba and
Mauricius, were preaching the faith of Christ in Scotland, St. Devenicus,
the celebrated Confessor of Christ, famous for his life and sanctity,
flourished ; a man, indeed, given up in an unusual degree to holy and
religious works, after the manner of the age : who, burning with divine
love, being insjaired by the Holy Spirit, said to St. Mauricius, ‘You
see, O Master, what a great number of people there is in this province
given up to the worship of idols, and how few works of the ministry of
God : therefore I ask that if it please you we separate in the work of
ministry through the breadth of the kingdom. You, indeed, tell the Word
of God to the nation of Piets. I will depart to the province of the
Cathini, and proceed to announce the doctrine of Christ to them.’ St.
Mauricius said, ‘ Now, Brother, we will again be joined,’ and he said, ‘
We will also be joined forever in the heavenly life, and there be glad
and rejoice with Christ. Only, this more do I ask of you in the name of
our Master, that since near death enshrouds me, when I am dead you will
cause my body to be carried to this place and buried here.’ St.
Mauricius also assenting, St. Devenicus departed to the Cathini, boldly
preaching the Word of God there, and converting many persons to the
faith of Christ. Mauricius, the blessed man, wandering through the whole
kingdom of the Piets, by praying and exhorting them, and by doing many
wonderful things, and making many signs, brought an infinite multitude
of them under the faith. He even caused the chiefs and leaders and also
the nobles of the land to believe on Christ; and, having there destroyed
the temples of the idols, and having overthrown their altars, he ordered
houses of meeting to be built. In these days it happened that the most
holy old man, Devenicus, of whom we have made mention, having advanced
to a long old age, spent his life in this manner. When he came to the
end of his life,
having called some of his servants to him, said, ‘ When I am dead, take
up my body, and carry it to one of the meetings of St. Mauricius, and
say to him that I remember his promise which I got from him when I was
going away.’ Having said these things he gave up the ghost, and his men,
carrying out his orders, carried him to a certain hall which was in a
neighbouring monastery. And on the following night, whilst the blessed
Mauricius was keeping watch at his orisons, he saw angels descending on
the house in which the body of St. Devenick was. The holy man said to
his brothers, ‘ The most holy man came to us a guest, come let us visit
him and perform the duty of humanity which we owe to him.’ But when they
came to the house they did not find the body, for they passed the
porters and ascended into the mountain, there desiring to rest for a
short time. The Saint with his men, following on their track, found them
in a place which is called Crosta. There, therefore, the devoted man
stayed beside the remains of the holy old man, keeping watch with
psalms, prayers and preachings, and unwearied with assiduous watching.
These finished, they carried the body to a place of which the name is
Banchory-Devenick, and there gave it up to be honourably buried. They
built a hall which is called, even to this day, after the name of that
old man, Banchory-Devenick, where the merits of that Saint intervening,
many benefits are conferred on the erring by the assistance of our Lord
Jesus Christ, to whom be the honour, forever, Amen !”
much for the prose story. The versified one is hardly less interesting
lang eftire apone a day
(To) sanct Machor a mane cane say:
That sanct Dewynnik In-to Catnes
Thru gret eilde falyeit and ded was;
And quhene he one his dedstra lay,
To thaime that nest war he cane say:
Sene that ye se ded sail me tak,
I coniure you for godis sak
That yhe for na trawall be Irke
To bere my body to sume kirk,
Quharfor sanct Machor has keping,
And pray hyme for the hewynnis king
That he meyne one and thochtfull be
Of his hicht that ye mad to me
Of his gud will at our partyng.
With this of spek he mad ending
And yaulde the gast but mare abad.
And thai that this commawndment had,
To tak his body war nocht Irk
And one a bere brocht till a kirk
That was bot litill fra that place
That befor to thaime lentyne was.
And quhene that sanct Machor this tale
Has herd as I haf tald yu hale,
He mad regrat and had disese.
But, for he durst nocht god disples,
That nycht but slepe all haile he lay
In his prayere, till it wes day:
And in that kirk with fleschely eyne
Full feile brycht angelis he has sene
Flc upe and doune, makand thairc play.
Quhar at the cors of Dewynnik lay.
Thane was sanct Machor blyth and glad
For this fare sicht that he sene had.
And one the morne quhene it was day,
Till his discipulis this cane say:
Lowe we all god, my brothir dere,
That has ws send a gud gestenere!
Tharfor mak we ws redy tyt
Hyme, as a spe afferis, to visidte
And yeld till hyme forout delay
That office that we acht to say
For worthi mene, quhene thai ded are!
With that thai passit furthmare
To the kirk quhar at sanct Machor
The angelis play had sene befor.
Bot thai that the cors brocht thiddire,
With It had gane thar way to-giddir
Ner-by of Creskane to the hill,
And thare abad, to reste in will.
Bot sanct Machor forontyne firste.
Folouit and fand thaime thaire tak reste.
And he and his thar with thame abad
Till thai the seruice all had mad
That to sic deide mene suld parteyne
Ar ony wink come in thar eyne.
And syne bare the cors deuotely
Till a place callit Banchory.
And thare solempni with honoure
Thai grathit for it a sepulture,
And one hyme thare thai mad a kirk.
Quhar god yeit cesis nocht to wirk
Thru his prayere ferleis full fele,
To sek and sar folk gyfand heile.
Mene callis that place quar he lay
Banchory Dewynnik till this day.
legends represent St. Devenick as an old man at the time St. Machar was
preaching in the northeast of Scotland ; and then, as dividing the work
between himself and St. Machar, he going to Cathini while St. Machar
remained at Aberdeen. In consequence of a prior compact entered into
between the two Saints, the body of St. Devenick was brought back to
Aberdeen, and buried at Banchory-Devenick. He had a dedication at Creich,
in Sutherland, where he was known as “St. Teavnich.” Boece calls him,
‘Archdeacon,’ but King, Keith, and others style him ‘Bishop.’ Though the
first legend represents him as a contemporary of St. Columba, the
Scottish Annalists record his death as occurring, a.d., 887, in the reign
of Soluathius. But the Scotch Kings, named Selvach, Latinised,
Soluathius, were both in the sixth century, and thus the time of the
Saint is left in doubt, though the balance of authority leans to the
sixth century.* His feast day, 13th November, was long religiously held
by the inhabitants of the parish, and a special altar was afterwards
raised to his memory in the Cathedral of Aberdeen.
kirk of Banchory-Devenick, however, does not appear prominently in
history till the year 1163, when Malcolm IV. granted a charter (its
authenticity is doubted) in favour of the Bishop of Aberdeen, confirming
and conveying large tracts of land throughout the country, for the
benefit of the See which his namesake, Malcolm II., is said to have
founded at Mortlach in 1010. It had been removed to Old Aberdeen in
1137, and among the lands mentioned in the charter of Malcolm IV., is
“the kirk of Banchory-Devenick, with the land and pertinents.”
Nearly a hundred years later, 1256, the parson of Banchory-Devenick was
eleventh prebend of the chapter. Each prebend had a manse and glebe, in
Old Aberdeen. ‘•His manse, yard and gleib,” says Orem, describing the
prebend’s property, “ lie on the west side of the Chanry ; having on the
north the Parson of Oyne’s manse, and on the south the Parson of Ellon’s;
which manse was a great lodging, with a large yard, and a gleib of
arable land, consisting of a rigg at the end of said yard, lying towards
the Kettle Hills.” This manse continued to be occupied by the minister
of Banchory-Devenick, for some considerable time after the Reformation.
Banchory-Devenick is interesting as being one of the last parishes in
Scotland into which Episcopacy was attempted to be introduced. In the
Spring of 1712, upwards of two hundred copies of the English prayer book
were sent down from London, for gratis distribution among the
parishoners. On 19th October, following, the assistant minister, Robert
Jamieson, intimated from the pulpit, that “the excellent liturgy of the
church of England was to be used in the public worship of God in this
congregation, and accordingly the people were seriously exhorted to
perform this method of worship with a true spirit of devotion, and with
that becoming gravity and decencie that was expected from those who had
been so exemplary heretofore in the public worship of God.” On the
following Sunday, therefore, “ the liturgy was first used,” and two
months thereafter, “all the dasks in the church were made fitt for
kneeling in the time of prayers, by fixing kneeling boards in every dask.”
This mode of worship appears to have been followed for only a very brief
period, probably not beyond December, 1714, when the Rev. James Gordon
the minister, who was a staunch Episcopalian, died. It is a singular
circumstance that, seventy years after, not a single copy of the two
hundred books remained in the parish, and that a tempting offer by Dr.
Morison, to the booksellers in Aberdeen, failed to secure one.
impossible to state at what date the church previous to the present one
was erected, but on the back of an old pewter plate belonging to the
church is a rude tracing of what is believed to represent it. It had
been a small low roofed building with two windows on the south side, and
a sort of belfry with entrance door at one end.
date given is 1642. In the beginning of last century the fabric had
fallen into a somewhat unsatisfactory state. “ Divots” or “sods” were
frequently required to fill up gaps in the walls ; and although no great
attention was paid to comfort, the parishioners had evidently had a
desire to improve the appearance of the structural arrangements. On 23rd
November, 1712, “the minister and elders, taking to their serious
consideration that whereas the pulpit in the church was very mean and
insufficient, it was judged proper for the greater decencie and ornament
of the church that there should be a new pulpit, and reading dask made
of firr wood, and handsome and good work, and the management and
ordering thereof was committed to the assistant.” After the wear and
tear of another century, however, the whole building became decayed ;
and in 1821 the state of the church was such that it became imperative
on the heritors either to substantially renew the old structure or
provide a new church in its stead. A strong movement was made by certain
parishioners resident on the coast side of the parish to have the church
removed from the old site to the top of the hill of Banchory, but the
minister and several of the heritors were opposed to it. Ultimately
estimates were taken for the renewing and enlarging of the old building,
and also for erecting a new church from the foundation. It was then
found that the one would cost about as much as the other, and, as the
leading heritors were in favour of the latter scheme, it was unanimously
agreed that the old building should be pulled down, and a substantial
one, capable of accommodating nine hundred sitters, erected in its
place. The kirk-session records show that the new church was opened for
divine service on 29th September, 1822, and that on the previous
twenty-five Sundays the congregation had met for worship in the
churchyard, where the pulpit and seats had been temporarily set up. It
is worthy of note that on none of these twenty-five Sundays had a single
drop of rain fallen during the services, whilst on the day the church
was opened rain fell heavily. It was not till the year 1865 that the
area of the church was floored with wood and a system of heating
introduced. Prior to this, rough blocks of stone served as a floor, and
the idea of heating would have been considered grossly extravagant.
old church bell, believed to have been cast in the year 1597, having
become useless, was sold in 1868. It bore the following inscription,
which is old German :— H B. Alleine . Got . In . Der . Hoge . Sei . Ere
. 1597. The translation is. Alone to God in Heaven
be Praise. A new bell was provided and hung,
but it possesses nothing like the rich and mellow tone of the old one.
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