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August 8th 1798

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St Fillan's Bell

Like the Quigrich, the St Fillans bell was also placed in the safekeeping of a Dewar whose land was at Suie in Glendochart.

It was evidently considered to be a relic of some importance and was borne in the pageant at the coronation of James 4th in 1488.

Sometime after the Reformation, the Dewars of Suie lost possession of the Bell which made its way to the churchyard at Strathfillan. It was still considered to have magical properties, and was much used in rites to cure the insane. (It would be interesting to know the success rate of these cures which consisted firstly of immersing the insane person in the Linne Naomh or Holy Pool at Strathfillan; then taking them to the churchyard at St Fillan where they were secured to a stone in the churchyard with the Bell placed over their heads and left overnight. If by morning they had broken loose from their bonds it was a sign that they would be cured. If they were unsuccessful it was considered that there was no hope of curing them.)

There was another tradition concerning the Bell. That if it were to be removed from the churchyard it would return there by the next day. In 1798 a somewhat sceptical Englishman decided to test out the theory and removed the Bell to England.

There it remained for over seventy years when Bishop Forbes of Brechin, while on a visit to the Earl of Crawford, happened to meet an Englishman who in conversation mentioned that a relative of his living in Hertfordshire still possessed the Bell.

The original thief who kept a diary of his Scottish visit related the circumstances with some panache. “In order to ascertain the truth of St Fillan’s Bell I carried it off with me to England……An old woman asked what I wanted with the Bell and I told her that I had an unfortunate relative at home out of his mind and that I wanted him cured. ‘Oh but,’ she says ‘you must bring him here to be cured or it will be of no use.’ Upon which I told her that he was too ill to be moved and off I galloped with the Bell to Tyndrum Inn.” 

Once again a relic of St Fillan which had appeared to be lost for ever was returned to Scotland and now stands beside the Quigrich at the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh.

One does not have to be a catholic or even a Christian to feel that there is something wonderful about the way in which these two relics returned, if not to Strathfillan, at least back to the capital of Scotland “for the benefit and enjoyment of the Scottish Nation.” 

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