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August 24

St Yrchard - Burial Ground in Glemmoriston Scotland - August 24

Saint Yrchard

Bishop

(Around 5th Century – Unknown )

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Saint Yrchard

Saint’s Life Story

His Life 

Yrchard, also known as Irchard or Merchard, was born of pagan parents in the district of Kincardine-O’Neil, Aberdeenshire, Scotland in the 5th or 6th century. In his early youth, Yrachard embraced the Christian Faith. He was ordained priest by Saint Ternan of Culross, who associated the young man with himself in his missionary labors preaching the Gospel to the heathen Picts. Yrchard lived a solitary and ascetic life.

Missionary Bishop

In later life, Yrchard journeyed to Rome. There, he was consecrated bishop. According to some, Yrchard may have been consecrated by the Saint Ternan or possibly by Pope Saint Gregory the Great. 

Returned to Scotland

Returning to Scotland he ended his days in Aberdeenshire. At Kincardine-O’Neil a church was erected over the spot where the chariot which was conveying his remains to burial was miraculously stopped. A fair was formerly held there annually on Saint Merchard’s feast and during the octave.

Legend of the Three Bells

One of the Yrchard’s churches was in Glenmoriston. The ancient burial ground which adjoins it is still in use (shown pictured above), and some few stones of the old building are yet to be seen there. The local tradition tells that Yrchard when labouring as a missionary in Strathglass with two companions, discovered, by previous revelation, three bright new bells buried in the earth Taking one for himself, he gave the others to his fellow-missionaries, bidding each to erect a church on the spot where his bell should ring for the third time of its own accord; undertaking to do the same with regard to his own. One of these companions founded a church at Glenconvinth, in Strathglass, the other at Broadford, Isle of Skye.

St Yrchard's Well in Kincardine-O’Neil, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
St Yrchard’s Well in Kincardine-O’Neil, Scotland

Yrchard travelled towards Glenmoriston. His bell rang first at Suidh Mhercheird (Merchard’s Seat). Them it rang again at Fuaran Mhercheird (Merchard’s Well), near Ballintombuie, where a spring of excellent water treasured by both Catholics and Protestants still bears his name. It rang a third time at the spot where the old churchyard, called Clachan Mhercheird, close by the river Moriston, recalls his memory. 

Bell Removed and Never Rediscovered

The bell of the Saint Yrchard was preserved there for centuries. After the church fell into decay early in the seventeenth century, the bell remained in the churchyard. The narrow-pointed spar of granite on which it rested still stands there. The bell, unfortunately, was wantonly removed, by Protestant strangers about thirty years ago, to the great indignation of the inhabitants of the glen, Protestant as well as Catholic; it has never since been discovered.

Tradition has it that the bell rings of its own accord when a funeral came in sight. Whenever it was removed from its usual position, the bell was invariably found restored miraculously to its place. Many persons still living in the glen have seen the bell, and the grandparents of some of them used to relate that they heard it ring in their youth. Devotion to this saint was very strong in that neighbourhood in Catholic times, and he is still regarded by Catholics as the local patron.

His Death

Little is known about the exact date of Yrchard’s death. There is some debate over the exact period of his life. 

Born:                   Around the 5th or 6th century in the district of Kincardine-O’Neil, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Died:                   Unknown – most likely 6th century in Glenmoriston, Scotland

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          August 24

Patron Saint:    Glenmoriston, Scotland

Source:

Reflection

From Saint Yrchard’s early days with pagan parents, he quickly became a zealous Christian. He was ordained priest and later consecrated as Bishop. Saint Yrchard missionary work including preaching and working to convert heathen Picts living in Scotland. 

What “missionary” work can you do where you live? Although there are not many new foreign lands to be a missionary, there are always “lost souls” needing guidance to find Jesus and come back to the church through your actions and words.

Prayers

St. Yrchard, you lived out your live faithful to the God preaching to heathens in Scotland. May you intercede for us as we ask for God’s grace, wisdom and strength to be a “missionary” in our own native cities and towns to “heathens” we know looking for the light of Christ to guide their days.

St Yrchard, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Bartleby.com – Rev. Alban Butler Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. August 24 St. Irchard, or Erthad, Bishop and Confessor in Scotland

Catholic Online – St Yrchard

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Irchard

CatholicSaints.Info – Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Yrchard or Merchard, Bishop

Celtic and Old English Saints – St. Irchard, Bishop of the Picts of Scotland (Erthard, Yrchard)

Pilgrim – St Yrchard of Scotland

The Calum Maclean Project – Patron Saint of Glenmoriston: Some Traditions of St Merchard

Wikipedia – Irchard

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