Saint Drostan and Skirdustan

A contemporary account of monks in the Celtic Church in the 6th-7th century AD tells us that:

"They were rich in virtue, living in peace at their house, studying beautifulness. They were men of mercy whose godly deeds have not failed;
Their bodies are buried in peace and their name liveth from generation to generation"

 

The area around Aberlour was originally known as Skirdustan. This came from the Gaelic ‘sgurr drostan’ meaning the cleft or cave of Drostan.

All that we know of Saint Drostan is found in entries in "Breviarium Aberdonense" and in the “Book of Deir” a ninth-century work in Latin written by monks at Deer Abbey.  This book is remarkable for the notes in the page margins that are written in Gaelic. These entries are the earliest known example of written Gaelic in North East Scotland.

Accounts of Drostan’s early life vary. Some claim that he belonged to the royal family of the Scoti, his father's name being Cosgrach.

Others maintain that Drostan was a son of the king of Demetae, an early Welsh kingdom that developed into Dyfed. If so, Drostan would have spoken a language similar to that of the Picts and it is believed that this enabled him and his followers to be accepted more readily by them.

He was entrusted at an early age to the care of St. Columba (who was possibly his uncle), who trained him at Iona. Drostan accompanied that saint when he visited Aberdour in Buchan. The Pictish ruler of that country gave them the site of Deir, fourteen miles farther inland, where they established a monastery. When St. Columba returned to Iona he left Drostan there as abbot. Some years later Drostan resigned his abbacy and came with some fellow monks to bring Christianity to the Pictish tribes living in Speyside in the 6th/7th century. The monks settled on the site of the present Aberlour Distillery and built a church on land that was sacred to the Picts.

Afterwards, in a search for isolation he travelled south and became a hermit at Glen Esk.  Here his prescence attracted the poor and needy, and many miracles were ascribed to him, including the restoration of sight to a priest named Symon. After his death his relics were transferred to Aberdour and preserved there. Drostan’s feast day is December 15.

The pure, clean water from St Drostan's well was used to baptise Pictish converts to Christianity and to heal the sick. The headstone of the well can be seen in the Aberlour Distillery visitor centre but the actual well is now buried below one of the Distillery buildings.