Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Water Poet Visit's St. Winifred's Well

The Book of Days reports that on July 1, 1652, Thames waterman John Taylor visited St. Winifred's Well at Holywell in Flintshire. According to Coleen Seguin in her article "Cures and Controversy in Early Modern Wales", Taylor reported afterward that "the fair chapel" over the well "is now much defaced by the injury of these late wars...it is frequented daily by many people of rich and poor, of all diseases."

At this well, according to legend, St. Beuno restored his niece Winifred's head to her body, and give her back her life.  The head had been severed by one Cardoc, whose advances Winifred rejected.  Winifred went on to lead a devout life, becoming an abbess.

Taylor is referenced in the Introduction to Canto Second in Scott's "Marmion":

…' The second day of June the king passed out of Edinburgh to the hunting, with many of the nobles and gentlemen of Scotland with him, to the number of twelve thousand men; and then passed to Meegitland, and hounded and hawked all the country and bounds; that is to say, Crammat, Pappert-law, St. Mary-laws, Carlavirick, Chapel, Ewindoores. and Longhope. I heard say, he slew, in these bounds, eighteen score of harts."


These huntings had, of course, a military character, and attendance upon them was a part of the duty of a vassal. The act for abolishing ward, or military tenures, in Scotland, enumerates the services of hunting, hosting, watching, and warding, as those which were in future to be illegal.

Taylor, the water-poet, has given an account of the mode in which these huntings were conducted in the highlands of Scotland, in the seventeenth century, having been present at Bremar upon such an occasion :

" There did I find the truly noble and right honourable lords, John Erskine, Earl of Mar; James Stewart, Earl of Murray; George Gordon, Earl of Engye, son and heir to the Marquis of Huntly, James Erskine, Earl of Buchan; and John, Lord Erskine, son and heir to the Earl of Mar, and their countesses, with my much honoured, and my last secured and approved friend, Sir William Murray, knight of Abercarney, and hundreds of others, knights, esquires, and their followers; all and every man, in general, in one habit, as if Lycurgus had been there, and made laws of equality: for once in the year, which is the whole month of August, and sometimes part of September, many of the nobility and gentry of the kingdom (for their pleasure) do come into these highland countries to hunt: where they do conform themselves to the habit of the highland-men, who, for the most part, speak nothing but Irish: and, in former time, were those people which were called the Red-shanks. Their habit is—shoes, with but one sole a-piece; stockings, (which they call short nose,) Made of a warm stuff of diverse colour, which they call tartan …

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