Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Yrchard or Merchard, Bishop

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5th or 6th century. This saint was born of pagan parents in the district of Kincardine-O’Neil, Aberdeenshire.

In his early youth he embraced the Christian Faith, and was ordained priest by Saint Ternan, who associated the young man with himself in his missionary labours. In later life he journeyed to Rome, and was there consecrated bishop. 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.

One of the saint’s churches was in Glenmoriston. The ancient burial ground which adjoins it is still in use, and some few stones of the old building are yet to be seen there. The local tradition tells that the saint 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.

Saint Merchard travelled towards Glenmoriston. His bell rang first at Suidh Mhercheird (Merchard’s Seat), 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, and a third time at the spot where the old churchyard, called Clachan Mhercheird, close by the river Moriston, recalls his memory.

The bell of the saint was preserved there for centuries. After the church fell into decay’s 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 was wont to ring of its own accord when a funeral came in sight, and that whenever it was removed from its usual position it 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.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Yrchard or Merchard, Bishop”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. Saints.SQPN.com. 10 June 2014. Web. 20 September 2014. <>