The Banffshire Pilgrimage Group has now been in existence for around 4 years, with the purpose of offering to everyone the benefits, blessings and graces flowing from Christian Pilgrimage. For the first time, the Group collaborated with the Church of Scotland congregation of Aberdour Saint Drostan’s church, not only to promote Pilgrimage, but also to heighten awareness of the Pictish proto-missionary and abbot, Saint Drostan. His traditional stories are woven throughout the annals of local Christianity, arguably to get lost in the post Reformation period. This Banffshire comeback of Saint Drostan and Christian Pilgrimage was planned with much enthusiasm, including local children at Rosehearty primary school who were invited to provide an imaginative 21st century perspective (see photo’s).
Deacon John Woodside (author of Together in Christ: Following the Northern Saints (Paperback) 2016, and joint organiser of the pilgrimage) stated:
“The objective was realised last Saturday morning, when women, men, and children of various Christian denominations or none, gathered early outside the community hall at New Aberdour to set out on a pilgrimage walk in the footsteps of Saint Drostan. The incessant rain of the past 48 hours did not deter the brave, it only provided an opportunity to change the planned route to a safer and no-less challenging walk – this was made possible by the provision of a bus from Watermill Coaches who conveyed the pilgrims to the various places where the planned activities were to take place. Opportunities for community prayer, reflection on scripture, and reminiscing on the stories of Saint Drostan and his companions as they brought the Gospel to Pictland, were shared with the pilgrims. Time was set aside for hospitality, community, learning, and experiencing the wonder of God’s creation that is so evident in the dramatic Buchan coastline.”
To illustrate the religious and non religious aspect to the event, local Councillors joined the pilgrims. Cllrs Charles Buchan, Ross Cassie and Dr Glen Reynolds from Aberdeenshire Council, joined in the walk and Cllr Glen Reynolds (who is also the Aberdeen Diocese Communications Officer) said:
“From young to older participants, from people who would walk in prayer to those who simply took in the music and the stunning coastline and enjoyed the local history from historian Alistair Mason who spoke at the Old Kirk, this was a wonderfully moving day in many ways.”
The accordianist at the event, Bob Watson said:
‘We were all worried about the weather, but it turned out to be a very special day, despite the clouds and spells of rain. The Banffshire Pilgrimage Group, (Rev. John Woodside et al), along with elders and members of New Aberdour, St. Drostan’s Church, and interim moderator Ruth Mackenzie, along with stories, paintings and drawings by Rosehearty Primary School Children in New Aberdour Parish Hall, (and the hard work done in the hall kitchen by New Aberdour, St. Drostan Church members), culminated in a delicious ‘soup and sweet’, and made it a memorable day. The legacy of St. Drostan lives on!”
John Woodside added: “The children’s exhibition in the hall was a tribute to the wonderment of their imagination, talent, and knowledge – Saint Drostan was indeed their saint. An interesting DVD of old photographs of the inhabitants of New Aberdour compiled by Graeme Bruce provided a fascinating insight of the local community throughout the years, sadly no original image of Saint Drostan survives.
Christians have always recognised the spiritual merits of hospitality expressed in sharing a meal. The affordable pilgrimage lunch of soup and sweet was no exception with 40 or so diners becoming better friends and sharing their stories of their journey.”
The pilgrimage day closed with everyone walking down to the beach for a most fitting service of rededication and blessing of the holy well, whose waters were once renowned for the miraculous healing of the sick still trickle to the sea. John concluded by saying “One thing is certain, for many who set out as strangers on a pilgrimage for the first time, they have discovered the many benefits of being friends together on ‘The Way’, being inspired by the stories of Saint Drostan, the service and authentic Christian witness of the team members, which renews enthusiasm and commitment to embrace an accessible spirituality rediscovered.”
One of the pilgrims, Lynda Wiseman, commented ‘it was a lovely day, great opportunity to meet some great people and learn the history of the area and those who walked before us. Spiritually very uplifting, thanks to all who organised the day’. Somehow, I don’t that we have heard the last of Saint Drostan and Pilgrimage among the Banff and Buchan communities!
Images from the event can be on the Pilgrimage Website.