(fixed 'fixed' typo - I meant BARLEY bread, but had written BARELY bread -- oops)
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Our venerable Mothers, the Nine Maidens (also the Nine Holy Virgins; 8th century) were the daughters of St. Donald of Ogilvy, who lived a monastic life under their father until his death, whereat they came to a monastery in Abernathy. Their feast day is July 18.
The Nine Maidens lived in the Glen of Ogilvy at Glamis, in the Vale of Stratchmore, with their parents. When their mother died, their newly widowed father, St. Donald, arranged for the household to function as a hermitage. St. Donald became as the elder, and they all together began a rigourous life of working the ground with their own hands and only eating once a day, allowing for themselves only barley bread and water.
At the repose of St. Donald, King Garnard of the Picts granted them lodging and an oratory in a monastery founded by Ss. Darlugdach and Brigid in the Pictish capital of Abernathy. King Eugen VII of Scotland made frequent visits to them, presenting them with large gifts. At their repose, they were buried at the foot of a large oak; a shrine there was erected, known as the Abernathy Allon-bacuth. Until the Anglican Reformation, it was a much-frequented site of pilgrimage.
Churches throughout Scotland were dedicated to the Nine Maidens, including one in Strathmartine, near Dundee, along with its Nine Maiden Well, where tradition states the Nine Maidens of Pitempan were devoured by a serpent. The well is to this day an object of great awe and reverence.
In Finhaven, there is also fountain on a hill above the Prebend of the Cathedral of Brechin by the name of Nine-well, which may be dedicated to either St. Ninian of Scotland, or the Nine Maidens.
Ballad of the Nine Maidens
Barbaric darkness shadowing o'er,
Among the Picts in days of yore
St Donivald, devoid of lore,
Lived in the Glen of Ogilvy.
Beside the forest's mantling shade,
His daughters nine a temple made,
To shelter rude his aged head
Within the Glen of Ogilvy.
Charred wood-burned ashes formed the floor,
The trunks of pines around the door
Supporting walls of branches hoar,
Turf-roofed in Glen of Ogilvy.
Nine maidens were they spotless fair,
With silver skins, bright golden hair,
Blue-eyed, vermillion-cheeked, nowhere
Their match in Glen of Ogilvy.
Yet these fair maids, like muses nine,
God-like, etherealized, divine,
To perfect some high-souled design
Within the Glen of Ogilvy,
Did with the aged hermit toil,
With their own hand in daily moil,
Hard labouring rude the barren soil
Around the Glen of Ogilvy.
Poor barley bread and water clear,
And that but once a-day, I fear,
Was all their fare from year to year,
Within the Glen of Ogilvy.
A chapel built they rude at Glamis,
From whence, like sound of waving palms,
Arose on high the voice of psalms,
Near by the Glen of Ogilvy.
The hermit dead, they left the glen,
E'er shunning dread the haunts of men,
In oratory sacred then,
Far from the Glen of Ogilvy;
On Abernathy's holy ground,
From whence their fame spread soon around,
Although no more their songs resound
In their loved Glen of Ogilvy.
Nine maidens fair in life were they,
Nine maidens fair in death's last fray,
Nine maidens fair in fame alway,
The maids of Glen of Ogilvy.
And to their grave from every land,
Come many a sorrowing pilgrim band
The oak to kiss whose branches grand
Wave o'er the maids of Ogilvy.
- Chapter XXI: Sister Legends from Folk-Lore of Women by Thomas Firminger Thiselton-Dyer, 1906.
- Chapter XIX: Legend of the Nine Maidens from The Vale of Strathmore: Its Scenes and Legends by James Cargill Guthrie, 1875. pp. 264-6.
- The Sidlaw District—Glammis from Historic scenes in Forfarshire by William Marshall, 1875. pp. 126-7.
- Chapter IV: Finhaven and Oathlaw, Section I.: The nine maidens from The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns by Andrew Jervise, James Gammack, 1882. p. 162.
- St. Donald Cathoic Online: Saints & Angels