Nine Maidens Well, Strathmartine
As with the dragon that was associated with it, very little remains of the Nine Maidens Well at Strathmartine, as the farmer upon whose land it could be found had the well covered up to stop it’s visitors from trampling his crops. It had been described as being ‘4 foot square and bound with round rough stones and covered with a flagstone’, though as of the 1958 Ordnance Survey visit it was just a small spring with no apparent masonry.
The following version of the story of the well appeared in The Antiquary (Volume 26) and was an article by R. C. Hope: ‘On the south bank of the Dighty, opposite the churchyard, is the Nine Maidens’ Well, a name of which tradition has handed down an explanation too interesting to be passed over. A farmer in Pitumpton, blessed with nine lovely daughters, one day sent one of them to the well to fetch him a draught of water; she not returning, another was sent to learn the cause of delay, and to hasten the gratification of the farmer with the coveted draught. Neither of them returning, daughter after daughter was sent, till the whole nine had been despatched on the same errand. The astounded father at length followed them, and was horrified with the spectacle which met his eyes: his nine daughters lay dead at the well, and two large snakes were throwing their slimy folds around them. The reptiles, on seeing him, hissed loudly, and would have made him their prey also if he had not saved himself by flight. The whole neighbourhood assembled in a state of the utmost excitement, and a young man, the suitor of one of the sisters, boldly attacked the snakes, and wounded both. They left their victims, and, wriggling their way towards the hills, hotly pursued by the youth and his companions, were destroyed near the base of the Sidlaws.’
The above account has the nine maidens being killed by two snakes, where as other and more popular versions have the well being guarded by a dragon. The young snake/dragon slayer is usually referred to as being called Martin and according to legend Strathmartin (or perhaps Strike Martin, as the crowd is thought to have cheered during the battle) is named for him. However, the name associated with the hero may have its origins with Bishop David de Bernham who dedicated the church at Strathmartin to St Martin on 18th May 1249. The church referred to as being close to the Nine Maidens is no longer there, but this chapel was supposed to have been in Strathdichty at Pitempan [Pitempton] according to J M Mackinlay in ‘Traces of the Cultus of the Nine Maidens in Scotland’ (1906).
In his ‘Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs’ (1893), James Mackinley states that ‘These maidens were the daughters of a certain Donewalde or Donald in the eighth century, and led, along with their father, a saintly life in the glen of Ogilvy in the same county.’
The map below will give a location fairly close to the well, but unfortunately I could not pin point the exact location. It was said to be ‘north of the railway, 50 yards west of the road leading to West Mill of Baldoran.’
The site of the battle between Martin and the dragon is marked by an upright carved stone illustrated with a serpent. This can be found at Balkello near the road to Sidlaws.