Wallakirk is well known by name, but not a few are ignorant of its situation and how it may be reached. To say it is in the Parish of Glass, in Aberdeenshire and on the banks of the Deveron may not mean much to some, but when we mention Huntly, some idea is imparted of its whereabouts, as Huntly is known all over the world – through its famous men it has reared and sent into all parts. If one leaves the Square of Huntly by its western road and keeps in a south-westerly direction, passing through Glass, then take the road leading to the Cabrach, he will ere he accomplish the ninth mile reach Wallakirk. It is described as a kirk, but the kirk has disappeared and all that remains of it is to be found in the stone dyke around the burying ground raised from its ruined walls. As in many other places, the utilitarian spirit has prevailed over the sentimental. Would that some angelic has found its way to the valley of the Deveron, as it is said to have interfaced elsewhere with the destroyers of a sacred building. But though the kirk has gone, there is the kirkyard which is still used as a place of burial and here lie the ashes of the men and women of twelve or more centuries.
It is an ideal spot for a cemetery. There are the hills on either side of the valley which shelter it, the river gliding past with its sweet murmur, which produces sleep and all around is quiet, still and solitary. The world, with its business, stir and noise are far away and the very atmosphere breathes of rest, the earnest of what remains for the people of God. Some famous men of all rank and classes repose in Wallakirk and not a few fine monuments which resist the severity of the climate, keep them in mind. Near the centre is the tomb of the old Gordons of Beldornie and in the same enclosure is a stone which marks the grave of Mr Brockie, who in 1791 was priest in Cabrach and close by is the burying-ground of the Grants, who from 1792 until recently were the proprietors of Beldornie. On the wall facing Beldornie is a three-panelled stone in memory of Alexander Geddes of Blairmore and his two sons, Captain John aged 37 who fell in action in 1915 at Ypres and Lieut. Alister aged 24 who was killed at Givenchy on 16th June in the same year. Here also lies Sir William Geddes, late Principal of Aberdeen University. Another tenant of this peaceful spot is James Gauld, an old Gordon Highlander of Peninsular fame, who during that war did great exploits that are still held in honour by his regiment, the 92nd. No fewer than four ministers of the parish of Glass are buried at Wallakirk. They apparently preferred this spot as their last resting-place to the burying-ground attached to the church where they ministered. One of the most prominent monuments is that erected by Sir Frederick Bridge, late organist of Westminster Abbey, in memory of his wife, Lady Bridge. She spent many a happy summer holiday in this district and was held in high esteem by the people and being a keen and expert angler, often plied the rod on the Deveron and now beside the river she loved she sleeps well.
The name Wallakirk is derived from the monk who founded it and who was the first or among the first, who preached the gospel in Strathdeveron. It is not yet decided when he began his mission and carried on his work. Some have placed it as early as the 5thcentury and others as late as the 8th. But whether in the one or the other, he would not find an altogether prepared soil. Druidism, with its roots of superstition must have had a great hold upon the people; and if like the apostles of old, he went forth with only one coat and without wallet, he would have a bad time. The cultivation of the land was very primitive and the yield in consequence must have been poor in quality and scanty in quantity. Even those brought under the Saint’s influence would have little to give for his support and he was no doubt compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The river of course was close at hand and salmon were plentiful and probably this fact helped to determine the site of the church. We do not think St Wallak was canonized in the usual way, but imagine he gained this position by his reputation for holiness of character and zeal in his Master’s service. The fact that his name has been handed down through at least twelve centuries is some proof of his devotion. In the Deveron close by is a pool called St Wallack’s bath, in which tradition states the monk was accustomed to bathe his feet in the cold icy waters by way of crucifying the flesh. There is also a celebrated well near the site of the church, which long after St Wallack’s time was visited by people from all quarters for the healing of their numerous diseases. Evidently through wanton neglect this holy well has disappeared from our ken.
He probably did not confine his labours to Wallakirk, but also ministered at St Peter’s Kirk, Drumdelgie, where there is an old burying ground and no doubt there was once a chapel here and he then would pass further up the river to Cloveth, where we find the outlines of another chapel and also a place of burial which was used as such up to 1814, if not later. It is at Lesmurdie, close by the river and opposite the mill of Corinacy. It is impossible to give a connected history of the church in these ancient times and describe the local ecclesiastical events which make that history, but no doubt the influence of and work of this Christian missionary lived and appeared long after his day – and perhaps we find it in the church at Shenwell overlooking the Blackwater, a tributary of the Deveron. The last priest located there left in 1831. At one time, in 1731 when Mr Brockie was priest in charge there, he ministered, it is said, to 700 Catholics, but they gradually diminished in number as Protestantism increased and now only a mound marks the walls of this chapel. After passing through many vicissitudes this old chapel has now its home in Dufftown.
Usually where there was a church there was a fair and as the churches were named after their founders or chosen patron saints so the fairs were designated after the churches. Now there is ample evidence of such a fair being held near or at, Wallakirk, probably styles St Luke’s Fair. Numerous coins and other tokens have been found in the churchyard and in the grounds around which point to the transactions of a market and it is more than likely that in the annual Glass Market which was held at the Haugh of Glass and now on the Market Hill of Glass, we have a connecting link between the present and the past.
Huntly Express February 1941
HUNTLY DISTRICT COUNCIL
EXTENSION OF WALLAKIRK CHURCHYARD
GENEROUS OFFER BY FORMER RESIDENT OF GLASS
At last meeting of the Council two schemes for the proposed extension to Wallakirk Churchyard were submitted from the County Engineer, and it was agreed after a division, to proceed with the cheaper scheme, which allowed for utilising the triangular piece of ground lying to the south of the existing churchyard and bounded on the east by the river Deveron.
The Clerk said he had written the County Clerk to find out what the present position was, and he had been informed that the matter had been considered by the County Council, who had approved the plan. The consent of the Scottish Home Department to the borrowing of the money was now required. A suggestion that instead of the fencing along the riverside, a wall should be erected, making the total estimated cost of the scheme £281.10s5d had been made by the Department of Health, but had been turned down by the County Council, and it had been decided to proceed with the original estimate.
In connection with the proposed extension to Wallakirk Churchyard, a generous offer by Miss Archibald, 2 Banff Road, Keith, who was for long in the farm of Dumeath, which adjoins the churchyard, was intimated. The Clerk said he had interviewed Miss Archibald, who had informed him that she wished to place a suitable shelter to visitors against the existing tool-shed, immediately outside the old churchyard. She also wished to provide an ornamental seat and to establish the new layout with shrubbery and rhododendrons.
Mr Stewart moved acceptance of this generous offer, and expressed the Council’s thanks to Miss Archibald. The Clerk was asked to get in touch with Miss Archibald at the proper time.
Huntly Express December 17 1920