Text: Gaelic Notes in Book of Deer

The Book of Deer is a 10th century gospel manuscript written in Latin in Old Deer, Aberdeenshire. It also which contains notes on several pages written in Gaelic in the early 12th century, including the “charter legend” below implicating Colum Cille (aka Columba) as an authority in its foundation.

The following text was adapted by Michael Newton from the edition in Kenneth Jackson, ed. The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972, taking into consideration the translation in Forsyth, Broun and Clancy, “The property records.”

§ 1. Columba and Drostán son of Coscrach, his dalta [“foster-son, disciple”] came from Iona, as God guided them, to Aberdour. Bede the Pict was mormaer [“earl, provincial ruler”] of Buchan when they arrived; and it is he who bestowed on them that church site, free from the demands of mormaer and toísech [“head of kindred”] to the end of time.

After that they came to another church site; it pleased Columba because it was full of the grace of God. He begged Bede the mormaer to give it to them, but he did not. After the clerics had been refused in this manner, a son of Bede’s became sick and was all but dead. The mormaer then went to ask the clerics to pray on behalf of the boy, so that his health might be restored; and he made a grant land to them, from Cloch in Tiprat [“the stone of the well”] over to Cloch Peitte Mac-Gartnait [“the stone of the estate of the sons of Gartnait”]. They made the prayer and (the boy) was restored to health.

Columba then gave the church site to Drostán, and blessed it, and made the pronouncement that whoever should go against (the grant of the church) should not live long or be successful. Drostán’s tears [déra] flowed as he was parting from Columba. Columba said, “Let Déar be its name from now on.”

§ 7. The greetings of David, King of the Scots, to all his good men. You are to know that the clergy of Deer are to be immune from all lay service and improper tolls, as is written in their book, and as they proved by argument at Banff and swore at Aberdeen. I therefore strictly forbid anyone to do any harm to them or to their goods.

Witness: Gregory, bishop of Dunkeld; Andrew, bishop of Caithness; Samson, bishop of Brechin; Donnchad, earl of Fife; Mael-Moire of Atholl; Gille-Brigte, earl of Angus; Gille-Coimded, son of Aed; Bróiccín and Cormac of Turriff; Adam son of Ferdomnach, and Gille-Aindrias son of Maitne; at Aberdeen.

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