Also, in connection with the church is a prophecy, which is the subject of one of Thomas the Rhymer’s prophecies, which has invested it with an interest to those worshiping within its walls beyond what any other can be supposed to feel. The prophecy ran something like the following:

“ A tod shall be slain this kirk within;
A boon the graveyard burn Gallie run;
A rose bush grow near the kirk stane stair;
And a calf one day come to join in the prayer,
Till the fleckit doo and the Easter day
That’s to see this biggin’ a’ melt away!”

Such a list of improbabilities one would think need not have excited much apprehension in the minds of the parishioners of Mortlach and probably for a long time after the prophecy had been spoken by the celebrated seer, it was deemed extremely unlikely, and at worst the final catastrophe far removed; but as years rolled on one after another of the things predicted have been verified, till one only, and that the final one, that is to precede the church’s downfall, has to appear.

Burn Gallie ran along the hollow before the houses of the Kirkton and some thirty feet below the level of the grave-yard, but Mr Gordon, distiller, either ignorant of the prophecy or no believer in it, turned the water at a higher level and brought it “aboon (meaning above) the grave-yard.” So many other unlikely things were to follow that this was little noticed as affecting the stability of the church, nor were many much alarmed at the appearance of a wild rose or hippin bush that budded and blossomed luxuriantly in the place indicated by the permitted to stand. But there is no accounting for the taste of calves any more than for that of individuals and a pretty “Branit,” or reddish calf, that had tired of the grass at Pittyvaich wandered over the way of the church and finding the door open. While the people were engaged in prayer, it stepped in and some say intimated its presence by a rather unmusical bray, which for a time interfered with the devotions. But the latter statement wants confirmation. Nothing now was looked for but the appearance of the “fleckit doo” and the downfall of the church on the first Pace Sunday. But Pace Sunday came and went and came again, but brought no fleckit doo. And the church continued to stand as firmly as before so that the people were beginning to be once more reassured and were forgetting both Thomas and his prophecy. But not long since their equanimity was again disturbed by a speckled chicken strolling into the church and that strangely enough, upon a Pace Sunday too. Its first appearance produced a consternation and several persons sought refuge from the impending catastrophe in flight. But more close observers, detecting the intruder to be only a chicken, composed themselves and kept their seats though we presume the sermon was but indifferently listened to for that day. The “fleckit doo’ has not therefore yet appeared, but those learned in such matters assure us that the doom attending its presence, even though it were to enter the church, has been averted by the “salt having gone aboon the meal”.

Figure: Artists impression of Mortlach Kirk

A commercial state of matters connected with this condiment so extraordinary as to have altered the entire order of things and rendered nugatory the fulfilment of all the prophecies of the great wizard and prophet of Eldersdale. There are those however that consider the sinking of the church already accomplished and in corroboration of their statement they point to the arch alluded to by Mr Gordon when speaking of the place where St Bean was interred which marked the old back-door of the church. And there can be no doubt but there are from eight to ten feet of the walls underground. Whether the ground has been raised or the church sunk is a different matter. The probability is that the accumulation of the ground around the church arose partly from the alterations that were made from time to time in the building and partly from a practice at one time very prevalent of carrying with each body that was to be interred in the churchyard as much green turf from his farm or place of death as would cover his grave. Indeed, to such an extent was this practice carried and to such an extent did the ground accumulate around churches and in graveyards, that a special statute had to be enacted to put a stop to it so that unless Mortlach was an exception to the general rule much of the accumulation may be accounted for in this manner.

[1] Elgin Courier – Friday 05 July 1861, Rollicking Rambles II, Mortlach Church.