I will soon be rector of St Ternan’s church in Banchory. Here is the little known story of Ternan, who is venerated as the “Bishop of the Picts.”
He was a Pict of the Mearns in Alba who was converted during St Ninian’s Pictish mission, he was educated at Candida Cassa, he was baptized in early manhood by that disciple of St Ninian whom the Roman writers confused with Palladius, whose native name is Pawl Hen or Paul the Aged. Paul was a missionary, a Briton, and worked with St Ninian. He survived into the early years of the sixth century and thus lived long enough to meet St David, but he could not see him because he was blind with old age.
Ternan founded a banchor (place of Christian learning) where is today the town of Banchory and, indeed, there are remains of a Celtic foundation to be seen in a number of carved stones close by the old grave-yard. It was here that St Ternan is said to have taught his convert, the Pict St Erchard. The Banchory in Erchard’s time was filled with manuscripts, and active missionary teachers, spreading the Gospel and Christian civilisation.
What was thought to be Ternan’s skull, and his copy of St Matthew’s Gospel (mentioned in the Aberdeen Martyrology) in a case richly adorned with gilt and silver, are said to have been preserved at Banchory until the 16th Century. So also was his bell called Ronecht, said by tradition to have been given to him at Rome by the pope, and to have miraculously followed him to Alba. This bell is last recorded as being transferred to the custody of Alexander Symson, vicare of Banquhoriterne in 1491. When the glebe was being excavated for the railway in 1863 an old bronze bell was found. It is not clear if this really is Ternan’s bell, but it now hangs on the front wall of Banchory Ternan East Church as a visible reminder of the debt that is owed to this early pioneer of Christianity in Scotland
On this day lift before God:
- All teachers, scholars and missionaries.
- Bishops serving Christ’s church today.
- The people of Banchory.
- Tattooists and those who adorn their bodies with tattoos.
- Bell makers and ringers.
- The peoples of the once Pictish lands