Weaving a cross for Bridie

26th February 2017

A small but enthusiastic group gathered at the College over the weekend of 17-19 February.  Heather Upfield came over to the island to lead a wonderfully reflective time based on the myths and traditions of the woman known as St Bridget, St Bride of the Isles, Brigid of Kildare or Britannia (amongst other names). The group also  enjoyed a workshop in the Community Art Studio, led by Mazda Munn of Millport Art Group and wove crosses in reed and willow which were blessed at a celebratory Eucharist on the Sunday morning. A truly wonderful start to our 2017 season. Read about future events in our Open Programme here

We are delighted to publish here an article written about the weekend by 2 of the retreatants for their church magazine


A Weekend Away

On 19 February we took the ferry over to Cumbrae to spend the weekend at the College of the Holy Spirit which is part of the Cathedral of the Isles in Millport. We were taking part in a creative weekend of fireside exploration, learning about St Bride or St Bridget, weaving Bridie crosses and discovering about the many Bridie sites in Scotland.  Our weekend was led by Heather Upfield, and Mazda Munn guided our weaving efforts.

The weather was a bit misty and wet, but we couldn’t have had a warmer welcome from the warden Andrew Wright and his wife, Amanda, and the staff of the college.  Our rooms were comfortable and the food was excellent, especially the sticky toffee pudding!  The atmosphere is very quiet and peaceful both indoors and outside.  The Cathedral and College are situated a little above the town centre, surrounded by lovely grounds with many trees and banks of snowdrops.  Some of us went for walks and some of us enjoyed sitting by the warm log fire in the library where our meetings were held.

The focus of the weekend was about St Bride who was one of the Celtic Saints who was born in Ireland where she was known as St Brigid of Kildare and who came to Scotland in the C5th AD at the same time as  St Patrick and St Columba. In Scotland she was known as St Bride. The Celtic Saints often travelled about the country and formed little cells which were humble structures around a very basic church building.  The prefix ‘cell’ is recognisable in the prefix ‘kil’ in place names like Kilwinning, Kilmarnock, Kilbride, Kilmartin and Kilmacolm.    Our leader, Heather shared her extensive knowledge of the stories, beliefs and traditions that are told about St Bride and told us about her research in identifying so many places in Scotland where St Bride is remembered.   This is especially in the names of farms, rivers, wells and settlements in the isle of Arran and in the Hebrides and elsewhere.  We learnt that the name Hebrides means ‘The Breeds’ or ‘Bride’ Isles.

The studio where we did our weaving was in a building next to the Cathedral, which was originally built to house a visiting choir and has now been given to the Millport Art Group for their use.  Mazda and her friends have made a wonderful space, complete with roaring log fire, which is available for use by the whole community. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours making our crosses and were very pleased with the results.

On Sunday we joined the congregation in the Cathedral for the morning service, where our crosses were blessed.  After lunch we said our goodbyes and headed back to the mainland, refreshed and happy.

This weekend is one of the workshops and retreats that are organised by the College of the Holy Spirit at the Cathedral of the Isles on Cumbrae.  There is a very interesting programme for 2017 which includes two other events involving creative arts.  One is in making stained glass panels and the other is creating your own ikon led by a Romanian ikonographer who is coming again after leading a very successful workshop last year.  There are also retreats with input from a leader and times of silence.   There are more details on the website:   www. cathedraloftheisles.org

We both learnt a lot on the weekend about St Bride and hope to go there again, either for one of the courses or to visit the lovely cathedral and grounds.

Elizabeth Deeks and Angela Churchill