St Machar’s is in Old Aberdeen, North of the University.
I went to look for a medieval carving, a “Green Man”. According to my instructions it was in the “North East Crossing” on the “west side”. I had a good look around. This is a very plain church, solid granite columns, no carving. I could see no “North East Crossing”. The church is rectangular, not cross-shaped like most churches. The enthusiastic guardians welcomed me, and told me about the church. It is very ancient, and many different peoples have worshipped there, including the Celts, whose 7th century stone cross stands at the west end.
After I had listened and chatted, I showed them my instructions: “North East Crossing, west side”. Ah, they said, but there is no longer any “North East Crossing”, it’s been demolished, for centuries, since the Reformation.
I felt a shiver as though someone was telling me a ghost story. My instructions came from a printed book, much later than the Reformation, clearly. But the guardian was still talking. “You can see the ruins,” she was telling me, “Outside”.
Outside it was raining, a heavy wet Aberdeen rain. I stomped about in wet grass, between gravestones. I was looking up, which made me more wet. And there he was, the Green Man, staring down. I risked taking my iPhone out of my pocket for an instant, to get a photo.
I couldn’t draw outside, so I went back inside. The picture I drew shows the position of the Green Man, but the inside wall. He is on the outside.
9th August 2019, St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, now Church of Scotland, formerly Celtic, Roman Catholic, Episcopal.