Barrett/Scottish Saints/St. Boisil

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Dom Michael Barrett


February 23 – St. Boisil, Confessor, A.D. 664.

The old abbey of Melrose was not the Cistercian house whose ruins still remain, but an earlier monastery which had been founded by St. Aidan and followed the rule of St. Columba, which was afterwards changed for that of St. Benedict. The Roman usage regarding Easter was adopted there, very soon after the Synod of Whitby. Its abbot was the holy Eata, who was given the government of Lindisfarne Abbey also, when many of its monks followed St. Colman to Ireland. Just before these events occurred the subject of this notice was called to his reward. He was prior of Melrose under Eata, and it was he, who, being a monk and priest of surpassing merit and prophetic spirit, as St. Bede says, welcomed with joy and gave the monastic habit to a youth in whom he saw "a servant of the Lord"--the future St. Cuthbert. The two became devoted friends, and Boisil, who was especially learned in the Scriptures, became Cuthbert's master in that science, as well as his example in holy living.


In 664 a terrible epidemic called the Yellow Plague visited Scotland and carried off numbers of the inhabitants. Boisil and Cuthbert were both attacked by the malady, and the lives of both were endangered. The holy prior, however, from the beginning foretold the recovery of Cuthbert and his own death. Summoning the latter to his bedside, he prophesied his future greatness, relating all that was to befall him in the years to come, and especially his elevation to the episcopal rank. Then he begged Cuthbert to assist him during the seven days of life which remained to him to finish the study of St. John's Gospel on which they had been engaged. In this they occupied themselves till St. Boisil's peaceful death.


The church of St. Boswell's was dedicated to this saint, the name is a corruption of St. Boisil's. The old town has disappeared. An annual fair was formerly held on July 18th, in honour of the saint. His well also was situated there.

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