Saint Urith

St Urith (now known as St. Hieritha) is the patron Saint of the rural village where I went to primary school. According to legend, she was a beautiful young woman, and a Christian among heathens. She was born, probably in the 7th C. AD, where I lived, in the hamlet of Stowford. If you study the background, you will see that the spring is referred to as a well, and is in the village. However, I was given to believe that this holy spring was more than a mile from the village, on a hillside in a deep valley where I used to play, and studying all of the information I could find has led me to believe that this is correct. This spring of still exists, and is surrounded by scarlet pimpernels.

Having said that, the story has become somewhat discredited, as two other Devon Saints share similar legends.


Sweet Urith rose early to greet every morning
as the first rays of dawn lit the sky
and each day without warning
her step-mother scorningly
glowered with an angry sigh
and issued the list of the chores she must finish
before the sun was high

Sweet Urith bloomed bright in God’s loving light
as her foes watched from every side
with no fear of their might
she practiced her right
to praise Jesus, and not to hide
and though they may mock her, deride and decry her
she took each slight in her stride

Sweet Urith left Stowford one warm summer morning
to walk to the village nearby
she was offered no warning
that today the sun’s dawning
was the earth’s salute of goodbye
in the thrall of her Lord she trod with no knowledge
that today she was going to die

The haymakers scythes were sharpened and cruel
when they beheaded sweet Urith that day
her stepmother’s tools dripped red, like the pool
of the blood of the virgin which soon sank away
but where her head landed a clear water spring
rose to cleanse the holy hill,
and scarlet pimpernels from God, her King
grew from the ground, where her blood stained still
and though rain washed the stains of the murder through time
the flowers and the spring still mark the crime
of a maiden slain in the midst of her youth
for standing tall in the strength of her truth.

© Jane Paterson Basil


9 thoughts on “Saint Urith

  1. Oh! Totally awesome! You wrote a bit of history! Did the stepmum really do her in? That is about the coolest poem I’ve seen on the blogs yet. I LOVE Celtic stuff. St. Patrick’s Day is like my high holy day, and I got so caught up with my b-i-l who has cancer today I totally missed it. So thanks for a great end to the day. Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was a book documenting St. Urith’s life, but it disappeared in the 16thC. All we know is that she was a beautiful young woman who had been converted to christianity, who died a violent death at the hands of female haymakers hired by her jealous stepmother. So it may not have been a religious martydom. It is assumed that her story was embellished by “professional Saint writers” later on! But I used to siy by the spring and picture her, hair blowing in a light breeze, sunshine on her face, as she walked blithely to her death.
      What’s a b-i-l? I hope the cancer is containable.

      Liked by 1 person

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