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Cuthbert and the Expert Witness : A hungry monk thought he had got away with the tastiest of crimes, but St Cuthbert kept his promise to his beloved birds.
Cuthbert and the Expert Witness

Based on The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts, by Abbie Farwell Brown (1871-1927) and ‘The Wonderful Virtues of St Cuthbert’, chapter 27, by Reginald of Durham (? - c. 1190).

St Cuthbert the Wonderworker of Lindisfarne (?634-687) is one the the most famous of all English saints. He lived in solitude on Inner Farne off the coast of Northumberland, surrounded by the birds he loved, and promised to take care of them even after he was gone.

SAINT Cuthbert loved all the birds of Inner Farne, and feared for them after he was gone. So he bequeathed to them a legacy, which is called ‘St Cuthbert’s Peace’. The birds were bound to live in peace with one another, but they were also promised that no other man or beast would harm them and go unpunished.

Many years later, a monk named Aelric lived in the same cell on Inner Farne.* One day when Aelric was away on the mainland Leving, the monk who was looking after his cell, grew peckish, so he killed and ate one of the eider ducks that nested nearby.

To avoid detection, Leving scattered the skin, bones and feathers on the sea as widely as possible. But his precautions were in vain. When Aelric returned he found bone, skin and feathers all neatly rolled up into a ball, and deposited accusingly on the step of St Cuthbert’s old chapel by the indignant tide.*

* This was in about 1150. Aelric’s nephew Bernard was sacristan at Durham Priory, now Durham Cathedral, which was Aelric’s monastery too.

* See also Cuthbert and the Weary Hawk.

Based on The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts, by Abbie Farwell Brown (1871-1927) and ‘The Wonderful Virtues of St Cuthbert’, chapter 27, by Reginald of Durham (? - c. 1190).

Winnie the Eider Duck

A short video from the National Trust about Winnie, an eider duck on Inner Farne who in 2013 had nested on the island, in the same spot, for 16 years. The local name for a common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a Cuddy duck, as Cuddy is a familiar form of Cuthbert.

More like this

Reginald of Durham (1) Lives of the Saints (95) History (405) St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (13) St Cuthbert’s Peace (1) County Durham (12) Northumberland (26) Bible and Saints (110)

Picture: © Peter McDermott, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
The vertiginous cliffs of Inner Farne are congested with all kinds of birds, including terns, shags, and these puffins.
Based on the account by Reginald of Durham
(12th century)

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