Tales of Durham

Tales of Durham

A.D. 687-995.

THE Venerable Bede was 15 when St. Cuthbert died. Bede worked with and talked to men who had known St. Cuthbert so when he wrote the “Life of St. Cuthbert” his stories had a basis of truth which cannot be denied. He attributes miracles to the saint which today would be farfetched but miracles seemed to happen more often then than they do now or they were more easily explained.

One of the miracles often repeated was the saint’s invention of the duvet.

At one point in his monastic life St. Cuthbert decided to become a hermit. Not for him some convenient cave in a river bank near civilisation. He insisted that the place for him should be one of the Farne Islands. After much argument about what should be taken with him, some monks insisted that they should join him to help build a suitable shelter but this help was refused. He landed with nothing but the usual clothes of a monk. It can be cold and wet on the North East coast and having dug a hole as shelter against the shore wind Cuthbert began his first night as a hermit. He had of course forgotten that he was a Saint and as such had miracles to perform that he never intended to happen. During the night a flock of “Cuddy’s Ducks” came to the saint and began to pluck the soft under feathers from their bodies and covered the saint completely ensuring that he was snug and warm in the world’s first duvet. When it is revealed that a “Cuddy’s Duck” is an eider duck and that “Cuddy” is the Northern abbreviation for Cuthbert the whole miracle has an authentic ring to it.

A minor miracle in the same island occurred in Cuthbert’s early days as a hermit when he had no means of feeding himself and it was only the kind ministrations of a fish eagle which brought him a daily fish that made life bearable on the rocky isle. Another miracle concerned this island, the abode of devils and evil spirits whose sole occupation was to prevent anything growing, and to this end had amassed rocks with which to cover the island. Cuthbert wasted no time in dismissing these evil creatures, cleared the rocks and plants began growing where nothing else had grown.