Saint Conan

By going a few yards beyond the sundial one can see the figure of St. Conan himself gazing across the loch to the mountains beyond.

St. Conan is the patron saint of Lorne and is reputed to have lived in Glenorchy. There is a well named after him on the far side of Dalmally. He was a disciple though not a contemporary of Columba, and like him came from Ireland. As a young man he was chosen to be tutor to the two sons of the King of Scotland, and eventually rose to be a Bishop. More interesting than the historical facts are some of the legends which have grown up round his name. One of these gave rise to an old Highland proverb. Like many of the Celtic saints, St. Conan was not afraid to meet the Devil face to face. On one occasion the saint and “The Deil” met to discuss the fate of the souls of the people of Lorne. They went about it in a thoroughly businesslike manner, for they divided these not into the sheep and the goats but into three categories, the “really good,” the “downright bad” and the “middling.” The good were to be the saint’s, the bad the Deil’s, and the middling they were to share equally. And this sharing equally was to be done by drawing in turn. All went smoothly as arranged until the Devil got excited and stretched out his hand when it was the saint’s turn. But St Conan would have none of this; he rapped the Devil smartly over the knuckles, exclaiming, “Na, na, fair play, paw for paw,” and it is this phrase which has passed into proverbial use.