This page is based on an article written by James E. Scott that appeared in the TRANSACTIONS OF THE GAELIC SOCIETY OF INVNERNESS Vol. xlviii (1972 - 74). The article is entitled: Lismore and Appin. James E. Scott died in December 1973. He wrote a number of articles that are of interest and deal with the medieval Diocese of Argyll and some of them are found in various volumes of the Transactions of the Gaelic Society.
The following headings break this lengthy article into manageable sections. Lismore & Appin, St. Moluag - Celtic Monastery, See of Argyll established, The constitution of the Cathedral of Lismore, Harald - first Bishop of Argyll, From Muckairn to Lismore, Lismore & Ardchattan, Pre-reformation bishops of Argyll, Deans of Lismore, Precentors of Lismore, Treasurers of Lismore, Chancellors of Lismore, Archdeacons of Lismore, Canons of Lismore, Medieval dress of canons, Baiamond's Roll, insufficient revenues, Bachaill Mor, Ancient Church sites, The Bishop's Residence, Seizing Church property, celibacy of the clergy, Eilean Mund.
Lismore and Appin are united parishes which lie in the upper part of Lorn, but of old the situation was different. The ancient parish of Lismore embraced most of Appin and the parish church stood on the island, the parishioners having to cross by ferry to attend divine service. The other part of Appin now generally called Duror of Appin along with the valley of Glencoe were part of the suppressed parish of Eilean Mund, an island lying in Locheven; on it stood the parish church with its surrounding burying ground, which is still in use. The parish of Eilean Mund embraced a large section of Inverness-shire. In it were included Onich, Mamore, and seven rnerklands and a half of the lands of Glenevis. The boundary seems to have followed nearly the course of the burns Altkeiran, Treig, and Nevis.
Included in the parish of Lismore was an extensive tract of country beyond the Linnhe Loch; Kingairloch and Morvern districts. In 1891 the Boundary Commission transferred this part of the parish to that of Kilmallie.
Appin An Apain was of old Apthane, and, like Appin of Dull in Perthshire, indicated the territory of an old Celtic monastery. This church was situated on the island of Lismore, an island lying in the Linnhe Loch, less than 200 yards from the mainland of Appin. On the island was established the see of Argyle in 1236, but long before that date it was the chief residence of Saint Moluag, an Irish saint who earned great fame in Argyle and much further afield. On this island he set up his little church, and to protect it from marauding clansmen he had it and the conventual buildings surrounded with a vallum, much in the manner of the ancient hill forts. This was a common practice of the Irish missionaries and there are many instances of it on record, more especially in Ireland. It is from this vallum that the island has its name, Lismore, the great enclosure, Gaelic lis, a fortified place. This is the real meaning of Lismore and not the ‘‘great garden as is so often given. There is a place in Ireland which has its name from exactly the same circumstances called Lismore.
Some say that Saint Moluag died and was buried in Lismore; others only that his relics were preserved there. According to the Aberdeen Breviary he is said to have retired from Lismore to Ross-shire, where he died and was buried in the church of Rosemarky. Of course the Breviary was written centuries after the saint was dead but no doubt the worthy writer of the Breviary had some vague traditions to go upon; we can hardly believe that he invented the story of the saint s life. Saint Moluag is commemorated on the 25th June.
Saint Moluag s church seems to have stood at Portmaluag, where it is said he first landed on the island. There is here the remains of a building claimed to have been a church. It is hardly likely that it was that of the saint which would be a mud and wattle building and would have long since disintegrated into nothing under stress of climatic conditions.
As we have mentioned, on the island of Lismore was established in 1236 the see of Argyle. Not much of the cathedral church remains. All that is left is the choir, an aisleless oblong of about the middle of the fourteenth century, measuring about 56 feet hy 30 feet, with some slight traces of a chapter house and sacristy on the north side, and seats for the celebrant and his assistants with round headed arches. The original church seems to have measured 137 feet by 29 feet. In 1749 the choir was reroofed and now serves as the Church of Scotland parish church for Lismore.
The constitution of the cathedral was -
Each of these officials had his duties and responsihihties. For instance the chancellor had charge of the library manuscripts and correspondence; the treasurer looked after the money affairs; the precentor was the overseer of the ritual and choral song.
There were four deaneries attached to the See. The first was Kintyre embracing all the parishes in that district and Knapdale. The second was Glassary, or Glasrod as it was anciently spelled, which included all the parishes in Mid-Argyle, along with the collegiate church of Kilmun on the Holy Loch, founded in 1442 for a provost and seven prebendaries. The third deanery was that of Lorn with all its parishes, while the fourth was Morvern with its parishes of Eilean Finan, Arasaig, Glenelg, Kilmallie, Kilmalen(?), Kilcolmkill, Killintag, Ardnamurchan, and Knoydart.
Prior to the year 1203 Argyle formed part of the diocese of Dunkeld, Dunkeld had been made an episcopal seat about the year 1127 out of the ruins of what had been previously an establishment of that perplexing community, the Culdees, about whom and their usages there has been so much discussion.
In the year 1200 John Scotus was Bishop of Dunkeld. It is on record that he made application to the Pope to have his See divided into two, detaching that part of it which lay in Argyle, giving as his reasons that he could not speak Gaelic and was thus unable to govern that part of his See properly. He also stated that the revenues of Argyle were adequate to support it as a separate episcopal seat. The Prelate of Dunkeld made his chaplain Harald the conveyor of his plea to the Pope, and he recommended him strongly to the Pope as a suitable person to be the first bishop of the new See. It would appear that Harald was well fitted for the post. He could speak Gaelic, was a good scholar, and in general well equipped for the office. It is said that the Pope much admired the conscientiousness of the bishop, and quoted the Latin adage that he was rarer than a black swan. Black swans are extremely rare in the northern hemisphere. The Pope granted the bishop s request and appointed Harald as the first bishop of the new See, and signified his approbation of what in those days, we may presume, would be considered unusual magnanimity on the part of the prelate of Dunkeld.
But was the bishop as magnanimous as he showed himself in his petition to the Pope? Argyle lay far from his cathedral, it was difficult of access, collecting his dues was a hazardous business for his emissaries, for the men of Argyle were of independant and unruly spirit, and cared nothing for a bishop residing at a distance who could be defied with impunity. In addition memories of the older church lingered, of missionaries who collected no tithes, had no ornate buildings, and who lived frugally, preached the Gospel simply, and talked with the natives in a familiar way in their own language. On the whole we can take it that the Argyle part of his diocese was only a source of worry and a troublesome burden to the bishop, and so, putting the best face on it that he could in his plea to the Pope he managed to get the Argyle part of his charge disjoined and formed into a new diocese.
The parish church of Muckairn was at first fixed upon as the seat of the new bishopric, with Harald installed as the first prelate. It did not remain long there as it was a too convenient place for warlike clansmen, and the seat was soon removed to the island of Lismore. The extent of the new diocese was itself very considerable. It included not only the mainland of Argyle and some islands adjacent to the coast but also Lochaber.
It would seem that the reason for including Lochaber in the new bishopric was that the parish church of Kilmonivaig belonged to the prior of Ardchattan. This church was mortified to the Prior of Ardchattan by John, Lord of the Isles, with the consent of his son and heir, Angus, with its whole fruits and its rents. In a document dated the last day of September 1470, John, Bishop of Argyle, confirmed this charter. Six years later the Lord of the Isles gives a bond of maintenance and protection to this same church, and especially to defend the parsonage. John Campbell of Calder was commandator of the Priory of Ardchattan and possessed all the lands and property of that community, including the church of Kilmonivaig. In the year 1649 it was stated that the church had been vacant since the Reformation, a fact which entirely suited the Campbell holders of the properties of the priory, who thus uplifted the whole income of Kilmonivaig, that is to say when they could manage to do so, for the heritors of the parish simply declined to pay and little of the revenue found its way into their hands. As we know the Campbells were great reformers of the kirk, but even so they were not above calling on the Catholic chief of Keppoch, for payment of £100, to collect the dues, but even this expedient failed, for Keppoch did not exert himself to carry out his part of the bargain. As the church had become an encumbrance rather than a useful thing they got rid of it by selling it to Glengarry. In later years the church of Kilmonivaig was the source of a good deal of litigation as regards the advowson.
George Lauder of Balcomie
John of Lismore
Of the other dignitaries of the cathedral church we have mention in
1470 we find Sir Bean David as precentor and we shall hear more about this man later on;
Of the treasurers we find only in 1551 Master John Carsewell;
The names of some chancellors have come down to us;
1251 Sir Cristin is named as archdeacon;
1250 David is named as canon;
Father Hay (Sacra Scotica) furnishes the following account of the dress worn by the canons of Lismore. "Their usual habit reached to the ankles. At divine service in the church they wore a rochet with an amice placed upon the shoulders, and a surplice with open sleeves, from Easter Eve to the Feast of All Saints; and from Hallow Eve (31st October) to Holy Saturday they wore a linen surplice reaching to the ankles, and, by a peculiar privilege and custom, violet coloured capes, as appears from the Iconice Canonicorum Imagines, printed in 1400, which was to be seen in the choir. They afterwards wore black capes, open in front, and under the cape, which was lined with red cloth of silk or silk and wool, a linen tunic without sleeves. On the head they wore an amice of grey fur, and above it a hood which covered the shoulders, with a collar of ermine attached. To the cape was attached behind a train of the same material and colour, which they carried on the left arm. This change was introduced pro tempore by Pope Nicolas III. By a decree of the Council of Narbonne (A.D. 1043) purple vestments were strictly forbidden to clerical persons, lest they should make a boast of worldly pomp. Yet the dignitaries of this cathedral church were distinguished by the purple, that the memory of the blood shed by them for the Gospel of Christ might not perish."
In Baiamond's Roll the tithe of the whole bishopric of Argyle is given at £51 13s 4d, including the archdeaconry at £6 6s 8d, and the deanery, chantry, chancellary, and treasurership at each £2 13s 4d. In the Libellus Taxationum the diocese is rated at 440 marks, and in the Taxatio Sec. XVI., together with the monastery of Saddell, at £103 6s 8d, the archdeaconry being rated in the latter at £16 l0s 3d. The bishopric is not entered in the chamberlain s Roll until the year 1365, when it is shown as contributing to the Crown £3 6s 8d, the smallest sum of all the dioceses of Scotland, but this was probably only an instalment. In 1366 the bishopric paid to the Crown an arrear of £9 13s 4d. (4)
INSUFFICIENT REVENUES - FOR THE SEE OF ARGYLL
The See of Argyle was always a poor one, notwithstanding Bishop John s assertion that the revenues were adequate to support a bishop independent of Dunkeld. The reverse was the case, and each successive bishop had always to fight against poverty, the revenues being insufficient to uphold the episcopal dignity.
By a deed dated at Achinduine, 10th September 1334, Ewin Lord of Lorn granted to Andrew, Bishop of Argyle, a £10 land in the island of Lismore, called Frakersek, Craiginche, and Achinduine. By another deed dated at Kilmun, 26th May, 1447, Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe granted to George, Bishop of Argyle, "Ane perpetual libertie within any forest perteining the Erls of Argyll to cut treis of all sorts that can serve for the bischopis building," and also "ane libertie to tak any sort of fewel."
In 1506 King James IV granted to Bishop David all the unlaws, "compositions and escheats" and other profits belonging to the king in the next Justice Air of Argyle, Lorn, Cowal, and other parts, and of all other Justice Airs and Sheriff Courts within the same bounds, to be held during the king s pleasure. In the following year he confirmed this grant along with all the grants made by his predecessors, the Lords of Lorn, Argyle, and others. In 1510 he addressed a letter, in favour of the same bishop, and of Sir Alexander Makloid, his dean and official of the Isles, to the inhabitants of the bishop s lands, enjoining them "that nane of yow tak upon hand to inquiet the said bishop and Schir Alexander in the uplifting, bruiting, and josing of the teinds and other fruits of his and thair landis and kirkis quhatsumeuir, or intromit in any way whatsoever without license of the bishop, charging them under all pains to pay the mails."
A small freehold, originally of about twelve acres, but latterly only of six, has for centuries been held by a family named Livingstone, locally known as the Barons of Bachuill, as the custodians of St Moluag s crozier, styled the Bachuill Mór. Dr Alexander Carmichael gives an account of this family in the "Celtic Review", V, pages 356-375. In 1544, Archibald Campbell, fiar of the lands of Argyle, Campbell and Lorn, with the consent of his father and tutor, Archibald Earl of Argyle, Lord Campbell and Lorn, liferenter of the same lands, in honour of the Blessed Virgin and of his patron saint Moloc, mortified to his signifer John M Molmore Vic Kevir and his heirs male, whom failing to return to his own gift, half of the lands of Peynabachalla and Peynchallen, extending to half a merkland in the island of Lismore and lordship of Lorn, with the keeping of the great staff of Saint Moloc, as freely as John s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and other predecessors held the same of Archibald s predecessors. This Bachuill Mór is a plain curved staff, 2 feet 10 inches in length, formerly covered with copper, perhaps gilt, which is now mostly worn off. Over a century ago (pre-1872) the then Duke of Argyle took possession of the staff and removed it to Inveraray Castle for safe keeping. A few years ago (from 1972) his successor handed it back to its hereditary keepers, and it is now in the care of the present representatives of the family.
There appear to have been churches or chapels of old at Killen, Kilcheren, and Kilandreyn in the island of Lismore. The present glebeland which surrounds the cathedral is thought to have been a sanctuary, and to have had a number of buildings into which in troublesome times the local lairds of the parish transferred their valuable effects; near the church there is a font cut in the rock, and beside it a stone with a rude figure of a cross known to the local people as the Black Cross; and on a small knoll behind the church lies the old burying ground with the remains of a cross, It was at this cross in days of old that the banns of marriage were proclaimed. After this ceremony there was much drinking and horse play among those present for the rest of the day. Naturally, most of the inhabitants were present to enjoy the merriment of the day.
There is said to have been a chapel on the small island of Bernera on the west of Lismore. On this island grew a gigantic yew tree, and according to tradition Saint Columba preached to the people beneath it. When the laird of Lochnell built his new residence at Ardmucknish, in Benderloch, he had this tree cut down and converted into a staircase for his house, very much to the anger of the inhabitants of Lismore, who prophesied that no good would come of such sacrilege. Their prophecy was only too true, for not long after the building was finished it was destroyed by fire.
The bishop s residence was at Achinduine Castle, situated on the top of a conical hill near the southern end of the island. It is said to have been built during the period between 1250 and 1304, and was occupied by them until they removed their residence to Dunoon just before 1500. It was a large structure. It consisted of a small courtyard, 70 feet square, with ranges of buildings constructed along the walls inside. It underwent little structural alterations during the 200 years or so it was occupied; perhaps the poverty of the see had something to do with this. The castle is about five miles from the church and is now a complete ruin.
As we have already mentioned more than once the see of Argyle was then a poor one. At times additions were made to the tithes but never sufficient enough to keep up the episcopal dignity, and some of the holders of the office took the law into their own hands and seized on church property to which they had no right. The parish church of Kilcolmonel in Kintyre along with other churches was the property of the monks of Paisley, being granted to them by Dufgal, the son of Syfyn, the local magnate in 1261. Allan, Bishop of Argyle, confirmed the gift, but he hedged it about with certain reservations, not forgetting the vicar s portion of the church s emoluments, nor the fourth share of the proceeds due to the maintenance of his own table, on the very proper principle that they "who preach the Gospel should live off the Gospel".
The parish church of Kilkerran (Campbeltown) was one of the churches granted to the monks of Paisley by the Lord of the Isles. The monks drew all the revenues of the church, allowing a curate to perform the parochial duties on a mere pittance. About the year 1351 Bishop Martin of Argyle seized on three churches belonging to the monks of Paisley, the churches being Saint Colomel, Saint Queran, and Saint Finan, the first two in Kintyre and the other in Cowal. The monks immediately complained to John, abbot of Dunfermline and Andrew, abbot of Newbattle, who had been appointed by a bull of Pope Clement VI conservators and judges for redressing the grievances and defending the rights of the Cluniac order in Scotland. The monks claimed that Bishop Martin of Argyle usurped all the tithes and fruits of the above churches, and inflicted on them various other grievances contrary to the privileges and liberties of their order. In the same year the delegates considering the difficulties that the bishop would experience in appearing before them because of his distance from their residence, and the dangers of travelling, and wanting to save all parties labour and expense, appointed as their commissioner in the case, Master John Penny subdean of Glasgow, and Nigel of Corrotherys, Malcolm Kennedy and Henry of Mundaville, canons. These officials cited the bishop to appear before them but he proved contumacious and did not appear, even though present in Glasgow, where the case was to be heard in the cathedral church. The court forthwith suspended the bishop from his office, and cited him anew to appear before them on pain of excommunication. However, through the intervention of friends, the case was settled to the satisfaction of both parties. The terms were that the bishop should relax his sequestration of its fruits, but the monks were bound to put the church of Kilkerran in a proper state of repair, the work to be done to the bishop s satisfaction. The bishop
Another case arose in 1489 when Bishop Robert of Argyle sequestrated the fruits of some churches in Argyle belonging to the monks of Paisley. On receiving the complaint the Pope appointed James, abbot of Culros, judge of the case. He as usual appointed delegates to try the case which was to take place on the 4th February. The bishop proved obstinate and did not appear. The judges appointed the curates of Dumbarton, Dunoon, and Kilmun to enjoin the bishop on pain of excommunication by bell, book, and candle, to obey the decision, which on the 9th of March was done in their name at the town of Dumbarton by Alexander Clugston, notary public. But the bishop paid no attention to this serious action of the church, which of course roused it to further action. The bishop was again excommunicated at the cathedral church of Glasgow in the presence of the people gathered for public worship, the same notary public performing the ceremony at the public altar. But that was all the satisfaction the church dignitaries received; the bishop just laughed at them and went on his way rejoicing.
Celibacy on the part of the clergy was finally made the law of the church in the first half of the twelfth century; but it was a counsel of perfection to which the clerics did not always pay attention, and as the centuries rolled on their way laxity increased, so that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries clerical concubinage was everywhere prevalent. There was then no vigilant press and no vigorous public opinion to criticise their conduct. Some of these clerics brought their sons up with a view to placing them in the church.
Beanus David was one such man. Being the son of a priest and an unmarried woman, brought up to enter the church he found his base birth against him so he petitioned the Pope for a dispensation to allow him to hold ecclesiastic benefice with cure. He also asked that he might hold several benefices together as often as he pleases. He had his request granted and he next asks that he be appointed chanter of Lismore cathedral which he also got. His whole stipends from his various offices amounted to St Bride in Lorn valued at £25 sterling, precentorship at £8, and some other trifles.
Another application to Rome was that of Alexander Fraser, a monk of Ardchattan Priory, son of a married baron and an unmarried woman. He held the vicarage of Abertarff, Moray diocese, valued at £3. He aspired to become prior of Beauly but his birth was against him. He had his desire granted.
In 1432 Robert Scrymgeour, canon of Lismore, student of civil law, and in deacon s orders, petitions the Pope to appoint him to the deanery of Caithness, notwithstanding that he already holds in addition to his position in Lismore the rectory of Dunotter. He got his deanery of Caithness.
This same Robert Scyrmgeour had collated Malcolm Phillip to the parsonage of St Columba s church, Lochawe, by all the lawful means. But Phillip doubted the validity of his presentation and petitioned the Pope to ratify it. His petition was granted.
Having received the deanery of Caithness, Robert Scyrmgeour again petitioned Rome to provide him to the canonry and prebend of Logymethet, Ross diocese, and he got his wish.
There were a lot of these petitions from Scotland but the highest percentage was from Argyle, where it would appear no attention was paid to the church law, and concubinage among the clergy was common. One thing that strikes us about these petitions is the speed with which they were dealt, and that there were no questions asked about the petitioner s breaking of the law. It took only about a month from the date of application to get a favourable reply.
As we have mentioned at the beginning of this paper, part of the district of Appin, Glencoe, Lochleven, and a large tract of country in Inverness-shire lay in the parish of Eilean Mund, the island in Lochleven. On this island stood the parish church. Some remains of it yet can be seen, and its burying ground is still in use. It consists of two knolls, one of which is appropriated to the Glencoe area, and the other to Lochaber. This church has sometimes been styled a monastery of obscure Cenobites. Father Hay in "Scotica Sacra" says that "they declined intercourse with society, and preferred the quiet of a solitary life to all temporal privileges." The church was dedicated to Saint Mun as the name implies.
In the year 1304 a grant of land by Sir Ewen of Argyle to Bishop Andrew is witnessed by Michael the vicar of Eileanmund. In 1354 John O Lorn resigned to John, Lord of the Isles various lands in that lordship, but he retained the free lands of the church of Glencoe (Eileanmund?), which were then granted to him anew. In 1510 Master John Campbell was rector of Eileanmund, and in that same year King James IV presented Sir Donald Makstalker to the rectory, when it should be resigned by Master John Campbell. In 1558 Sir Laurence Gault was rector of Eileanmund, and in the event of his resignation the rectory was granted by Queen Mary to Sir Ninian Gault. MacFarlane in his "Geographical Collections" says "In that loch or bay is ane island called Iland Munde, which hath the parish church therein; this church hath 70 merklands pertyning thereto."