Official Home of the Clan McLea - the Highland Livingstones
The Status of Celtic Abbots
The status of Celtic Abbots was demonstrably very high as can be seen
from these examples:
Sir Farquhar Mac an t-Sagairt (son of the priest), hereditary Abbot
of Applecross, was made first Earl of Ross in 1235 by King Alexander
II, for military services. The progenitor of the old Earls of Ross
was the eldest son of Gilleon na h-airde, the ancestor of Anrias, who
the progenitor of the O'Beolans or Gillanders, the old Celtic Earls
of Ross. The first of the O'Beolan Earls was Fearcher MacinTagart,
of Gillianrias, and son of the 'sagart', or hereditary abbot at the
monastery of Applecross founded by St. Maelrubha in the seventh century.
The progenitor of the MacNab clan is traditionally the Abbot
of Glendochart and Strathearn, a younger son of King Kenneth MacAlpin.
claim descent from this Abbot hence their motto “Royal is my
DNA results show a very close relationship between our family and the
King Malcolm II's daughter Bethoc married Crinan, Hereditary Abbot
of Dunkeld thus incorporating the hereditary Celtic office
into the Royal family.
Dunkeld was a Court of Regality.
King Malcolm III’s son Aedh was created Earl of Fife and hereditary
Abbot of Abernethy. Abernethy was a Court of
The MacLarens (Mac Labhruinn) take their patronymic from Laurence,
who was the hereditary Celtic Abbot of Achtow in Balquhidder in the
thirteenth century. This line of abbots, being descended from the earl
Achtow, appears to have assumed the leadership of the earl's clan-family
following the death of the last earl, who died about 1350.
A branch of the MacKinnon chiefly family became hereditary Abbots
of Iona. The last hereditary abbot was John MacKinnon, the 9th chief,
who was also Bishop of the Isles. He died around 1500.
The Livingstones of Bachuil, as the Coarbs (heirs or successors) of
St Moluag, are hereditary Abbots of Lismore and keepers of the Bachuil
or great staff of St Moluag, the traditional symbol of the Abbot’s
In feudal times administration was devolved to baron’s courts which
dealt with all civil and criminal justice except for the four pleas of
the crown which were reserved to the king’s sheriff courts. Some
courts had more extensive powers and were known as Courts of Regality
as they had powers co-equal to the crown. The king’s officers
held no jurisdiction in these lands unless it related to a charge of
It is notable that the great religious centres of Abernethy, Dunfermline,
Dunkeld, Iona (Icolumkill), Kinloss, Lindores (Lindoirs), Melrose,
Pluscarden, St Andrews, Urquhart were all Courts of Regality.
It is clear that these lands were ruled by the abbots and were outwith
the jurisdiction of the king’s officers and were certainly not
subject to any temporal authority. This all strengthens the view that
The Coarbs of St Moluag, came down through the ages ‘acknowledging
no earthly authority or hierarchy’.