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The Lion Rampant

 

The Status of Celtic Abbots

The status of Celtic Abbots was demonstrably very high as can be seen from these examples:

  1. 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 was the progenitor of the O'Beolans or Gillanders, the old Celtic Earls of Ross. The first of the O'Beolan Earls was Fearcher MacinTagart, grandson of Gillianrias, and son of the 'sagart', or hereditary abbot at the monastery of Applecross founded by St. Maelrubha in the seventh century.
  2. The progenitor of the MacNab clan is traditionally the Abbot of Glendochart and Strathearn, a younger son of King Kenneth MacAlpin. Clan Macgregor claim descent from this Abbot hence their motto “Royal is my race”. DNA results show a very close relationship between our family and the Macgregor Chiefs,
  3. 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.
  4. King Malcolm III’s son Aedh was created Earl of Fife and hereditary Abbot of Abernethy. Abernethy was a Court of Regality.
  5. 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 who founded Achtow, appears to have assumed the leadership of the earl's clan-family following the death of the last earl, who died about 1350.
  6. 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 Mor or great staff of St Moluag, the traditional symbol of the Abbot’s authority.

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 treason. 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’.

Last updated 22 May, 2008