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The Coarbs of St Moluag
The Coarb (Successor) of St Moluag was the Abbot of Lismore and the abbots of the 100 monasteries which emanated from St Moluag followed the rule of the Coarb.
The Annals of Ulster show that Moluag died in 592 and that he was succeeded by St Neman who was in turn succeeded by St. Eochaidh who died on the 17th of April 634 . From this point there is potential for confusion as the Annals of the Four Masters now have this entry: M636.2 St. Mochuda, Bishop of Lis Mor and Abbot of Raithin Rahen, died on the 14th of May. This is Lismore in Eire and there is a degree of uncertainty in a few cases as to which Lismore is talked about thereafter. However, the annalists have made great efforts to minimise any confusion, generally referring to Lismore in Ireland as Lis Mor Mochuda, whenever there may be doubt. The Annals note the deaths of the abbots until about 957 when the records peter out due to the depredations of the Vikings.
In 1098 Malcolm (Canmore) III of Albany ceded to Norway all the land to the west of Scotland around which Magnus Barefoot of Norway could sail his ship – this included the Mull of Kintyre. In the early 1100’s Somerled drove out the Vikings and acquired the Kingdom of Argyll (technically a regulus or sub-kingdom under the very nominal paramountcy of the Kings of Scots) and took the Kingdom of the Isles (under the nominal paramountcy of the King of Norway). The Argyll kingdom included Lorn together with Lismore and Appin (its Abbey Lands).
Somerled was a supporter of the Celtic Church (Malcolm’s Queen Margaret was an opponent, introducing Roman clergy) and did his best to persuade the Coarb of St Columba to return to Iona.
The law of Tanistic succession, the right of hereditary succession was hereditary in the family but elective in the individual. When a Saint founded a Monastery the two tribes involved were in the Brehon Laws termed respectively the Fine Grin, or Tribe of the Land and the Fine Erluma, or Tribe of the Saint.
In the History of the Men of Alba, amongst the Clans supposed to be descended from the Kings of Dal Riada in Scotland, are listed the Macleans whose pedigree includes “Gilleeoin mic Mecraith mic Maoilsruthain mic Neill mic Cuduilig, Abbot of Lismore, (Conduilig i. Ab Leasamoir ) mic Raingee”. Raingee was supposedly descended from Lorn, the brother of Fergus MacErc. Cuduilig was probably brought in by Somerled in 1150 on the basis that he was a suitable man of the Fine Grin, or Tribe of the Land.
Notwithstanding St Columba’s fame, it was the Coarbs of St Moluag that provided the authority of the church to the Kings of Dalriada and the Lords of Lorn. From the 1544 charter it can be seen that The Earl of Argyll, having inherited the McDougall Lordship of Lorn refers to Moluag as their patron saint “in honour of God Omnipotent, the blessed Virgin, and Saint Moloc, our patron”.
It is notable that Cuduilig, the progenitor of the Macleans, was able to appanage his heirs in Morvern on part of the Abbey Lands.
It is around this time that our ancestor An Gorm Mor, the big blue,
lived at Achnadun, in the North of Lismore. He was a man of immense
and was said to have possessed the strength of five men. Across the
loch, on the wooded slopes of Morvern, there roamed a great, fierce,
bull that was preventing the people attending church. An Gorm Mor
decided to match his strength against the creature and the din of
could be heard by those waiting on Lismore. It is said that the struggle
lasted from sunrise to midday. The gravestone of this Baron, Leac
a'Ghuirm Mhoir, is of great interest. The carving on it is that of
Ages, and in high relief but greatly weathered and defaced, and in
some places worn out. On the upper half of the stone is the figure
of a man
in the kilt-much as the dress is worn now-and holding a long staff
in his right hand, probably the staff of Saint Moluag.