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Title: Holy Relics
Posted by: Donald (Livingstone) Clink
Date: 20 April 2006

It was a tradition among the Welsh, Irish and Scotish in the celtic church that after the death of an important church leader such as Saint Patrick, Columba, Moluag and Fillan that certain relics such as their crozier, sacred bell or a holy book would take on a special religious significance to the clergy and worshipers and would be passed on to hereditary keepers or guardians referred to over the ages as dewar or deoradh.

The pastoral staff in the hands of a bishop or abbot was a important symbol of power and authority and originated with the early church. The Dewar with his bachuil also held a position of respect and authority among the people of his parish as a representative of the Bishop and the Church. 

In case of Saint Molaug and Saint Fillan their pastoral staff, crozier or bachuil as it was known in gaelic was considered to have supernatural and miraculous powers of healing including the ability to help protect those in battle. These hereditary keepers of the staff went into battle with their clan or as bearers of the staff for a more powerful clan whom they had formed a bond or friendship with. In the case of Clan Livingstone, the Baron of Bachuil as guardian of Saint Moluag Staff was likely at one time or another a signifer or standard bearer in battle for the McDougalls and the Campbells who considered Moluag a patron saint. 

An ancestor of Baron Livingstone chief of Highland Clan MacLea probably a lay abbot in the church on the Island of Lismore was appointed to be the heriditary custodian of the bachuil of Saint Moluag. (In the early Celtic church many of the clergy were not required to be celibate.) 

This Dewar or Deoradh was responsible for the safety and security of the bachuil and in return received privileges from the church including a hereditary land grant and the title of Baron of Bachuil. Saint Moluag was considered to be a Saint of healing, so no doubt the ancient Barons with bachuil in hand, followed the Saint's legacy administering to the needs of the sick. With this great symbol of church authority, the Baron also collected tithes for the parish, but as a doer or almoner of the cathedral he also charitable giving out alms to the poor as Saint Moluag and the monastery had done before him. This was considered to be an important responsibility of the early Barons and as such it is worthy to note that the site of the old family residence is referred to in gaelic as "Larach taigh nan doera".

Alexander Carmichael observed in his book "Carmina Gadelica" published in 1900 that the Campbells of Bail-an-deor in Lorn were almoners to the Priory of Airdchattan and one of them was referred locally as "An Deora Mor" the big almoner. 

The Bishop of Argyll left the Island of Lismore in the late 1400's for another location and by the time of the reformation in the 1500's the cathedral was already in a state of decline. These events must of had a significant impact on the Barons of Bachuil.  

Worn by time and the faithful, the blackthorn staff of Saint Moluag, with only small traces of the original decorative metal, is today in the possession of it's rightful custodian, the current Baron of Bachuil, Alistair Livingstone of the Island of Lismore.

Other examples of hereditary keepers of a staff include Clan Colquhoun who are the guardians of the bachuil of Saint Kessog who originated at Inchnauanach Monks Island on Loch Lomond. Clan  Dewar a sept of Clan McNab considers it origin to be that of a custodian of Saint Feolan's artifacts including his staff of which today only the head remains in the Scottish National Museum. Saint Feolan or Fillan was a founder of the abbey at Glendochart. The Clan MacNab is believed to have descended from one of the early abbots of this abbey.

Alexander Carmichael noted that the previously mentioned Campbells that lived near Taynuit were almoners to ancient priory of Ardchattan and were guardians and dewars of the holy relic a staff of Saint Maol Rubha of Applecross.

Despite the destructive years of the reformation, a few of these holy celtic church relics still exist today. Who knows what ancient church treasures remain today buried and undiscoved? And what became of all the Viking treasure hoards, following their raids on Scottish monasteries?

Indeed in 2003, archaeologists during a dig near Ballycastle, County Antrim, Ireland found a 12th century bronze bell shrine at the fortified medieval site of Drumadoon. The ornate shrine at one time held a small, sacred bell of a local saint  As the ecclesiastical relic was found at a military site, it was suspected that it had been in the possession of a warrior who was also a hereditary keeper.  

 

  

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Replies

Title:Date:Posted By:
Holy Relics20 April 2006Donald (Livingstone) Clink
   Holy Relics20 April 2006Kyle MacLea
      Holy Relics21 April 2006Donald (Livingstone) Clink
         The Church on Lismore21 April 2006Young Bachuil
            The Church on Lismore25 April 2006Donald (Livingstone) Clink
               The Church on Lismore25 April 2006Young Bachuil

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