McLaurence Kindred vicars in Argyll and Strath Fillan 1269 -1456

Ecclesiastical Kindred in Argyll and Strath Fillan

“The ecclesiastical landscape of dispersed rural communities in the late Middle Ages consisted both of their parish church and other structures usually referred to as chapels. The laity’s main encounters with the Church were meant to occur at the parish church to which they belonged from the cradle to the grave; however, in practice, the laity’s allegiances were much more complex.” Sarah Thomas: Beyond the Parish Church: A Study of Chapels in the Parishes of Kirkapoll on Tiree and Snizort on Skye, 2010 Hebridean Archaeology Forum Journal of the North Atlantic, volume 9:67-82, 2015

An example of Sarah’s observation is the vicar Labhrun at Kilbodan in 1420, a chapel in Ardchattan parish northeast of Ardchattan church. Also, up until 1397 Kirkapool parish on the isle of Tiree belonged to Ardchattan Priory. Could vicar Labhrun have come from Tiree to Kilbodan, Ardchattan after the change in ownership in 1397?

The Celtic Catholic church was represented by an indigenous sub-aristocratic clergy class, many times ‘natural’ children of the local Lord who could not inherit Title, as the children ‘germain’ could. In Lorn, the clergy were the followers of either St. Columba or St. Moluag, both had competed for the ‘garden isle’ of Lismore and the ‘abbey lands’ known as Appin. In those ancient times both saints had several churches established by followers in Appin and Benderloch that are now in ruins. The Lismore Clan MacLea / Livingstone are the present day hereditary ‘deors’ (keepers of holy relics) of St. Moluag, with Naill Livingstone of Bachuill the clan chief, possessing St. Moluag’s staff.

Along with lands and titles the McDougall Lords of Lorn were the patrons of the Holy see, the bishopric of the Catholic church of Argyll, which was then based on the island of Lismore in Loch Linnhe.

"It was the custom for the clergy to come from the local population, typically an illegitimate son of the local noble landowner. It was a family occupation that received beneface from the parish." "The vicar took the name of the local landowner and chief." (Iain MacDonald 2013)

“Another source of clergy for the Church were the hereditary ecclesiastical kindreds; kindreds which had usually become associated with one particular church and who created their own “ecclesiastical lineages.” Sarah Thomas, bishops, priests, monks and their patrons: the Lords of the Isles and the Church, 2014

"Most of the vicarages tended to be either held in plurality with another benefice, or were located at churches whose patrons treated it as a family living for their own kin, as for instance at Kilmartin." (MacDonald, 2013)

“Duncan & Brown argued convincingly that, when the Scots fleet sailed into Kerrera Sound in 1249, it was not only to attack the power of Ewen the MacDougall Lord of Lorn, but also to restore the See of Argyll at Lismore. Clement, bishop of Dunblane was with Alexander [King of Scots] and it can be accepted that the misfortunes of the Holy See we're in some way bound up with the intransigence of the previous patrons the MacDougall Lords of Lorn”. (Turner, 1998)

This was a decade before a Lismore abbot taking the name of St Laurence was appointed bishop of Argyle by Pope Clement IV in 1264.

“Origines Parochiales Scotiae, the Record and Charter History of the Parishes of Argyll and the Isles” by Chalmers in 1854, relates that Lismore, the bishopric of Argyll was destitute and lay dormant for many years. Kilbride parish, also in Lorn was annexed to elevate some of the poverty through taxes. Other parishes were also later annexed, including Kilmartin, they were called prebends. Each prebend would send the bishopric up to 25% of the tithes, at least they were supposed to, fraud was rampant as we shall see in Strath Fillan in the Breadalbane chapter. “Origines Parochiales Scotiae” is a translation of  “Registrum Monasterii de Passelet, cartas, privilegia, conventiones, aliaque munimenta complectens, a domo fundata A.D. MCLXIII [1163] usque ad A.D. MDXXIX [1528], ad fidem codicis m.s. in Bibliotheca Facultatis juridicæ edinensis servati nunc primum typis mandatum – Paisley Abbey, “written in  Latin and published in 1832.

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