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Introduction of Christianity. — St Ninian and Ternan. — The
Temple, or St Ninian’s Chapel.—The Story of Merchard.—
His Church in Glenmoriston.—Traditions Concerning Him.—
His Wonderful Bell.—Drostan, Patron Saint of Urquhart.—
His Chaplainry and Croft.—Relapse of the People into
Paganism.—St Columba’s Mission.—Marvellous Deeds in the
District of Loch Ness. —Opposition of the Druids.—Columba
in Urquhart.—Conversion of Emchat and Virolec—Inver-
moriston Church.—Columba’s Well. — St Adamnan.—The
Church of Abriachan. — The Mission of Curadan. — The
Church of Corrimony.—Gorman.—The Churches of Lag an
t-Seapail, Achnahannet, Pitkerrald, Kilmichael, and Kilmore.
—The Celtic Clergy and their Services.—Fall of the Druids.—
Their Religion and its Remains.—Struggle between the Celtic
Church and Romanism.—The Roman Church Established.—
Origin of Parishes and Church Endowments.—Erection of
the Parish of Urquhart. — The Parish Church and its
Property.—The Chapels and their Crofts.—The Chancellor of
Moray. — The Clergy of the Church and Chapels. — The
Reformation.—The Parish Priest turns Protestant.—Loss of
the Church Lands in the Parish.—The People Spiritually

The early ecclesiastical history of our Parish, like
its early civil history, is involved in much obscurity.
Christianity was probably introduced into the South
of Scotland by the Roman soldiers in the first or
second century ; but it was left to St Ninian, who
flourished in the end of the fourth century and the
beginning of the fifth, to preach its doctrines with

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any degree of success among the native population.
Through his missionary ardour and evangelical zeal,
the Southern Picts, who occupied the country lying
to the south and east of the Grampians, forsook
their paganism. It has hitherto been assumed that
neither he nor his followers had any share in the
introduction of our faith into the territory of the
Northern Picts, to whom, it has been said, the
message of salvation was first delivered by St
Columba. That assumption does not appear to be
well founded. The dedications which we find in
honour of St Ninian within that territory, including
the Temple, or Kil St Ninian, in Urquhart,1 justify
the belief that, if he did not himself labour among
the Northern Picts, the Gospel which he preached
in the South was conveyed to them by his immediate
disciples. It could not well have been otherwise.
The two sections of the Picts formed essentially
one people, speaking the same language, and some­
times acknowledging the same authority. Inter­
course between them was constant, and tidings of
the great conversion in Southern Pictland must
have reached and influenced the North. Travellers
would tell of it as they journeyed, and enthusiastic
converts would press northward with the Good
News which they had themselves received. Ternan,
for instance—a native of the Mearns, who sat at the
feet of St Ninian, and who preached with much

1 The district of St Ninians in our Parish is, in Gaelic, called Slios an
—Ninian’s Hill-side. Trinnean, Ringan, &c., are forms which the
name has assumed since the Saint’s time,



success in the north-east of Scotland—can never
have bounded his zeal for the salvation of the Picts
by the imaginary line which is supposed to have
separated the Pictish provinces ; and Ternan’s
disciple, Erchard, it is almost certain, penetrated
far into the northern territory. A tradition which
has probably come down from his own time tells
that he was the first who preached the gospel in
Glenmoriston, and to him the ancient church of
that Glen—Clachan Mhercheird—was dedicated.

Erchard, or Merchard, as he latterly came to be
called,1 was a native of the district of Kincardine
0’Neil, on the southern slopes of the Grampians.
He became a zealous Christian in his early youth,
and Ternan not only ordained him priest, but also
appointed him his own coadjutor. It was perhaps
while he laboured with Ternan that he visited our
Parish. In after life he went to Rome, and was
consecrated bishop by Pope Gregory. On his return
journey he visited the Picts of Pictavia, now Poitou,
in France, and brought back to the truth such of
them as had lapsed into paganism. Falling sick, he
prayed God that he might not see death till he
arrived in his own country, and hastened northward
through France and England. He reached Kin­
cardine 0’Neil to be honourably received by his
people, and then died. According to his own

1 Merchard is Mo Erchard, or M’Erchard, signifying my Erchard. The
old Celts of Ireland and Scotland had a habit of placing the pronoun mo (my)
before the names of their favourite saints as a term of affection. The prefix
has no connection with maith, good. The name Erchard is in ancient writings
variously written : —Erchard, Erchad, Erchan, Erthadus, Irchard, Yrchardus.

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instructions, his body was placed on a cart drawn
by two horses, which were allowed to go forth
where they listed. He was buried where they first
stopped, and a church was built over his grave.

Such, briefly, are the circumstances of his life
and death, as given in the Breviary of Aberdeen
and other ancient writings. Much more is told of
him in the traditions of Glenmoriston. While
labouring in Strathglass with two missionary com­
panions, his attention was drawn to a white cow
which day after day stood gazing at a certain tree,
without bending its neck to eat, and yet went home
each evening as well filled as the other cattle.
Curiosity, or a higher influence, led him to dig up
the earth at the foot of the tree, and there he found
three bells, new and burnished as if fresh from the
maker’s hands.1 Taking one himself, and giving the
others to his companions, he bade each go his own
way and erect a church where his bell should ring the
third time of its own accord. One went eastward,
and founded the church of Glenconventh ; another
westward, and erected his church at Broadford in
Skye ; while Merchard himself travelled southward
in the direction of Glenmoriston. When he reached
the hill now called Suidh Mhercheird, or Merchard’s
Seat, his bell rang for the first time ; it again rang
at Fuaran Mhercheird (Merchard’s Well) at Ballin-
tombuie ; and it rang the third time at that spot by
the side of the River Moriston which is now the old

1 The place at which the bells were found is still called Craobh-nan-clag
(Crinaglack)—the Tree of the Bells.


burying-ground of Glenmoriston. There he built
his church—Clachan Mhercheird ; and there and in
the surrounding districts he for a time taught and
preached. He became the patron saint of Glen-
moriston ; and his solicitude for the Glenmoriston
people has not yet ceased. His acts of mercy and
love have been without number. One example may
be given. In former times, when a tenant died, his
best horse went to the proprietor as each-ursainn
herezeld, or heriot. If the deceased left no horse, a
horse’s value was taken in cattle or sheep. On one
occasion—twelve hundred years after Merchard’s
death—it came to pass that a poor Glenmoriston
tenant died, leaving a widow to succeed him. He
had left no horse, and the ground-officer took the
heriot in sheep. That same night, as the officer lay
in bed, an unearthly voice spake to him :—

“ ’S mise Merchard mor nam feart,

’S mi dol dachaidh chum an anmoich ;

A’s innis thusa do Mhac-Phadruig

Nach fheaird e gu brath a’ mheanbh-chrodh ! ”
(“I am great Merchard of the miracles, passing homeward in
the night. Declare thou unto Mac Phatrick that the widow’s
sheep will never bring him good.”)

With the morning’s sun the terror-stricken man
appeared before his master and delivered the ghostly
message. The sheep were instantly returned to the
widow, and from that day until now no heriot has
been exacted in Glenmoriston.

Merchard’s bell was preserved at his clachan
until about twenty years ago, when it went

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amissing—removed, it is supposed, by strangers
employed in the district. Its powers and attributes
were of a wonderful order. It indicated, as we have
seen, where Merchard’s church was to be built.
Until the very last the sick and infirm who touched
it in faith were cured and strengthened. After the
church became ruinous, in the seventeenth century,
it was kept on an ancient tombstone, specially set
apart for it. If removed to any other place it
mysteriously found its way back. When a funeral
approached, it rang of its own accord, saying,
“ Dhachaidh ! dhachaidh ! gu do leabaidh bhuan !

—“ Home ! home ! to thy lasting place of rest !

If thrown into water it floated on the surface, but
this the people were slow to put to the test, in
deference to Merchard’s warning :—

’S mise Merchard thar an fhonn,
Cuimhnichibh trom trom mo shàr’adh,
’S fiach’ nach cuir sibh air-son geall,
An clag so air a’ pholl a shnamhadh.”
(“ I am Merchard from across the land : keep ye my sufferings

deep in your remembrance ; and see that ye do not for a wager

(or trial) place this bell in the pool to swim.”)

As Merchard was the patron saint of Glen-
moriston, so Drostan was the patron saint of Glen-
Urquhart, which is to this day distinguished from
the other Urquharts in the North by the name of
Urchudainn mo Chrostain—St Drostan’s Urquhart.
There was a chaplainry in his honour at the Temple,
or Kil St Ninian, until the Reformation.1 According

1 Chiefs of Grant, III., 124.


to the Breviary of Aberdeen he was a nephew of St
Columba, who, if we may credit a legend recorded
in the Book of Deer, accompanied him into Aber-
deenshire. But he does not appear in the Irish
genealogies of Columba’s family ; and he is not
mentioned by St Adamnan, who wrote soon after
the great missionary’s death, and was careful to
record the names of his fellow-labourers. His name
is not Gaelic, as it would have been if he were of
Columba’s race, but Pictish or Welsh—it is the
same as Tristan of the Arthurian tales—and the
strong probability is that, like Merchard, he was a
native of Southern Pictland who penetrated into
the North long before Columba’s time. Tradition
tells that he preached the Gospel in Urquhart, and
supported himself by cultivating Croit Mo Chrostain
—St Drostan’s Croft—on the top of that pretty
hillock which is situated immediately to the west
of Balmacaan House. The Croft may have been the
gift of the Pictish potentate who ruled the Glen in
his day. It passed to the Romish Church on its
establishment about the beginning of the twelfth
century, and in 1556 it was attached to the Chapel
of St Ninian, whose disciple Drostan may have been.
At the Reformation it ceased to be Church property.
The Picts were a fickle race, who after a time
relapsed into paganism—“ the apostate Picts,” St
Patrick calls them.1 The secular clergy of Ninian’s

1 In his letter to Coroticus, St Patrick speaks of Socii Scotorum et
Pictorum apostatarunt
; and again, Prœsertim indignissimorum pessimorumque
atque apostatarum Pictorum.
Life of St Ninian (Historians of Scotland), 281.



Church proved unequal to the task of dispelling the
spiritual darkness that lay on the land. But a more
powerful institution was about to be established.
In 563 Columba, or Columcille—Colum or Malcolm
of the Cell—an Irish prince and priest, crossed
to Scotland burning with missionary fervour, in
penance, it is said, for his share in some tribal
feud. Landing in Iona with twelve companions,
he founded a monastery there, from which he
and they went forth on evangelistic expeditions
into the surrounding districts. After labouring
for two years among the inhabitants of Mull
and the West Coast, he resolved to visit Brude
MacMailcon, King of the Picts, who had his seat
on the banks of the River Ness. Columba was a
Scot or Gael of the same nationality as the Dalriad
Scots who had before his time settled in the country
now known as Argyll, and whom Brude had
disastrously defeated in 560 ; and while he was
moved by a holy compassion for the Picts who were
perishing in their paganism, he probably also desired
to promote the temporal peace and prosperity of his
own people. Taking with him, among others, two
eminent saints of the race of the Irish Picts—
Cainneach of Achaboe, and Comgall of Bangor—he
started on his memorable journey in 565, proceeding
along the Caledonian Valley, and preaching and
teaching as he went. His reception by the King
was not friendly. “ When the Saint made his
first journey to King Brude,” says Adamnan, “ it
happened that the King, elated by the pride of


royalty, acted haughtily, and would not open his
gates on the first arrival of the blessed man. When
the man of God observed this, he approached the
folding doors with his companions, and having first
formed upon them the sign of the cross of our Lord,
he then knocked at and laid his hand upon the gate,
which instantly flew open of its own accord, the
bolts having been driven back with great force.
The Saint and his companions then passed through
the gate thus speedily opened. And when the
King learned what had occurred, he and his
councillors were filled with alarm, and immediately
setting out from the palace, he advanced to meet
with due respect the blessed man, whom he
addressed in the most conciliatory and respectful
language. And ever after, from that day, so long
as he lived, the King held this holy and reverend
man in very great honour, as was due.”1

The Saint’s deeds at the court of Brude must
have made a great impression on the inhabitants
of Urquhart and Glenmoriston. Wonderful these
were, according to Adamnan. On one occasion,
being obliged to cross the Ness, he, on reaching the
river’s bank, found a number of people burying a
man who had just been killed by a water monster.
Nothing dismayed, he directed his companion,
Lugne Mocumin, to swim across the stream and
bring to him a boat that lay against the opposite
bank. Lugne obeyed, and when he was about
half across the monster gave an awful roar,

1 Adarnnan’s Vita Sancti Columbæ.

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and darted after him. “ Then the blessed man
[Columba] observing this, raised his holy hand,
while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers,
were stupified with terror, and, invoking the name
of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the
air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying,
Thou shalt go no further nor touch the man ; go
back with all speed. Then at the voice of the Saint
the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly
than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though
it had just got so near to Lugne as he swam that
there was not more than the length of a spear staff
between the man and the beast. Then the brethren,
seeing that the monster had gone back, and that
their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat
safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and
gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even
the barbarous heathens who were present were
forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they
themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the

The druids, as was natural, strongly opposed
Columba’s work in the district of the Ness. One
evening as he and his companions were singing
hymns outside the King’s fort a party of pagan
priests drew near and endeavoured to interrupt
them. “ On seeing this the Saint began to sing the
forty-fourth psalm, and at the same moment so
wonderfully loud, like pealing thunder, did his voice
become, that King and people were struck with
terror and amazement.”


Broichan, the chief druid, was especially zealous
in his opposition to the Saint ; but his zeal only
served to bring defeat and humiliation upon himself.
On his refusal to liberate a female slave who
had been taken captive in one of the Pictish
invasions of Dalriada, Columba thus warned him in
the King’s presence :—“ Know, O Broichan, and be
assured, that if thou refuse to set this captive free
as I desire thee, thou shalt die suddenly before I
take my departure again from this province.” The
Saint then proceeded to the river, and, taking a
white pebble, informed his companions that by it the
cure of many diseases would be effected—and that at
that moment Broichan had been struck by an angel
from Heaven and was gasping for breath, and half
dead. As he spoke, two horsemen galloped up and
said to him, “ The King and his friends have sent
us to thee to request that thou wouldst cure his
foster-father, Broichan, who lieth in a dying state.”
The Saint sent two of his companions to the King
with the pebble, and bade them, if Broichan pro­
mised to free the maiden, to immerse the stone in
water, and to let him drink of the water, and he
should be cured. No sooner were the words of
Columba conveyed to the sick man than he released
the captive, and delivered her to the Christians.
“ The pebble was then immersed in water, and, in a
wonderful manner, contrary to the laws of nature,
the stone floated on the water like a nut or an
apple, nor, as it had been blessed by the holy man,
could it be submerged. Broichan drank from the

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stone as it floated on the water, and, instantly
returning from the verge of death, recovered his
perfect health and soundness of body.” After this,
it is not surprising to learn that the pebble was
preserved among the treasures of the King, and that
it effected the cure of many diseases. “ And what
is very wonderful, when this same stone was sought
for by those sick persons whose term of life had
arrived it could not be found. Thus, on the very
day on which King Brude died, though it was
sought for, yet it could not be found in the place
where it had been previously laid.”

Broichan’s illness and cure, wonderful though
they were, failed to draw him from his own
ancient belief. Endowed in some measure with
the marvellous gifts which distinguished the magi
of old in their contest with Moses, he also
possessed no small share of their persistency ; and
he refused to accept his defeat in the matter of
the slave as conclusive evidence of the Christian’s
superior power. “ Tell me, Columba,” said he,
“ when dost thou propose to set sail.” “ I intend,”
replied the Saint, “ to begin my voyage after three
days, if God permits me and preserves my life.”
“ On the contrary,” said the druid, “ thou shalt not
be able, for I can make the winds unfavourable to
thy voyage, and cause a great darkness to envelope
you in its shade.” Columba answered, “ The
almighty power of God ruleth all things, and in
His name and under His guiding providence all our
movements are directed ; ” and at the appointed


time he and his companions repaired to the shores
of Loch Ness, with the intention of setting sail.
They were followed by a crowd of people, among
whom were certain druids, exulting exceedingly—
for, as Broichan had promised, a fierce tempest blew
from the west, and dark clouds obscured the
heavens. “ Our Columba, therefore, seeing that
the sea was violently agitated, and that the wind
was most unfavourable for his voyage, called on
Christ the Lord, and embarked in his small boat ;
and whilst the sailors hesitated, he the more con­
fidently ordered them to raise the sails against the
wind. No sooner was this order executed, while
the whole crowd was looking on, than the vessel ran
against the wind with extraordinary speed. And
after a short time the wind, which hitherto had
been against them, veered round to help them on
their voyage, to the intense astonishment of all.
And thus throughout the remainder of that day the
light breeze continued most favourable, and the skiff
of the blessed man was carried safely to the wished
for haven.”

Such are some of the incidents which are said
to have marked Columba’s first visit to the district
of Loch Ness. Brude became a Christian, and
befriended the Saint, who subsequently made other
journeys to the royal palace. On one occasion,
when travelling near Loch Ness, “ he was suddenly
inspired by the Holy Ghost, and said to his com­
panions, Let us go quickly to meet the holy angels
who have been sent from the realms of the highest

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Heaven to carry away with them the soul of a
heathen, and now wait our arrival there, that we
may baptise in due time before his death this man,
who hath preserved his natural goodness through
all his life, even to extreme old age.’ Having said
this much, the holy old man hurried his companions
as much as he could, and walked before them until he
came to a district called Airchartdan [Urchudainn,
or Urquhart] ; and there he found an aged man
whose name was Emchat, who, on hearing the word
of God preached by the Saint, believed and was
baptised, and, immediately after, full of joy and
safe from evil, and accompanied by the angels who
came to meet him, passed to the Lord. His son
Virolec also believed, and was baptised with all
his house.” The fact that Adamnan describes
Columba in this passage as an old man (senex),
would seem to show that Emchat’s conversion took
place, not during the Saint’s first visit to Pictland,
when he was only forty-four years of age, but at a
later period. On the other hand, it is possible that
Adamnan may have used the word as a term of
respect rather than to indicate Columba’s age.

In Glenmoriston Columba probably founded the
old church at Invermoriston, which was known as
Clachan Cholumchille, or Columba’s Church. In
the immediate vicinity of its site is Columba’s Well,
a holy fountain noted for many centuries for its
remarkable curative properties. The origin of its
renown in Christian times is probably found in
Adamnan’s pages. “ While the blessed man [Col­


umba] was stopping for some days in the province
of the Picts, he heard that there was a fountain
famous among this heathen people, which foolish
men, having their senses blinded by the devil,
worshipped as a god. For those who drank of this
fountain, or purposely washed their hands or feet in
it, were allowed by God to be struck by demoniacal
art, and went home either leprous or purblind, or
at least suffering from weakness or other kinds of
infirmity. By all these things the pagans were
seduced, and paid divine honour to the fountain.
Having ascertained this, the Saint one day went up
to the fountain fearlessly ; and, on seeing this, the
druids, whom he had often sent away from him
vanquished and confounded, were greatly rejoiced,
thinking that he would suffer like others from the
touch of that baneful water. But he, having first
raised his holy hand and invoked the name of
Christ, washed his hands and feet ; and then, with
his companions, drank of the water which he had
blessed. And from that day the demons departed
from the fountain ; and not only was it not allowed
to injure any one, but even many diseases amongst
the people were cured by this same fountain, after it
had been blessed and washed in by the Saint.” The
fountain which the Saint so blessed and washed in
may, without any undue straining of the imagina­
tion, be identified with his Well at Invermoriston.
That spring has, despite his rebuke, continued to be
in a sense worshipped until our own time, and
searchers after health may not even yet have

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entirely ceased to sprinkle themselves with its water,
and to leave their little offerings by its side.

With the last word of Adamnan’s account of
Columba’s work in our district the light of history
leaves us for five centuries, and during that long
period of night we have to trace the progress of the
Church as best we can by the help of the footprints
which it has left on the tradition and topography of
the country.

St Adamnan, who became abbot of Iona in 679,
and did much to spread the Gospel in Pictland, was
commemorated in our Parish by Croft Adamnan, the
site of which is not now known, and by a chaplainry at
Kil St Ninian ;1 and he it was, probably, who founded
the church of Abriachan, which was dedicated to
him.2 It is not too much to suppose that he visited
Urquhart — that Airchartdan which lay on the
route from the west to the east, and which, as he
himself informs us, was the scene of such important
events in the history of the Church as the conversion
of Emchat and Virolec.

Contemporaneous with St Adamnan was Curadan,
or Kiritinus, surnamed Boniface, an Irishman who
for sixty years preached to the Picts and Scots, and
who became bishop and abbot of Rosemarkie, where

1 See p. 116, supra.

2 In Gaelic, the church of Abriachan is called Cill Adhamhnain (now
pronounced Eonan) —Adamnan’s Cell. See Reeves’ Edition of Adamnan’s
Life of Columba, and Forbes’ Kalendar of Scottish Saints, for the various
changes which the name Adamnan has undergone during the course of
centuries—Eonan, Eunan, Aunan, Onan, Ounan. In a rental of Urquhart,
dated 1647, (at Castle Grant), his Croft is called Croft Indon.


he died at the age of eighty. To him was dedicated
the old chapel at Corrimony—Clach Churadain—
and after him is called Croit Churadain (Curadan’s
Croft), and Tobar Churadain (Curadan’s Well), both
on the adjacent lands of Buntait. The neighbour­
ing churches of Bona and Struy were also dedicated
to him. According to tradition, he and Gorman, a
saint who gave his name to the hill called Suidh
Ghuirmein, or Gorman’s Seat, near Corrimony,1 were
the first to evangelise the people of the Braes of
Urquhart. Whether that be true or not, these
dedications and place-names show how intimately
associated he was with the district.

In addition to the churches of Merchard, Col-
umba, and Curadan, which may have been founded
by those saints, there was in those olden times a
chapel at Lag an t-Seapail—the Hollow of the
Chapel—in Bunloit, where traces of old graves are
still visible ; there was a church at Ach na h-Anoid
(Achnahannet) —the Field of the Church—in Leny2 ;
a chapel at Pitkerrald which was dedicated to St
Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, who was held in great
repute in the Celtic Church ; a chapel at St Ninians,
dedicated to the Apostle of the Southern Picts, and
known in Gaelic as An Teampull, or the Temple ;3

1 The ancient saints gave their names to numerous hills. In Urquhart
we have Suidh Ghuirmein (Gorman’s Seat) ; in Glenmoriston, Suidh Mher-
cheird (Merchard’s Seat) ; and near Fort­ Augustus, Suidh Chuimein
(Cumine’s Seat). The old name of Fort-Augustus was Kil-Chuimein.

2 Anoid was the word applied to the first or mother church of a district.
The cell at Leny was probably the first built in Glen-Urquhart.

3 Numerous chapels in the Highlands and in Ireland were called Team­
There is no ground for the surmise that the Temple in Urquhart
belonged to the Knights Templars.




a church at Kil Michael, dedicated to the Archangel ;
and another at Kilmore, which became in time the
Parish Church. With the exception of Kilmore—
A’ Chille Mhor, the Great Cell—and perhaps also
the Temple,1 these buildings were very small.

They were intended, not so much for the purposes
of public worship, as for places of private devotion,
and retreats for holy hermits who watched and
prayed in them, and sought to keep themselves
unspotted from the world, and to teach the people
to live blamelessly and do well, by a simple telling of
the story of Christ, and a faithful following after His
example. Trained for the most part at Iona, these
teachers were not only men of education and expert
scribes, but also experienced husbandmen, who culti­
vated the crofts which were attached to their cells, and
so maintained themselves and showed the people how
to make the earth yield its substance. Before them
the old paganism, which had flourished in the land
for ages, gave way with scarcely a struggle.
What the exact character of that paganism was it
is difficult to say. But it is known that its votaries
adored the “ men of sidhe ” — spirits of the
earth which have come down to us in the some­
what degenerate daoine-sidhe, or fairies. Similar
spirits ruled the elements, and the greatest name

1 In 1559 the Parish Church and the Temple had suspended bells, with
bell-ropes. At that time the priest also served in the Temple and “ the
Chaplainry and service of St Ninian, St Drostan, and St Adamnan” (Chiefs of
Grant, III. 124). In the Temple were preserved the relics of St Drostan—a
crucifix—which were under charge of a deoir or keeper, who had a croft at
Kil Sfc Ninian—Croit an Deoir—which is mentioned as late as 1649—(Rental at
Castle Grant).




that a Highlander can even now apply to the
Almighty is Righ-nan-duil—King of the elements.
Mysterious beings dwelt in the fountains, whose
worship is now seen in the adoration of holy wells ;
and the ancient demons of the mountains have their
representatives in the hags and goblins which are
still the terror of certain localities. These spirits
had magi or druids as their ministers on earth.
Their existence and power were not denied by the
Christian missionaries, who were content to say that
the Almighty was more powerful than they ; and
hence the belief in fairies and demons, and in the virtue
of pagan sacrifices and oblations, continued to exist
side by side with Christianity, and has not even yet
been entirely destroyed.

From the time of Curadan to the end of the
eleventh century, we have not a ray of light to
guide us in our ecclesiastical journey. By whom,
and under what conditions, the lamp of the Gospel
was kept burning in Urquhart and Glenmoriston
during that long period of darkness, we cannot tell.
When the day dawns we find the Celtic Church of
Columba struggling against the encroachments of the
Church of Rome, which had become all powerful under
the patronage of Malcolm Ceannmor and his alien
queen, and their children. Roman Catholics claim to
be the representatives of the Celtic institution, and so
do Scottish Episcopalians, and Presbyterians. The
succession does not exclusively belong to any one of
these bodies, but is to some extent shared by all.
On certain points, again, the Celtic Church had no

THE CHURCH IN THE PARISH.               339

succession. The abbot, and not the bishop, ruled
the community. Bishops there were, but they were
almost as numerous as priests and presbyters, and had
no diocesan jurisdiction. The Celtic clergy denied
the supremacy of the Pope, and differed on several
questions from the Pope’s followers. On the other
hand, they agreed with them on certain doctrines
which are not accepted by Presbyterians and Pro­
testant Episcopalians.

Doctrinal differences with Rome were partly
removed in the days of Adamnan and Curadan—
the great object of the latter’s mission having been
to assimilate the two Churches ; but it was left to
Queen Margaret and her sons to force the Pope’s
supremacy on the Celts. Under their auspices
churches and monasteries were founded and liber­
ally supported. Alexander the First and David
the First created territorial bishoprics, and richly
endowed them with the lands which had belonged
to the old Church, and with more extensive
grants of their own. The bishopric of Moray was
created about the year 1115, and Gregory appointed
its first bishop. It embraced, roughly, the territory
of the ancient Mormaors of Moray, including the
district of Urquhart and Glenmoriston.

It has been found convenient to apply the word
parish to that district before the period at which
we have now arrived, but as a matter of fact there
were no parishes in Scotland before that time. The
parochial system was the creation of the Romish
Church and the territorial magnates who supported


it, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The
new establishment, as we have seen, obtained
the possessions of the Celtic clergy, and exten­
sive grants from the kings. These endowments
were immensely increased by the great landowners,
who vied with each other in pious liberality. To
some churches lands were granted ; others were
made the principal churches of certain domains, and
endowed not only with land, but also with a tenth
(tithe or teind) of the annual produce of the districts
assigned to them. The district so assigned became
the parish ;1 the favoured church, the parish church ;
its benefactor and his successors, the patrons ; and
the teinds, its legal and absolute property. The
greater or parsonage teinds. which consisted of every
tenth sheaf of corn, were taken off the field by the
rector or parson of the parish, or by the tacksman
who rented them from him. The lesser or vicarage
teinds consisted of the tenth part of such products
as calves, lambs, hay, and cheese, and went to the
vicar who served the cure.

The Parish of Urquhart2 was erected probably
by King David—that “ Sair Sanct” whose liberality

1 The word parish is from the Latin parochia. Originally, in Scotland,
the district attached to a church was called schir, or scir—from which word
came the modern shire. Scir is still the Gaelic for parish.

2  “ Urquhart” was the original name of the whole Parish, including Glen-
moriston. The name
United Parish of Urquhart and Glenmoriston,” by
which it is now commonly known, is, historically, incorrect. There never was
a Parish of Glenmoriston, and never a
union” either of parishes or of
churches. The error originated after the Reformation. See next chapter
as to the Rev. Robert Monro’s attempt in the seventeenth century to
make Glenmoriston independent of Urquhart.

THE CHURCH IN THE PARISH.                341

to the Church impoverished the Crown—during the
period of peace that followed the defeat and
slaughter of the Moraymen in 1130 ; or by Malcolm
the Second after the Plantation of Moray in 1160.
It embraced the vast domain which was attached
to the Castle of Urquhart—the Glens of Urquhart
and Glenmoriston, with the exception of Buntait,
which was the property of the chiefs of Lovat, and
was consequently included in the parish of Kil-
tarlity. The church of Kilmore was made the
parish church, and endowed with land and teinds.
We first find it on record in the time of Bricius,
who was bishop of Moray from 1203 to 1222. In
that prelate’s “ magna carta,” founding a chapter of
eight canons, and giving his cathedral a constitution,
the church is described as the church of Urquhart
beyond Inverness—“ ecclesia de Hur chard ultra
It is also so described in the Pope’s
protection of 1215.2

Before Bricius’ time the Parish had its resident
rector or parson, who drew the teinds, and personally
attended to the duties of his office. The aggrandise­
ment of the Romish Church soon called for other
arrangements. By Bricius’ great charter the church
of St Peter of Strathavon, on Speyside, with its
chapels, and land, and other pertinents, and the
church of our Parish, with all its just pertinents,
were granted to the chancellor of Moray as his
prebend or benefice.3 Henceforth, therefore, and

1 Registrum Moraviense, 41.
2 Ibid, p. 43. See p. 14, supra.
         3 Ibid, p. 41.


until the Reformation, that dignitary drew the
greater teinds, and the produce of certain lands
attached to the church ; but he only visited the
Parish for a short period each year, and the spiritual
interests of the people were virtually left to the care
of a vicar, who served in the parish church, and
received the lesser teinds as his reward, and of
humbler priests who officiated in the chapels. The
Romish authorities, more liberal than the Lords
of the Congregation, who served their own worldly
ends by destroying the old Church at the Reforma­
tion, and giving a selfish and stinted support to the
new, were not content to leave the spiritual require­
ments of our extensive Parish to be met by the
parish church and its single clergyman. The old
Celtic cells, or at least some of them, continued till
the Reformation to be used as chapels for prayer and
devotion. Church and chapels were well endowed.
Originally, Kilmore possessed a half davach of land,
which was the subject of a dispute between the
chancellor and Sir Alan Durward, in 1233 ;1 after
that year its possessions were a quarter of a davach,
and a toft and croft of four acres near the church.
The revenues of the estate of Achmonie, which was
probably originally attached to Kilmichael, were
latterly enjoyed by the bishops, until Bishop
Hepburn sold it in 1557.2 Immediately before the
Reformation we find the lands of Pitkerrald, and
the crofts of St Ninian, St Drostan, and St
Adamnan, attached to the chapel of St Ninian ;3

See p. 16, supra.

2 See p. 116, supra.

3 Ibid.

THE CHURCH IN THE PARISH.                343

while there were church lands in Glenmoriston,1 and
probably also at Corrimony (near which is Curadan’s
Croft) and Lag an t-Seapail and Achnahannet.
These pious gifts of old were at the Reformation
lost to the cause of religion, and henceforth the
Church had to content itself with the share of the
teinds allocated to it from time to time.

There is not much to tell of the history of the
Church in Urquhart and Glenmoriston during the
Roman Catholic period. Of the priests who served
in the chapels, we only know the names of two—
Sir John Donaldson, chaplain of Kil St Ninian in the
time of Queen Mary, and his immediate predecessor,
Sir Duncan Macolrig.2 Of the vicars of the Parish,
the name of one only has come down to us—Mr
James Farquharson, who held the appointment at
the Reformation, and became an exhorter in the
Church of Knox.3 The causes and history of the
fall of the old Church do not come within the scope
of this work. The Laird of Grant was a member of
that Parliament which in 1560 abolished the supre­
macy of the Pope in Scotland. He was followed
into Protestantism by Mr Farquharson and the
people of Urquhart, and by many of the inhabitants

1 See footnote, p. 117, supra.

2 See Donaldson’s Letters of Collation, &c. Appendix M.

3 See next Chapter. It must not be supposed, as has often been done,
that the clergy who were styled Sir were superior to those who were styled
Mr (Master). The reverse was the case. Mr indicated that the person
before whose name it appeared had taken the degree of Master of Arts—Sir,
that he had only taken the lower degree of Bachelor of Arts. In the Latin
deeds of the time Sir was rendered Dominus—whence the word dominie,”
still vulgarly applied to a schoolmaster.


of Glenmoriston. It was a case of Follow the
Laird ;1 conviction of the errors of the old religion
and the divine origin of the new, there probably was
none ; and many years elapsed ere the spiritual
fervour of the Southern reformers found a place in
the breasts of the Urquhart opponents of the Pope.
For a time, indeed, their last state was worse than
the first. The Church lands and revenues were
quietly appropriated ; the chapels in which genera­
tions had worshipped were closed, and allowed to
fall into ruin ; the parish priest was degraded into
an exhorter ; and after his death the Parish itself
was for years without minister, exhorter, reader, or
other spiritual guide.

1 In Glen-Urquhart the proprietors became Protestants, and the tenants
and cottars followed their example unanimously. The Chisholm, who owned
the adjoining Strathglass, adhered to the old Church, and so did every person
on his property. The same process of following the laird can be traced all
over the Highlands.

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