My genealogical researches have uncovered dozens of devout ancestors. This is the fifth installment of a series of posts titled “Doing God’s Work: Our Families’ Faithful”, documenting the lives of those who have served God.
In the previous post of this series, I presented the life and times of Rev. Joseph Hull. This one focuses on family members who served as either the Abbot of Abernethy and the Abbot of Dunkeld.
Let’s start with the Abbots of Abernethy, who oversaw a Culdee monastery constructed on a glen at the foot of the Ochil Hills and near the confluence of the River Nethy and the River Tay, the longest river in Scotland. (The village’s name is both Pictish and Celtic in origin. Aber means river mouth or confluence, and nethy is most likely derived from the old Celtic river named Neath or Nedd, which means gleaming or shining.)
The Abbots of Abernethy were descendants of Gille Míchéil, Earl of Fife (my 27th great-grandfather). Although the abbacy was first held by Gille Míchéil’s son, Áed, the position was not officially recognized by the state until the 1170s by William “The Lion” of Scotland (my two-times 25th great-grandfather).
At that time, Áed’s son Orm was officially confirmed as lay abbot of Abernethy Abbey. The hereditary lay abbots in my family were Áed de Abernethy (my 26th great-grandfather), Orm de Abernethy (my 25th great-grandfather), and Laurence de Abernethy (my 24th great-grandfather).
Next up is Crínán of Dunkeld, Abbot of Dunkeld (my two-times 30th great-grandfather, my 31st great-grandfather, and my 32nd great-grandfather). Crínán of Dunkeld, was the lay abbot of Dunkeld, a Culdee monastery dedicated to Saint Columba. This monastery was founded on the north bank of the River Tay in the 6th or 7th Century, following Columba’s expedition into the land of the Picts. Today, Dunkeld Cathedral stands on the grounds once formerly occupied by the monastery. Only a remains of the monastery survive—a course of red stone in the east choir wall and two stone cross-slabs (circa 9th or 10th Century) in the cathedral museum.
While the title of hereditary abbot was often a feudal position that was in name only, it appears that Crinán did act as abbot in charge of the monastery. In addition, it has been suggested that Crínán of Dunkeld might have also been the mormaer of Atholl and/or the governor of the Hebrides.
Crínán married Bethóc, daughter of Máel Coluim, who reigned as King of Scots from 1005 until 1034. As Máel Coluim had no surviving son, the claim to the throne descended through his daughter. Therefore, on Máel Coluim’s death, Bethóc’s eldest son Donnchad ascended to the throne, reigning from 1034 until 1040. Circa 14 August 1040, Donnchad died while battling the forces of MacBeth (the same MacBeth of Shakespeare fame). On Donnchad’s death, MacBeth assumed the throne.
In 1045, Crínán of Dunkeld rebelled against Macbeth in support of his 14-year-old grandson Malcolm III’s claim to the throne. (Malcolm was the eldest son of Donnchad.) Unfortunately, Crínán was not successful in wresting the throne from MacBeth and died in the battle at Dunkeld.