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Celtic monaster? at Curriff.


The Book of Deer incidentally makes us acquainted for the first time with another of our early Celtic monasteries. In the grant by Gartnait the mormaer, and Ete his wife, of which the date is A.d. 1132 (p. liv.), we find among the witnesses, "Domongart ferleginn Turbruad," or ferleginn of Turriff; and that of Colban the mormaer, and Eva his wife, dated somewhat later, is witnessed by "Cormac abb. Turbruad," or Abbot of Turriff, who appears with the nobles or proprietary of Buchan, at Helan [Ellon], and is also a witness, with the king's earls and bishops, to the charter of immunity granted at Aberdeen by David I. to the clerics of Deer. The monastery of Turriff,1 of which we thus hear for the first time, is associated with St. Congan, one of the many Irish followers of St. Columba, who continued the great work of Christian illumination among the Northern Picta begun by the Abbot ofHy.

1 The word which in the Book of Deer Turuereth, Turfred,Turfered,Turreth,Turappears as Turbruad, assumes, in later raf, Turef, Turreff. In the ordinary pronunrecords, the following forms :—Turuered, ciation,still in use,theplace iscalled Turrn. 1 Breviar.Aberd. Part.Estival. fol. exxvi. by Reeves, p. 145, note; and his edition of 8 Eccl. Antiq. of Down and Connor, Adamnan's Columba, p. 365.

St. Congan, who flourished in the beginning of the eighth century, was, according to the traditions of the Scottish Church, the son of a provincial chief of Leinster, to whose rule he succeeded. Afterwards forsaking his patrimony, he devoted himself to a religious life, and leaving Ireland with his sister Kentigerna, and her sons, St. Felan, St. Fursey, and St. Ultan, with seven other clerics, he settled at Lochalsh, in northern Argyle, where he spent a solitary and ascetic life, and, on his death, was buried at Iona or Hy. A church was built in his honour at the place, where he had spent his days, by his nephew St. Felan, and in the beginning of the sixteenth century the name of St. Congan continued to be held in reverence by the inhabitants of the district.1

It does not appear whether the monastery at Turriff was founded by St. Congan himself, or dedicated to his memory by another founder; but the neighbouring parishes on the Deveron are also associated with Irish missionaries, indicating the influence to which the introduction of the faith in the district is to be ascribed. Forglen was dedicated to St. Adamnan, Alvah to St. Columba, and Inverboyndie to St. Brandan.

The site of Turriff is a commanding one, and suggestive of its occupation by some of the early tribes as a rath. The church was placed on the summit of a lofty bank, sloping down rapidly on the west to the burn of Colp, which soon after joins the Deveron on its eastward course to the sea.

The fer leginn, or man of learning, was a prominent officer in the monasteries of Ireland, and he doubtless occupied a like position in the kindred institutions of Alba.4

Colgan describes the office as it obtained in Ireland, first under the name of "scribnidh" or "scribhneoir"—that is, "scribe or writer;" and subsequently, from about the middle of the tenth century, when instruction in literature was added to the practice and teaching of penmanship, more commonly under the name of "ferleiginn," "lecturer," or "scholastic,"—literally "man of learning."1

The duty of this officer was the transcription of manuscripts and copying of deeds, and the rule of the schools. The Irish Annals abound in notices of these scribes or lecturers. Not the least famous of their number was the monk whom Alcuin addresses as "Colcus lector in Scotia," and whose death is thus recorded by the Four Masters under the year 789: "Colgu ua Duineacda ferleigind Cluana-mac-nois"—Colgu O'Donoghoe, lecturer of Clonmacnois.2

Turriff has thus to be regarded not only as a college of ecclesiastics, but as one of the schools of the day; and it is a matter of great interest to find it possessed of an officer so prominent in the sister establishments of Ireland, indicating the conformity which no doubt pervaded the ecclesiastical arrangements of both countries.3

1 In 1164 we find a notice of the fer- 3 I have already referred to the right

leiginn of Iona, who at that time was which the Bishops of St. Andrews pos

named Dubsidi.—(Annals of Ulster, in sessed of demanding refection from the

Chron. of Picts and Scots, p. 372.) men of the Kirktown of Arbuthnott in

a See an exhaustive paper by my late illustration of the Celtic terms " can" and

friend, Joseph Robertson, LL.D., on "cunveth," which Bo frequently occur in

Scholastic Offices in the Scotican Church, our early charters (p. Ixxxviii.) The source

(Miscellany of the Spalding Club, vol. v.), from which our information on the subject

where he quotes Colgan's Trias Thauma- is drawn, is the decreet of a synod of the

turga, pp. 631, 632. See also Eccles. clergy of the Archdeaconry of St. Andrews,

Antiq. of Down and Connor, p. 146, note. held at Perth on the 11th of April 1206,

I have previously made some remarks on the transition from the monastic to the parochial system, the period of ■which had almost arrived when we first become acquainted with the monastery of St. Congan. It probably involved the resumption of the monastic

in a case disputed between the Bishop of St. Andrews and the Lord of Arbuthnott as to their respective rights in the Kirktown,—(Miscellany of the Spalding Club, voL v. pp. 209-213.) In this record, the evidence of many witnesses is engrossed, and the details are highly instructive, not only in regard to the point for which I have already quoted it, but as throwing light on the condition of the "Scolocs," who figure in our chronicles and charters of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and who have been supposed to be the scholars or clerks of Pictish times. The state of the cat between the disputants will be best ur leretood from the following remarks of Vt. Joseph Robertson, in his valuable paper j 1st referred to on " Scholastic Offices in he Scotican Church" (Idem, Appendix to the Preface, p. 63):—" When the light of record first breaks on the banks of the Bervie water in the last days of St . David, or in the following reign of his grandson, the maiden king, the manor of Arbuthnott is seen divided between the church and the crown. The primatial See of Albany, 'the bishopric of the Scots,' as it still wrote its titles, had the advowson of the church, with the church-land or 'Kirktown.' This ecclesiastical territory was held of the bishop by certain tenants called parsons (tenenta qui dicebantur pertone), laymen, it would seem, who had the name and revenues of the parson, but did not possess the sacerdotal function, and

who had sub-tenants under them, having houses of their own, and cattle which they pastured on the common. The fixed rent or 'conveth' due to the see would seem to have been two or three cows; and, small as the tribute was, the poverty of the occupants was such, that the bishop did not always enforce its payment. He appears, like the Irish prelates of more recent times, to have found his chief profit in the right of hospitality, or refection, lodging, and attendance, which he exacted for himself and for his servants whenever they visited the neighbourhood. Such was the tenure of the church-land. The lay manor of Arbuthnott was farmed from the crown by a steward or thane, until King Malcolm bestowed it in property upon Osbert Olifard, the crusader. He, too, possessed by a steward or thane. His successor Walter gave the land to Hugh of Swinton, the progenitor of all the Arbuthnotts. These occupied the manor themselves, and, although they were its lords, seem to have been styled in common speech its thanes. Their claims soon began to clash with those of the bishop. Although the church-land and its inhabitants belonged to the See of St . Andrews, the lay lord of Arbuthnott had certain rights over them. Every house in the 'Kirktown' was bound to give him yearly ten cheeses, made of the whole milk at midsummer, and to furnish three men for gathering his corns in harvest . The bishop seems also to have paid him a certain 'cane, or rent. He had besides an equal share with the bishop in the ' merchets' and ' bloodwits,' the fines for marriage and bloodshed, levied from the men of the lands, although these were amenable only to the bishop's courts. Not content with these dues, the new Lords of Arbuthnott began to remove the old occupants, and to till the lands themselves. The usurpation was resisted, although somewhat tardily it would seem, and became the subject of an inquest before a synod of the Scottish Church, which found for the bishop. It is in the evidence which was adduced on this occasion that we meet with the Scolocs."

The first witness was John of Hastings, who had been sheriff and forester of the Mearns in the time of Bishop Richard (a.d. 1163—a.D. 1178). He declared that in the time of that prelate there was a multitude of Scolocs in the Kirktown, and that the men of that land were subject to the court of the bishop as hi8 men. Ysaac of Banevin swore that the steward of the bishop and his own followers, clerical and lay, received lodging in that land, and from the men upon it, as " his own men f but that after the death of Bishop Hugh, and of Gillandres, one of the men who had resisted any invasion of their rights, Hugh of Swinton removed several of the Scolocs from the Kirktown one after another; also that Duncan, the son of Hugh, turned out

all the Scolocs whom he found on the land after his father's death, and on their removal he began to till it.

Felix, another witness, declared that he had frequently seen the bishops lodged in his father's house, who held from the bishops, and ministered to their necessities with the Scolocs of the said land who then belonged to it ("cum Scoloccis ejusdem terrae qui tum pertinebant ad te rram ilium," and that Duncan had removed " nativos et Scolocos de terra."

The Scolocs of Arbuthnott appear here as the nativi of the bishop, holding the kirklands, apparently under the eight tenants called parsons. That this was their position farther appears from the case of their champion Gillandres; for the thane, in the belief that if he could effect his removal, there would be little difficulty in getting rid of the others, proposed to give to Bishop Hugh a horse worth five marks, on condition of his turning out Gillandres, but the bishop, hearing that he was native of the land, declared that he would on no account consent to such a step. The Scolocs " belonged to the land," were the "men of the bishop," possessing his lands of the Kirktown, and it was only after they were finally removed that the thane of the baron began to till the lands.

Mr. Robertson, in the paper from which I have just quoted, has illustrated the position of several bodies of Scolocs in Scotland. The records there cited are

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