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How the family came to be the Coarb of St Moluag, Keeper of his pastoral staff and Hereditary Abbot of Lismore is uncertain.  However the most likely explanation is as follows.

Moluag will have been granted permission to establish his community by the lords of Lorn, who at that time were the Kings of Dalriada, becoming known as the Kings of Argyll in the reign of Aedh 'The White' who died in 778.

On Moluag's death he was succeeded by Neman (Neamhan) who died in 610. Eochaid, the third Abbot died in 637 at which point records disappear according to Carmichael in Lismore in Alba but recent reserach in the Irish Annals has produced more evidence (see Irish Annals ). Abbot MacCoigeth is known to have died in 753. Norse raiding began in 794 and lasted until Somerled expelled them in the 12th Century.

Carmichael writes "When the Abbot of a monastery died, certain well defined and detailed rules were followed in appointing his successor. Indeed, it was probably known to the saint himself before his death who would be his "comarba" (or coarb) or heir of the holy functions and authority which he exercised. There were two main classes from whom the successor should be chosen. First, the blood relatives of the Abbot were scanned and if a suitable man were found he was selected. Relationship was not sufficient in itself however: the person must have qualifications suitable for the office. If the deceased's family could not provide the kind of man required, then search was made amongst the second class, who were the kindred of the king or landlord who had granted the land to the monastery."

Moncreiffe writes "Celtic abbey-lands were held either by the  fine erluma, the kin of the founder saint, or else by the fine grin, the kin of the dynastic granter of the land. As Picts, St. Moluag's kindred would in any case have been reckoned in the female line, and may well have been related in the male line to the kin of the granter, who was presumably the King of Lorn. Certainly the abbey-lands belonged in later times to the local kings who became the lords of Lorn."

It is probable therefore that in the troubled times of the Norse raids the coarb moved to the fine grin the kin of the lords of Lorn, now represented by the Livingstones of Bachuil.  

This movement of the office of coarb or hereditary abbot to the fine grin was quite common practice and is the subject of some criticism.  For instance in 850 Kenneth mac Alpin moved the primacy from Iona to Dunkeld and by the eleventh century the hereditary abbots of Dunkeld are part of the Royal family.


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Last modified: September 02, 2004