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The Lordship of Lorn

The Tribe of Loarn

It is impossible to say with any certainty what happened in the early days of Scotland but it appears that Scots Dalriada was originally founded by Fergus Mor (sometimes called Mac Nisse Mor), son of Erc.  With his two brothers Loarn and Angus he came from Irish Dalriada in the end of the fifth century. 

The Cinel (tribe of) Loarn possessed the district of Lorn, which takes its name from them and extends from Loch Leven to the point of Ashnish.  The Cinel Loarn in turn consisted of three smaller tribes -the Cinel Fergus Salach in Nether Lorn, the Cinel Cathbath in Mid Lorn, and the Cinel Eochaid in Upper Lorn. One of Eochaid’s sons Baedon formed the small state called Cinel Baedan, or Kinelvadon, which was nominally part of the Cinel Eochaid, but separated from the rest by Loch Linnhe.  This included the south part of Morvern.

Skene argues that “The northern boundary appears to be represented by a line drawn from the mouth of' Loch Leven through the district of Morvern, separating the old parish of Killiecolmkill - from that of Killfintach, then through the island of Mull by the great ridge of Benmore, and by, the islands of Iona and Colonsay to Isla, where it separated the eastern from the western districts of the island.”  He concludes “If Iona was exactly on the boundary which separated Dalriada from the Picts, it is obvious how Bede’s statement that it was given 'to Saint Columba by the Picts who inhabit the adjacent districts, is not inconsistent with that of Tighernach, that it was immolated to him by the king of Dalriada.”

In the Middle Ages, our ancestor An Gorm Mor, as Baron a Bachuil and Coarb of St Moluag, fought and killed a bull that was terrorising the population of Morvern and preventing them attending church, and that he was eventually buried in Leac a Ghuirm Mhoir (the lair of ‘the big blue’) in Lismore graveyard and where the elaborately carved gravestone still lies.  This tends to support the idea that Morvern was considered part of the abbey lands. 

In the sixth century Conall, son of Comhgall granted part of Iona to Columba.  But Comhgall was appanaged in Cowall (named after Comhgall) and Antrim.  His great great uncle was Loarn King of Dalriada (after whom Lorn is named and where he was appanaged).  Loarn’s great grandson, Baotan, was appanaged in Morvern.  Thus although the King was Conall, who supported Columba, it looks to me as though it was Loarn’s line who supported Moluag.  In fact there seems to have been considerable rivalry between the two lines.  There is no doubt that it must have been the tribe of Loarn that granted Moluag such extensive parts of their land.  Furthermore Loarn’s line produced the Kings of Moray, and Moluag founded one of his communities there.

According to Professor GWS Barrow Appin literally means “the jurisdiction of, and hence territory owned or ruled by, an ab or abbot, chief dignitary of a monastic community in the pre-twelfth century Celtic Church”.  The Coarb of St Moluag will have ruled this land, which at one time was very extensive including the ancient parish of Lismore which embraced Appin, Eilean Mund  (the parish of Eilean Mund covered a large section of Inverness-shire, including Onich, Mamore, and seven merklands and a half of the lands of Glenevis, the boundary approximating the course of the burns Altkeiran, Treig, and Nevis) and Kingairloch and Morvern districts (it was not until 1891 the Boundary Commission transferred the Kingairloch and Morvern part of the parish of Lismore to that of Kilmallie).  The lordship of Lorn totals 700 merks of land.  Lismore itself comprises 80 merks.  Taking into account the lands around Loch Etive, described in the section on Cadets, it looks as though the clan had a very substantial portion of the lands of Lorne, well in excess of a third.


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Last modified: September 02, 2004