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THE CAITHNESS EPISCOPATE

[from Orkneyinga Saga]

Before the death of Earl Rognvald in 1158 there was a monastery at Dornoch, for King David (1124-53) addressed a missive to Rognvald, Earl of Orkney, and to the Earl of Caithness (Harald Maddadsson), and to all good men in Caithness and Orkney, requesting them to protect the monks living at Dornach in Caithness, their servants and their effects, and to see that they sustained no loss or injury. The diocese was seemingly co-extensive with the older Earldom, comprehending Caithness and Sutherland as far south as the Kyle of Sutherland. The See was first at Halkirk, near Thurso, the Ha Kirkin, or High Kirk of the Saga; in later times the Cathedral Church was at Dornoch.

  1. 1153 ANDREW, the first bishop on record, was a learned man, much about the court of David I. He is said to have been author of the curious treatise "De Situ Albaniae"; attributed to Giraldus Cambrensis. In 1153 he received from David I grant of the lands of Hector Conon, and gave one of the Church of the Holy Trinity of Dunkeld to the monks of Dunfermline; in 1165 he and Murethac, his clerk, witness a charter confirming the said gift, by Gregory, Bishop of Dunkeld; about 1181 he witnesses the grant of Earl Harald to the See of Rome of a penny annually from every inhabited house in Caithness; he is also a witness to a document engrossed in the Book of Deer, by which King David I declares the clerics of Deer to be free from all lay interference and undue exaction, "as it is written in their book, and as they pleaded at Banff and swore at Aberdeen". He died at Dunfermline, 30th December 1185.

  2. 1198 JOHN, refusing to collect the grant to Rome, Innocent III in a bull, 27th May 1198, enjoined Bishops Bjarni of Orkney and Reginald of Ross to compel Bishop John to cease opposing the collection on pain of the censure of the Church. When Earl Harald recovered Caithness in 1202 he was so exasperated with the Bishop as to authorise or allow the soldiery to mutilate him. Bishop John survived till 1213.

  3. 1214 ADAM, Abbot of Melrose, was consecrated in 1214 by Malvoisin, Bishop of St.Andrew's. In 1218 he went on a pilgrimage to Rome with the Bishops of Glasgow and Moray. Exasperating the Caithnessians by excessive exactions, they burnt him in his own kitchen at Halkirk in 1222. In consequence of apparent comitial complicity or approval of this crime, Alexander II deprived Earl John of Sutherland; and tortured 80 of the ring leaders. Honorius III, in January 1222, addressed a letter to the Scottish bishops commending the promptitude and zeal shown by the Scottish king. His body (or ashes) received interment in the church at Skinnet, and was afterwards, it is said, removed to Dornoch in 1239.

    NOTE - Adam I, Bishop of Caithness, is cited by Sir Robert Gordon as author of a History of Scotland in 3 vols.

  4. 1223 GILBERT de Moravia, Archdeacon of Moray, was consecrated in 1223. He built the Cathedral at Dornoch, and his charter of constitution is still extant in the archives at Dunrobin. The churches assigned to the prebends were those of Clyne, Dornoch, Creich, Rogart, Lairg, Farr, Kildonan, and Durness, in Sutherland; and Bower, Watten, Skinnet, Olrig, Dunnet, and Canisbay, in Caithness, Golspie and Loth. Reay, Thurso, Wick, and Latheron were reserved to the bishop. He named the Abbot of Scone as one of his caucus. The abbey of Scone was proprietor of the church of Kildonan, which, with its chapels and lands, was confirmed to the canons of Scone by Honorius III in 1226. This prelate built the "Bishop's Castle" at Scrabster, and was made keeper of the kings castles in the north. He found a gold mine in his lands in Duriness, and is traditional builder of Kildrummy Castle in Mar. He was Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Dying at Scrabster in 1244 or 1245, he was afterwards canonised, His relics were preserved in Dornoch Cathedral and long held in reverence. A record of 1545 apprises us that the parties then compearing before John, Earl of Sutherland, in the chapter-house, Dornoch, made oath by touching the relics of the blessed Saint Gilbert.

    NOTE - St.Gilbert resided in Burnside Castle. He contributed to the defeat of the Danes at Ernbo. He translated the Psalms and the Gospels into the Gaelic language. He is worshipped on the 1st April.

  5. 1250 WILLIAM appears with other Scottish bishops in an address of 1259 to Alexander III. He died in 1261 or 1262.

  6. 1263 WALTER de Baltrodin, canon of Caithness, was chosen his successor, Urban IV in a letter of 1263 announces that in consideration of the election being unanimous, etc., etc., he is satisfied to accept it, although not in canonical form. He died before 1274. On his death, Nicolas, Abbot of Scone, was chosen to succeed him, but rejected by the Pope, when

  7. 1275 ARCHIBALD, Archdeacon of Moray, was chosen. The Pope's letter of confirmation mentions as his nominees, R., the Dean, Patrick, the treasurer, and Roger de Castello, canon of Caithness. In his time Boyamund de Vitia was commissioned by Gregory X to collect moneys in aid of the crusade; the accounts for 1274 and 1275 furnish the names of various churches and their contributions. Dying before 1279 the chapter elected R., the dean, and constituted Magister Henry of Nottingham, a canon of Caithness, to procure confirmation, but the latter confessing in the Papal presence that the dean had a son, thirty years of age, and was senile, the Bishops of St. Andrew's and Aberdeen were enjoined to use their influence to oblige him to resign.

  8. 1290 ALAN de St.Edmund, an Englishman, was elected by the influence of Edward I, with whom he was a great favourite. He signed the letter of 1290 to that king proposing marriage between the Maid of Norway and Prince Edward of Wales. He was made Chancellor of Scotland in 1291 by King Edward, who in that year directed Alexander Comyn, keeper of the royal forest of Ternway in Moray, to supply Bishop Alan with forty oaks suitable for the fabric of the Cathedral Church of Caithness, which the king had granted for the souls of Alexander, King of Scots, and Margaret, his queen, the sister of the donor. Alan died the same year, when the chapter elected as his successor I (Ioannes ?) their archdeacon, but the election not being in canonical form His Holiness preferred to the vacant diocese

  9. 1296 ADAM II, precentor of Ross, who died at Sienna shortly after the papal letter in his favour, 1296.

  10. 1297 ANDREW II, Abbot of Cupar, was thereupon preferred to the vacancy, and the Bishops of Aberdeen, Glasgow, aud Ross were instructed to consecrate him.

  11. 1310 FERQUHARD Beleraumbe acknowledged Bruce in 1310; in 1312 attested payment of the Annual of Norway by Robert the Bruce: and is noted 10th July 1321, in a Scottish record (Register of the Great Seal). He was dead and the See vacant in 1328. After him are these:

  12. NICHOLAS, bishop-elect in 1332.

  13. DAVID, dead before 1340.

  14. ALAN II, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, confirmed in 1341, dead in 1342.

  15. THOMAS de Fingask, confirmed November 1342; attests writs by William, Earl of Ross, in 1355, declaring the abbey of Ferne exempt from all the king's taxes; in 1359 he witnessed a deed with Ingelram of Caithness, Archdeacon of Dunkeld. Dying at Elgin in 1360 he was buried under the Bishop's seat in our Lady's aisle of the chanonry church there.

  16. MALCOLM confirmed 21st February 1369. Gregory XI in March 1376, confirms to Dr. William of Spynie, the chanonry and prebendary of the church of Orkney, rendered vacant by the preferment of Malcolm to the Caithness See.

  17. ALEXANDER is bishop in 1389, when he is found adjusting a dispute between the Earl and Bishop of Moray. Sir Alexander Vanse is in 1416 the elected Bishop of Caithness and Bishop-elect of Orkney. He is noticed in the Exchequer Rolls then, and in 1420; and in 1426 John of Vanse gives discharge to the Bishop of Caithness for £3 6 shillings and 8 pence, and the Bishop of Orkney for £5.

  18. ROBERT Strathbrock, 1434-1444.

  19. JOHN Innes, dean of Ross, died 1448.

  20. WILLIAM Moody, 1448-1469.

  21. PROSPER, elected, but resigned in favour of

  22. JOHN Sinclair, canon of Glasgow, 1481; bishop-nominate for 24 years, during which time it is stated that the dean, Adam Gordon, third son of the Earl of Huntly, discharged the official duties.

  23. ANDREW Stewart (1490), Abbot of Fearn, Rosshire, Lord Treasurer of Scotland.

  24. ANDREW Stewart (1518), son of the Earl of Atholl, translated from Dunkeld.

  25. ROBERT Stewart, 1542, Earl of Lennox, died 1586, when the See was vacant for fourteen years,

  26. GEORGE Gledstanes, 1600, minister of St.Andrew's, translated to St.Andrew's.

  27. ALEXANDER Forbes, 1606, rector of Fettercairn, translated to Aberdeen, 1615.

  28. JOHN Abernethy, 1624, parson of Jedburgh; deprived by the assembly of Glasgow, 1638.

  29. PATRICK Forbes, 1662.

  30. ANDREW Wood, translated from the Isles; ejected soon after the Revolution in 1688, and died at Dunbar 1695.
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