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Information on Kilmun, Argyll, Scotland


Origins of the Name "Kilmun"


The word 'KILMUN' is derived from Gaelic words meaning the 'CELL of MUN' or St. MUN.  This gives rise to the questions: 


Did St. Mun really exist?

  • (Local tradition claims that St. Mun was either a contemporary of, or a disciple of St. Columba.); or

  • If he did exist, did he ever come to Kilmun? ;  or, as seems likely,

  • Did Kilmun derive its name from the fact that disciples of St Mun establish a religious settlement here?

The Dictionary of Saints (Penguin) states that St. Fintan was also known as St. Mun or Munnu.


"Other saints of this name (Fintan) are Fintan or Munnu of Taghmon (died 635, fast day 21st October), who was for a time on Iona and then founded a monastery at Taghmon in Co. Wexford. This Saint is traditionally believed to have landed at Kilmun in 610 and died here in 635, but there is no evidence that he was buried here.


St. Fintan of Rheinau (died 878, fast day 15th. November); as a youth he was carried off from Leinster by raiders, became a wandering pilgrim on the continent, and spent his later years with hermits at Rheinau, near Schaffhausen, on the Rhine."


The most important St. Fintan known as St Mun or Munnu, was Fintan of Cloneenagh, (abbot, died 603, fast day 17th. February). The high repute of this Irish abbot was due to the poverty and austerity of his life and that of his monks at Cloneenagh, near Maryborough (Portlaoighise) in Leix (Laoighis or Laois). St Columba of Iona had a high regard for him. It is worth noting that the name Fintan is associated both with St. Columba and Iona.


The word 'MONK' comes from the Greek word 'MONOS' meaning 'ALONE' and could apply to any one of many Celtic religious missionary teachers at the time. The Gaelic word 'MUNNU' means to learn or to teach and the word 'SEANT' means holy. Could it be that the name KILMUN is not directly associated with any Saint, but a place of religious teaching or learning? It is worth noting that the word 'MUNNU' is linked to saints called FINTAN and relates to teachers or people who created centres of learning.


A claim that St. Mun was another name for St, Finan has to be considered. There appears to be two saints of this name, i. e. St. FINAN, a missionary who died in Northumbria in 661. He was an Irish monk from Iona who became the Bishop of Lindisferne in 651; and St FINNIAN of Clonard, an Abbot Bishop who died in 549.. He was outstanding among the Celtic Saints, was the traditional initiator of the Celtic monastic movement. His monastery at Clonard became a famous seat of learning and a school of religious life. (Note the relationship with teaching). It is said that St. Columba studied at Clonard. St Finnian is said to have visited Celtic Britain where he met saints David, Gildas and Cathmeal or Cadoc. It is worth noting that Kill-muine or Kilmune was the Celtic name given to Menevia, now St. David's in South Wales. (St. Columba did not arrive in Iona until 563 and St Finnian died in 549.


KILMUN could have been so named on the fact that a monk or monks taught there and so it was a place of learning; the followers of any of the Celtic Saints who seemed to have travelled throughout Dalriada about this time could have established a base there as it was near the Celtic fort at Dunoon.


It should not be overlooked the strong link of Kilmun Church with Paisley Abbey which in turn was associated with Glasgow and St Mungo or Kentigern. St Mungo was already established in Strathclyde before St. Columba came to Iona in 563. (If the association is with St Finnian of Clonard, and he was connect with the Celtic Church in South Wales. then the assumption that Kilmun, Paisley, Glasgow, St Mungo is not unlikely. Note also the close similarity of MUNG0 and MUN). It is now clear that St Ninian had a 'teaching church' at Whithorn and that he had a link with Glasgow. St Columba came with the Scots to Dalriada and primarily spread his mission north and eastwards throughout the Highlands among the Picts. If this merits consideration, it could be that Kilmun already had a teaching centre and that St Colmba's mission merely strengthened an existing centre.


Kilmun Collegiate Church.


Local tradition has it that the chapel was originally built on the grounds of Finnartmore, about half mile south east.


Extract from Celtic Scotland by W. F. Skene Vol. 2 (1887).

"We find traces of only two Columban foundations which throw light on the condition of the Church.

On the North shore of the Holy Loch was the Church of Kilmun, which had been founded by St. Fintan Munnu of Teach Munnu in Ireland. We find this church in lay hands in the Thirteenth Century as between 1230 and 1246 Duncan son of Fercher etc. etc."


Alexander II (1214 -1249). Extract from the Register of the Monastery of Paisley between 1231 -1241.

"Grant of the Church of St. Finan by Duncan son of Fercher. "Further we have given and granted to the aforesaid" (the aforesaid refers to St. Jar. les and to St. Mirin of Paisley) "and to the Monks there serving God, from motives of piety, the three-halfpenny lands which we and our ancestors had at Kilmun with the Fishings, and all other their just pertinents and pendicles, and with whole right which belonged to us in the Church of Kilmun in respect of patronage."


"In 1294 a Charter to the Monks of Paisley is witnessed by Humfred of Kylmon".


See Charters of Paisley pp. 132 -203.

"ln 1442 Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow endowed at Kilnwne in Cowal a Collegiate Church for a Provost and seven perpetual Chaplains."


See Reg. Mag. Sig. Lib. IV.

"In 1490 King Jar. les IV for the services done by Colin, Earl of Ergile erected the town of Kilmond into a free burgh of barony for ever etc. etc."


See Origin. Parochialis Scot. Kilmun.

"In 1497 John Colquhoun of Luss sold to John earl of Argyll certain lands on the West side of Loch Long being held with the hereditary custody of a staff of St. Mund to which to the name of Deowray was attached."


See Orig. Par. Vol 2 p 72.

The Tower of the Old Collegiate Church is detached from the present church.


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