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Information on Kilmun, Argyll,
Origins of the Name
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
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
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
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
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
See Orig. Par. Vol 2 p 72.
The Tower of the Old Collegiate Church is detached from the present
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