Crínán of Dunkeld

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Crínán of Dunkeld
Abbot of Dunkeld
IssueDuncan I of Scotland
HouseHouse of Dunkeld

Crínán of Dunkeld, also called Crinan the Thane (c. 975-1045), was the hereditary abbot of the monastery of Dunkeld, and perhaps the Mormaer of Atholl. Crínán was progenitor of the House of Dunkeld, the dynasty which would rule the Kingdom of Scotland until the later 13th century. He was the son-in-law of one king, and the father of another.


In the year 1000, Crínán was married to Bethóc, daughter of Malcolm II of Scotland (reigned from 1005 to 1034). As Malcolm had no surviving son, this allowed a hereditary claim to the Scottish throne to descend to Crínán and Bethóc's son, Duncan I,[1] who reigned from 1034 to 1040. Two additional children have been attributed to Crínán: a daughter who was mother of Moddan, Earl of Caithness, and a son Maldred.[2] The latter is said by De obsessione Dunelmi to have been son of Crinan, tein (thegn Crínán), identified as Crínán of Dunkeld by historian W. F. Skene, though this identity has been challenged as insufficiently supported or erroneous by some scholars, such as G. W. S. Barrow.[3] Maldred married Ealdgyth, daughter of Uhtred the Bold and granddaughter of King Æthelred the Unready, and was father of Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria and ancestor of the Earls of Home and the Earls of Dunbar.[2]

Crínán may have spent some time in exile in England under the patronage of Æthelred and/or Cnut before becoming abbot of Dunkeld. Neil McGuigan suggests that he may be the moneyer named Crínán who appears on some of the coinage during Cnut's reign, between 1017 and 1023. It may have been during this period that the marriage of Maldred and Ealdgyth was arranged.[4]

In 1045, Crínán of Dunkeld rose in rebellion against Macbeth in support of his 14-year-old grandson, Malcolm III's claim to the throne.[5] Malcolm was the elder son of Crínán's son, the late King Duncan, who predeceased his father. However, Crínán, by then an elderly man, was killed in a battle at Dunkeld, as was his son Maldred of Allerdale.[2][6]

Abbot of Dunkeld[edit]

The monastery of Saint Columba was founded on the north bank of the River Tay in the 6th century or early 7th century following the expedition of Columba into the land of the Picts. It may have continued to draw its hierarchy from the Cenél Conaill of Donegal.[7] Iain Moncreiffe argued that Crinán belonged to a Scottish sept of the Irish Cenél Conaill royal dynasty.[8] Alternatively, Christopher Cairney proposed a Cenél nEógain descent for the House of Dunkeld.[9]

While the title of Hereditary Abbot (coarb in Gaelic) was a feudal position that was often exercised in name only, Crinán does seem to have acted as Abbot in charge of the monastery in his time. He was thus a man of high position in both clerical and secular society.

The magnificent semi-ruined Dunkeld Cathedral, built in stages between 1260 and 1501, stands today on the grounds once occupied by the monastery. The Cathedral contains the only surviving remains of the previous monastic society: a course of red stone visible in the east choir wall that may have been re-used from an earlier building, and two stone ninth – or tenth-century cross-slabs in the Cathedral Museum.

Walter Bower and John of Fordun do not identify Crínán as abbot of Dunkeld but accord him the offices of abbot of Dull and seneschal of the Isles.[10][11]


  1. ^ MacPherson, Aeneas (July 1902). The Loyall Dissuasive. Edinburgh. p. 41:lxxxv. Retrieved 7 April 2020.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ a b c Paul, James Balfour (1906). The Scots Peerage (PDF). Vol. 3. Edinburgh. pp. 239–245.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ Aird, William M. (1998). St. Cuthbert and the Normans: The Church of Durham, 1071-1153. Woodbridge, Suff: Boydell. p. 69, n. 41. ISBN 9780851156156.
  4. ^ McGuigan, Neil (2021, Máel Coluim III 'Canmore': An Eleventh-Century Scottish King, John Donald, Edinburgh, pp. 89 - 90, ISBN 9781910900192
  5. ^ Knox, James. The topography of the basin of the Tay, Andrew Shorteed, Edinburgh, 1831
  6. ^ The Annals of Tigermach p. 385
  7. ^ Woolf, Alex (2007). From Pictland to Alba: 799-1070. Edinburgh University Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780748612338.
  8. ^ Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, The Highland Clans. Part II. 1982. p. 236
  9. ^ Cairney, Christopher (2018). "Other Dragons or Dragon Others? A Cultural View of the Loch Ness Monster". Monsters of Film, Fiction and Fable: 397. ISBN 9781527510890.
  10. ^ Bower, Walter, Scotichronicon vol. IV, pp. 400 & 401
  11. ^ Fordun, John of, Chronica Gentis Scotorum I, p. 181

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