THE ANCIENT PARISH OF KILLALLAN, RENFREWSHIRE., J. M. MACKINLAY, (May, 1895), pp.253-259.

“HAMILTON of Wishaw, writing circa 1710, says of Killallan, “This is no great parish,” and adds, after mentioning its boundaries, “it lyeth in none of the choicest places of this country.”1 He hardly, however, did justice to Killallan, for, to anyone with eyes for what is interesting in the past (and undoubtedly Hamilton had such eyes), the parish can claim a more appreciative notice. Kilillan, Kilellan,2 and Kilallan are among the forms of its name. The first has disappeared; the second and third are still used. The last is the best known outside the parish. They are all derived from the Gaelic Cill, a cell or church, and Faolan, better known as Fillan, the f having been lost through aspiration according to the familiar rule in Gaelic.3 That St. Fillan was the tutelar saint of the parish is evident from the inscription on the church-bell where the saint’s name occurred. The Rev. D. Kirkwood, B.D., minister of Houston and Killallan, informs me that when the church was unroofed this bell was removed to Barochan House. The history of the bell is somewhat obscure. Authorities bear witness to the appearance of Saint Fillan’s name on the bell. Thus Chalmers, in the third volume of his Caledonia,4 published in 1824, says, “The inscription on the church bell records the name of the saint to whom the church was dedicated, and who was regarded as the tutelar saint of the parish.” His name does not now occur on the bell. In order, if possible, to clear up the point, I wrote to Mr. C. B. Renshaw, M.P., of Barochan. Mr. Renshaw was from home at the time, but Mrs. Renshaw courteouusly favoured me with the following particulars:- The bell has the inscription “Carlovs (evidently meant for Carolus) – Hog – me – fecit – 1618.” The bell in its present form does not date from 1618. It was recast about fifty years ago, a fact borne out by the inscription on its other side, viz., “Killallan Bell, David Burges, Founder, Glasgow, 1844.” The question still remains, what about St. Fillan’s name? Had it occurred on the 1618 bell it would probably have reappeared on the 1844 bell. Taking all the facts into consideration, I am inclined to conclude that, though not said to be so, the bell of 1618 was itself recast, and that it took the place of a pre-Reformation bell bearing Saint Fillan’s name.

There was a St. Fillan who flourished in the sixth century, and gave name to the village of St. Fillans in Comrie parish, Perthshire. He is described as of Rath-Erenn (i.e., the fort of the Earn), now Dundurn, near St. Fillans. His festival was held on the 20th June. That this was not the saint who gave name to Killallan is proved by the fact that there was a yearly fair5 in the parish on the 9th of January, the festival day of St. Fillan of Glendochart who flourished in the early eighth century. This saint gave name to Strathfillan and to the river Fillan. In the latter is St. Fillan’s Holy Pool, half-way between Tyndrum and Crianlarich, resorted to for a thousand years for its healing virtues.6 Close to it are still to be seen the ruins of St. Fillan’s Priory.

We find traces of the cultus of St. Fillan in Killallan parish. In a field near the church is a spring dedicated to him. The writer of the article in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland says, “There is a spring well called Fillan’s Well, issuing from under a rock shaded with bushges hanging over it, to which it is reported that the country women used to bring their weak and ricketty children and bathe them in the water, leaving some pieces of cloth, as a present or offering to the saint, on the bushes. This custom continued till about the end of the last (i.e., the seventeenth) century, when one Mr. Hutcheson, who was then minister, caused the Well to be filled with stones.”7 There is reason to believe that the water used in the church at baptisms was procured from this well. The spring has now quite a neglected appearance and seems to be given over to the use of cattle. There are at present no bushes  hanging over it, but there is a hawthorn bush some 20 feet higher up the field, on the top of another small rocky height. Not far from the well is an earth-fast boulder, with a circular hollow on the top, known as St. Fillan’s Seat.8 The hollow is about 14 inches across, and forms quite a comfortable resting-place. To the right as one sits, and near enough to be within reach of the hand, is another hollow, irregularly oval in shape, 9 inches long by about 31/4 broad. According to a local tradition St. Fillan sat in the seat, and performed the rite of baptism with water out of this cavity.

Early mention is made of Killallan in historical documents. Its church is named among the churches of Strathgryfe, given in 1165 by Walter Fitz Alan, high steward of Scotland, to the monastery of Paisley. Before 1207 it was confirmed to the monks by Florence, bishop-elect of Glasgow, and in 1253 by Pope Innocent Fourth.9 The history of the cure after the Reformation is not lacking in picturesque incidents. For several years after that event there was no minister in the parish. Robert Cuke was exhorter. On the 11th of October he was presented to the vicarage by James VI.10 After Cuke’s translation to Kilbarchan in the following year, there seems to have been a somewhat lengthened vacancy in Killallan parish. On the 18th of December, 1599, George Sempill was presented to Killallan, and became its incumbent after the 16th of September, 1600. He was, however, discharged by the Synod “for causes and considerations knowin’ to them, and speciallie for a great mislyking that specialls of the paroch had of him.” He insisted, however, on getting his rights as minister of the parish. The Assembly of 16th November, 1602, absolved him from all charges made against him and gave him a testimonial of good behaviour, “but in respect he was never planted fully at the said kirk, and of the great mislyking that is betwixt him and sundrie of the parochiners, they think it not good that he be plantit, and ordains him to demit in favour of Mr. John Cunninghame.”11 He was discharged by the Presbytery in December following. They found him “guyltie of ryving thrie leives out of the Presbytery-book,” and deposed him from the ministry on the 17th of May, 1604. He returned before September, 1606; but a complaint was made by his parishioners concerning “his slanderous lyfe, erroneous doctrine… with mony other wightie pointes.” He was tried before a committee of Synod on the 3rd of November, 1614, who, having heard him preach, “were no wayes satisfied, but thocht him unmeit and insufficient to edifie at the Kirk of Killallan.” He died at Paisley in July, 1632. His successor, John Hay, was ordained at Killallan in 1616, but was translated to Paisley in 1627.12 

Till 1760 Killallan formed a parish by itself. It was then formally united to Houston, though the two were not actually joined till the year 1771, on the death of the Rev. John Carrick, minister of Houston, the Rev. John Monteath,13 minister of Killallan, then becoming the incumbent of the united parishes. From the Old Statistical Account of Scotland,14 we learn that the church of Killallan, though no longer used as a place of worship in 1791, had then its roof entire. It was afterwards allowed to go to decay, till it became, what it is now, an ivy-clad ruin. On the lintel of its doorway is inscribed the date 1635. The stone font stood for long after the Reformation outside the door of the church, but was, at a later date, built into the graveyard wall.15 Near the church, and deriving their name from it, are the farms of High and Low Kirktown.16 The Knights-Templars owned a half-merk land in the parish. There is a Chapeltown on the west side of Barochan Burn that may perhaps mark the site of their establishment.17 

To any one acquainted with Killallan the name of Barochan at once occurs to the mind. This ancient barony was in the possession of the family of Fleming for six centuries.18 Crawford says, “The first mention I have found of the Flemings of Barochan is in a charter granted by Malcolm, Earl of Lenox, in the reign of King Alexander III. to Walter Spruel ‘Senescallo de Lenox’ of the lands of Dalquhurn, Willielmo Flandrense de Barochan being a witness thereto. As also I have seen a charter granted by James, high steward of Scotland, grandfather to King Robert II. (who died in the year 1309), ‘Stephano filio Nicolai, de Terra quae data fuit Patricio de Selvinland juxta burgum de Renfrew,’ [Stephan, son of Nicholas, out of the land which was given to Patrick de Selvinland near the borough of Renfrew.] to which Willielmo Fleeming de Barochan, Miles, is a witness.”

Flodden was a disastrous day to the Barochan family as to so many other Scottish families. On the fatal field William, otherwise Peter Fleming19 of Barochan, Sheriff of Lanark, fell along with six of his sons. Fortunately for the continuance of the family, there was a seventh son who escaped the fate of his father and brothers, and succeeded to the estate. The following paragraph from the New Statistical Account20 is of interest:-

“This same Peter Fleming was a celebrated falconer. His tersel beat the falcon of James IV., upon which the King unhooded his favourite hawk and put the hood on the tersel. The hood was richly ornamented with precious stones. Most of them were stolen many years ago. One ruby remained of great value, but about thirteen years ago it fell out, and not being missed at the time it was lost. A few seed pearls only remain. There is still at Barochan a pair of silver spurs which belonged to the same Peter Fleming.”

About a mile to the east of Killallan Church is the mansion-house of Barochan, “pleasantly situated on the south side of a craggie hill, well-sheltered among its ancient woods.”21 The earlier family residence, believed to have been burned by the English, circa 1300, stood on a rising ground fully half-a-mile away, the site being now occupied by Barochan Cross, removed thither towards the end of last century from its original position by the side of the neighbouring high road. This Cross22 has been somewhat of an enigma to antiquaries. About 1770, in the course of digging operations, several sepulchral cists formed of flagstones and containing human bones and beads of a jet-like substance were discovered in a tumulus in the neighbourhood, but there is nothing to shew that these had any connection with the event commemorated by the erection of the Cross. Local tradition associates the monument with a defeat of the Danes. In the Appendix to Hamilton of Wishaw’s work, already referred to,23 the opinion is expressed that the Cross celebrates the defeat, in the immediate neighbourhood, of Somerled, Lord of the Isles, in 1164. We quote part of the description there given:- 

The Cross of Barochan is greatly weather-wasted, and the sculptures upon it consequently rather indistinct. In the  
upper compartment of the east side there is a representation of four figures clad in garments reaching to the ground; and in the lower compartment other four men are sculptured, bearing spears or battle-axes in their right hands. In the upper compartment of the west side, a combat betwixt a knight on horseback and a person on foot is very distinctly traced. The knight is in the act of couching his lance, and the footman is prepared to meet the attaint on his shield. In the under compartment there are three figures, the centre one being more diminutive in stature than the other two; and to our apprehension this little fellow appears to be the subject of dispute between them, the figure on the right hand evidently interposing a shield over the head of the stripling, to save him from the uplifted weapon of the figure on the left hand… It is to be remarked that in the costume of the figures there is an evident difference. The figure on horseback agrees in this particular with the one immediately below him on the left hand, and with the procession of four figures, marching with halberds or axes, on the eastern face of the Cross; while the dress of the person who opposes the knight, and of the other who defends the stripling in the compartment below, agree with the four figures represented in long robes on the other side of the curious monument.24 

Prefixed to the work in question is a representation of the Cross, giving a good idea of its appearance, though the figures are made to stand out with rather more distinctness than they now possess. The pedestal of the Cross is 4 feet 6 inches long, 3 feet high, and 3 feet in thickness. The Cross itself is fully 11 feet in height, 1 foot 8 inches in breadth, and 10 inches in thickness. To any one of an archaeological turn of mind, Killallan parish has an abiding interest from its connection with Barochan Cross, and with the spots that keep alive the memory of Saint Fillan. 

J. M. MACKINLAY, M.A.”

1 Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew. 
2 At Lochalsh there is a Kilellan dedicated to the same saint. 
3 For the effects of aspiration in connection with place names, vide Joyce’s Origin and History of Irish Names of Places, pp. 19-21. 
4 Page 837, note. 
5 Origines Parochiales Scotiae, vol i. p. 81, and Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. i. p. 316. 
6 The Saint’s Bell and Crozier are among the treasures of the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. 
7 Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. i. p. 316. 
8 At the mill of Killin in Perthshire once stood a block of stone, known as St. Fillan’s Chair. The interesting relic, however, was thrown into the Dochart flowing hard by, and was thus lost. 
9 Origines Parochiales Scotiae, vol. i. p. 81.  
10 We learn that in 1574 his stipend was forty-two pounds Scots (£3 10s. stg.). 
11 Cunninghame was ordained at Houston in 1599, translated to Killallan in 1602, and translated to Dalry on June 21st, 1604. 
12 Scott’s Fasti, p. 2. 
13 Monteath wrote the article on the united parishes of Houston and Killallan for Sir J. Sinclair’s Statistical Account of Scotland, beginning in 1791. 
14 Vol. i. p. 322. 
15 Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. i. p. 316. 
16 Origines Parochiales Scotiae, vol. i. p. 81. 
17 Origines Parochiales Scotiae, vol. i. p. 81. 
18 I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Kirkwood for the following particulars about the later history of Barochan estate:- The Fleming family of Barochan died out about half-a-century ago, and the lands passed into other hands. For many years they were in the possession of Mr. Cunninghame of Craigends, but last year (1894) they were sold by him to Mr. Renshaw, M.P., the present proprietor. 
19 This laird of Barochan appears to have had two proper names, William and Peter. He is sometimes referred to under the one name, and sometimes under the other. 
20 Vol. vii. p. 48 (January, 1836). 
21 Crawford’s Description of Renfrewshire, p. 379. 
22 Old Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. i. 326-7. 
23 Maitland Club, 1831. 
24 Hamilton of Wishaw, p. 279. 

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