Of the Primitive Christian Church.
AT what particular time Christianity was first made known in Scotland, cannot be easily determined. It is not improbable, however, that it had sure footing in North Britain, in the third, and fourth centuries. But, as pagan druidism could not have been at once extirpated, so, the Christian faith must have been gradually spread. The gross ignorance, which, till of late, prevailed, and the many heathenish customs that remain in some parts of the kingdom, shew that the knowledge of Christianity advanced very slowly.
The first teachers, and ministers of the Christian faith, in Scotland, were presbyters, or preaching elders, called in the Scottish language, Keledees; a word compounded of Keile, i.e. “a servant, or one devoted,” and Dia, (in the genitive De,) i.e. God, a servant of, or one devoted to God. A church, or place of worship was called Kil, because set apart for divine service. Some derive Kil from Cella, the Hut, or “House of the Teacher.”
These Keledees, and primitive Christians in Scotland, were men of great piety; and, for many ages, preserved the doctrines of religion, pure, and unmixed with any Romish leaven. They did not consider Rome as their mother church; for it was with great struggle, and not till the year 715, that the Scots submitted to the Romish innovations, as to Pasch, the Tonsure, &c. Possibly it was from the clerical tonzure, that the word Maol, came to be prefixed to some names. The word signifies “a servant,” and also bare, bald: So Maol-Coluim, is, “Columba the servant, or the shaveling;” Maol-Riogh, “Regulus, the servant or the shaveling.” The Irish likewise prefix the word Maith, i.e. “Good;” as Maith Rechard, Maith Calen, is the same as “St. Richard, St. Colen.”
These things may serve to explain the names of several churches and chapels in this country, such as, Kil-Tarlatie, Kil-Chuiman, Maith-Rechard, Maith-Calen, in the province of Moray – Killallan, in Renfrewshire, corrupted from Kil-fillan, (Cella Fillani,) the church of St. Fillan (a) – Kilrennie, in Fifeshire, the church of St. Irenaeus (b), Kilmuir, in the island of Sky, or rather Kil-Mhuir, i.e. the church dedicated to Mary (c) – Kildonan, in the county of Sutherland, the church of St. Donan (d), &c. Kil is said by some, to signify a burying-place or tomb (e); but this is, probably, a more recent signification, taken from the common practice of burying near cells or churches.
(a) Sir J. Sinclair’s Statistical account of Scotland, Vol. I. p. 315.
(b) Do. V. I. 409.
(c) Do. V. II. p. 547.
(d) Do. V. III. p. 405.
(e) Do. IV. p. 202.