Bishop of Dunkeld

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The Bishop of Dunkeld is the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Dunkeld, one of the largest and more important of Scotland's 13 medieval bishoprics, whose first recorded bishop is an early 12th-century cleric named Cormac. However, the first known abbot dates to the 10th century, and it is often assumed that in Scotland in the period before the 12th century, the roles of both bishop and abbot were one and the same. The Bishopric of Dunkeld ceased to exist as a Catholic institution after the Scottish Reformation but continued as a royal institution into the 17th century. The diocese was restored (with a different boundary) by Pope Leo XIII on 4 March 1878; it is now based in the city of Dundee.

List of known abbots[edit]

Dunkeld Abbey was an offshoot of Iona, perhaps founded in the early 9th century, in the reign of Caustantín mac Fergusa, King of the Picts. It is not clear when its abbots got independence from the Abbots of Iona, but a notable event is the alleged transfer of the relics of Columba to Dunkeld during the reign of the Scoto-Pictish king Cináed mac Ailpín. Its abbots, like many Gaelic abbots of the period, took a strong role in secular affairs, hence the term "lay abbot". The following is a list of known abbots of Dunkeld; the list is not exhaustive.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
d. 865 Túathal of Dunkeld The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 865.6, records his obit and writes "Tuathal m. Artgusso prim-epscop Fortrenn & abbas Duin Caillenn", that is, "Túathal son of Artgus, chief bishop of Fortriu and Abbot of Dunkeld [dies]".
d. 873 Flaithbertach of Dunkeld The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 873.8, records his obit and writes "Flaithbertach m. Muirchertaigh, princeps Duin Chaillden, obiit", that is, "Flaithbertach son of Muirchertach, superior of Dún Caillen, died".
d. 965 Dúnchad of Dunkeld Dúnchad was killed along with Dubdon, Mormaer of Atholl in the battle of dorsum Crup, fought between king Dub and king Cuilén.
d. 1045 Crínán of Dunkeld Progenitor of the Dunkeld Dynasty, who ruled Scotland for more than two centuries.
fl. 1097 Ethelred of Scotland Son of king Máel Coluim III.

While it is true that medieval churchmen took an active part in secular affairs (some fought in battles), that didn't make them in any sense "lay." They were still consecrated bishops or abbots. A "lay abbot" was the secular lord of the abbey's lands. Since an abbey's property was often extensive, it was lucrative plum. Medieval monarchs enjoyed considerable authority over the church, and doubtless, these positions were awarded to royal favorites.

List of known pre-Reformation bishops[edit]

The Bishopric of Dunkeld was one of the largest in medieval Scotland. However, in 1200, half of its territory was used to create the new Bishopric of Argyll.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
fl. x 1114-1131 x Cormac of Dunkeld
fl. 1138-1139 John of Atholl Not directly called "Bishop of Dunkeld", just a "bishop from Atholl" who went on mission to Orkney.
fl. x 1147-1169 Gregoir of Dunkeld
1170-1178 Richard of Dunkeld
1178 (elect) Walter de Bidun Never consecrated. Never took possession of see.
1178-1203 John Scotus
1203-1210 Richard de Prebenda
1211-1214 John de Leicester
1214-1229 x 1230 Hugh de Sigillo
1229 x 1230 (elect) Matthew the Scot
1229 x 1230-1236 Gilbert of Dunkeld
1236-1249 Geoffrey de Liberatione
1250-1272 Richard de Inverkeithing
1273-1277 x 1282 Robert de Stuteville
1282 x 1283 Hugh de Stirling Died at Rome pursuing his election.
1283-1285 x 1288 William the Dean
1288-1309 Matthew de Crambeth
1309-1311 (elect) John de Leche Elect; nominee of King Edward II of England; his election was disputed, and he never actually took possession of his see.
1309-1337 William Sinclair
1337 x 1338-1338 x 1342 (elect) Maol Choluim de Innerpeffray A canon from Strathearn; his election was challenged by Richard de Pilmore; conflict was resolved at the Papal court, where the Pope found in Richard's favour.
1337 x 1338-1345 x 1347 Richard de Pilmuir
1347 x 1348 (elect) Robert de Den He was the Archdeacon of Dunkeld, and was elected to the see; however, the Pope was already in the process of appointing a bishop to the vacant see.
1347-1354 Donnchadh de Strathearn
1355-1369 John Luce
1370 x 1371 (elect) John de Carrick Probably failed to obtain consecration.
1370-1377 Michael de Monymusk
1377 x 1378 Andrew Umfray Had been dean of Dunkeld and precentor; he died at the Papal court.
1378-1390 John de Peebles
1391-1395 x 1398 Robert Sinclair Translated from Bishopric of Orkney.
1396-1437 Robert de Cardeny
1437 x 1440 Domhnall MacNeachdainn He was the Dean of Dunkeld; he died in Continental Europe on his way to be consecrated by the Pope.
1437-1440 James Kennedy Translated to the Bishopric of St. Andrews in April 1440.
1440 (elect) Alexander Lauder He was nominated to the see in May 1440, confirmed the following month, but died in October that year before his consecration.
1440-1460 (titular) Thomas Livingston He was the nomination of the Anti-Pope Felix V; he was probably confirmed by Pope Nicholas V, however he never gained possession of the see. He died sometime before 10 July 1460.
1441-1447 James Bruce Appointed Bishop of Glasgow in 1447, but died the same year.
1447 (elect) William Turnbull Was elected in March 1447 after the death of Bishop James Bruce; however, he obtained the Bishopric of Glasgow in November that year before being consecrated to Dunkeld.
1447-1451 x 1452 John de Ralston
1452-1475 Thomas Lauder Former Master of the hospital at Soutra Aisle.
1475-1483 James Livingston Dean of Dunkeld who succeeded Bishop Thomas Lauder.
1483-1485 (elect) Alexander Inglis Was elected but failed to ensure confirmation by the Pope.
1483-1515 George Brown
1515-1516 (elect) Andrew Stewart Brother of the Earl of Atholl. The Pope refused his nomination to the Bishopric, but did appoint him to the Bishopric of Caithness at Dornoch.
1515-1522 Gavin Douglas Forfeited December 1521, and fled to England.
1524-1526 Robert Cockburn Previously Bishop of Ross.
1526-1544 George Crichton
1544-1549 John Hamilton Previously Abbot of Paisley. Got promoted to the Archbishopric of St Andrews.
1549-1553 x 1554 Donald Campbell
1543/1554-1571 Robert Crichton Claimed to have been coadjutor to Bishop George Crichton since 1543.

List of Schism anti-bishops[edit]

Tenure Incumbent Notes
cons. 1379 Robert de Derling Anti-Bishop of the Western Schism. Consecrated by Peter, Bishop of Citta Nuova, in October 1379 on order of Pope Urban VI, in opposition to John de Peblys, supporter of the Avignon Pope. Never took possession of see.
bp. 1379 Nicholas Duffield English abbot (of Pershore); was the nomination of the Pope against the candidate of the Avignon Pope during the Western Schism. Never took possession of see.

List of post-Reformation bishops[edit]

Church of Scotland succession[edit]

In 1560 the Church of Scotland broke its ties with Rome.

Tenure Incumbent Notes
1571-x 1584 James Paton
1584–1585 Robert Crichton
1585–1607 Peter Rollock
1607 James Nicolson
1607–1638 Alexander Lindsay
1638–1662 Episcopacy briefly abolished
1662–1665 George Haliburton
1665–1676 Henry Guthrie
1677–1679 William Lindsay
1679–1686 Andrew Bruce
1686–1689 John Hamilton Deprived of the temporalities in 1689 when episcopacy was permanently abolished in the Church of Scotland following the Glorious Revolution.

Scottish Episcopal Church succession[edit]

Tenure Incumbent Notes
1689–1690 John Hamilton Formerly Church of Scotland bishop, continued as an Episcopalian until his death in 1690
1690–1731 See vacant
1731–1743 Thomas Rattray Consecrated a college bishop in 1727; also Primus 1738-43; died 22 August 1768
1743–1776 John Alexander Also administered the See of Dunblane 1743–1774; died in office.
1776–1786 Charles Rose Also Bishop of Dunblane 1774–1791; died in office.
1786–1792 See vacant
1792–1808 Jonathan Watson
1808–1837 Patrick Torry Consecrated as Bishop of Dunkeld and Dunblane; became Bishop of Fife, Dunkeld and Dunblane in 1837, and subsequently Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane in 1844.
The Scottish Episcopal see became part of the Diocese of Fife, Dunkeld and Dunblane in 1837, which was renamed the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane in 1844.

Roman Catholic succession[edit]

The Bishop of Dunkeld is the Ordinary of the Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld in the Province of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. The diocese covers an area of 9,505 km². The see is in the City of Dundee where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew. The post Reformation diocese was restored by Pope Leo XIII on 4 March 1878. The Right Reverend Stephen Robson is the 9th bishop of the diocese since its restoration.

(Any dates appearing in italics indicate de facto continuation of office. The start date of tenure below is the date of appointment or succession. Where known, the date of installation and ordination as bishop are listed in the notes together with the post held prior to appointment.)

Tenure Incumbent Notes
22 March 1878 to 18 January 1887 George Rigg Priest; ordained 26 May 1878; died in office
14 August 1890 to 30 August 1900 James Smith Priest; ordained 28 October 1890; appointed Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh
21 February 1901 to 24 September 1912 Angus MacFarlane Priest; ordained 1 May 1901; died in office
14 May 1913 to 28 March 1914 Robert Fraser Priest; ordained 25 May 1913; Died in office
8 September 1914 to 31 May 1949 John Toner Priest; ordained 15 October 1914; died in office
31 May 1949 to 23 May 1955 James Scanlan Coadjutor Bishop of Dunkeld; appointed Bishop of Motherwell
27 May 1955 to 26 January 1981 William Hart Priest; ordained 21 September 1955; retired
26 January 1981 to 30 June 2012 Vincent Logan Priest; ordained 26 February 1981; retired
9 January 2014 to 28 December 2022 Stephen Robson Auxiliary Bishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Historical successions: Dunkeld". Crockford's Clerical Directory. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Diocese of Dunkeld". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 June 2012.


  • Broun, Dauvit, "Dunkeld and the origin of Scottish identity", in Innes Review 48 (1997), pp. 112–124, reprinted in Spes Scotorum: Hope of Scots, eds. Broun and Clancy (1999), pp. 95–111.
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Hudson, Benjamin T., "Kings and Church in Early Scotland", in The Scottish Historical Review', Vol. 73, (October, 1994), pp. 145–70
  • Watt, D.E.R., Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638, 2nd Draft, (St Andrews, 1969)
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops, Edinburgh, 1824, pp. 99,100

External links[edit]