What's in a Name?

posted 3 Sep 2015, 12:27 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 3 Sep 2015, 12:34 ]

Kildavie, or ‘Cill Da Bhidhe’, is situated in northwest Mull between Croig and Calgary. Cill Da Bidhe is a hagiotoponym designating the site of a possible early medieval ecclesiastical site, a ‘cill’ or ‘ceall’ being defined in Scottish Gaelic as denoting the site of a monk’s cell (Latin: cella), a church or a burial ground.

The ‘Da Bhidhe’ elements of the toponym may refer to Do Bí (also Mo Bí and Bíte). The ‘Do Bí’ group of eponyms may refer to the Berchán group of hagionyms, which include a number of related saints alive in the early Christian period, or to Mo Bí Cláirenach mac Comgaill of Inis Cuscraid, near Downpatrick, Co. Down.

The hagiotoponym is similar to other sites dedicated to the same Do Bí group of saints, including Cill Da-Bhì in Kenmore and Kildavie in southern Kintyre.

As a point of language, ‘mo’ (‘my’) and ‘do’ (‘your/thy’) were used as terms of endearment in the early Christian church in the Gaelic-speaking areas. The usage of both possessive pronouns will explain the interchangeability of Mo Bí and Do Bí, as well as a number of other hagionyms.

Cill Da Bhidhe may have been the site of an early medieval church or cell. The remains of an early church may have been constructed of wooden materials, leaving no superterranian remains. There is evidence for other early Christian wooden churches in the area, including at Iona and Baliscate.

Cillchriosd, or ‘Cill Chrìosd’ (‘Church/chapel of Christ), is a possible early Christian ecclesiastical site 0.9mi to the west. The site is comprised of a circular enclosure, identified by local inhabitants in 1974 possible burial ground. As at Cill Da Bhidhe, there has been no chapel located at the site. Similarly, there is no chapel at Kilmaluag, or ‘Cill Mo Luag’, near Treshnish, although a burial ground has been confirmed there.

Information from saintsplaces.gla.ac.uk, canmore.org.uk and faclair.info, with help from Alasdair MacIlleBhàin (University of Glasgow).

Liam Alastair Crouse, MA (Hons) MLitt

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