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Who was the Tonsured Servant?
based on a text by the founding Abbot of CTS
Rev. Canon A. Malcolm MacMillan
The Community of Honour of Clan MacMillan was named for Gilchrist, a married
Celtic monk who was probably abbot of a Culdee monastery at Old Spynie near
Elgin, Moray, Scotland. His Gaelic name is translated into English as Servant
of Christ, but he was also known by a nickname, Gillemaol, Gaelic
for The Tonsured Servant. This nickname was given to him because
he persisted in wearing the Celtic form of the tonsure, that of St. John, at a
time when David king of Scots, was striving to replace the Celtic Church in
Scotland with the Roman Church, and the Celtic tonsure with the Benedictine
tonsure of St. Peter.
Gilchrist was the progenitor or founder of Clan MacMillan and his nickname is preserved in our surname. Gillamaol became Molini in Latin, and then Millan in English. Gilchrist's son, Malcolm, was first to bear the surname MacMillan, Mac being Gaelic for "son", and thus Son of the Tonsured Servant. The MacMillans are said to be descended from Macbeth, King of Scots, through Airbertach and his son Cormac, last Celtic Abbot and the first Catholic Bishop of Dunkeld. Cormac, Gilchrist's father, converted to Rome but Gilchrist evidently refused to follow his father's example, and so was banished to Lochaber by King David.
Cormac and Gilchrist are mentioned in the 12th Scots Gaelic land transaction notes found in the margins of a ninth century Latin text of a unique illuminated manuscript, The Book of Deer, now in the Library of Cambridge University in England. The Community of the Tonsured Servant seeks to honour the heritage bequeathed us by Gilchrist.
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