bishops played a leading part in the government and administration
of the kingdom, it was important to the king to have the right
individuals in office; but relations between king and bishop
were not always good. The Chronicler of Lanercost seems to hint
that Bishop Richard Inverkeithing (125072) was poisoned
by Alexander III, who wished to gain some of his possessions.
But if this was the case the king was thwarted because the bishop
had given away most of his possessions before his untimely death.
Life in a medieval diocese could be turbulent, as in 13923,
when there was a conflict between Bishop Robert Sinclair (1391-c.
1398) and the abbot of Cambuskenneth, which led to the excommunication
of the bishop himself. It is perhaps no coincidence that when
in 13945 the abbot of Cambuskenneth had to provide him
with hospitality in the course of a visit to Alva, the bishop
turned up with an enormous - and doubtlessly hungry - retinue
of horsemen. Dunkelds position close to the Highlands
could also be a problem, and on one Whitsunday Bishop Thomas
Lauder (1452-75) had to take refuge in the loft above the choir
screen when Clan Donnachie attacked the cathedral.
The income of the Scottish dioceses varied considerably, and
Dunkeld was only of the middle rank. In the late middle ages
a newly appointed bishop of Dunkeld had to pay a tax of 450
gold florins to the Papal curia, as compared with the 3,300
florins payable by an archbishop of St Andrews. Beyond this,
the costs of election were formidable, and Bishop Richard Pilmuir
(1337-c.1347) had to borrow the enormous sum of 3,000 gold florins
to cover his expenses.
Yet none of this should make us assume that all bishops were
purely worldly individuals whose only interest was their own
welfare. Sevaral bishops of Dunkeld left behind them a reputation
for having made great efforts for their Church and its members.
Bishop George Brown (14831515), for example, both greatly
beautified the cathedral and appointed rural deans to watch
over the clergy in the diocese. Another bishop, Gavin Dunbar
(1515-22), was an outstanding poet, who translated Vergils
Aeneid into fine Scots verse. Unfortunately, Douglass
life was a model of neither godliness nor patriotism, and when
he died of the plague in London, it was because he was there
To Dunkeld Cathedral