Saints came marching through and left their names behind

St Kentigern
St Kentigern

It’s always been a quiet source of pride to Lanarkians that, should you look up “Glasgow” in the official register of our nation’s placenames, The Scottish Gazetteer, you’ll find the entry: “City within the County of Lanark”.

So there, Weigies!

However, there is another close connection between the Royal Burgh and Scotland’s biggest metropolis that is less well-known.

We share the same patron saint, a fact probably obscured because he goes under a different name in the city than he does here.

Yes; Lanark’s own St Kentigern is also Glasgow’s own St Mungo’!

There is also, shrouded by centuries of history and because many ancient saints names changed over the years, an almost unknown ‘brotherhood’ between today’s towns of Carluke and Lesmahagow.

This and many other facts about the saintly connections to the Clydesdale area were revealed to a recent meeting of the Lanark and District Archaeological Society by an expert in the field, Professor Thomas Clancy, appropriately enough from Glasgow University (in the County of Lanark). where he is head of Celtic studies.

In a talk entitled Saints of the Clyde Valley, the professor told how many of our local placenames reveal ancient connections to saints, even the newest of our new towns, East Kilbride, explaining that the name Kilbride means ‘The Church of St Bride.’

As for Carluke, centuries ago it was called Eglis Malouc or, rather, ‘The Church of Malouc.’ If that sounds French, then that’s because the area was once ‘colonised’ by the Norman French.

Similar invasions have given our area a variety of Welsh, Norse and Gaelic placenames.

In Lanark placenames were not only given via St Kentigern/Mungo but also St Patrick and the more obscure St Teiling.

On the subject of St Kentigern (Mungo), the professor said that very little is actually known about him, apart from his probable death date of January 13 in either the year 613 or 614 A.D.

Much of what we think happened in the life of St Kentigern comes from the writings of Jocelyn of Furness but, as this biographer lived about 500 years after the saint, his version of events is taken with a large pinch of salt.

Jocelyn wrote the story of St Kentigern’s Fish and Ring in 1185, telling of an incident by the River Avon near the Palace of Cadzow in what is now Hamilton.

As local historian Ed Archer re-tells the yarn: “This palace was the home of Redderch Hael, King of Strathclyde and his queen, Languoreth.

He was much older than his wife and she decided to engage on an amorous adventure on the banks of the River Avon.

Unfortunately, during this passionate encounter, her wedding ring fell off into the river.

“In a blind panic she sought the advice of St Kentigern, knowing full well that she could be executed for infidelity. They prayed together for a while and in the meantime a palace servant brought a salmon he’d caught up from the Avon.

“Miraculously the ring was in the salmon’s mouth and everybody lived happily ever after!”

It might be argued that the resulting Coat of Arms of Glasgow, incorporating that fish and that ring, properly belongs to Hamilton, if not Lanark!

Just up the Clyde from this historic scene we find Dalserf, Ed explaining: “Dalserf means the Valley of St Serf. St Serf was the man who brought St Kentigern up, allegedly in Culross. He came with St Kentigern to Glasgow and also to Dalserf.

“In fact, it was St Serf who gave St Kentigern his nickname ‘Mungo’, which means `Dear Friend’.

“Other saints associated to our area were St Ninian in Stonehouse and Lamington and St Bride - or St Bridget - at Douglas.

“She was reputedly a friend of St Columba. By the way, St Malouc or Machute is connected with the Priory of Lesmahagow. Remains of priory can still to be seen. He also gave his name to Lesmahagow as well as to Carluke!”