Kentigern lived about 528 – 603, born in Culross in Fife, where his mother, Teneu, princess of Lothian, had fled. (Lothian was named after her grandfather Lleuddun.) Some tell of her love affair with Urien of Cumbria; others that he had attacked her. Either way, unmarried, she fell pregnant and her father sought her death at Traprain Law. Her executioners were to stone her, but instead tied her to a cart and pushed it down the steep hill. Somehow she survived and escaped (some stories speak of help from her would-be executioners who were unnerved by her survival). From the shore of the Forth, she fled in a coracle across the water and was eventually found by Serf at Culross.
Kentigern was born and Serf cared for them both at his monastic school in Culross. He taught Kentigern and trained him as a priest. Kentigern was Serf’s favourite pupil, and he gave him the pet name Mungo (‘dear friend’). However as he entered adulthood, Kentigern alienated himself from the others at the school and eventually left. He came to what is now Stirlingshire, stumbling upon the dìseart of a dying monk named Fergus. Kentigern stayed, praying with Fergus, who asked that Kentigern arrange his funeral. When the old man died, Kentigern put the body on a cart strapped to two oxen and asked God to show him an appropriate place. The oxen walked on, finally stopping in some open green fields where Kentigern buried Fergus and then decided to stay, calling the area the ‘dear green place” – ‘Glas Gui’ or ‘Glasgow.’
Kentigern built a chapel and cell, becoming known for his austere lifestyle and his great preaching, and securing many converts. However, a strong anti-Christian movement in these Welsh-lands of Strathclyde forced Kentigern to leave for Wales itself. Time passed and peace came to the Old North of Britain under a new King, Rhydderch Hael (much written about in the histories of Wales and the Celtic peoples) who invited Kentigern to return. Kentigern developed his old chapel into a monastery (now the site of Glasgow Cathedral) taking in the burial site of old Fergus. A community grew around his monastery as people settled there, drawn once more by his preaching. To this day, Glasgow’s full motto is, ‘Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising thy name.’
Kentigern and Columba are said to have met at Kilmalcolm, exchanging staffs. Certainly Columba visited much of the Scottish mainland, and indeed Inchcolm Island in the Forth.
Perhaps wary of his mother’s exile, Kentigern never ventured to Lothian and it was St Baldred (‘travelling’) who earned the title ‘Apostle of the Lothians.’ His mother was, however, commemorated in Glasgui, becoming a saint in her own right. Over the years, ‘Saint Teneu’ became corrupted to ‘Saint Eneu’ then ‘Saint Enoch.’ She now has a Glasgow underground station named after her, even if most people think St Enoch was male!
Kentigern worked hard, lived an austere life and was an example to others. He drew others to Jesus through the sheer force of his preaching and comes alive in Paul’s words:
Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. (1 Thessalonians 2:9)
[from Timothy Pitt]