2010 is the 1,500th anniversary of the arrival in the Luss area of St Kessog — or MacKessog, the Gaelic form of St Kessog — and the celebrations have already begun.
Legends say that St Kessog came from Ireland and established a monastery on the island of Inchtavannach. The name of Inchtavannach actually means monks island.
St Kessog founded the first church in Luss, but ten years after his arrival he was martyred, perhaps at Bandry, about a quarter mile south of the village.
When Robert the Bruce went into battle against the English at Bannockburn it was in the name of the blessed Kessog, and after his victory there he decreed a three-mile sanctuary around Luss.
When the Reformation came to the Luss area, the Catholics buried their treasures in a small mound for safe keeping — and then forgot about them!
However when the army were building the first road up Loch Lomondside around 1750, they dug into this mound and unearthed the treasures, which are today in Luss Church.
They found a carved stone head now reckoned to be about 1,000 years old and of St Kessog; a medieval carved stone statue of a man in clerical garb, now also reckoned to be of St Kessog and probably about 500 years old; and a stone baptismal font, believed to be about 1,000 years old and still in use.
The Rev Dane Sherrard (pictured above), minister of Luss Parish Church, established the Luss Pilgrimage Centre several years ago to explain this history in much more detail. It is in the low building across the road from the church.
Mr Sherrard was also instrumental in having the bridge across the river rebuilt, providing access to the glebe where a cross has also been erected. A Pilgrim's path also circles the glebe.
The celebrations started on January 1, just after the stroke of midnight, with the ringing of a HM Submarines bell, borrowed from the Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane, from the ‘Hill of the Bell' on Inchtavannach.
On Sunday January 17 the Very Rev Dr John Cairns, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, preached at a special service in the church, and on January 31 the minister of Glasgow Cathedral, the Rev Dr Laurence Whitley preached at a service to mark the link between the church and the Cathedral.
In 1429 the Bishop of Glasgow, John Cameron, upgraded Luss Church to a prebend of his cathedral and appointed a vicar to administer the parish — a mark of the number of people who were visiting the village at that time as pilgrims. In return the church paid £3 a year to the cathedral, and this relationship lasted until the Reformation.
The special guest who preached on February 21 was the now retired Rev James H.Simpson, former chairman of the Church of Scotland General Trustees, who encouraged and assisted all the developments at the church this century. Also visiting in February for ten days were a party from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Intense preparations are underway for St Kessog's Day on Wednesday March 10, when a life-sized statue of the Saint will placed on the glebe and dedicated.
A special exhibition will be opened in the church's new heritage centre within the Pilgrimage Centre, and all round the wood-panelled room, the story of Kessog (left) will be told across medieval-style manuscripts and on eight flat screen monitors.
The church itself will be the venue for a multimedia exhibition highlighting important historical events in the life of the church and the village from St Kessog's time to the present day, and A new book, ‘Luss: The First Fifteen Hundred Years', by John Sinclair, will also be launched.
All the celebrations are being chronicled on the church's extensive and much-praised website, which is http://www.lussonline.net, and the story of St Kessog is told in an article in the Religion section in the Heritage area of this site.
- The photo of Mr Sherrard is by courtesy of the Helensburgh Advertiser.