'Charters of Crossraguel Abbey'






§ 7. Allan Stewart the Commendator. 1565-87.

The Reformation was now an accomplished fact. The old order had changed, giving place to the new. The Catholic religion existed only on sufferance. Many of the monasteries had already succumbed to the force majeure of fire and sword. The inmates of these ancient sanctuaries had fled from their homes, and administered the offices of religion at the peril of their lives; while a general scramble for the wealthy property of the Church ensued among the great nobles. Crosraguel, as we have already seen, had been rescued from total extermination by the Abbot and the Earl of Cassillis, who was at that time a zealous Catholic. On the 6th of July 1561, the Primate of Scotland had issued a Commission consisting of Thomas Hay, Abbot of Glenluce, John, Abbot of New Abbey, and two canons of Glasgow Cathedral, to confirm to the earl the office of Heritable Bailie of the Regality of Crosraguel,{2} which had been granted to him by the forethought of Abbot Quintin in 1559. The ceremony had been solemnly performed by the Commissioners in the church of Maybole on the 4th October 1562,{3} in the presence of the Abbot and Convent at the time of High Mass; and three months before his death Abbot Quintin had followed the universal example then prevalent of leasing the whole benefice to the Earl for the animal payment of 700 marks.{1}

The monks fled in every direction on the devastation of the monastery. We find, however, that they gradually reassembled, and in Crosraguel they continued to lead their regular life until at least 1592{2} —a later period, probably, than in any monastery in Scotland.

There was no Abbot for the first year after the death of Quintin Kennedy. On the 9th of October 1564 the Queen rewarded the literary talents of the celebrated George Buchanan by conferring on him under a Gift of Privy Seal a pension of five hundred pounds from the Abbey lands.{3} He also received the whole temporality of the Abbey, with the monastic buildings. The Earl of Cassillis had taken possession of the latter since the Abbot's decease, and Buchanan had to obtain letters from the Privy Council ordaining the Earl to surrender the "Place."{4} On the 19th of July 1565 we have a gift of the Abbacy by Queen Mary to Allan Stewart,{5} brother to the Laird of Cardonald, in Renfrewshire, who was one of her staunchest adherents. Allan Stewart, though a man of good family and education, was totally unfitted to cope with the difficulties in which he found himself placed. Of a grasping and avaricious nature, and a character weak and vacillating, he took a continuous but inconsistent part in the fierce feuds which desolated the shire of Ayr. He made the alienation of the vast landed possessions of the Abbey the main object of his life. We have a mass of charters, leases, and other documents signed by him, which are full of the greatest interest for the information they give us of the extent of the Abbey Regality, the different tenures of the various lands, the many forms of "reddendo," the ancient names and values of the farms in Carrick, the details regarding the fishing, the hunting, the woods, the coalpits, the mills of the monks, with their various occupations and pursuits. Allan Stewart should rightly be styled Commendator, as he was not of the Cluniac order, though a priest and master of arts. The gift of the Abbacy to him was a purely secular grant, and might with equal effect have been made to a layman in coimnendam. Yet he was duly confirmed to the Abbacy by the Archbishop of St. Andrews in his threefold capacity as Primate of Scotland, Legate a latere, and Superior of Crosraguel as Abbot of Paisley.{1} And in further ratification we have the Papal grant by Pius the Fifth in 1566.{2}

The instrument of Abbot Allan's canonical institution is a valuable document,{3} giving several references to the church and other buildings; while the loneliness of the place may be seen from the circumstance that none of the fraternity were present save Sir Michael Dewar, afterwards the Sub-Prior.

We now come to a long string of charters and leases signed by the Abbot in favour of James Stewart and the Earl of Cassillis.{4} Into the legal aspect of these transactions, or into the number of times that the Commendator contradicted himself in these indiscriminate grants of his property, it is unnecessary to enter. Their main interest centres in their historical value. Most of them are signed by the Abbot and four of the monks. They are not dated beyond 156-; and as they were in the Abbot's possession in 1570,{1} we may infer that James Stewart never received them.

In February 1566 the Earl of Cassillis, a man capable at times of courageous and heroic action, though possessed of a violent and impulsive temper, which led him into acts of great cruelty and oppression, obtained a lease of the Abbacy from the Queen and Henry Darnley, free from all rent.{2} This virtually annulled the grant of the previous year to Allan Stewart, and led to the complications which followed. Four parties were interested in the Abbacy —the Abbot, Cassillis, Buchanan, and the Laird of Cardonald. Buchanan, though he styled himself "Pensionarius de Crosraguel,"{3} had great difficulty in drawing his pension regularly; and in April 1568 he disposed of it "to Allan Stewart for the yearly payment of £500."{4} In the following January he assigned it to Cassillis, complaining that it had been "restand owand" to him for several years past.{5} By this assignation the earl agreed to pay him the sum of 980 marks. And in 1573 Buchanan finally sold his pension to the Laird of Bargany for the annual sum of £400.{6} He was glad to be freed from the burdens of collecting it, even at a considerable pecuniary loss. We do not know that he ever resided at Crosraguel, though for many years he had the exclusive right to the possession of the buildings.

Allan Stewart began to get into bad odour with his neighbours about the year 1569. In that year he was put to the horn for the murder of certain gentlemen at Langside;{1}and Thomas Kennedy obtained letters of caption against him, and detained him in his mansion of Bargany.{2} The Abbot, however, secured his liberty by royal letters of relaxation in the January of 1570. He had previously granted many of the Abbey lands to the Lairds of Pennyglen and Brunston,{3} who had rendered him substantial aid against his many enemies in that lawless district. They had paid him large sums to be spent on the repair of the Abbey buildings; but the Abbot's avarice proved too strong for his intentions to restore them, for the repairs were never even commenced.

The climax of this unhappy man's misfortunes arrived in the autumn of 1570. The "Roasting of the Abbot" has been exaggerated by many writers. The original documents, comprising the Abbot's complaint to the Privy Council and Bannatyne's overdrawn account, are given in full for what they are worth.{4} The Earl took undeniably cruel and violent measures to compel the Abbot to ratify documents which he had previously signed, and which he now refused to acknowledge. But there is a vein of exaggeration pervading the whole story; and those who compare the signature of the "half-roasted hand"{1} with the same autograph of a slightly later date{2} will hardly detect a difference. It is of greater interest to notice how the whole of Carrick was stirred at the tyranny of the Earl. The siege of Dunure{3} and the release of the tortured prelate;{4} the summoning of Cassillis before the Privy Council in Edinburgh;{5} the sureties on the Earl's part never to molest the Abbot, under the penalty of two thousand pounds;{6} the annual payment by the Earl to the Abbot by way of solatium for his injuries,{7} on the latter surrendering to him the place, orchard, wood, and four-merk land of Crosraguel, with the key of the principal tower of the Abbey —all these are full of interest and characteristic of the time. The final pacification was effected by Lord Boyd, to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.{8} The Abbot surrendered to the Earl a number of charters of the Abbacy, his own provision to the Commendatorship, and "all other evidents that he had of the same," in return for 5100 marks —an enormous sum of money in those days. Owing to this agreement we have many of the Abbey charters preserved in the Culzean charter-chest, and since its date most of the landed property of the Abbey has remained with the Cassillis family.

The feuds which arose between Cassillis and the Laird of Bargany through the Abbot's imprisonment were partially pacified by a decree of the Privy Council in 1572.{9} Bargany had held the Castle of Dunure, where the unfortunate Allan had been "roasted," until April in 1571, when the Earl was relaxed from his horning; and in 1572 the Council passed a special Act thanking him for his dutiful service. In the following July we have a letter from the Regent to Cassillis, bidding him come at once to Leith, and to bring some money to satisfy Buchanan's pension.{1} The poet-historian had been clamouring in vain for payment.

Amongst the other deeds of this period we find a renunciation by the Laird of Bargany of all right to the Abbey lands,{2} and a writ by James Stewart to the same effect.{3} The Earl was therefore at this time sole proprietor of the regality. We have also some further charters by the Abbot to him, in return for large sums of money,{4} with a lease or assedation of the Manor Place.{5} Allan Stewart was, in fact, ready to dispose of the last shred of his property to the most willing buyer. John Kennedy of Pennyglen,{6} the Lairds of Baltersan,{7} Balserroch{8} and others, all received charters from what had formerly been one of the most extensive ecclesiastical territories in Scotland. These numerous alienations had one peculiar result —that when the Act of Annexation was passed in 1587,{9} there was nothing at Crosraguel left to annex except the buildings of the monastery.

Allan Stewart died in the autumn of 1587. He had spent most of his life at Crosraguel, drawing up deeds for the disposal of the Abbey lands, and his leisure hours in partaking in the many feuds which at that time desolated the country. He took little interest in affairs of State. He was twice present in Parliament at the close of his life —in October 1579 and July 1582.{1} His visits to the metropolis were principally connected with the various lawsuits in which he was embroiled. It is marvellous that so weak a man could have kept his monastery together in an age of tumult; but the fact remains that the monks of Crosraguel were leading as regular and holy a life in the year of their Abbot's death as in the days of Abbot Patrick. One of their number was actually censured by the General Assembly in 15872 for profaning the Sacraments. An interesting episode in the same year was the capture of Lord Maxwell at the Abbey gate, after he had raised the standard of revolt as a loyal Catholic upon the execution of his Queen.{3}  


Mackenie's Lives, iii. p. 63. 2 Vol. i. pp. 130-6. 3 Vol. i. p. 132.

1 Vol. i. pp. 137-8. 2 Vol. ii. p. G7. 3 Vol. i. pp. 139-40. * Vol. i. pp. 140-1. 6 Vol. i. pp. 141-3.

 1 Vol. i. pp. 143-6. 2 Vol. i. pp. 175-7. 3 Vol. i. pp. 130-40. 4 Nos. 85-90.

 1 Vol. ii. p. 12. 2 Vol. i. pp. 173-5. 3 Reg. Epis. Brechinensis. 4 Vol. i. pp. 179-82. s Vol. ii. pp. 1-2. fi Vol. ii. pp. 29-32.

 1 Vol. i. p. 182. 2 Ibid. 3 Vol. i. p. 186, seq. i Vol. ii. pp. 2-9.

1 Vol. i. p. 173. 2 Vol. ii. p. 55. 3 Vol. ii. pp. 7-8. 4 Vol. ii. p. 9. 6 Vol. ii. p. 7. ° Vol. ii. p. 8. 7 Vol. ii. pp. 9-10. s Vol. ii. pp. 11-15. 9 Vol. ii. pp. 21-3.

1 Vol. ii. pp. 26-7. 2 Vol. ii. pp. 32-5. s Culzean Muniments. i Vol. ii. pp. 35-56. 5 Vol. ii. p. 42. G Vol. ii. pp. 43-6. 7 Vol. ii. pp. 46-8. s Vol. ii. pp. 57-8. 9 Ada Pad. Scot. =================================




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