'Charters of Crossraguel Abbey'

 

AYRSHIRE AND GALLOWAY ARCHÆOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION - 1886

INTRODUCTION

V. THE ETYMOLOGY OF "CROSRAGUEL."

THE origin of the name remains buried in obscurity. It appears in these charters under no less than forty-one different forms, the most frequent being Crosraguel, Crossraguel, Crossragwell, Corsragwell, Crocereguall, Corsregal, Corsragal, Crosragmer, Crosragmol, Crucis Regalis, Corsragull, Croceragwell, and Crosragin. From so varied a medley of readings it is difficult to extract a satisfactory derivation; but it is something to know that the greatest etymologists of our day have agreed in demolishing the hitherto accepted theory that it signifies "Cross -royal." Upholders of this derivation have pointed with great plausibility to the church of the parish, which is dedicated to S. Oswald, the Northumbrian martyr-king; and they maintain that a cross was erected at this spot after his death. They also ingeniously compare "Cros-oswalde," the Welsh form of Oswestry or Oswald's tree, where he was buried. This is sheer guess work.

The oldest known form of the name is "Crosragmol," in the Bull by Honorius III. to the Abbey of Paisley in 1225.{1} Again it appears under that form in the Scriptum of Crosraguel in 1244,{2} and again in 1265.{3} In 1286 we have "Crosragal,"{4} and the letter of Henry de Percy is dated from "Crosraguel" in 1306.{5} In the charters of Robert the First "Crosragmer" appears,{6} from which time onwards we find every variety of spelling. But not until 1547-8, in a discharge by Abbot Quintin to the Earl of Cassillis, do we find the Latinized form "Crucis Regalis,"{1} which is a purely arbitrary derivation of the name. It was the fashion at that period to give high-sounding Latin names in place of the old Saxon or Celtic; Vallis Lucis being another case in question. What "Glenluce" meant is hard to say; but it certainly had nothing to do with a "vale of light." After 1565 the form "Crucis Regalis" is almost invariably given by the scribes in the Latin Charters, and has led to the popular interpretation.

Professor Skeat, in a communication to the Editor, says that it is clear that "Crossraguel" cannot mean "Crossregal" or "Crux Reguli." While suggesting that it is a question for a Celtic scholar, he mentions the Gaelic reachdmhor, "fine," or "beautiful." In corroboration of this the minister of Glassford in Lanarkshire mentions a farm of Hiecorseknowe in his parish, the ancient name being Crossraguel.

Professor Rhys, of Jesus College, Oxford, writes : "'Cross Raguel' would seem to construe as a Celtic name, meaning 'Raguel' which I have searched for in vain. The form 'Ragmer' might be explained in Welsh by supposing it to be the same as 'Rhagfyr,' 'December' which is supposed to mean 'foreshortened.' I may also mention 'rhagwel' a look in advance." From the extensive view which the Abbey commands over the surrounding country, this last might be tenable.

Lastly, Professor Donald Mackinnon, of Edinburgh, writes : "'Raguel' ('ragmol/ 'ragmer'), from its position may be either an adjective qualifying 'cross' or a proper name. I do not know any Gaelic adjective that would represent 'Ragmol.' 'Regal' certainly would not . . . and I am nearly as certain that 'reachdmhor' cannot represent 'ragmol' ... I am strongly inclined to consider it a proper name. Very rarely would a cross be described by an epithet, and all the Highland crosses were erected in memory of a person of note either for his piety or his power. But, besides, 'Ragmol' and 'Ragrner' are not Gaelic names that I know of. They look like Norse names." At this Mr. Vigfusson, of Oxford, has kindly suggested "Rognvald," the same as Ranald, Ronald, or Reginald; but this has also been questioned on etymological grounds.

After carefully sifting all the evidence, the Editor, without attempting to step in and explain where so many greater scholars have failed, is much disposed to regard the termination as the proper name of some hero, either Celtic or Scandinavian, who had fallen in battle near the spot. It seems impossible to identify the original form, and we might not be much the wiser if we knew it. Sir Herbert Maxwell has, just before going to press, given a valuable reference from the Annals of the Four Masters, under the year 743.{1} It runs as follows:—

 

i.e. "Arasgach, Abbot of Muicinis-Reagail (or Reguil) was drowned"; Muicinis-Reguil being the Hog island of S. Riaguil or Regulus. This would appear to be very strong evidence in favour of the derivation from Cross-Reguli, or the Cross of S. Regulus; but it must be a question for the etymologist of the future to decide.  

 

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1 Vol. i. p. 1. " Vol. i. p. 3. 3 Vol. i. p. 6. i Vol. i. p. 12. 5 Vol. i. p. 14. ° VoL i. pp. 16-17.

1 Vol. i. p. 103.

 1 Vol. i. p. 344, ed. 1851.

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