'Charters of Crossraguel Abbey'







§ 3. The Abbey under the first Stewarts. 1370-1460.

The Charters of this period relate chiefly to the domestic history of the monastery. The Abbots of Paisley had never relaxed one iota from their control over Crosraguel as laid down in the old decree of Bishop William, and we have in 1370 an interesting episode arising from the connection.{4} The then Abbot of Paisley paid frequent visits to his dependent house, and to his sorrow, we are told, found many "faults and defects" among the community. These appear to have arisen from the inability of their aged Abbot, Roger of Dunfermline, to regulate their conduct. The notarial instrument prosaically narrates how the Superior of Paisley summoned the Crosraguel fraternity to appear before him on a certain Wednesday; how the monks appeared in their own monastery with their venerable Abbot; how that worthy old man, after the reading of the citatorial letter, resigned into the hands of the Abbot of Paisley the whole dignity of the Abbot of Crosraguel; and being pressed for his reason, he replied that, "owing to age and weakness he was unable to rule the flock committed to him by God as behoved the office of a good shepherd; and that he desired rather to be entirely stripped of the honour of the prelacy, than under the name of a pastor to allow his flock to be devastated by the ravening wolf." The whole story is a pathetic one, and reminds one strangely of the tale of Abbot Boniface in The Monastery. On the l-esignation of Abbot Roger, who returned to his former home at Dunfermline, Nicolas, one of the monks, and possibly the prototype of the Father Eustace of Walter Scott, was elected in his place.{1}


Nicolas was undeniably an able and energetic man. During the visit of Robert the Second to Carrick in 1374 the Abbot prevailed upon the King to ratify, at the parish church of Kirkoswald, the three Crown Charters of Robert the First.{1} In the lawless districts of Carrick these charters of confirmation must have been literally worth their weight in gold to the monks. It is not clear how long Abbot Nicolas ruled at Crosraguel. He witnesses several charters of the period, notably a most interesting deed by John Kennedy of Dunure to the Chapel of S. Mary of Maybole{2} —remarkable for the fines to be levied upon the presbyters for non-attendance at mass—and another charter (not in this collection) by Roland Kennedy of Blairquhan in 1390.{3}


We might almost hope that Nicolas lived to see the great Crosraguel Charter of 1404, signed by Robert the Third.{4} This was the climax of all preceding grants, the Charter in liberam regalitatem seu regaliam, the confirmation of all the Abbey lands and other property to be for ever in a free regality. Among them we find the churches of Kirkoswald, Straiton, Dailly, Girvan, and Kirkcudbright or Ballantrae; the chapels of Kirkdamdie and Chapel Donnan; the various lands granted by previous benefactors, and the island of Ailsa Craig. The Abbot of Crosraguel was created absolute sovereign over his whole territory. The grant of regality gave to him all that the Crown had to give, even to the quatuor puncta coronce, —the jurisdiction in cases of murder, fire-raising, rape, and robbery. Not even the mother house of Paisley enjoyed this last privilege; and the conferring of so high an honour upon Crosraguel was a living proof of the interest which the royal descendants of the old Earls of Carrick took in the welfare of the Abbey.


In the year 1405 the Abbey of Cluny sent a deputation to visit all the houses of the Order in England and Scotland. The deputation appears to have visited Crosraguel, and to have mentioned in its report,{1} preserved in the National Archives at Paris, that ten was the regular number of the inmates of the monastery.

We cannot doubt that the monks enjoyed peace and prosperity during the brilliant reign of James the First. The Abbot at this period was a man in high favour at Court, for we find him despatched as Special Ambassador to Ireland in 1429, to bring back from the Prince of Connaught the head of the rebel Donald Balloch.{2} And we have the Conventual seals appended at Crosraguel to a remarkable charter which was drawn up there in 1415.{3} These are glimpses, in an obscure period of history, of the high position which the Abbey continued to occupy.





1 Vol. i. p. 17. 2 Vol. i. pp. 18-20. 3 Vol. i. p. 21. 4 Vol. i. pp. 22-5. VOL. I. /

1 Vol. i. p. 2G.


1 Vol. i. pp. 28-30. 2 Vol. i. pp. 33-6. 3 Univ. Library MSS. (Dr. Laing's collection). 4 Vol. i. pp. 37-40.





Notice: Undefined index: manage in C:\xampp\htdocs\ntsayrshire\ChartersCrossraguel\HistStewarts.html on line 211