Crossraguel Abbey from the South.

Introduction and Prefatory Note


The Name

The Founding of the Abbey

The Building of the Abbey

A Peep within the Walls

Incidents in its History

The Abbot's Debate with John Knox

The Roasting of the Commendator

Present Condition



The Name

" The sacred tapers' lights are gone;
Grey moss has clad the altar stone;
The holy image is o'erthrown;
     The bell has ceased to toll ;—

The long-ribbed aisles are burst and sunk;
The holy shrines to ruin shrunk ;
Departed is the pious monk,—
     God's blessing on his soul!"


The first thing to be noticed regarding our Abbey is its name. We call it Crossraguel, but the spelling is modern;: it is never so spelled in ancient books.

The oldest form of the word is Crosragmol — whatever that may mean. This is evidently the original form of the name, although how it came to be changed into Crossraguel is not very clear.

When we come down to the Reformation times, we find it spelled Cros-raguell. This is the way Abbot Quintin Kennedy spelled it, who debated with John Knox; and it is evidently from Abbot Quintin's spelling that we have got ours, for we have merely added an s, and cut off an 1, and then Cros-raguell is changed into Crossraguel.

The meaning of Crossraguel again is quite as misty as the spelling of it. Some say it means cross regal or the royal cross, but that is merely guess-work. In the first place, if raguel means regal, how did the letter u get into it ? And then, in the second place, how does that explain Crosragmol, which was apparently the oldest form of the word ? Besides, I have never heard elsewhere of a royal cross. Crosses are not usually counted royal things at all; and I am beginning now to think that Crosragmol was the original name of the site on which the Abbey stands, and that it gave its name to the religious house itself. In that case we are thrown for a meaning back upon the uncertainties of the Celtic language, which gave names to nearly all the localities-around.*

* Professor M'Kinnon, of Edinburgh, in reply to a query I addressed to him thinks that Crosragmol marks the site of a cross erected in memory of some local hero of former days, whose name has otherwise perished. In this way, the name resem¬bles Grossmichael in Kirkcudbright, or MacLear's Cross in lona. A second corres¬pondent suggests that it may be Crossregulus, from the well-known St. Rule.

Of course we have still to explain how Crosragmol became Crossraguel, but we must not lay too much stress on the spelling of a name, for one of the puzzling things about old books is the variety of ways in which they spell names of places. Girvan, for instance, was spelled in at least three different ways—Girwand, Garvane, Invergarvane; Maybole has at least as many—Maibothel, Minnibole, Mayboill. Not long ago Ayr was spelled, Air; before that, Aire ; while both come from the Gaelic Ar, which means clear. In old documents Dailly is spelled Daylie, and Ailsa, Ailysay; while in Dr. Lees's book on Paisley Abbey, there are given not fewer than eleven ways of spelling Paisley—Paslet, Passeleth, Passelay, Passelet, Paslowe, Passleke, Pateslo, Pasle, Paslewe, Paslay, Paisley.

Most people have heard of the man who defended his bad spelling, by saying that anybody could spell a word always in the same way, but it required a man of genius to vary his spelling, and strike out something original. Perhaps old writers held a notion of the same kind. At any rate we may learn from this custom the uncertainty which must ever attend researches into etymology, seeing that the spelling varies so much. Whether we should spell the name of our Abbey Crosragmol, Crosraguell, or Crossraguel, does not matter very much.* They all mean the same thing, I suppose; and we have Shakespere's authority for thinking that—

A rose by any other name

Would smell as sweet.

* I have jotted down the following spellings of our Abbey from old books :— Crosragmol, Crosragmer, Corsragall, Corsragwell, Crosraguell, Croceraguall, Corsreguall, Crossraguel.

Turnberry Castle, a representation of which is on the .adjoining page, is the oldest building in this district; and as the probable birth-place of our great king, Robert the Bruce, must ever have an interest for all Scotchmen. Little more than the foundations of the walls are now remaining, although at one time we know there was a village and a church in the neighbourhood. It fell into ruin shortly after the Bruce family left this locality to rule the kingdom. A lighthouse has recently been erected on part of its site.




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