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How did an Earl steal an abbey?

February 8th
Dear Dabneyites,
History is always fascinating and Scottish history is filled with forgotten stories like the tale of Glenluce Abbey and how one Earl's greed led to murder most foul.
Glenluce Abbey
Gilbert Kennedy was Earl of Cassilis, “a werry greidy manne and cairitt nocht how he gatt land sa that he culd cum be the samin.” The Earl decided he wanted Glenluce Abbey and its income for himself. He tried to persuade the abbot to hand it over but the abbot refused, then promptly died. Undeterred, he persuaded one of the monks to forge the abbot's handwriting and draw up a deed, adding faked signatures of all the monks of the abbey.

The plan worked. Paranoid that he might be found out, the Earl paid a peasant "to stik him." With the monk dead, the Earl's paranoia grew. Fearing the peasant might tell all, he arranged for his uncle to accuse the peasant of theft so he could be hanged. With that achieved, "And sa the landis of Glenluse wes conqueist."

The success of this undertaking led the Earl to try and obtain Crossraguel Abbey by similar means.

Crossraguel Abbey
The Earl expected to gain control of Crossraguel abbey after his uncle, the abbot, died. Instead, it was given to Allan Stewart, a rival of the family. The Earl caught Stewart in Crossraguel woods while he was a guest of his brother, the Laird of Bargany. Stewart was tricked into traveling to Dunure and held captive there. 

After two days, Stewart still refused to sign over the abbey. The Earl was more than a little cross. He had Stewart dragged into the vault and tortured him twice, roasting and basting his feet and body over a brazier, aided by his cook, baker and pantrymen. Stewart finally agreed to sign to end the torture.

While this was taking place, Stewart's brother, Laird of Bargany, sent a small force to sneak into the castle and rescue Stewart. The plan went wrong and his men became trapped in the keep.

The Earl had to besiege his own castle while the Laird's men began dismantling the battlements and dropping them onto the Earl's men. Like a knight in shining armor, the Laird suddenly appeared with a large army ensuring the freedom of the commendator and his men.

Dunure Castle
The Earl got his abbey but had to pay Stewart sufficient funds to 'live comfortably, for the rest of his life. The torture meant Stewart never walked again and a bitter feud endured for generations between the Kennedies and the Stewarts.

The Earl himself died a decade later after falling from his horse, leaving a story long forgotten, just one more in the history of Scotland.

With love,

Blanche Dabney


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