A nod to Gavin Dunbar

cursing stone carlisle geograph-916217-by-Emily-Frankish

With all the recent chatter around Archbishops and Pontiffs, and, in that case,  what is to be done about tradition when tradition does not fit comfortably with the extant facts, such as they are  – for, yes, there will be two Pontiffs in existence at the same time. Methinks the powers that be may have to invent a new office.

At any rate, my thoughts turned to that Master of Cursing, Gavin Dunbar, once the Archbishop of Glasgow. Has anyone, in the history of Inglis, or indeed English, ever come up with such an all-encompassing curse as he brought down upon the (most probably uncaring) heads of the Border Reivers in  1524?

The Monition of Cursing runs to over 1000 words of furious and fearsome invective. Needless to say, there was not one part of the reivers which was not considered cursed and excommunicate.

Did it stop them? Of course not, but it was perhaps worth an attempt. And now, for over a decade, the Monition has been carved into stone, inspiration for a piece of art rather than an ecclesiastical warning shot across the depredations of some wanton reiver driving home someone else’s kye.

It is strange to consider how things perambulate across the ages.

This muckle stane can be found in Carlisle, and it stands, surrounded by the names of such families that drove the Archbishop to his cursing in the first place.

If you feel so inclined, and are suitably steeled, here is the merest example of what the Archbishop unleashed upon the Reivers:


I curse their heid and all the haris of thair heid; I curse thair face, thair ene, thair mouth, thair neise, thair tongue, thair teeth, thair crag, thair shoulderis, thair breist, thair hert, thair stomok, thair bak, thair wame, thair armes, thais leggis, thair handis, thair feit, and everilk part of thair body, frae the top of their heid to the soill of thair feet, befoir and behind, within and without.

I curse thaim gangand, and I curse them rydland; I curse thaim standand, and I curse thaim sittand; I curse thaim etand, I curse thaim drinkand; I curse thaim walkand, I curse thaim sleepand; I curse thaim risand, I curse thaim lyand; I curse thaim at hame, I curse thaim fra hame; I curse thaim within the house, I curse thaim without the house; I curse thair wiffis, thair barnis, and thair servandis participand with thaim in their deides. I way thair cornys, thair catales, thair woll, thair scheip, thjair horse, thair swyne, thair geise, thair hennes, and all thair quyk gude. I wary their hallis, thair chalmeris, thair kechingis, thair stanillis, thair barnys, thair biris, thair bernyardis, thair cailyardis thair plewis, thair harrowis, and the gudis and housis that is necessair for their sustentatioun and weilfair.



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