Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Way Home

Door to door, the AA route finder tells us, it takes about two hours from Kirkcudbright to our base in Maryport, Cumbria. But of course meandering around the coast took us much longer.  On the way we met some interesting characters.

First stop was the ruin of Dundrennan Abbey, where Mary, Queen of Scots is thought to have spent her last night on Scottish soil.   This has all the standard features of a Cistercian abbey, established in 1142.  What made our visit special was the custodian, a man who really loves his job. 

These two memorial stones would have been interesting to us, but we would not have noticed details such as the dagger in the abbot's chest here.

 Beneath his feet is an enemy, his guts spilling out.  We were advised to note that even he has a chance of redemption - he is clinging on to the abbot's foot.

After a stop at Rockwell, which boasts a sheltered beach, we drove on to Ruthwell.  And here we were astonished.  We knew that there was an Anglo-Saxon cross here, but we had no idea how impressive this would turn out to be.  Dating from the early eighth century, this cross has been reassembled from broken fragments in the churchyard.

It stands nine foot high, so high that a pit has been excavated in the church in order to accommodate it.

This is very fine work, quite unlike the Northumbrian crosses of Whithorn.  In the nineteenth century someone deciphered the runic inscription around the figures.  It is an extract from "The Dream of the Rood"  - "Rood" meaning "cross", a text which was on my university English course.

Down the sides are these vine scrolls with birds and beasts, the carving particularly crisp.  Perhaps those years protected from the weather also reduced the weathering of the carving.

So then, we expected the Savings Bank Museum to be an anti-climax - the name itself is underwhelming.  However, here we found a genuine enthusiast who explained the role played by the Reverend Henry Duncan in restoring the Ruthwell Cross, as well as in encouraging his parishioners to put aside small sums each week.  This cash was placed in a three lock box and taken to Dumfries, to be invested in an actual bank, by the trustrees, each of whom held a key.  Hence the Trustee Savings Bank, which is what this small scheme evolved into.  Duncan was a polymath, interesting hinself in dinosaur footprints unearthed in the local quarry, setting up a newspaper, bringing in corn to aid the poor and generally acting for the public good.  What would he have made of the recent goings-on in banking, I wonder?


1 comment:

LizM said...

I'm a bit behind the times ( I blame an influx of visitors), but once again, there are more places to add to my list of things-to-see - and this time some food for knitting thoughts as well. Very taken with the Celtic knot stranded patterns. Liz