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Chapter VI: The Priory 1164—1248

They gave their best. O tenfold shame
On us, their fallen progeny,
Who sacrifice the blind and lame,
Who will not wake or fast with Thee.
                            Keble.


THE first Prior of the newly-founded convent was Osbert, one of the thirteen monks who accompanied Humbald from Wenlock. He was succeeded by Roger, and they are the only two rulers of the Monastery whose names have come down to us until it attained the full dignity of an Abbey. [1] In their time the house increased in wealth; lands, churches, mills, and fishings were added to its possessions; and the original gift of the Stewarts was augmented by benefactions from himself and others of like mind, who sought by their donations to obtain for themselves and their families the favour and blessing of the Church. The wife of the founder, Eschina of Molla, in Roxburghshire, followed in the steps of her husband. She had a daughter who was buried in the chapter house of the Priory, the first of many of that noble race who lie within the sacred precincts; and the place had naturally for her the tenderest associations. Even in the dry, legal language of the charter in which her gift is set forth, there is a touch of pathos in the words, in which, after stating that her donation is “for the welfare of my Lord King William, and David his brother, and my own soul, and those of our heirs, and for the soul of King Henry of England, and for the soul of King David, and King Malcolm, and King Henry,” she adds, “and for the soul of Margaret, my daughter, who lies buried in the chapter house at Passlet.” [2] Her gift was a carucate[3] of land, and pasture for fifty sheep. The land is described with great exactness, and the boundaries so clearly set forth that it would probably not be difficult even yet to identify them. “From where the Stelnburn falls into the Blakburne, and by the Blakburne upwards to the two stones lying by the bank of the Blakburne, and opposite the house of Ulfi the steward, on the west part, and so upwards to a ditch, and to two standing stones in that ditch, and from these stones to another ditch filled with stones, and from that ditch to Heselensahe, and from that by the footpath under Heselensahe to the shallow at the waterfall of Alernbarlie, and from thence to the ford of the Stelnburn, and so by the Stelnburn till it descends to the Blakburne.[4] The exactness and clearness with which such charters as these are drawn out is wonderful, and they exhibit an amount of legal skill and use of language which one would hardly have expected to find in those very early times.[5] We find also from an examination of these charters the various sources of the wealth which flowed into the coffers of the newly founded convent. Gifts of churches to the Priory and its monks are frequent during those early years. The churches of Cathcart,[6] Carmunnoc, [7] Inverkip, [8] and Mearns,[9] were bestowed on the Monastery with all their lands and tithes, their dues and privileges.


[1] They are the only two mentioned in any of the Chartularies of the religious houses of Scotland. Reg. de Pas., p. 19.
[2] Reg. de Pas., 174.—The chapter house was probably among the first erections. The only other part of the buildings mentioned at this period is the dormitory
[3] A carucate is the extent of land a pair of oxen could work in a year.
[4] Reg. de Pas., p. 75.
[5] 1165. The influence of the Normans infused through the country by degrees the great feudal usages of the continent, in the structure of which they had taken an eminent part. It was their speciality that down to the minutest transaction, their operations should be articulated, and the articulation should be recorded for future use.—Burton's History of Scotland, Vol. I. p. 283.
[6] Reg. de Pas., p. 5.
[7] Ibid, p. 105. Cormunoc was given by Henry, the son of Anselm, who left his body and that of his wife, with the third part of their substance, to the Abbey.
[8] Ibid, p. 112, by Baldwin, Count of Lanark.
[9] Ibid, p. 98.