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The Roasting of Alan Stewart.

The Earl of Cassillis, Gilbert Kennedy, was also known as the King of
Carrick. By 1570 the Kennedy family had acquired most of the land
around the Dunure and Maybole area, but they didn't own
Crossraguel Abbey which belonged to the Commendator [1] Alan
Stewart. The Earl wanted the Abbey, but Stewart had refused to sell
him what was for all practical purposes his own property.

Crossraguel Abbey, near Maybole.

In the early autumn of 1570, Alan Stewart went down to Ayrshire to

visit the Abbey as the guest of his brother-in-law, the laird of
Bargeny, also a Kennedy, One day late in August 1570, as the
Commendator was walking through the woods near the Abbey he
was taken captive by the Earl and some of his men and taken to
Dunure Castle where he was imprisoned.
Dunure Castle.

After letting Stewart languish for a few days in the dungeons, the
Earl tried to persuade him to sign over Crossraguel Abbey, but
Stewart refused. The Earl then ordered his servants to take the
Commendator to a secret chamber known as the Black Vault.
Dunure Castle vaults.

Stewart was stripped of his clothes save only his sark and doublet,
and was bound above the fire which was then lit. The servants
poured oil over him so that he would roast slowly, but not burn.
When he cried out with pain he was gagged so he would not be

After roasting on the spit for several hours Stewart was cut down
and presented to the Earl. Again he was asked to sign over the
Abbey, but again he refused. The roasting resumed and for a third
time the Earl asked the Commendator to sign the Abbey over to
him. The Commendator, by now obviously in great pain, agreed and
signed the document.

Obviously, the severely burnt Commendator couldn't be released

until his injuries had healed, so later when the Earl left the castle he
ordered his servants to keep the Commendator prisoner. When
Bargeny, a rival of the Kennedys and someone who also had an
interest in acquiring title to the Abbey and its lands, heard of this
affair he sent his servants under the banner of David Kennedy, his
Page, to the Castle under cover of darkness. Being well acquainted
with the castle's defensive weaknesses, they entered the Chapel
which led inside the main body of the castle. In the morning when
the servants opened the main gates, David and his men stormed
the castle and gained control.
When Sir Thomas Kennedy came to hear of this, he and some of
Earl Gilbert's retainers returned to Dunure but were beaten back b y
Bargeny's men. Returning with a larger force they set seige to the
Castle. They attempted to tunnel their way in, while Bargeny's men
dismantled some of the battlements, dropping the masonry on
Kennedy's men below. In the vernacular of the time, "Bot the
Lairdis menne, that was within, keist gritt stanes doune of the
heiche battelling of the dungeoune; and so brak the ruiff of the
chapell." Bargeny, realising that the rescue of the trapped
Commendator wasn't going according to plan, arrived with a far
superior force and defeated Kennedy.

The newly released Commendator told the story of his torture at the
hands of Kennedy, Earl of Cassillis, at Ayr's Market Cross,
denouncing his persecutor to an indignant population.

Earl Gilbert was called before the Privy Council and fined around
£2000. This, of course was an enormous sum of money in 1570.
The document which the Commendator had signed under duress
was annulled. Finally, troubled by a guilty conscience, the Earl paid
the Commendator an annual pension. A couple of years later the
Earl purchased the title to Crossraguel Abbey, thereby obtaining by
payment what he couldn't obtain through torture. Five years later
he was killed when he was thrown from his horse. His torture of the
Commendator gave rise to weird tales spread by the superstitious
local peasants.

The Kennedy family wealth declined in later years and their estates
were sold off to pay debts. The connection is remembered today in
some of Dunure's place names, Kennedy Drive and the Kennedy
Hall. Additionally, the grounds adjacent to the remains of Dunure
Castle are known as the Kennedy Park.

[1] A Commendator was a person appointed to administer Church buildings and draw revenue without
having to perform religious duties.