NS4967 : St Conval's Chariot and the Argyle Stone

taken 3 years ago, near to Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

St Conval's Chariot and the Argyle Stone
St Conval's Chariot and the Argyle Stone
There are already several images of these stones on this site, and I would not have added my own pictures, had it not been for the fact that they have recently been cleaned; the moss covering has been removed, and it seemed a good opportunity to photograph the stones anew.

The surrounding enclosure itself is shown in context in several earlier pictures: NS4967 : The Argyll Stones / NS4967 : Argyll Stone / NS4967 : St Conval and Argyle Stones. By the time the present picture was taken, there was no longer an information panel beside it; there was just a small marker with a QR Code™ on it.

For the individual stones, photographed on the same occasion as the present picture, see NS4967 : St Conval's Chariot and NS4967 : The Argyll Stone.

The nearer stone has been described as the base of a cross, and the other as being the pediment (the top) of the same cross (see LinkExternal link at Canmore). They are not in their original position. The descriptions given at Canmore imply that St Conval's Chariot is the nearer of the two stones, the one with a hollow on top, and that the other is known as the Argyle Stone. A picture in Robert McClelland's 1905 book "The Parish of Inchinnan" does have them captioned the other way around, and the text of the book likewise makes the Argyle Stone the nearer of the two stones, but this may be a mistake. The wider stone with a hollow on top is generally considered to be the one called St Conval's Chariot, and its shape certainly seem seems more conducive to this role than that of the other stone, even if saints were not thought to be much concerned with comfort.

The first tradition associated with St Conval's chariot is that the stone floated across from Ireland to Renfrew, bringing the saint, who was seated upon it; other traditions became associated with the hollow on the top (see NS4967 : St Conval and Argyle Stones). The other stone is said to have been the one on which the 9th Earl of Argyll was resting when he was captured (he was later executed for his leading role in a campaign that is often called Argyll's Rising).

I quote the following passages at length for interest, without endorsing them as factual. If nothing else, they help to clarify the sources of the various traditions. The passages are not independent; the writers of the later works rely heavily on the earlier ones.

The first passage is from George Robertson's continuation (1818) of George Crawfurd's (1710) "General Description of the Shire of Renfrew"; the context is a discussion of the Kirkland area:

"On these lands, near to the bridge of Inchinnan, there is a grey stone, still fondly visited by those who admire the ill-fated Argyle, who perished on the scaffold in the reign of James II. There are some reddish veins to be observed in it, which the superstitious conceive to be impressed with that colour in commemoration of his fate. He was taken at this spot when endeavouring to escape by a ford, where the bridge is now built."

The second passage is from the New Statistical Account (1845), in its description of Inchinnan Parish (note that "Saint Conallie's stone" is there identified, correctly or not, with the Argyll Stone, and not, as might be expected from its name, with St Conval's Chariot):

"It may be worthy of remark that in former times a stone called Saint Conallie's Stone stood near to the ancient ford of Inchinnan, on the Renfrew side of the river. The said stone, as appears from the records of the Burgh of Paisley, was the starting point of a horse race for a silver bell, instituted by the bailies and council in the year 1620. According to the late Mr Motherwell (see his notes to Renfrewshire Characters, and Scenery, a Poem, Part I.) the above stone, now called Argyle's Stone, as marking the spot where the Marquis of Argyle was taken, was the pediment of a cross erected to the memory of Saint Convallus, near to the site of his cell, and which cross might at once serve to indicate the ford, and remind the traveller to invoke the saint's protection, or to thank him for his preservation. As to Saint Convallus himself, according to the Scottish breviaries, he was the first Archdeacon of Glasgow, and his festival was celebrated on the 18th of May. The historians record that he made a famous oration at the funeral of King Aidanus, and that his monument at Inchinnan was for ages a place of resort to the pious. Fordun writes, 'Unus vero discipulorum ejus (Kentigerni) praecipuus erat Sanctus Convallus, miraculis et virtutibus praeclarus, cujus itaque ossa sepulta quiescunt apud Inchenane, quinque milliaribus a Glasgw' — Scotichron, Tom i. p.134. Boethius says 'Et Convallus divi Kentigerni discupulus, eujus reliquae celebri monumento in Inchennen haud procul a Glasguensi civitate a Christiano populo hactenus in magna habentur veneratione' — Scotorum Hist. Lib. ix."

Notes: Boethius, or Hector Boece, lived from 1465 to 1536. John of Fordun lived earlier, dying c.1384.

The third passage is from the "Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland" (Vol IV, 1884) in its entry for Inchinnan (parish); it gives the gist of the remarks by Fordun and Boethius that were quoted (in their original Latin) above:

"Saint Conval or Connal or Convallus ... taught Christianity here early in the 7th century. According to Fordun, who says he was the chief disciple of Saint Mungo, and was famous for his virtues and miracles, his bones were buried at Inchenane; and Bede says his remains in a stately monument at Inchennan were held in great veneration in his day. According to the Aberdeen Breviary, Conval sailed miraculously from Ireland to the Clyde on a stone which remained on the bank of the Cart, and was known as Currus Sancti Convalli, and wrought miraculous cures on man and beast. A stone called St Connalie's Stone stood near the ancient ford on the Renfrew side of the river, and is mentioned in the records of the burgh of Paisley in 1620. Mr Motherwell (in notes to Renfrewshire Characters and Scenes) identifies it with the Argyll stone (see Renfrew), and thinks it was the pediment of a cross dedicated to St Connal near his cell, and also marking the ford."

Notes: (1) "Currus Sancti Convalli" means "St Conval's Chariot". (2) "Mungo": another name for Kentigern. (3) "and Bede says": this is a mistake; the writer is in fact translating the Latin of Boethius, quoted in the second passage, but has confused his name with that of Bede, who lived eight centuries earlier.

The fourth and final passage is from the same Gazetteer's (Vol VI, 1885) entry for Renfrew (specifically, the parish, not the town):

"At the side of the road from Renfrew to Inchinnan, near the bridge across the White and Black Carts, and within the policies of Blythswood House, is a large block of sandstone known as the Argyll Stone, and marking the spot where the Earl of Argyll was wounded and captured after the failure of his ill-conducted enterprise in 1685. After the dispersion of his forces in Dumbartonshire he crossed the river Clyde, and was attempting to make his escape in disguise when he was stopped by a party of militia who were guarding the ford where the bridge now stands. Some reddish veins in the stone, long pointed out as the stains made by his blood as he leant wounded against the rock, are no longer visible."
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NS4967, 155 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 7 July, 2018   (more nearby)
Monday, 1 October, 2018
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OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4947 6782 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:52.7964N 4:24.4737W
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