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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CROISHTARICH, Crosh-tairie, Cros(s)tar(r)ie, n. The cross of wood used as a signal for the gathering of the clans. Hist. and Gael. Cf. Fiery Cross.Sc. 1771 T. Pennant Tour in Scot. 1769 165:
A person is sent out full speed with a pole burnt at one end and bloody at the other, and with a cross at the top, which is called Crosh-tairie, the cross of shame, or the fiery cross; the first from the disgrace they would undergo if they declined appearing; the second from the penalty of having fire and sword carried thro' their country, in case of refusal.
Sc. 1886 R. L. Stevenson Kidnapped xxi.:
This cross is something in the nature of the crosstarrie, or fiery cross, which is the signal of gathering in our clans.
Sc. 1947 Glasgow Herald (28 Aug.):
If they had not been in such a hurry to send fiery crosses round the world to announce an exhibition . . . , these crostaries might have been better employed as a substitute for the flood-lighting on the Castle.
Abd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 352:
The moment the alarm was given that danger was apprehended, a stake of wood, the one end dipped in blood, (the blood of any animal,) and the other burnt, as an emblem of fire and sword, was put into the hands of the person nearest to where the alarm was given, who immediately ran with all speed, and gave it to his nearest neighbour, whether man or woman; that person ran to the next village or cottage (for measures had previously been so concerted, that everyone knew his route), and so on, till they went through the whole country; upon which every man instantly laid hold of his arms, etc., and repaired to Carn-na-cuimhne, where they met their leaders also in arms, and ready to give any necessary orders. The stake of wood was named Croishtarich.
Per. 1746 Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Families III. 1901: 
I received yours with the Crosstarie and have sent it to my nixt nightbours, according to the usull way. . . . A general "Crosstarie" order for raising all the able bodied men in Glenalmond.

[Gael. croistar(r)a, croistàra, croistàraidh, the fiery cross, from crois, a cross, the second element being uncertain. The practice of sending round the Fiery Cross is evidently not derived from early Celtic usage in Ireland or Scotland. There are, however, parallels in the Norse custom of summoning to battle by sending round a war-axe or arrow or, in Christian times, of calling to the Thing by circulating a wooden cross. Connections with Ir. tair, to come, or with Gael. tàir, contempt, disgrace, are improbable.]

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"Croishtarich n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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