The Silver Ship

In 1434, in order to the accompany the ten year old Princes Margaret of Scotland to her marriage to the French Dauphin Louis, aged twelve, King Charles of France chose as his ambassadors Sir Regnault Girard and the Scotsman Hugh Kennedy, Squire of the Stables of the King of France. In his Journal, now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, Girard recalled his protests at sailing in winter from La Rochelle to Dumbarton, round the cliffs of England’s Land’s End and though the Irish Sea. During the dangerous journey, Girard promised that if he survived he would give thanks to Saint Ninian at his shrine in Whithon. After the ship landed safely at Loch Ryan they journeyed to Corsewell Castle.
“The day of the said month of January after which [we] had taken land, the said Kennedy conducted us to the house of a gentlewoman, his kinswoman, the said named Cambel Hall, who for the honour of the king made us a very hearty welcome as formerly the son of the said gentlewoman had served the king as his bodyguard.’
A few days later the ambassador fulfilled the vow made during their stormy voyage with a pilgrimage to Whithorn and later marked his thanks to the saint with the gift of a silver ship. The ship would have been displayed among the treasures and reliquaries in the priory to countless Whithorn pilgrims. After the Reformation we know that one important reliquary, said to be a bone from St Ninians arm that had been encased in silver by James IV, was smuggled to France for safekeeping. It disappeared at the time of the French Revolution. It would be ironic if the silver ship was also taken to France, returning to the country of the ambassador.
When the Whithorn Story exhibition was designed a very fine replica in silver of a ship of the period was created by the craftsman Archie Sinclair and in on show today.

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