Home Customs The Crosh Vushta (Mustering Cross)

The Crosh Vushta (Mustering Cross)

by Bernadette Weyde

The Crosh Vushta or mustering cross was the means by which the country was raised to defend it and stern were the rules that governed its use. The assembling token was in the form of a wooden cross, and is referred to both in the old laws of Norway and in the Icelandic laws in the time of the Norse Kings of Man. It was made from two chosen pieces of the keirn (rowan) about half a cubit in length, mortised together and fastened by a dowel. There was a handle for easy carrying. In the Sagas it is called the War Arrow. It was used, too, for calling freemen to meetings of the ‘Thing‘ or parliament. The Heimskringler tells us that:


“Each householder had to pass it on to his neighbours. If the house was shut up, it was stuck in the door. If the door was un-locked, but no one in the house, it was stuck in the house-father’s great chair in the fireside.”


In 1497 the warden in charge of the night watch at Douglas declared that Patrick McKerron had not kept his Watch according to the custom of the country but had kept the cross in his house for nine days. He would be at the mercy of the King, for his ‘lyfe and lymbe.’

Thomas Moore of the Milnes in Kirk Malew, for neglecting the Watch and keeping the Watch Cross two days, was in 1611 ordered to be fined severely.

From various fines which are recorded in the Exchequer Books at different periods, we learn that Watch and Ward was enforced as late as 1815.

Dr. Clague in his Manx Reminiscences says that the Manx ‘Crosh Losht‘, or what was called the ‘Fiery cross in Scotland, was about two feet in length, and the end was burnt.’ On the Isle of Man, each quarterland owner in every parish had to carry it to the house of his next neighbour, and so on until the parish freemen had all been notified.

(source: Island Heritage by William Cubbon (1952))

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