The Ruthwell Cross, with its Christian images, intertwined little animals, many fancy spirals and patterns, is very important for the history of Scots-speaking Scotland. Sited in the church of the same name, in Dumfriesshire, the cross was erected by skilful artists and masons in the 8th century AD, making it now 1,400 years old. There are images selected from the life of Christ to the back and fore, along with Latin text, but going down the sides there is a poem carved in runes in the Anglo-Saxon language. Called the ‘Dream of the Rood’ (rood being the old word for cross) – this is now the oldest text in Anglo-Saxon that we know belongs to Scotland. It is from this very same Anglo-Saxon tongue that the Scots spoken today –in modern Scotland – originated.
On the menu to the left you will find the text of the original poem read in Anglo-Saxon by J Derrick McClure who was for many years a senior lecturer in the University of Aberdeen and is a well-known advocate for the Scots language. The Ruthwell version is in northern Anglo-Saxon but because that text is fragmented Derrick reads the southern Anglo-Saxon version which has survived in full. This is accompanied by images of the cross and selections of Anglo-Saxon text. You can also hear Derrick read a modern Scots version of the poem by the late Tom Scott.