As part of its millennium celebrations, Carlisle opened a millennium gallery. One of the exhibits illustrates the history of this border city and the region around it -- including a stone inscribed with Archbishop Gavin Dunbar's curse.
Initial objections to the exhibit only grew throughout the year when the region became one of those most severely affected by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. At one point it was raging so fiercely that the local Anglican bishop, the Right Rev. Graham Dow, was unable to leave his residence.
Writing in his parish magazine, a local vicar, the Rev. Kevin Davies, noted that the curse had been successful in its initial context--they no longer suffered raids across the border. But, he went on, "to re-invoke this curse at this time was unnecessary, inappropriate, and shows astonishing complacency regarding the reality of power in the spiritual realm.
"The land retains what is spoken against it, and the violence acted upon it," Davies said. Describing the inscribed stone as "a lethal weapon," he said that it and the curse it brought needed to be broken, "both literally and spiritually," for all time.
While Dow does not share the view that the stone has contributed to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, he would still like the new archbishop to lift the curse. "I understand that it is a piece of history and it is reasonable for it to be known about, but words have power, and inasmuch as the curse wishes evil on people it should be revoked," he said.
In the original curse, Dunbar condemned the cattle thieves "perpetually to the deep pit of hell, to remain with Lucifer and all their followers, and their bodies to the gallows of the Burrow Moor, first to be hanged, then to be torn and savaged by dogs, swine and other beasts, abominable to all the world."
In Glasgow they seem a little more skeptical. "I have heard of many imaginative reasons for the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, but this one takes the biscuit," said a spokesman for the archdiocese. "I am sure that when a new archbishop is appointed he will consider the request (for the curse to be lifted), though I can't imagine it will be among his first priorities."