Geddes, Janet

Geddes, Janet "known in Scottish ecclesiastical history as 'Jenny Geddes,' has had her name transmitted as the person who took a prominent part in resisting the introduction of the Liturgy or Service-book into the Church of Scotland in 1637. The circumstances were these. Sunday, 23d July, 1637, was the day fixed for this innovation, so obnoxious to the Scottish Presbyterians, and an immense crowd filled the High Church of St. Giles's, Edinburgh, on the occasion. On the dean of Edinburgh beginning to read, his voice was lost in a tumultuous shout, and an old woman, said to have been one Jenny Geddes, who kept a green-stall in the High Street, bawling out, 'Villain! dost thou say mass at my lug' (that is, ear), launched her stool at the dean's head. Universal confusion ensued, and the dean, throwing off his surplice, fled, to save his life. The bishop of Edinburgh, on attempting to appease the storm, was assailed by a volley of sticks, stones, and other missiles, accompanied by cries and threats that effectually silenced him. This tumult proved the death-blow of the liturgy in Scotland. It has been doubted, however, if there ever was such a person as Jenny Geddes. In 1756, a citizen of Edinburgh, of the name of Robert Mein (who died in 1776) known for his exertions for the improvement of his native city, published a tract called The Cross Removed, Prelacy and Patronage Disproved, etc., in which he claims the exploit of Jenny G. for his great-grandmother, 'the worthy Barbara Hamilton, spouse to John Mein, merchant and postmaster in Edinburgh, who, in the year 1637, spoke openly in the church at Edinburgh against archbishop Laud's new Service-book, at its first reading there, which stopped their proceedings, and dismissed their meeting, so that it never obtained in our Church to this day.' In the obituary notice of Robert Mein, Weekly Magazine, volume 39, and Scots Magazine, volume 36 (1776), this Barbara Hamilton is said to have been descended from the Hamiltons of Bardowie, but was better known in our history by the name of Jenny Geddes, though called so erroneously.' Jenny Geddes's famous stool is said to have been burned by herself in the bonfires at the cross of Edinburgh at the Restoration, and what has been called hers in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries at Edinburgh has no claim to that name beyond gratuitous conjecture. See Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 3, part 2, pages 179, 180."

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