23rd of July

St Apollinaris, bishop of Ravenna, martyr, 1st century. St Liborius, bishop of Mans, confessor, about 397.


Born. – Godfrey Olearius, the younger, German divine, 1672, Leipsic
Died. – St Bridget of Sweden, 1373; Gilles Menage, grammarian and versifier, 1692, Paris; Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, first husband of the Empress Josephine, guillotined, 1794; Jean Francois Vauvilliers, eminent French scholar, 1800, St Petersburg; Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden, murdered by the populace in Dublin, 1803; Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton, authoress of the Cottagers of Glenburnie, 1816, Harrowgate.



The 23d of July 1637 is the date of an event of a semi-ludicrous character, which may be considered as the opening of the civil war. By a series of adroit measures, James [VI.] contrived to introduce bishops into the Scotch church. His son, Charles I., who was altogether a less dexterous, as well as a more arbitrary ruler, wished to complete the change by bringing in a book of canons and a liturgy. He was backed up by his great councillor Archbishop Laud, whose tendencies were to something like Romanising even the English church. Between them, a service-book, on the basis of the English one, but said to include a few Romish peculiarities besides, was prepared in 1636 for the Scotch church, which was thought to be too much under awe of the royal power to make any resistance. In reality, while certain deference had been paid to the king’s will in religious matters, there was a large amount of discontent in the minds of both clergy and people. The Scotch had all along, from the Reformation, had a strong predilection for evangelical doctrines and a simple and informal style of worship. Bishops ruling in the church-courts they had, with more or less unwillingness, submitted to; but an interference with their ordinary Sunday-worship in the churches was too much for their patience. The king was ill-informed on the subject, or he would never have committed himself to such a dangerous innovation. 

On the day mentioned, being Sunday, the service-book was, by an imperious command from the king, to be read in every parish-church in Scotland. Before the day arrived, the symptoms of popular opposition appeared almost everywhere so ominous, that few of the clergy were prepared to obey the order. In the principal church of Edinburgh, the chancel of the old cathedral of St Giles, which contained the seats of judges, magistrates, and other authorities, the liturgy was formally introduced under the auspices of the bishop, dean, and other clergy. Here, is any where, it might have been expected that the royal will would have been implicitly carried out. And so it would, perhaps, if there had been only a congregation of official dignitaries. But the body of the church was, in reality, filled by a body of the common sort of people, including a large proportion of citizens’ wives and their maid-servants – Christians of vast zeal, and comparatively safe by their sex and their obscurity. There were no pews in those days; each godley dame sat on her own chair or clasp-stool, brought to church on purpose. When the dean, Mr James Hannay, opened the service-book and began to read the prayers, this multitude was struck with horror which defied all control. They raised their voices in discordant clamours and abusive language, denouncing the dean as of the progeny of the devil, and the bishop as a belly-god, calling out that it was rank popery they were bringing in. A strenuous female (Jenny Geddes) threw her stool at the dean’s head, and whole sackfuls of small clasp-Bibles followed. The bishop from the pulpit endeavoured to calm the people, but in vain. A similar ‘ticket of remembrance’ to that aimed at the dean was levelled at him, but fell short of its object. The magistrates from their gallery made efforts to quell the disturbance – all in vain; and they were obliged to clear out the multitude by main force, before the reading of the liturgy could be proceeded with. 


After the formal dismissal of the congregation, the bishop was mobbed on the street, and narrowly escaped with his life. It became apparent to the authorities that they could not safely carry out the royal instructions, and they wrote to court in great anxiety, shewing in what difficulties they were placed. Had the king tacitly withdrawn the service-book, the episcopal arrangements might have held their ground. He pressed on; a formal opposition from the people of Scotland arose, and never rested till the whole policy of the last forty years had been undone. In short, the civil war, which ended in the destruction of the royal government twelve years after, might be said to have begun with the Casting of the Stools in St Giles’s Kirk.


On this Day in Other Sources.


The 23rd of July, this year [1519], a man possessed with the devil, being stark mad, in Dundee, kills a religious noblewoman, of the order of St. Francis, and 2 others, whereof one [was] big with child, and three men. 

– Historical Works, pp.238-275.


The merit of his labours must have been acknowledged, since, after filling the office of Sub-principal for a long period, upon the death of Boece in 1536, he was chosen to succeed his friend as Primarius or Principal of the College.1

– Sketches, pp.254-324.

1  Among the MSS. in the Library of King’s College is a collection from various authors, forming a supplement to the commentary of Marsilius de Inghen on the fourth book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, marked several times with W. Hay’s name as its compiler. At the end is this note:- Absolutum utquumque est hoc opus super sacramentum matrimonii et impedimenta ejusdem, in alma Universitate Aberdonensi collectum, promulgatum et publice lectum in magnis scholis Regalis Collegii Aberdonensis, coram theologorum ibidem conuenientium solenni auditorio, per venerabilem virum magistrum Guilermum Hay prefati collegii pro tempore subprincipalem; ejusdemque impensis et sumptibus in hanc publicam lucem redactum per manum sui proprii scribe, viz., fratris Guilermi Scenan, Carmelite, cujus labore et industtria i nethicis atque plerisque aliisque codicibus per eum collectis usus est prefatus Subprincipalis, A.D. 1535, mensis Julii 23. Regnante Jacobo quinto Scotorum principe invictissimo; venerandoque patre et domino d. Vilelmo Stewart sedem episcopalem Aberdonensem dexterrime moderante.


The corporation of Edinburgh, on the 23d of July [1567], entered into a league with the castle, for mutually maintaining each other, in so godly a cause, as dethroning the Queen, and crowning her son. Encouraged, by all those measures, the secret council, on the same 23d of July, held a conference, on their proceeding with the Queen; and resolved to oblige her, to execute the resignation of the crown, on the subsequent day: And, in case she should refuse, to comply with their resolutions, they determined, to restrain her liberty more strictly, and to deprive her of all her attendants. To all those means of compulsion were added intrigue and delusion, falsehood and perfidy. 

– Life of Mary, pp.155-184.


July 23 [1597]. – ‘Between eight and nine in the morning, there was an earthquake which made all the north parts of Scotland to tremble; Kintail, Ross, Cromarty, Mar, Breadalbane, &c. A man in St Johnston [Perth] laying compts with his compters, the compts lap off the buird; the man’s thighs trembled; one leg went up, and another down.’ – Cal

This earthquake happening at the time when King James ‘interrupted Mr Robert Wallace and undid the ministry of St Andrews,’ James Melville likens it to that which God sent to punish Uzziah, king of Judah, for usurping the priestly office. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.


One thing Charles had long considered as necessary to complete his favourite project in Scotland – the introduction of a liturgy into the ordinary worship. He thought the proper time was now come, because he everywhere saw external obedience. A service-book being accordingly prepared by Laud, on the basis of that commonly used in England, an order of Privy Council was given for its being read in the churches. This was precisely what was necessary to exhaust the popular powers of endurance. It seemed to the multitude as if popery, almost undisguised, were once more about to be introduced. When the dreaded book was opened in St Giles’s Church (July 1637), the congregation rose in violent agitation to protest against it. It was hooted as a mass in disguise, and a stool was thrown at the head of the reader. Similar scenes occurred elsewhere; but the clergy in general had declined to bring the book forward. The state-officers and bishops now found themselves objects of popular hate to such an extent that they could not present themselves in public. The service-book was not merely a failure in itself, but it had produced a kind of rebellion. 


July 23. – The intrusion of a service-book or liturgy upon the Scottish Church has been alluded to in the introduction to the present section. There was an almost universal unwillingness, even among the friends of the reigning system, to give efficacy to the royal orders; for it was seen that the congregations would not calmly see this innovation effected. It was resolved, however, that on Sunday the 23d of July the book should be used in the cathedral church of St Giles, Edinburgh. 

To pursue the narrative of a contemporary – ‘How soon as Dr George Hanna, dean of Edinburgh, who was to officiate that day, had opened the service-book, a number of the meaner sort of people, most of them waiting-maids and women, who use in that town to keep places for the better sort, with clapping of their hands, cursings, and outcries, raised such an uncouth noise and hubbub in the church, that not any one could either hear or be heard. The gentlewomen did fall a tearing and crying that the mass was entered amongst them, and Baal in the church. there was a gentleman standing behind a pew and answering “Amen” to what the dean was reading; a she-zealot, hearing him, starts up in choler: “Traitor,” says she, “does thou say mass at my ear!” and with that struck him on the face with her Bible in great fury. 

‘The bishop of Edinburgh, Mr David Lindsay, stepped into the pulpit, above the dean, intending to appease the tumult, minding them of the place where they were, and entreating them to desist from profaning it. But he met with as little reverence (albeit with more violence) as the dean had found; for they were more enraged, and began to throw at him stools, and their very Bibles, and what arms were in the way of [their] fury. It is reported that he hardly escaped the blow of a stool, which one present diverted. Nor were their tongues idler than their hands. Upon this, John Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrews, then Lord Chancellor, and some others, offering to assist the bishop in quelling the multitude, were made partners of the suffering of all these curses and imprecations which they began to pray to the bishops and their abettors. The archbishop, finding himself unable to prevail with the people, was forced to call down from their gallery the provost and bailies and others of the town-council of Edinburgh, who at length, with much tumult and confusion, thrust the unruly rabble out of the church, and made fast the church doors. 

‘The multitude being removed, the dean falls again to read, in presence of the better sort who stayed behind; but all this while, those who had been turned out of doors kept such a quarter with clamours without, and rapping at the church doors, and pelting the windows with stones, as that the dean might once more be interrupted. This put the bailies once more to the pains to come down from their seat and interpose with the clamorous multitude to make them quiet. In the midst of these clamours, the service was brought to an end; but the people’s fury was not a whit settled; for after the bishop had stepped up into the pulpit and preached and the congregation dismissed, the bishop of Edinburgh retiring to his lodging not far distant from the church, was environed and set upon with a multitude of the meaner people, cursing him and crowding about him, that he was in danger of his life, and to be trodden down amongst the people; and having recovered the stairs of his lodging, he no sooner began to go up, but he was pulled so rudely by the sleeve of his gown that he was like to have fallen backwards. Nor was he in more security, having gotten to the top of the stairs; for the door he did find shut against him, and so was at a stand, likely to have been oppressed, had not the Earl of Wemyss, who from the next lodging saw the bishop in danger, sent his servants for to rescue him, who got him at last, breathless and in much amazement, into his lodging.’ – Gordon’s Hist. of Scots Affairs. 


Tradition in modern times has represented an herb-woman, named Jenny Geddes, as the heroine who more especially cast her stool at the bishop. Wodrow, however, has given us a different account in his Analecta. ‘It is,’ says he, ‘a constantly believed tradition that it was Mrs Mean, wife to John Mean, merchant in Edinburgh, that cast the first stool when the service-book was read in the New Kirk, Edinburgh, 1637; and that many of the lasses that carried on the fray were prentices in disguise, for they threw stools to a great length.’ Mrs Mean had been the subject of a relenting and humane act on the part of the government. When her husband was under restraint for nonconformity in 1624, he was liberated on a petition setting forth the delicate state of his wife’s health, in order that he might be enabled to return to Edinburgh and attend upon her. 

‘After this Sunday’s wark, the haill kirk doors of Edinburgh was lockit, and no more preaching heard [for four or five weeks]. The zealous puritans flockit ilk Sunday to hear devotion in Fife; syne returned to their houses.’ – Spal. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.


4. WILLIAM HUNTER, M.D., of Long Calderwood, Lanarkshire.

Physician and Surgeon. One of the most eminent teachers of anatomy of the last century; author of several celebrated works. Studied in Glasgow University, from 1731 to 1736; settled in London in 1741 as assistant to Dr. James Douglas, whom he shortly afterwards succeeded; and became physician to Queen Charlotte. Was the instructor, in anatomy, of his brother, John Hunter. By his will, of date 23rd July, 1781, he left the ultimate possession of his extensive and valuable museum and library, with a considerable sum of money, to the University of Glasgow. The collection was conveyed to Glasgow in 1807, and now, with many additions, constitutes the Hunterian Museum. 

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

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