Maybe it is because I am getting closer to being an historic figure myself that I have become very interested in my ancestral background. In September, I traveled to Scotland, a trip that was, in part, inspired by the option of exploring parts of the country where my forefathers once lived and roamed.
My trip started in Edinburg where my first stop, after an overnight flight from Toronto, was at St Giles Cathedral.
I revisited the place where Jenny Geddes (not my niece, the other one) threw a stool (a wooden one, not the other kind) at the Pastor who was attempting to read from the Common Book of Prayer that was being introduced (forcefully) on the Scottish Church by Charles I at St Giles in July, 1637.
Legend (Or “constant oral tradition” as the plaque says) affirms that Jenny Geddes, a local market woman, picked up a wooden three-legged stool and threw it at the vicar, yelling something like ““Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear? This started a riot, causing the minister to have to flee for his safety and this event is reported to have been the beginning of events that led to expulsion of the Anglican bishops and archbishops, establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and further conflict in the Bishop’s Wars and Wars of Three Kingdoms (England, Ireland and Scotland) from 1639-1651.
Friendly guide, Kevin at St Giles.
I talked at length with two of the guides in St Giles. Maybe Jenny Geddes never really existed. Maybe she did and was a set-up. Maybe she was a man in woman’s clothing ready to start a riot. Maybe she really was Janet Geddes. Regardless, this July day in St Giles was historic for both the church and the country and today there is a small (modern) monument in the church where the event was said to take place and a brass plaque marking the occasion. Much of the church is still the original 1400’s pillars and bricks. Kevin pointed out a lot of the architectural details to me and was very friendly and informative.
I have no indication that this Jenny Geddes was any relation to me although she likely came from the Geddes clan that originated in the North of Scotland. I can trace my own tree back to a Charles Geddes who was born in 1520 and lived in Edinburgh. My ninth great grandfather, George Geddes was born on May 17, 1603 in Leith, a “suburb” of old Edinburgh, not far from Holyrood Castle and lived in Edinburgh when the infamous Jenny G. caused the commotion.
So this is a story that links me to Scottish Geddes history (loosely) and whether it is true or not, it is fun to hear it told. Patrick Geddes was also an interesting and well-respected biologist, philanthropist and town planner from the late 19th century who is commemorated in several plaques and small streets throughout Edinburgh. (also no relation except for the shared original Geddes lineage). The Geddes coat of arms has three fish on it and the name may be derived from the word “gedd” which means pike. Or, my friend Judith Adam might be pleased to know that it could actually be a derivative of MacAdam (the letter G sometimes representing Mac in Gaelic and “eddie” being a substitute for Adam)
So I have started my exploration with some name dropping (I could have also mentioned actress Barbara Bel Geddes or Australian photographer, Anne Geddes ). This is all the Geddes name exploring I did on this trip but I will be back for sure to dig deeper into that history. In the meantime I did a lot of travel around the Borders and will document that in subsequent posts about the Riddell’s and the Turnbull’s and the Crinklaw’s.
Here is a little video of my time wandering about St Giles Cathedral.