Thursday, 23 December 2010

Jenny's creepie

In my last post I referred to a three-legged stool, which in Scots and Ulster-Scots is called a creepie, and I tried to find a picture of one on the internet. 

While browsing around I came across a reference to a creepie in relation to that notable Scottish woman Jenny Geddes.  She was in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh on 23 August 1637 when James Hannay, the dean of Edinburgh stood up to use of the Book of Common Prayer for the first time.

Jenny was outraged by the introduction of the prayer book and she lifted the creepie on which she was sitting and threw it at the dean's head.  As she threw the stool she shouted, 'Deil colic the wame o’ ye! Oot thou fause thief! Dost thou say the mass at my lug?' (The devil give a colic to your stomach! Out you false thief! Dare you say the mass at my ear?).

This led to general unrest in the city and elsewhere in Scotland and eventually to the signing of the National Covenant in February 1638.  The covenant rejected any attempt to introduce innovations like the Prayer Book that had not first been subject to the scrutiny of Parliament and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

In November of the same year, the bishops and archbishops were formally expelled from the Church of Scotland, which was then established on a fully Presbyterian basis. Charles reacted by launching the Bishops' Wars and this was the start of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

In 1991 the artist Merilyn Smith proposed the creation of a memorial to commemorate Jenny Geddes and after extensive research she came on the ides of creating a bornze cutty stool or creepie.  January 1992 she designed the wooden prototype and in consideration of the leading role taken by women in the Edinburgh riot, a subscription list for Scottish women was opened in February. Forty women responded, the money was raised and the stool was cast in April. The Hughson Gallery negotiated with the Very Rev. Gilleasbuig Macmillan, the minister of St. Giles, on the presentation of the work to the cathedral and the work was unveiled on Sunday 23 August, after the mid-day service.  On that occasion the eminent Scottish poet Iain Crichton Smith read his specially written poem The Stool.

Another great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, was obviously an admirer of the doughty Protestant and he named one of his horse after her.  This was the horse that he rode on his tours of the Borders and the Highlands.

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