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September 10th 1618

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Punishment for libelling the Scots

The Ross’s of Craigie were an important family in the town of Perth; somewhat quarrelsome though probably no more so than many other local families.

In the 16th Century, John Ross and his two brothers with over 100 followers were accused of breaking into the House of Dupplin. Another John Ross was known to be in contact with King Henry 8th of England urging him to seize possession of the infant Mary Queen of Scots. But such an example of treachery was not that uncommon among well known Scottish families.

In the 17th century, the family was twice involved with the authorities. In 1608 Patrick Eviot, brother to the Laird of Balhousie was shot and murdered in his bed by James McNair. Patrick’s wife was a Janet Ross who owned the barony and estates of Craigie. Janet and James McNair were lovers and were in due course arrested and convicted of the murder. Both were executed and their bodies burned in the Playfield of Perth on May 17th 1608.

Robert Ross succeeded to the barony and estates. His nephew Thomas also came into contact with the law. He had graduated at Edinburgh and became for a while minister of Cargill. Later he travelled to England and studied at Oxford.

There he affixed to the main gate of his college a libel on the conduct of Scotsmen in England likening them to the seven lean kine of Egypt and describing them in other less than flattering terms. It is difficult to know what caused him to act in this strange manner. He said at his examination that necessity had driven him to it, “that he might procure some benefit from the King.” 

Not surprisingly the King was unsympathetic, and Thomas Ross was escorted back to Edinburgh. There he was lodged in the Tollbooth and later condemned to be hung. It was decreed that he was to be taken to the Mercat Cross and on the scaffold, first his right hand was to be struck off and affixed to the West Port and afterwards his head to be removed and affixed to the Netherbow. It seemed to be a drastic punishment for libelling the Scots.

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