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April 9th 1593

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Behaving in church

Immediately after the Reformation, not only was there great difficulty in persuading the commercial population to cease work on Sundays but there were many who, perhaps because of Popish principles or because of a general lack of enthusiasm, spent their Sundays in more secular pursuits. But even within the kirk itself standards of behaviour left a lot to be desired. April 9th 1593. “The Session ordains information to be made publicly, that none depart out of the kirk before the blessing.” 

There were other problems. “The minister and hearers are perturbed by young bairns brought to the kirk that cannot profit, and likewise by barking of dogs.”  The dogs were to be banned and if present to be removed by the beadle. He was also enjoined “to have his red staff in the kirk on the Sabbath days, therewith to waken sleepers, and to remove greeting bairns furth of the kirk.” 

The children from the Grammar School were particularly troublesome. “The scholars, in time of preaching, by their tumults and running through the kirk, and likewise their clattering and fighting, does trouble both the teacher and the hearers.”  It was proposed that a bench should be provided that the bairns might be seated. This did bring about rather better standards of conduct but there were still complaints. One by George Dickson, a merchant “that he was abused by Francis Scott, Billiecauld and certain others their sociates, by casting of their bonnets at him in the kirk.”  This took place on January 1st so perhaps there were some excuses for the boy’s actions.

Standards of behaviour by the adults was not above reproach either. Thomas Taylor, flesher was in trouble “for drinking with Highlandmen in the time of preaching before noon.”  But there was worse to come. In the afternoon “in his drunkenness (he) had misbehaved himself in the house of God by shooting (pushing) his neighbours and casting down their books.”  Truly the Session had much work to do in the early days of the Reformation.

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