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April 24th 1668

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Fornication, drinking....

Church records provide a revealing picture of life in different parts of Perthshire; both of the power of the church and the constant backsliding of the common people. Sexual indiscretions were widespread or at least received widespread attention.

“Duncan Neish did evidence his repentance publictlie in sackcloth and was received.”  John B appeared twenty four times before the Session in public repentance for adultery. The minister “exhorted him to sorrow and griefe of heart for the same and continued him to give further evidence of ye truth of his repentance.”  Under the circumstances it seems to have been but a pious hope.

There were other sins against which the people were warned. “Not only scandals of unchastity, but drunkenness, swearing, cursing, filthy speaking so usual among the common sort in their house or field labour, mocking of religion and all other offences.”  But particularly prevalent was drinking on the Sabbath. 24th April 1668. “For preventing of tippling and drinking in all houses upon the Lord’s Day, it is ordained that the bell of the paroch church be runge about half ane houre after afternoons sermone and if that they sal be found in ail houses after the said bell, then those persons are to be censured by the minister and session; lykwise hyreing of servants on the Lord’s Day to be curbed.”  (Comrie) May 1682 “David Neving called compeired and was convinced of his sin of scandalous and excessive drinking on the Sabbath.”  May 1653. “This day the elders were exhorted to go among their quarters to urge familie worship and see if there be swearers, drunkards and Sabbath breakers.”  (Kenmore)

It seems strange that when sabbatarianism was so strictly enforced there were still so many willing to buck the system. August 1652. “The said day the Act anent the breaking of the Sabbath was announced because of persons who went to the woods to gather nuts.”  (Kenmore). July 1660. “The Session taking to their consideration the great abuse of the Sabbath by many, especially in time of divine service that many lie about without the church and will not come to hear sermon, and take notice of the transgressors of that nature that they may be accordingly punished.”  ( Killin). “this day the minister gave in a grievance anent the greater part of the merchant of Alight (Alyth) who as he was informed did between and after sermons keep open their chop doors and selled a number of unnecessar commodities to the great dishonour of God and scandall of others.” 

The merchants concerned were brought before the session and promised “not to sell unnecessarie things as they did formalie upon the Sabbath except neidful tobacco or bried.”  Needful tobacco? There were even those who had to be “convinced of there sin in braking the Sabbath by playing at the foot ball and drawing of the durks.” 

There is no doubt that the church was extremely active throughout the second half of the 17th Century but neither the ministers, the Kirk Session or even public opinion were noticeably effective in creating a more docile, conformist or God fearing population.

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