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December 3rd 1582

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Suicide sensitivity

There was a particular horror of suicide in the early days of the Reformation. There were instances of suicides being dragged through the town at the heels of horses, hung up on the gallows and flung into a hole dug at the foot. In particular they were not permitted burial in the kirkyard. The case of William Fary illustrated the prevailing attitudes.

“The friends of William Fary who drowned himself at the head of South Inch, in the waters of Tay, coming to the minister and elders convened together for the time of their Revestry and desiring license at the Assembly to bury the said William in the Greyfriars, which is the burial appointed for the faithful that depart in the fear of god; the assembly answered with one voice that they would not suffer him to be brought through the town in daylight, neither yet to be buried among the faithful in the place appointed for their burial; but order that he shall be buried in the Little Inch within the water.” 

The Session also stated that if anyone contravened this ordinance, “the dead shall be taken up again,”  and the contraveners “shall make their public repentance on the seat (the Cutty Stool) and thereafter pay £10 to be given to the poor.” 

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