Disorder in the Kirk of the Holy Rude, Stirling, 1597

In this extract from the earliest surviving Kirk Session minutes for the Stirling area we can gain a glimpse of the often rather undisciplined behaviour of our forebears.

First, in the minutes of 8th December, comes a detailed scheme for the celebration of the sacrament giving the names of those who are to take the collection at the service, then the names of those who are to be responsible “for keiping of gude ordur in the uttur [outer] kirk at the morning Service”. After this is given the details of when the bells are to be rung at the weekend to summon the congregation.

The reason or need for the setting of these regulations becomes clear in the following minute, dated the 15th December. The minister, at this time a Patrick Simson, and the Elders of the Kirk are recorded as admonishing the congregation for their behaviour at the previous Holy Communion. The people of Stirling are described as having created a “great misordur” in “rash and sudden cuming to the tabill” as well as “spilling of the Wyne” and “in thrusting and shouting in their passage out at the kirk dur aftir the Ministratione”. It sounds more like a riot than the most serious sacrament of the Established Church. The congregation are exhorted to “use thame selfis mair reverentlie”. This gives a colourful insight into the high spirits of the people of Stirling during their one free day of the week, despite the displeasure of the clergy.