Geddes, Jenny (DNB00)

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GEDDES, JENNY (fl. 1637?), is popularly supposed to have been the name of the woman who inaugurated the riot in St. Giles's Church, Edinburgh, when an attempt was made to read Laud's service-book on Sunday, 23 July 1637, by flinging a stool at the head of David Lindsay, bishop of Edinburgh. In ‘A New Litany’ (c. 1640), a contemporary ballad on Scottish affairs, reference is made to ‘Gutter Jennie’ as a leader of the affray (cf. Scotish Pasquils, 1868, p. 57). A herb-woman, also of the same names, gave her stall to be burnt in a bonfire at the coronation rejoicings at Edinburgh, 23 July 1661 (Edinburgh's Joy for his Majesty's Coronation in England, p. 6). Nearly thirty years later a pamphleteer attributes the throwing of the first stool to an old ‘herb-woman,’ but does not give her name (Notes upon the Phœnix edition of the Pastoral Letter; Works of the Rev. Samuel Johnson, p. 320). Edward Phillipps, in his continuation of Sir Richard Baker's ‘Chronicle’ (1670), writes, ‘Jane or Janot Gaddis (yet living at the writing of this relation) flung a little folding stool.’ Kirkton, writing in 1679, says the woman's name was not known. Wodrow, on the authority of Robert Stewart, a son of the lord advocate of the revolution, asserts that it was ‘Mrs. Mean, wife to John Mean, merchant in Edinburgh, who cast the first stool’ (Analecta, Maitland Club, i. 64). Kincaid, in his ‘History of Scotland,’ 1787, says the woman's name was Hamilton, and she was ‘grandmother to Robert Mein, late Dean of Guild Officer in Edinburgh.’ The conflict among the early writers on the topic leaves the woman's name a very open question. The name ‘Jenny Geddes’ is said to have been applied indiscriminately at a later date to any woman who made herself conspicuous in times of public excitement at Edinburgh. A stool in the Edinburgh Antiquarian Museum, said to be the stool thrown in the cathedral, is of doubtful authenticity.

[Burton's Hist. of Scotland, 2nd edit., vi. 150–152; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iv. 135, 207, v. 367, 7th ser. i. 467; Scottish Leader, November 1889.]

G. G.