The events in Perth and the rabbling as recorded in The Scotichronicon (Vol 1,p 305 – 8 ), Rev J.F.S. Gordon (1867)
“John Knox had been proclaimed by the Queen Regent (Mary Tudor, wife of King James V and mother of Mary Queen of Scots) as a rebel and an outlaw, and his abettors had prepared themselves to act with open force against the Queen. The sword was now to be drawn by both parties. Knox had received Letters in November, 1558, from the principal “Lords of the Congregation;’ urging him to return once more from Geneva to Scotland. Accordingly, he arrived at Leith on the 2nd of Mar, 1559; and, after remaining two nights in Edinburgh, he went to Dundee, where many of his admirers were convened. Regardless of being apprehended for Treason, he hastened through the Carse of Gowry to Perth, the headquarters of the “Congregation,” and opportunely arrived in the “ Fair City,” as Bishop Keith quaintly observes, at the ‘nick of time.” On the 11th of May (being the day after the Ministers had been denounced rebels), Knox Preached in S. Join’s Church, Perth, “his thundering Sermon against Idolatry”, which (as Buchanan says) set their minds, which were already fired, “all in a flame.” After this Sermon, the ‘‘better sort,” so Mr. Knox calls them, ‘‘had gone to dinner,” but the majority remained in S. John`s, among whom were the Earl of Argyll (who had recently succeeded his father) and Lord James Stuart, then Prior of St. Andrews, who withdrew to one of the Aisles, whilst Erskine, Laird of Dun, and others, had been seated during the delivery of the Sermon on some narrow- benches near the steps leading up to the Pulpit. Bishop Keith states that “ a certain Priest was so imprudent as to open a Tabernacle or Case, in which was curiously engraved the history of a great many Saints, and so prepared himself to say Mass.” John Parker Lawson, who edited the Spottiswoode Society’s issue of Keith’s History, supplements this Account from a very rare Work—Sketches from Scenes in Scotland, by Col. Murray of Ochtertyre—thus: They observed a movement towards the Shrine and their curiosity was excited. In front of an Altar, surmounted by an ebony Crucifix, on which was the Figure of our Saviour exquisitely carved, several of the Clergy were seen kneeling in their Vestments, probably overwhelmed with grief at the exhibition they had just witnessed, and the sentiments they had heard uttered by Knox. Tapers were now lighted, and the Clergy began a solemn and plaint Chant, to which several voices in an Aisle opposite responded. A curtain was slowly raised behind the Crucifix, and disclosed a Painting of the Martyrdom of S. Bartholomew. This Scene was not without its effect, for it revived the old associations of many, and some of the crowd evinced their former habits of devotion. At this instant a young man (absurdly called a “child” by Knox) exclaimed to his companions, “Down with this profane mummery! Shall we stand and see that practiced which God in His Word has plainly condemned as Idolatry ?“ He was overheard by one of the Clergy, who designated him as a “blasphemer,” and struck him to the floor of the Church. The youth soon rose, and dashed a missile against the Painting of S. Bartholomew. This was the signal for the general attack. As if the Service had been to them a novelty which they never before witnessed, the multitude rushed towards the Altar, attacked the Clergy, tore off their Vestments, and beat them so unmercifully while in their kneeling attitude, that they narrowly escaped with their lives. Every article in the Church—Images, Pictures, Vestments, and Sacred Utensils, and the Altars belonging to the Incorporated Trades of the City, Dedicated to particular Saints, were speedily destroyed, before many of the citizens knew anything of the outrage; for, it is locally said that this Mob consisted chiefly of the Inhabitants of Dundee, who had accompanied Knox bent on mischief, and who, on account of old feuds with the Citizens of Perth, which existed long after this outbreak, were probably more disposed to show their dislike to Perth than any particular resentment to the Church. At Perth were Monasteries of the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carmelites; Chapels of various descriptions, dedicated to particular Saints, exclusive of S. John’s Church, which were all speedily gutted and robbed while the magnificent Charterhouse (founded by King James I., in 1492, the only Carthusian Establishment in the Kingdom) was excelled by few Ecclesiastical buildings in Scotland, but which was completely razed, as in less than two days not a vestige could scarcely be seen. The furious mob yelled, as they rushed to the Gate of this noble Edifice, “Come out, ye men of Belial, ! ye slaves of Jezebel !” The Insurgents burst open the Gate with a large wooden Cross, which they pulled out of the grounds near the walls. They were so generous as to allow the Prior to take with him, of his own property, as much valuables as he could hastily collect.
Knox naively excuses the wholesale Sacrilegious Plunderers, whom he hied on, by informing us, that, albeit the Vows of Poverty which the various Orders of Monks professed, their storehouses presented to his pious burglars no inconsiderable temptations. He says—” And in very deed the Grey Friars was a place well provided, that, unless honest men had seen the same, we would have feared to report what provision they had. Their sheets, blankets, and coverings were such, that no Earl in Scotland had the better. Their napery was fine. There were but eight persons in Convent, and yet had eight puncheons of salt beef (consider the time of year, the 11th of May wine, beer, and ale, besides store of victuals effeiring thereto. The like abundance was not in the Black Friars, and yet there was more than became men professing poverty: Knox instances these as proofs of Gluttony; but it must not be forgot that these Houses were hospitia, and had constant claims by Noblemen and wayfarers, who, by the Vows of the inmates, were housed and entertained profusely. Not only had the religious to “ entertain strangers,” who quartered themselves often enough, but their “trails” [followers] whom they brought along with them. And yet, John Knox and his devout disciples, when their own interest was concerned, could easily calm Conscience by helping themselves, and at the same time praying God to have mercy upon them, and incline their hearts to keep the Eighth Commandment—” Thou shalt not Steal”
The example of Perth was first followed by the ‘‘Reformers” of Cupar Fife, some of the inhabitants of which had been at Perth, and gave a helping hand there in the “labours of love.” At Cupar were a Dominican Convent, having a fine Chapel, and a Nunnery dedicated to S. Catherine of Sienna. These Buildings, with their contents, were likewise ruthlessly ransacked, “which,’’ says Spottiswoode, the Curate took so heavily, as the night following he put violent hands on himself.’’ [ committed suicide ].
On the 9th of June, 1559, Knox, accompanied with “the Lords of the Congregation” and his ‘‘rascal multitude” (his own title for them), went on to Crail, in the ‘- East Neuk of Fife ‘—a small seaport, ten miles south of St. Andrews—Archbishop Sharp’s first Parish. Here was an important Collegiate Church, having a Provost, ten Prebends, a Sacrist, and Choristers. In this secluded place, adjacent to the Metropolitan City, did John Knox repeat the “Idolatrous Sermon’ which he delivered at Perth, by whose furious eloquence his rustic and fisher Hearers were so roused, that they vied with each other in pillage and demolition . Altars. Images, and Holy Things which had for ages been Consecrated to God, were wantonly smashed, profaned, and pilfered. On the morrow, Knox with his banditti marched along the Fife coast westward to the Burgh of Anstruther, another seaport five miles from Crail, where (now in Anstrnther Wester, was as fine a Church as that at Crail, but not Collegiate. Knox preached the same sentiments here, in the same strain, and with the same results. Several alive well remember the rows of fine Arches which were left standing in this Church, which is now a tasteless Erection within and without. The Priory at the Burgh of Pittenweem was only one mile distant, to the west, which was too good a stronghold to be left unvisited with axes and hammers.” The Prior was famous by his zeal in the Trials of heretics at St. Andrews, and, seeing how he would have been dealt with by the Reformers, Rowle wisely in time took to his heels, and left the devoted peculators to sack and range over his Domains. The Priory now belongs to the (Episcopal) Church.
The Archbishop of St. Andrews (Hamiltonl, hearing that the “Reformers” were beating their rounds, and intended on the morrow, which was Sunday the 11th of June, to visit St. Andrews, had come to his Episcopal City the Saturday before, accompanied with 100 armed men, to intercept Knox from Preaching to the “Congregation” (this was the name of the new Religionists) in the Cathedral Church. So daring was Knox, that, in defiance of the persuasion of all his friends and threat of Ins life, he declared that “Preach in St. Andrews he must and would, because in that Town and Church God first began to call him to the dignity of a Minister of the Gospel.’’ This intrepid Reply silenced all remonstrance. Archbishop Hamilton, after he had tried the affections of the Citizens, found them all inclining to the “ Congregation,” and was glad at an early hour to journey to the Queen at Falkland Palace. Knox accordingly Preached in the Cathedral of St. Andrews. to a numerous and mixed Assembly, among whom were Erskine of Dun; Wishart of Pitarrow, brother of the “Martyr”; Halyburton. Provost of Dundee ; Archibald, fifth Earl of Argvll; Lord James Stuart, then Prior of St. Andrews, afterwards the Regent ; and Earl of Moray. The “Great Reformer of Scotland” took for his subject of Discourse our Lord’s whipping the buyers and sellers out of the Temple, to which he compared the Corruptions of the Papal Church,’ and, by his novel style and furious magniloquence, he so electrified his Hearers, that they speedily began their work of destruction. It is said that on Sunday the 11th June, and on the three following days, he kept up with unabated frantic gesticulation a series of inflammatory Sermons. The fine Cathedral, the building of which occupied 160 years—the Metropolitan Church of Scotland, in which Prelates. Nobles, and illustrious Individuals were interred—was gutted and reduced to a melancholy Ruin, which may be justly termed Knoxes Monument. It was upon this occasion that he exclaimed, ‘‘ Down with the nests, and the rooks will fly away”. Not only did the Mob spoil the Cathedral Church, but every Church in the City, levelling the Priory and the Monasteries of the Black and Grey Friars. Demoniacal possession had become an Epidemic. “