The Great Snowball Tumult at Glasgow Cathedral in 1689 #History #Scotland

Glasgow Cathedral

On a snowy morning soon after the Revolution, forty women gathered in the main door of Glasgow Cathedral. They were about to provoke a riot…

Sunday the 17 February, 1689, was the day that some of Glasgow’s burgh elite and citizens chose to attempt to resume episcopal worship following William of Orange’s proclamation demanding toleration of all forms of Protestant worship until the Church was settled. Since the Revolution in late 1688, the Society people had been rabbling the so-called episcopal “curates” from their parishes across the five western shires. Waiting for the burgh elite at the Cathedral door were some of the radical “sisters” of the Society people.



Two years after the tumult at the Cathedral, the events of the riot were still being disputed in Episcopalian and Presbyterian pamphlets. The following comes from Gilbert Rule’s Second Vindication of 1691:

‘That which followeth, is an account [from a hostile Episcopalian source] of the tumult at Glasgow, upon the episcopal ministers reassuming the pulpit, after the princes declaration [i.e., that of William of Orange], that none should disturb one another in matters of religion: […] viz. that the magistrates and ministers assembled, and resolved, that the minister should preach Feb. 17 [1689], as was usual: in order to this, they, by the chief magistrate then in town, required the captain of the guard to lay down arms, as the declaration enjoyned; he refused: after this, the people that used to meet in the hills [i.e., the Society people], and they of the meeting-houses [i.e., moderate presbyterians], whispered together about their bloody designs against the minister and his people: one Sunday they hindered the ringing of some of the bells: they publickly threatened the people as they went to church; they pursued a minister, who escaped, by going into a house: the magistrates going to church found it surrounded by a rable, whom they desired to go home in peace; but they railed at the magistrates, and assaulted them with staves and battons; gave a blow to John Bell one of the late baillies; the magistrates ordered the town servant and officers to beat off the rable, and so went into the church; in time of sermon the pretended captain of the guard came into the church, crying aloud that the town was in armes:

toward the end, the rable, conducted by [Daniel Ker] the laird of Carsland, fired into it [i.e., into the church]: a boy was wounded in the face; they broke open the doors, searched for the parson and found him. They refused to go home when the magistrates required them: they took the people out of church by fours and fives, and exposed them to the fury of the rable: many were wounded, and rudely treated: and not a few persons of some note. This narrative (which I have abridged but not altered) is signed by James Gibson, baillie John Gilhagie, Patrick Bell.

For answer to all this; it is in the 1st place to be considered, that little faith is to be given to his assertions; […] [an] abundance of lies are interspersed in the narrative of the tumult at the high church, Feb. 17. As that a pernicious rout surrounded the church: it was only a few women stood in the church door. That the magistrates went to the church with the minister is false; for only baillie [James] Gibson was there: that these women or any else, assaulted the minister, or people, is false; for his party were the first aggressors; it is also false that 600 of the best quality in town entered the church without arms: for there were not in all above 200; and not 40 of such quality; and they (or many of them) were armed with pistols, swords, clubs with nails in the ends of them, &c.

It is false, that the ministers party suffered such things as he saith. For most, and they of the best quality, who were there, do acknowledge that no such thing was done to them, but that the presbyterians conveyed them home in safety.

Likewise what is said of their respect to the Prince of Oranges declaration, is a lying pretence; for it is well known, they have never shewed any respect to him, nor to his government, but the contrary is apparent in their whole conduct.

It is also to be considered that the witnesses brought to attest the story, are not competent: John Gibson was a party, and made a baillie by the archbishop, and all knew the prelates inclinations towards the present civil government. John Gilhagie is lookt on by all as a foolish and rash man, who little censidereth what he doth: Patrick Bell, and his brother, were, soon after, seased for treasonable practises; were long in prison, and are now [in 1691] under bail.

The truth in opposition to his lying story is this: the episcopal ministers in the town being thrust from their churches by the rable, before the government was settled, the provost, Walter Gibson, (who had been chosen by the arch bishop [and been involved in banishing Society people in 1684]) made a paction with the presbyterians, (for preventing confusion) that the keyes of all the churches should be deposited in the hands of two men till the convention of estates should determine in the matter; instead of this, he being absent (may be of purpose) his brother baillie [James] Gibson, hired a company of ruffians, armed as is above exprest; who with one Minister (a simple man, whom they prevailed with) went to the [high] church, and found 40 women in the door, fell on them and sadly wounded 32 of them, in a most barbarous manner. The noise of this raised some of the hill men [i.e., the Society people], who were in town, who beat drums, and got to arms, this occasioned the scattering of the meeting houses (who were quietly hearing the word [of God]) some of the sober presbyterians dealt with the hill men, and endeavoured an accomodation [to prevent trouble]; only some of the friends of the women who had been wounded, could not be restrained from violence: but what they did was nothing like what the women had suffered:

the actors in this tragedy who beat and wounded the women [which included Society people], were John Gibson bailie, John Bell, commissar Robertson, George Robertson, and his two sons, John Robertson, John Watt, Inglis, Patrick Bell, James Marshel, John Coats, John Filshill, John Paterson, Horn, John Aitkin, Alexander Aitkin, James Lie’s two sons, James Robertson,

the names of the women who were wounded, and many of them hardly cured, are Mrs Maxwel, Mary Fleckfield, Marion Ewin, Agnes Rodger, Agnes Allan, Elizabeth Linning, Janet Loudoun, Margaret Dalgleish, Bessie Jackson, Janet Castellaw, Janet Fleeming, Janet Robertson, Margaret Inglis, Marion Finlaw, Janet Kid, Janet Brand, Christian Lang, Janet Wood, Mrs Mill, Janet Howie, Margaret Lin, Catherine Lin, Isabel Paterson, Janet Young, Margaret Anderson, Margaret Corse, Bessie Fleeming, Grissel Brown, Bessie Marshel, Janet Shearer, Margaret Steven: some of them are not recovered to this day, now after two years:

they all have suffered patiently, and wait for a hearing of their cause by a competent judge, as was promised them all, this was sufficiently attested before John Leckie then bailie.’

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Photo of Glasgow Cathedral Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Euan Nelson and licensed for reuse.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on May 9, 2016.

2 Responses to “The Great Snowball Tumult at Glasgow Cathedral in 1689 #History #Scotland”

  1. I wonder if Grissell Brown who was one of the women named as being injured might have been the mother of Bessie Broun who married James Draffan, one of my ancestors?

    Regards Malcolm Hutton, Melbourne.

    George Draffan spouse: Jean Brown Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910

    marriage:15 July 1748 Dalserf,Lanark,Scotland

    George Draffan

    Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 christening: 15 March 1724 , DOUGLAS, LANARK, SCOTLAND

    residence: Douglas, Lanarkshire, Scotland

    father: James Draffan mother: Bessie Brown

    Bessie Broun

    Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 christening: 2 April 1699 , DOUGLAS, LANARK, SCOTLAND

    residence: Douglas, Lanarkshire, Scotland

    father: George Broun mother: Grissell L.

    The name Grissell appears to be linked to Geissler and Van Gezel both of Lanarkshire end of 17th century according to submissions in LDS records.

    In the 1600’s the Laird of Blackwood Estate was a supporter of the Covenanters and in May 1685, Covenanter John Broun was shot close to Blackwood House, the martyr’s grave is located within the estate. (From a Real Estate page selling the property De Vere House on the Blackwood Estate).

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