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Geddes - a Sept of Clan Scott

A William Geddes was killed in 1558 by the Tweedies, and thus began a long feud with that family. (Tweedie badge on left is copyright "Celtus" via Wikimedia Commons).


There is no information about this murder other than an entry in the records of the Privy Council, according to which a respite was granted under the Privy Seal to James Tweedie of Drumelzier [et al] for the cruel slaughter of William Geddes, son and apparent heir of Charles Geddes of "Cuthil-hall"  On 29th December 1592 James Geddes of Glenhigton fell another victim to the treachery of the Tweedies in Edin­burgh.

According to the classic genealogy reference book "Surnames of Scotland" by Dr George F Black, the name Geddes originated from the lands of Geddes in Naimshire, which were in possession of the family of Rose before they obtained Kilravock. It has been suggested that the place name may have been derived from the Gaelic term for a "mountain ridge" or else it may have come from the Scots dialect word "gedd" for "pike". The family arms incorporate three pikes and there is a Crest badge suitable for members of Clan Ged which includes a pike's head.(See illustration on the right, copyright "Celtus" via Wikimedia Commons).


A family of Geddes of Rachan, Peeblesshire, is an off­shoot of Geddes of that Ilk. They had a grant of the lands of Ladyurd in the barony of Kirkurd in 1406. Early records show that Master Matthew of Geddes, a churchman, had a safe conduct into England in 1405 and was rector of Church of Forest in 1408 . A later Matthew Geddas was canon of Aberdeen, in 1470.


In 1434 John of Geddes, laird of half of Ladyurd, resigned all that land into the hands of his overlord, Wat Scott, lord of "Morthinyston," (usually called Murchiston) who thereupon granted it a new to 'ane honest man William of Geddes'. So clearly there was a close alliance at that time. However, a number of sources suggest that Geddes is a sept of Clan Gordon, presumably as a result of the name originating in Nairnshire.

Dr. John Geddes (1739-1799), a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, residing in Edin­burgh, was a close friend of Robert Burns, the poet, and his brother, Bishop Alexander Geddes (1737-1802) was an eminent Biblical critic, translator, and poet.


Perhaps the most famous bearer of the surname was Jenny Geddes who is said to have caused a riot in St Giles' Cathedral at the first use of the prayer book authorised by King Charles I in St Giles' on Sunday 23 July 1637. When James Hannay, Dean of Edinburgh, began to read the Collects, part of the prescribed service,Jenny Geddes, a market-woman or street-seller, threw her stool straight at the Minister's head. She is reported to have yelled:

"De'il gie you colic, the wame o’ ye, fause thief; daur ye say Mass in my lug?" meaning "Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?".


Jenny Geddes Riot Wik2i

There was subsequent rioting in the Edinburgh streets (and in other cities). When Charles refused to withdraw the Anglican liturgy more riots followed. Charles reacted by launching the Bishops' Wars, thus beginning the Wars of Three Kingdoms and ultimately the Civil War which led to his downfall and execution.

See also the full text of "William Geddes and descendants : with general history, items and notes pertaining to William Geddes and his wives : early ancestors, topographical and historical notes, incidents of interest which have been collected from various sources on the Web page:

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