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Cromwell visits Perth

On July 6, 1651, there was an anxious gathering of the citizens of Perth on the South Inch. They had just been told that Lord Protector Cromwell and his troops were in the vicinity; and after the enthusiastic part they had played in the coronation of Charles II at Scone in January, they had no illusions as to how they stood in
the eyes of Cromwell. After much deliberation, 100 men of their number were told to keep a watch on Cromwell’s movements. Andrew Butter, a prominent citizen of the day, was appointed to command the force, with John Davidson, a local lawyer, as his second in command.

Shortly afterwards, this small Perth force passed through
Dunfermline, where it was joined by some 3,000 men. Together the united forces opposed the roundhead army at Inverkeithing; but the two armies were ill-matched, and the Scots were literally annihilated. According to our local historian, Fittis, “2000 were killed and 600 taken prisoner.” After Inverkeithing, Cromwell and his troops marched to Perth, stopping at Bridge of Earn on the way. As it was a Sunday, the men rested there, and, we are told, Cromwell preached an eloquent sermon. The next day, August 21, they proceeded to Perth, where they found the city gates shut against them. By command of
John Davidson, who had escaped inverkeithing, carts were driven noisily up and down Perth streets, and a drum was beaten continuously to give the impression of an active garrison. The next day, however, the Governor, Alexander Sutherland, 1st Lord Duffus, surrendered the city. Provost Andrew Grant led Cromwell and his officers to John Davidson’s house. There, a Perth citizen, Andrew Reid, boldly presented a bond for 40,000 merks that had paid for the coronation of Charles II at Scone. Cromwell returned it, saying it had nothing to do with him as he was neither the King nor his executor. Reid protested: “If you are neither King nor executor, then youare a vicious intermeddler!” Fortunately, Cromwell took this
outburst in good part. He asked Davidson how long he had thought to keep him at the city gate. Davidson replied: “Until we had heard that the King was safe in England!” Cromwell observed that he was a silly body and that if he had had the time he would have hanged him.
Cromwell left the house shortly afterwards, and a little later a high wall collapsed on the route he had taken. Davidson was heard to say that it was a pity it had not fallen a little earlier!

Cromwell spent only a couple of days in Perth, and when he departed he left behind him a garrison of Commonwealth soldiers under Colonel Overtton, consisting of one regiment of horse, another of foot, and four troops of dragoons. He also left instructions for the building of a Citadel. The Citadel was built on the east side of the South Inch, close to Greyfriars Cemetery. It took the form of a square, each side of which, we are told, measured 266 feet. The north wall extended from the Tay to Marshall Place, and there were bastions at each corner. It was surrounded by a rampart of turfs from the two Inches, and there was a ditch all the way round filled with water. One hundred and forty houses were ruthlessly destroyed to provide building stones; 300 tombstones from the nearby cemetery were also used; the three-storey Grammar School and the Town Cross
were demolished. Pillars were also taken from the bridge. Some idea of the size of the Citadel may be gathered from the fact that it contained stabling for 200 horses.
It was not until May 12, 1565, that an official ceremony was held in Perth to proclaim Cromwell as Lord Protector. Mercer’s “Chronicle” says: “Canons were shot, and bonfyres set furth that night . . .“ But in reality the good citizens of Perth only half- heartedly supported the ceremony, with which they had no real sympathy. The Provost on that occasion was Andrew Butter, and
the Governor Colonel William Daniell. Meantime, the influence of the garrisons of Roundhead troops on the larger cities of Scotland was not negligible. Fittis writes:
“. . . In Edinburgh all householders were obliged to hang out lighted lanterns at their doors and windows from six to nine p.m. during the winter months. . . and in all likelihood a similar regulation was extended to the other large towns . . . Previously the inhabitants of Perth, having no use for their street dung, threw it into the River Tay. Cromwell’s soldiers instructed them what to
do with it; so the filth was cleared away and disposed of as manure for the land . . .“ Also amongst the improvements instructed by the Roundheads was the planting of hawthorn hedges.

Cromwell died on September 3, 1658. Winston Churchill wrote: “In the crash and howling of a mighty storm, death came to the Lord Protector . . . If in a tremendous crisis, Cromwell’s sword had saved the cause of Parliament, he must stand before history as a representation of dictatorship and military rule. . .“ And
Fittis said: “. . . He had risen as a champion of liberty. And liberty was outraged by his sway . . After the brief, unsatisfactory rule of Richard Cromwell there came the Restoration of the Stuart kings in 1660. Two omens
were noted at this time in Perth.

The Commonwealth arms had been placed on the front of the Citadel, and Wodrow writes: “A thistle grew out of the wall near the place, and quite overspread the arms, which was much observed . . .“ Also: “A small fish allied to the whitling, and called the Cherry of Tay, which had been common in that river, had disappeared during that period, but was found numerously in its old waters when the King came home again.

In 1661 the Citadel was gifted to Perth by Charles II to repay the losses of the town in its building, and in consideration of the town’s faithful services to his majesty. In 1555 the magistrates sold it by public auction. Very soon the materials of which it had been
made were carried away; the trenches filled up and the ground levelled. “. . . So that not a wreck of the stupendous structure was left behind . . The old town Cross that Cromwell’s soldiers had destroyed had
stood in the High Street between Skinnergate and Kirkgate. After the Restoration, the magistrates built a new cross on the site of the old. “Very elegant, 12 feet high, adorned with rich sculpture, gilded with the royal arms and those of the city . . having a spacious terrace on the top of it, reached by a flight of steps within.”
It is recorded that in 1745, as it was reckoned to be a hindrance to traffic, it was sold for destruction to the highest bidder — for £5!

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