Saints of Scotland: William of Perth

In the latest in a series that allows us to showcase some of the stained glass and artwork belonging to the College, Fr Mark Cassidy reflects on the little-known William of Perth.

A mysterious figure

When I arrived in the College as a seminarian in 1981, I was amazed toSaints of Scotland - William find a stained glass window dedicated to the memory of St William of Perth. The amazement stemmed from the fact that, as a native of Perth, I had never heard of him. I do not remember anything in the city that spoke of him or anything that was dedicated to him. All of the principal Christian denominations in the city (Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopalian) have churches dedicated to St John the Baptist, the patron of Perth, but none to our own St William.

So, who was this ‘William’? What little seems to be known about him is that he was a baker by trade and one who set aside part of his daily produce to feed the poor. He is said to have attended Mass daily and on finding an abandoned child at the door of the church, adopted him (he was, after his death, known as the patron saint of adopted children).

His kindness to the child, David, was rewarded in a brutal manner. William had set off with his son on a pilgrimage to the Holy Places and leaving Rochester to travel to Canterbury, he was bludgeoned and had his throat slit by this adopted son. It is said that the motive for this violent act was simply robbery.

The first miracle attributed to William is said to have taken place immediately after his death. A ‘madwoman’ is said to have come across his body and plaited a crown of flowers which she placed on William’s head and then on her own, and at that moment she was found to be in her right senses. Hearing of this, the monks carried William’s body to the cathedral in Rochester and he was buried there. Following his canonisation by Pope Alexander IV, his shrine in Rochester Cathedral attracted many pilgrims, as did a small church built at the site of his death.

St William died about 1201. He was canonised in 1256. His feast day is 23rd May.


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Fr Mark Cassidy is the outgoing Spiritual Director of the Pontifical Scots College. He took up his current role in 2011, and is a priest of the Diocese of Dunkeld. He will return to the diocese this summer.

6 thoughts on “Saints of Scotland: William of Perth

  • Thanks for this. Very interesting. I look forward to reading more about little known Scottish saints. What about Fillan or Mun? Who were they?

    • Thanks for your message Brian. The current series of Scottish saints is focussing on those depicted in artwork around the college building. However, looking into those who are even less well known is certainly a great idea for the future.

  • Fr. Mark wrote ‘I do not remember anything in the city that spoke of him (St. William of Perth) or anything that was dedicated to him.” There is a little known stained glass window showing St. William and St. Margaret of Scotland together with the arms of the City of Perth in our Monastery church in Perth, Kinnoull.

    • Thank you Martin, hopefully this will mean the window will be a little better known in the future and so able to mark the legacy of William, a good and holy man in his home city.

  • I’m the late 1980s I worked in St William’s hospital in Rochester. It wasn’t till after I had left that I discovered that it was named after a Scot. I was told that the hospital was built on the site of St William’s murder. For many years it was an isolation unit for treating any sailors landing at the nearby Chatham dockyard who had contracted any infectious tropical disease. Laterally it was a specialist cancer centre but has been demolished and houses have been built on the site.

    • Martin, thank you very much for the information regarding St William’s in Rochester. It is nice to see that the legacy of the man lives on in the name of the road, St Williams Way.

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