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St. William of Perth
(Or ST. WILLIAM OF ROCHESTER).
Martyr, born at Perth; died about 1201. Practically all that is known of this martyr comes from the "Nova legenda Anglie", and that is little. In youth he had been somewhat wild, but on reaching manhood he devoted himself wholly to the service of God. A baker by trade, he was accustomed to set aside every tenth loaf for the poor. He went to Mass daily, and one morning, before it was light, found on the threshold of the church an abandoned child, whom he adopted and to whom he taught his trade. Later he took a vow to visit the Holy Places, and, having received the consecrated wallet and staff, set out with his adopted son, whose name is given as "Cockermay Doucri", which is said to be Scots for "David the Foundling". They stayed three days at Rochester, and purposed to proceed next day to Canterbury, but instead David wilfully misled his benefactor and, with robbery in view, felled him with a blow on the head and cut his throat. The body was discovered by a mad woman, who plaited a garland of flowers and placed it first on the head of the corpse and then her own, whereupon the madness left her. On learning her tale the monks of Rochester carried the body to the cathedral and there buried it. In 1256 the Bishop of Rochester, Lawrence de S. Martino, obtained the canonization of St. William by Pope Innocent IV. A beginning was at once made with his shrine, which was situated in the northeast transept, and attracted crowds of pilgrims. At the same time a small chapel was built at the place of the murder, which was thereafter called Palmersdene. Remains of this chapel are still to be seen near the present St. William's Hospital, on the road leading by Horsted Farm to Maidstone. On 18 and 19 February, 1300, King Edward I gave two donations of seven shillings to the shrine. On 29 November, 1399, Pope Boniface IX granted an indulgence to those who visited and gave alms to the shrine on certain specified days. St. William is represented in a wall-painting, which was discovered in 1883 in Frindsbury church, near Rochester, which is supposed to have been painted about 1256-1266. His feast was kept on 23 May.
Acta SS., XVII, 268; HORSTMANN, Nova legenda Anglie, II (Oxford, 1901), 457; Archaeologia Cantiana (London, 1858-), III, 108; V, 144; XV, 331; XVI, 225; XVIII, 200; XXIII, passim; XXVII, 97; BLISS AND TWEMLOW, Calendar of Papal Letters, V (London, 1904), 256-7; BRIDGETT in The Month (London, 1891); STANTON, Menology of England and Wales (London, 1887-92), 228, 648; CHALLONER, Britannia Sancta, I (London, 1745), 312.
John B. Wainewright.