On this week in Scottish history

24th January


East of Fife Record

‘Romantic affair at Aberdeen…About three months ago a beardless, rosy faced young person of some eighteen summers, rigged out in regular jack tar habiliments, made application…to be apprenticed. During the voyage, which was a rough one, the new apprentice behaved himself like a man, doing the regular sailor work, and seemingly to have great pluck for going aloft, and performing duty there with such spirit that older hands were rather astonished. No suspicions as to the real sex of the new arrival were aroused until the vessel arrived at her destination, when the new apprentice turned out to be a female. The young spark bade farewell for a time at least… to the rough work of a sailor, and donned the clothes of her sex. The captain…re-engaged the ‘apprentice’ as stewardess for his ship…left Malaga and arrived here a day or two ago. The new apprentice is a stoutly built female and as her hair is not very long, she has a thorough masculine appearance. We hear that the female will give no reason for the foolish freak.’

1867, Livingstone reached the Chambezi River, source of the Congo. 76 AD Publius Aelius Hardianus born; he was to build Hadrian’s Wall;  1890,  first train over the Forth Bridge


25 January

1759; Robert Burns born. He was to become Scotland’s best known poet and an international icon. His best remembered works include To a Mountain Daisy, To a Haggis and Auld Lang Syne, which is sung all over the world on Hogmany. However, perhaps his best lines are: ‘For a’ that and a’ that, a man’s a man for a’ that.’ He wrote in the ordinary language of Scotland and as such is recognisable throughout the world. He is celebrated on the day of his birth.

1815, execution of two highwaymen at Braid Burn in Edinburgh, last hanging for highway robbery to take place in Scotland, robbers were Kelly and O’Neill 1817 first copy of the Scotsman published. The prospectus had been issued on 30th November. Priced at 10d each, the cost included a government stamp of 4d per copy. 1934 car ferries Queen Margaret and Robert the Bruce launched at Denny’s for the Forth. They were built to a new double-ended design so that cars could drive on and off.


26 January

1869;:1869 George Douglas Brown born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire. Writing as George Douglas, he is best remembered for his realistic novel of Scottish life, The House with the Green Shutters.

1810: Inverness Journal reported that a ‘theatrical company’ visited the town, drawing ‘large audiences.’ 1860 time gun at Edinburgh Castle first fired by ‘electrical arrangement’ 1878, Kilpatrick McMillam, inventor of the bicycle died; 1908, 1st Glasgow Scout Troop registered first to be formed
27 January

1832 Cholera in Scotland. The disease was to kill 4000 in Glasgow alone.  The worst affected can die within a few hours, and if untreated, around 60% of people affected could die. Nobody knew what caused cholera; eye-witnesses reported seeing it descend upon Dumfries in the shape of a black cloud.

Cholera spread through human contact or contaminated food or water and affected rich and poor alike. Local Boards of Health were created, new burial grounds created and some people demanded better water and better lit suburbs. The dead were often tipped into a cholera pit without a Christian burial. Victorians were probably more frightened of cholera than of any other epidemic. Glasgow was first to fight back with the 1855 Water-Works Act that brought clean water from Loch Katrine. When cholera struck in 1865 only 53 Glaswegians died. Glasgow corporation also limited the number of people allowed to use lodging houses, created fever hospitals and public baths, wash houses and a municipal laundry. Other cities copied Glasgow’s lead, but the fear of cholera encouraged the middle classes to flee the city centres for the suburbs.

1783: Glasgow Herald first published, the longest continuously published daily paper in Britain; 1926, first public demonstration of TV by John  Logie Baird


 28 January

1829  William Burke hanged in front of cheering Edinburgh crowd for murdering up to thirty people and selling the bodies to Dr Knox for dissecting.  The following day his body was displayed at the medical college, where thousands visited to see him, and was later dissected and the pieces put into jars of pickle. A portion of his skin was tanned.

1582 John Barclay, romantic poet born; 1689, convention parliament declared the throne of Great Britain empty, effectively deposing James VII, 1708, storm scatters wrecks of Dutch emigrant fleet on Angus coast; 1918, armed trawlers W.S. Bailey and Fort George sink German submarine Ub-63 in Firth of Forth; 1962 foundation of Scottish opera; 1908, Jimmy Shand, Scottish country dance band leader, born

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In this week in Scottish history

19 January 1736; James Watt was born in Greenock. An engineer and inventor, he surveyed the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Caledonian Canal and in 1764 invented the separate condenser, air pump and double acting engine. In 1774 he began the manufacture of an engine that revolutionised steam power and made the industrial revolution possible. The unit of power called the ‘watt’ is named after him, and he was first to use the term ‘horsepower.’

1594, there was a ‘tulzie’ in Edinburgh’s High Street when the Earl of Montrose and his followers fought Sir James Sandilands and his men. Sandilands was killed, along with Crawford of Kerse. Many others were wounded.

1845, Old Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh burned. 1644 A Scottish army under the Earl of Leven crossed the river Tweed into England. It remained in England for three years playing an important part in the Civil War.



20 January

1756, Glasgow council take steps for building a lighthouse on the island of Little Cumbrae. At this period Glasgow was becoming an important commercial centre, mainly concerned with the tobacco trade. The lighthouse was to guide ships from the Americas into the channel between Cumbrae and Bute. An Act of Parliament passed that year gave permission for the lighthouse, which was an open beacon in which coal burned

1507, James V born in Holyrood House, 1583 John Maxwell, 4th baron Herries, commander of Mary’s cavalry at Langside, died. 1936, King George V died, succeeded by Edward, who abdicated 325 days later to marry the American  Mrs Simpson. 1937, Benny Lynch world flyweight champion.
21 January 1863; After John McDouall Stuart succeeded in crossing Australia from south to north and returning without losing a man, a public holiday was declared in Adelaide. There were Great Stuart Demonstrations ‘in honour of the gallant Scotchman’ and the exploring party, wearing their tattered bush clothes, rode through the town to cheering crowds. The South Australian Advertiser wrote that ‘Stuart said he would go and see, and he went and returned to tell us.’

1356; Edward Balliol resigned his kingship in favour of Edward III of England; 1721, James Murray, governor of Quebec [1760 – 1768] born in Ballencrieff, East Lothian; 1833 Edinburgh agitation against annuity or stipend tax; 1970, Fraserburgh lifeboat sank, only one survivor; 1290, Devorguilla, mother of John Balliol founded Sweetheart abbey.


22 January 1732: After twenty years of marriage and several children, Lord Grange, a Lord of Session with a reputation for piety, sent a party of Highlanders to kidnap his wife. Rachel Chielsey, Lady Grange, came from a violent family and there were rumours that she had forced her husband into marriage at the point of a pistol after he had seduced her. Now separated and possibly stalking her husband, some said that Lady Grange was drunken and violent, but that day she was abducted and taken to the West Highlands, eventually to be kept prisoner on St Kilda. She died in Skye in 1749, having never returned home.

1689, Convention Parliament meets to depose James VII; William of Orange and Mary become joint sovereigns of Scotland and England 1816, new jury court in Edinburgh; 1898, Peoples Palace museum opened in Glasgow ; 1788 Lord Byron born.

January 1446: Battle of Arbroath when the Lindsays defeated the Ogilvies and Sir Alexander Seton. Sir Alexander Lindsay, Master of Crawford was Bailie of the Regality of Arbroath but the Chapter disliked his conduct so appointed Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity as his successor. When Lindsay refused to leave, both sides gathered their men. By chance Sir Alexander Seton, Lord of Gordon was visiting the Ogilvies and by Scottish tradition the host’s quarrel became the guest’s quarrel. Lindsay’s mother was an Ogilvie and tried to make peace, but the Lindsays charged and won the day.

1649, Act of Classes banned many people from public office including those given to ‘’brybery, swearing, drunkenness’ and other ungodly behaviour. In essence, the clergy were purging those not up to their standard.

1685, Robert Pollock, an East Kilbride shoemaker, hanged in Edinburgh for supporting the Covenant;  1570, James Stewart, Regent Moray, murdered in Linlithgow. Civil war started



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On this week in Scottish history

11 January

1918: Representation of the People’s Act gave the vote to all adult males aged 21 or over except peers, prisoners and the insane. Women aged 30 or over could also vote, provided that they were householders or wives of householders, or university graduates. Servicemen of 19 and over were permitted to vote in the post-war election, but conscientious objectors were disqualified for five years. It was 1928 before women over 21 were allowed to vote.

1815: John A. MacDonald, first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, born at 20 Brunswick Street in Glasgow.

1999: Novelist  Naomi Mitchison died.



12 January

1843 Cobden and Bright address a free trade meeting in Edinburgh

1659: camel causes sensation in Edinburgh

1940: John Buchan, author and diplomat, died



13 January

1687: The Edinburgh judge Lord Fountainhall gave his verdict on a case of alleged child abduction when a Mr Reid accused Scott of Harden and his Lady of ‘stealing away from him a little girl.’ When Lord Fountainhall probed deeper, he discovered that Reid had bought the girl from her mother for £30 Scots and used her as an act on stage under the title ‘The Tumbling Lassie.’

‘We have no slaves in Scotland’, said his Lordship, ‘and mothers cannot sell their bairns.’ He ordered doctors to examine the child, and they opined that ‘the employment of tumbling would kill her, her joints were even now growing stiff.’ The girl was set free of Reid and Harden found not guilty as under Moses law ‘if a servant shelter himself with thee, against his master’s cruelty, thou shalt not deliver him up.’

603 AD:

St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow, died

1796, John Anderson, founder of the Andersonian Institute, now Strathclyde University, died

1865 Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, burned

1893: Keir Hardy founded the Independent Labour party; Mary Slessor, died in Calabar



14 January

1831: Henry Mackenzie died in Edinburgh. When he was only 26 he wrote The Man of Feeling, the novel that made his name. However he was also a lawyer and was one of the first to recognise the genius of Burns and Scott. A Conservative, he was a supporter of Pitt the Younger and Raeburn painted his portrait. His other books, namely The Man of the World deserve to be better known.

1872: Grayfriars Bobby died after staying by his master’s grave for 14 years

1930: Sir Thomas Mackenzie, New Zealand statesman and Prime Minister, died.

1990: Gordon Jackson, actor died


15 January

1808 At the beginning of the 19th century, whaling was an important industry in Scotland. The whaling ships brought back baleen, known as whalebone, which was used most notably in the female clothing industry, and blubber, which was boiled into oil for lighting and heating. However, the Royal Navy often stopped the whaling ships in the hope of press ganging the seamen. The Customs issued certificates of protection to ensure the safety of some seamen. This letter is from the Customs Officer at Dundee.

Dundee 15 January 1808

‘We have received your honours order dated the 11th instant agreeing to the application of Mr David Jobson Snr. requesting that protections may be granted for two officers to the Rodney whale fishing ship in room of Robt Keith Boatsteerer and Alex Sword Linemanager the former having deserted and the latter been taken prisoner by the Enemy.   We beg leave to transmit inclosed a list of the names of the two persons engaged to be employed in the room of the above and in future care shall be taken that lists be transmitted to your honours in the first instance.’

1846: Frederick Douglass, black abolitionist, spoke in Glasgow

1973: Neil Gunn author, died

1990: Strathclyde Region Council applied for 250,000 summary warrants against rate payers refusing to pay “Poll Tax” (introduced in Scotland in April 1989).


16 January

1707: act of union formally passed as the Scottish Parliament approve treaty of union by 110 votes to 69, therefore voting themselves out of existence. After suffering poverty and famine, Scotland’s attempt at finding prosperity with a colony at Darien had proved an embarrassing failure. Worries about the succession and religion had encouraged a Union with England, particularly when at one time war seemed possible. In the end the peers were coerced and probably bribed into the Union, against the wishes of much of the population.

1808: battle of Corunna, General John Moore killed as Scottish regiments were highly involved.

1945: 52nd Highland Light Infantry and 1st Commando Brigade cross from Holland into Germany and assault Heinsberg.


17 January

1746: Battle of Falkirk. With a Hanoverian force attempting to relieve the Jacobite siege of Stirling Castle, the Jacobites and General Hawley’s Hanovarians both marched for possession of a strategic ridge. In a day of sleet and wind, the Jacobite army, 7500 strong, won the race. Hawley, with 7000 men under him, ordered his dragoons forward, but Clan Donald pushed them back. The Jacobites followed up with a charge on the Hanovarian right, whereupon Hawley withdrew. In all the Hanovarians lost around 350 killed and 200 prisoner to the 50 Jacobite casualties.

1761: Sir James Hall, founder of the science of experimental geology, born in Dunglass, East Lothian

1795: Duddingston Curling Society organised, one of the earliest, although Kilsyth claims a date of 1715

1883: Compton Mackenzie, author born;

1926: Moira Shearer, ballet dancer and film star bon in Dunfermline




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On this day in Scottish history


08 January 1313

In the early hours of this day, Robert Bruce recaptured Perth from the English, who had fortified the town with stone walls and towers. Perth was one of the toughest Scottish towns to attack, for augmenting the built defences, the River Tay guarded the approaches to the east, while there was a deep moat on the other three sides. Sir William Oliphant, King Balliol’s doughty defender of Stirling, commanded the garrison. When Bruce arrived the siege was a few weeks old and he gave orders for the men to withdraw. The defenders jeered. Bruce marched them a few miles away and returned a few days later under cover of darkness. On the night of 7th January he led the men through the throat high water of the icy moat, scaled the walls and overwhelmed the garrison. The walls were razed and Oliphant captured.

Other events:

1751, Norman Ross hanged in Edinburgh for murdering his mistress; 1803, Russian galliot Mararnyema wrecked at Cairnbulg; 1661, first newspaper in Scotland published, Mercurius Caledonius, it covered ‘the Affairs now in Agitation in Scotland, with a survey of Foreign Intelligence’ but it stopped publication after only nine issues, ; 1707, Earl of Stair, important mover in massacre fo Glencoe, died; 1729, Edinburgh, two women were arrested for wearing men’s clothing; 1946, Lord Hardie of Blackford, Lord Advocate, born.

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In this day in Scottish history

07 January 1800: storm

January 1800 was long remembered for a ‘Great Storm’ that battered the East Coast for three weeks. The gales blew from the southeast, driving vessels against the rocky Aberdeenshire coast. On the seventh January, eleven ships were driven ashore, mainly to the north of Aberdeen. One of the vessels was the Swedish brig Phaeton, which carried French passengers. Despite being at war with France, the British government ordered that these shipwrecked Frenchmen were to be shipped back to the continent. There was still humanity, even in wartime. In all, thirty ships were wrecked on the North East Coast during this storm.



1451: at the behest of King James II and Bishop William Turnbull, a bull of Pope Nicholas V established the University of Glasgow.

1978: during a fireman’s strike the 100 bedroom Grosvenor Hotel in Glasgow destroyed by fire. Sixty soldiers could not put out fire.


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On this day in Scottish history

06 January 1865

Surrounded on three sides by water, and with a host of dependant islands, Scotland was always a maritime nation. But while the sea provided food, trade and jobs, it took a cruel toll of those who used it. Here is a note attached to an entry in the Dundee Shipping Register. The vessel concerned was a two-masted schooner built in Perth in 1847


I beg to inform you that the Schooner ‘Albion’ of Dundee was last seen off St Abbs Head on the 6th January 1865 in a state of distress, and has not been heard of since. It is presumed that she foundered on the same day when all hands along with the ships certificate and other documents, were lost.

Other events

1848, soldiers from the 93rd Highlanders arrived at Stonehaven to control a riot that left one dead and 20 injured; 1953, Malcolm Stewart, guitarist, born in Glasgow; 1981, A. J Cronin, author of Dr Finlay’s Casebook, died.





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On this day in Scottish history



1768 – Dundee Council Minutes mention of a petition of the Fraternity of Masters and Seamen in Dundee who contributed to a fund to look after the ‘decayed and indulgent members of the society’ – at this time the society was over 150 years old – ie created in c1618

1802– Dundee Council Minutes ‘Baillies Bell and Balfour reported that during the present scarcity of meal, they had with concurrence of the Magistrates, purchased a large cargo of oatmeal, from six to nine hunmdred bolls at nineteen shillings and sixpence stg per boll from Mr William Walker at Berwick, that they had made the purchase with the view of its being a town Bargain and to keep our market supplied.

  • the council asked Bell and Balfour to appoint a proper person – ‘to dispose of the meal in the public market.

1993 89,000-tonne Liberian-registered Braer oil tanker, carrying 84,500 tonnes of crude oil, hit rocks on Shetland Isles in heavy seas; 1928, State pension available to all those over 65 years old. 10/- a week.




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