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




About malcolmarchibald

Happily married for 34 years to Cathy, I have three grown children and live in the depths of Moray in northern Scotland. I was educated in Edinburgh and Dundee and work as a lecturer in Inverness, while writing historical books, both fiction and fact.
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