10th of January

St Marcian, priest, fifth century. St Agatho, pope, 682. St William, archbishop of Bourges, confessor, 1209.


Born. – Dr George Birkbeck, 1776. 
Died. – Archbishop Laud (beheaded), 1645; Edward Cave, 1754; Admiral Boscawen, 1761; Linnæus, naturalist, 1778; Mary Russell Mitford, authoress, 1855.



In inquiring into the origin of that movement for popular instruction which has occupied so broad a space during this century, we are met by the name of George Birkbeck standing out in conspicuous characters. The son of a banker at Settle, in Yorkshire, and reared as a medical practitioner, he was induced at an early period of life to accept a professorship in what was called the Andersonian Institution of Glasgow, – a kind of popular university which had just then started into being, under circumstances which will be elsewhere adverted to. Here Birkbeck found great difficulty in getting apparatus made for a course of lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy; and this suggested to him the establishment of popular lectures to working men, with a view to the spread of knowledge in various matters relating to the application of science to the practical arts. This was the germ from which Mechanics’ Institutions afterwards sprang. The trustees of the Andersonian Institution had not Birkbeck’s enthusiasm; they deemed the scheme visionary, and refused at first to support it. In the autumn of 1800 he went to Yorkshire for a vacation, and there digested a plan for forming a class ‘solely for persons engaged in the practical exercise of the mechanical arts, men whose education in early life had precluded even the possibility of acquiring the smallest portion of scientific knowledge.’ This mechanics’ class was to be held in one of the rooms of the Andersonian Institution. On his return to Glasgow he opened communications with the chief owners of manufacturing establishments, offering to the more intelligent workmen free admission to his class. The first lecture was attended by 75 artisans; it excited so much interest that 200 came to the second lecture, 300 to the third, and 500 to the fourth. His grateful pupils presented him with a silver cup at the close of the course, as a token of their appreciation of his disinterested kindness. He repeated these labours year after year till 1804, when he resigned his position at Glasgow to Dr Ure, who, like him, was at that time struggling into fame. Birkbeck married, came to London, and settled down as a physician.


Many years elapsed, during which Dr Birkbeck was wholly absorbed in his professional duties. He did not, however, forget his early schemes; and, as he advanced in life, he found or made opportunities for developing them. In 1820 he gave a gratuitous course of seventeen lectures at the London Institution. Gradually a wish spread in various quarters to put in operation the plan which had so long occupied the thoughts of Birkbeck – viz., to give instructions in science to working men. In 1821 a School of Arts was established at Edinburgh, chiefly through the instrumentality of Mr Leonard Horner. In 1823 a Mechanics’ Institution was founded at Glasgow, and another in London, of which last Dr Birkbeck was very appropriately elected President, an office he filled till his death eighteen years afterwards. There has been considerable controversy as to whether Mr Robertson, the first editor of the Mechanics’ Magazine, is not entitled to the honour of being the first proposer of Mechanics’ Institutions; let it suffice for our purpose to associate the three names of Brougham, Birkbeck, and Robertson in this useful labour, and leave to others the due apportionment of praise.


On this Day from Other Sources.



In January this year, 1434, the 10th of the month, in a parliament held at Perth, by the King and his estates, George Dunbar, Earl of March, is [forfeited], and his whole possessions held [by] the King adjudged, [by inferred right], to the crown forever, for the crimes of lèse-majesté and high treason, committed by George Dunbar, Earl of March, his father, in contracting with the English, under his hand and seal, to deliver and betray his native country in their hands during the old and decaying age of King Robert III.

Historical Works, pp.153-166.



The Queen, under such circumstances, endeavoured to elevate her spirits, by slight excursions into the country; because exercise had always the most salutary effects, on her health. With this salutary intention, she went to Castle-Campbell, to be present, at the marriage of the commendator of St. Colm to the Earl of Argyle’s sister, on the 10th of January 1563.

Life of Mary, p.78.



Jan. 10. [1714] – Campbell of Lochnell having died about this day, his son, a Jacobite, kept the corpse unburied till the 28th, in order that the burial might be turned to account, or made use of for political purposes. It was customary for the obsequies of a Highland chief or gentleman to be attended by a vast multitude of people, who usually received some entertainment on the occasion. It seems to have been understood that those who came to Lochnell’s funeral were making a masked demonstration in favour of the exiled Stuart. Those of the opposite inclination deemed it necessary to attend also, in order to be a check upon the Jacobites. Hence it came to pass that the inhumation of Lochnell was attended by two thousand five hundred men, well armed and appointed, five hundred being of Lochnell’s own lands, commanded by the famous Rob Roy, carrying with them a pair of colours belonging to the Earl of Breadalbane, and accompanied by the screams of thirteen bagpipes.

Domestic Annals, pp.379-389.

18th cent funeral



“Many unfortunate Jacobites have suffered most protracted periods of imprisonment within its walls. Among these the Edinburgh Courant records, on the 10th of January, 1743, the demise therein of Macintosh, of Borlum, in his 80th year, after a captivity of fifteen years, for participation in the rising of 1715;

Old and New Edinburgh, p.69.



1752, Jan. 10. – Norman Ross; hanged and hung in chains between Leith and Edinburgh, for assassinating Lady Bailie, sister to Home of Wedderburn.

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.123-138.

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