12th of January

St Arcadius, martyr. St Benedict, commonly called Bennet, 690. St Tygrius, priest. St Ælred, 1166.

 

RUNNING FOOTMEN.

Down to the time of our grandfathers, while there was less conveniency in the world than now, there was much more state. The nobility lived in a very dignified way, and amongst the particulars of their grandeur was the custom of keeping running footmen. All great people deemed it a necessary part of their travelling equipage, that one or more men should run in front of the carriage, not for any useful purpose, unless it might be in some instances to assist in lifting the carriage out of ruts, or helping it through rivers, but principally and professedly as a mark of the consequence of the traveller. Roads being generally bad, coach travelling was not rapid in those days; seldom above five miles an hour. The strain required to keep up with his master’s coach was accordingly not very severe on one of these officials; at least, it was not so till towards the end of the eighteenth century, when, as a consequence of the acceleration of travelling, the custom began to be given up.

Nevertheless, the running footman required to be a healthy and agile man, and both in his dress and his diet a regard was had to the long and comparatively rapid journeys which he had to perform. A light black cap, a jockey coat, white linen trousers, or a mere linen shirt coming to the knees, with a pole six or seven feet long, constituted his outfit. On the top of the pole was a hollow ball, in which he kept a hard-boiled egg, or a little white wine, to serve as a refreshment in his journey; and this ball-topped pole seems to be the original of the long silver-headed cane which is still borne by footmen at the backs of the carriages of the nobility. A clever runner in his best days would undertake to do as much as seven miles an hour, when necessary, and go three-score miles a day; but, of course, it was not possible for any man to last long who tasked himself in this manner.

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The custom of keeping running footmen survived to such recent times that Sir Walter Scott remembered seeing the state-coach of John Earl of Hopetoun attended by one of the fraternity, ‘clothed in white, and bearing a staff.’

In our country, the running footman was occasionally employed upon simple errands when unusual dispatch was required. In the neighbourhood of various great houses in Scotland, the country people still tell stories illustrative of the singular speed which these men attained. For example: the Earl of Home, residing at Hume Castle in Berwickshire, had occasion to send his footman to Edinburgh one evening on important business. Descending to the hall in the morning, he found the man asleep on a bench, and, thinking he had neglected his duty, prepared to chastise him, but found, to his surprise, that the man had been to Edinburgh (thirty-five miles) and back, with his business sped, since the past evening. As another instance: the Duke of Lauderdale, in the reign of Charles II., being to give a large dinner-party at his castle of Thirlstane, near Lauder, it was discovered, at the laying of the cloth, that some additional plate would be required from the Duke’s other seat of Lethington, near Haddington, fully fifteen miles distant across the Lammermuir hills. The running footman instantly darted off, and was back with the required articles in time for dinner! The great boast of the running footman was that, on a long journey, he could beat a horse. ‘A traditional anecdote is related of one of these fleet messengers (rather half-witted), who was sent from Glasgow to Edinburgh for two doctors to come to see his sick master. He was interrupted on the road with an inquiry how his master was now. “He’s no dead yet,” was the reply; “but he’ll soon be, for I’m fast on the way for twa Edinburgh doctors to come and visit him.” ‘1

Langham, an Irishman, who served Henry Lord Berkeley as running footman in Elizabeth’s time, on one occasion, this noble’s wife being sick, ‘carried a letter from Callowdon to old Dr Fryer, a physician dwelling in Little Britain in London, and returned with a glass bottle in his hand, compounded by the doctor, for the recovery of her health, a journey of 148 miles performed by him in less than forty-two hours, notwithstanding his stay of one night at the physician’s and apothecary’s houses, which no one horse could have so well and safely performed; for which the Lady shall after give him a new suit of clothes.’ – Berkeley Manuscripts, 4to, 1821, p. 204.

 

1  Notes and Queries, 2nd ser., i. 121.

 

On this Day from Other Sources.

 

ROTHESAY’S STATUS ELEVATED.

Rothesay was erected into a royal burgh by charter from Robert III., dated 12th January 1400; this king at that time held his court in the castle.

Select Views pp.137-140.

 

NOBLEMAN ESCAPES FROM EDINBURGH CASTLE.

The Lord [John] Maxwell, that had been a prisoner in the castle of Edinburgh, made his escape from [there], [on] the 12th of January this year, 1602; and on the 17th day of the same month, there issued forth a proclamation after him, inhibiting all his majesty’s [subjects] to [receive], harbour, or give any entertainment to him, under the pain of treason.

Historical Works, pp.340-416.

 

“CURIOUS DOCUMENTS.

—————

   THE following curious and interesting documents, from the late Colonel Colyear Robertson, were found, the other day, among the papers of the late Sir John Sinclair, by Sir George, who has kindly forwarded them to us for insertion. The first of the two is a letter to Sir John, and the second is the article enclosed. We have no doubt that many of our readers will sympathise in the sentiments as to the respect due to Scotland, and, as Sir George says, in a note accompanying the subjoined, ‘derive some pleasure from reading the sentiments of an old an genuine Highlander, who cherished all the feelings, in regard to the past glories and habits of his country, which are now, in a great degree, extinguished’:-  

   DEAR SIR, – I have read, with great pleasure, the proof sheet of your Observations on the Propriety of Preserving the Dress, the Language, the Poetry, &c., of the ancient Inhabitants of Scotland, and beg leave to remind you of the speech of Galgacus to the Caledonian army, as related by Tacitus:-  

   ‘When I contemplate the causes of the war, and the necessity to which we are reduced, great is my confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will prove the beginning of universal liberty to Britain. – The other Britons, in their conflicts with the Romans, had still a remaining source of hope and succour in this our nation, for of all the people of Britain we are the noblest,’ &c.  

   I, therefore, imagine that you will think it right to alter the passage which says, ‘they have reason to be proud of the name of Britons, which they have acquired since the union in 1707.’  

   Some time ago, seeing in the newspapers mention made of the English troops, English flag, English colours, &c., and even sometimes the name of England used in Parliament, as if Scotland were really a conquered province, I endeavoured to persuade Lord Douglas to correct the first member who should use that language in the House of Commons, and gave him a paper on the subject, which, having the same object with your observations, now to be printed, I shall give Mr Macrae the only copy of it I have, for your perusal.  

I have the honour to be, dear Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant,

W. PH. COLYEAR ROBERTSON.

   No. 38, Newman Street, 6th Aug., 1804. 

—————

   Great Britain in general degraded, and North Britain insulted, by expressions not only used in newspapers and common conversation, but in great assemblies.  

   Considering that all the nobility of South Britain, a very few families excepted, are Normans by extraction, and that the bulk of the people are undoubtedly descended from the ancient Britons (for two or three armies, transported over by sea, could not supplant most of the inhabitants of a country which had been peopled many centuries before), considering this I say, it seems unaccountable that such a fondness should exist for the name of a race of people who became masters of part of this island by betraying the friends, to assist whom they had been invited over. We daily hear of the English flag, English colours, and English troops – as if North Briton was entirely out of the question, or had become a province of the neighbouring kingdom. It is true that the degenerated descendants of the ancient barons of North Britain, consented, at the beginning of last century, to a union with England, upon terms to which their ancestors never would have submitted. Yet they still retained that authority in their own districts, and that influence over their hereditary adherents, which was found more effectual than any coercive subordination when their armies took the field. It was thought wise to abolish that long-tried constitution, and to take away that authority (as much as was in the power of the legislature), from the families that possessed it, which those who had given the power so to do, by consenting to such a degrading union, richly deserved, – but nothing could be more exasperating to those who had not. The only article of the treaty of union which North Britain had not reason to complain of, was that by which the name of Great Britain was established for the United Kingdom, and names describing their situation, with regard to each other, when the two countries were mentioned separately. It seems now intended to deprive North Britain even of that small remaining right, and to make it pass for a province of England. If the only article of the Treaty of Union, in which justice was done to North Britain, is to be gradually abolished, it would be a just request of the families who have lost so much by that union, that the whole should be abolished, and a new one concluded upon more equitable and reasonable terms. A union betwixt two entirely independent states cannot be just and equitable unless they both retain their independence. When seven provinces of the Netherlands concluded a union amongst themselves, it was upon such terms that the small province of Utrecht, which contributed in the proportion of three in the hundred to the general expenses, was upon a perfect equality with the province of Holland, which contributed above fifty in the hundred. When the Roman people were not near so numerous as the Caledonians or North Britons, that is, some time after the destruction of Carthage, would they have consented to a union with a nation three times more numerous, and incomparably richer than themselves, upon such terms that the senate of both should have only one Roman to ten others? The glory of the Romans consisted in unjust invasions and conquests; that of the Caledonians or North Britons in repelling the invasions of some of the most powerful nations in Europe, and of the very Romans themselves. We are accustomed, from our childhood, to admire the Romans, and to learn their language, and prejudice often pronounces sentence before reason is consulted; but it will be allowed, upon reflection, that there is more real heroism in preserving our own country from a foreign yoke, than in unjust invasions of other territories. ‘We fight not, (said the barons of North Britain, in their letter to the pope), for wealth or for conquest, but for that independence which no honest man will survive the loss of, and while a hundred men of us remain we will never submit to England.’ Let it be remembered that as often as the expressions English colours, English troops, or English flag, are used, they rouse in the mind of every North Briton, who regards the honour of his country, a sentiment of indignation, mixed with bitter regret, that a union so degrading to that country should have been concluded.  

   How would those who are so fond of the name of that people, whose lands were divided amongst the Norman followers of William the Conqueror – and who had been conquered before by the Danes – how would they feel, if, instead of the British fleets, armies, flags, or colours, the North British should substitute the word Scotch? Yet they must allow that the one is not more contrary to the treaty of union than the other. It seems unaccountable that the Normans, when in possession of all the lands in England, did not prefer the ancient name of Britain to that which was derived from a race who got possession of it by treachery.  

   If nations were to be rated by their population and riches, the Romans would be ranked very low at the time that the greatest characters appeared amongst them; the Athenians and Spartans would be placed still lower, and the kingdom of Macedon, at most, equal to that of Scotland, would be inferior to Portugal. It appears from all history that the poorest nations have ever conquered the richest. The Romans were so far from estimating the greatness of states either by their population, riches, or extent of territory, that Tacitus says, in writing of the Caledonians, ‘They are now swayed by several chiefs, and rent into factions or parties, according to the humour and passions of those leaders. Nor against such powerful nations does ought so much avail us as that they consult not in a body for the security of the whole.’  

   One of the greatest of the Roman emperors found it necessary to come in person, all the way from Rome, to defend South Britain from the Caledonians. He came over from Gaul at the head of a very great army, as the Roman historians call it, and after losing fifty thousand men in the contest, concluded a peace with the Caledonians, and withdrew the boundary of the Roman empire from the Forth and Clyde to the Tyne and Solway. Thus terminated a war which had been waged with little intermission, during one hundred and twenty-six years, betwixt a power whose empire extended over a great part of the world, and the ancestors of that nation whose very name their neighbours, with whom they consented to be united, wish to bury in oblivion.” 

– John o’ Groat Journal, Friday 12th January, 1849.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1800-1850.

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