13th of January – St Mungo’s Day

St Kentigern (otherwise St Mungo), of Glasgow, 601; St Veronica of Milan, 1497.

Born. – Charles James Fox, statesman, 1748.
Died. – George Fox, founder of the sect of Quakers, 1690; Dr James Macknight, 1800.


Out of the obscurity which envelops the history of the northern part of our island in the fifth and sixth centuries, when all of it that was not provincial Roman was occupied by Keltic tribes under various denominations, there loom before us three holy figures, engaged in planting Christianity. The first of these was Ninian, who built a church of stone at Whithorn, on the promontory of Wigton; another was Serf, who some time after had a cell at Culross, on the north shore of the Firth of Forth; a third was Kentigern, pupil of the last, and more notable than either. He appears to have flourished throughout the sixth century, and to have died in 601. Through his mother, named Thenew, he was connected with the royal family of the Cumbrian Britons – a rude state stretching along the west side of the island between Wales and Argyle. After being educated by Serf at Culross, he returned among his own people, and planted a small religious establishment on the banks of a little stream which falls into the Clyde at what is now the city of Glasgow. Upon a tree beside the clearing in the forest, he hung his bell to summon the savage neighbours to worship; and the tree with the bell still figures in the arms of Glasgow. Thus was the commencement made of what in time became a seat of population in connexion with an episcopal see; by and by, an industrious town; ultimately, what we now see, a magnificent city with half a million of inhabitants. Kentigern, though his amiable character procured him the name of Mungo, or the Beloved, had great troubles from the then king of the Strathclyde Britons; and at one time he had to seek a refuge in Wales, where, however, he employed himself to some purpose, as he there founded, under the care of a follower, St Asaph, the religious establishment of that name, now the seat of an English bishopric.

Resuming his residence at Glasgow, he spent many years in the most pious exercises – for one thing reciting the whole psalter once every day. As generally happened with those who gave themselves up entirely to sanctitude, he acquired the reputation of being able to effect miracles. Contemporary with him, though a good deal his junior, was Columba, who had founded the celebrated monastery of I-colm-kill. It is recorded that Columba came to see St Kentigern at his little church beside the Clyde, and that they interchanged their respective pastoral staves, as a token of brotherly affection. For a time, these two places were the centres of Christian missionary exertion in the country now called Scotland. St Kentigern, at length dying at an advanced age, was buried on the spot where, five centuries afterwards, arose the beautiful cathedral which still bears his name.


Dr James Macknight, born in 1721, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, wrote a laborious work on the Apostolical Epistles, which was published in 1795, in four volumes 4to. He had worked at it for eleven hours a day for a series of years, and, though well advanced in life, maintained tolerable health of body and mind through these uncommon labours; but no sooner was his mind relieved of its familiar task, than its powers, particularly in the department of memory, sensibly began to give way; and the brief remainder of his life was one of decline. Dibdin recommends the inviting quartos of Macknight, as containing ‘learning without pedantry, and piety without enthusiasm.’


In the Acta Sanctorum a curious legend is related in connexion with the life of Kentigern, as to the finding of a lost ring. A queen, having formed an improper attachment to a handsome soldier, put upon his finger a precious ring which her own lord had conferred upon her. The king, made aware of the fact, but dissembling his anger, took an opportunity, in hunting, while the soldier lay asleep beside the Clyde, to snatch off the ring, and throw it into the river. Then returning home along with the soldier, he demanded of the queen the ring he had given her. She sent secretly to the soldier for the ring, which could not be restored. In great terror, she then dispatched a messenger to ask the assistance of the holy Kentigern. He, who knew of the affair before being informed of it, went to the river Clyde, and having caught a salmon, took from its stomach the missing ring, which he sent to the queen. She joyfully went with it to the king, who, thinking he had wronged her, swore he would be revenged upon her accusers; but she, affecting a forgiving temper, besought him to pardon them as she had done. At the same time, she confessed her error to Kentigern, and solemnly vowed to be more careful of her conduct in future.1


In the armorial bearings of the see of Glasgow, and now of the city. St Kentigern’s tree with its bell forms the principal object, while its stem is crossed by the salmon of the legend, bearing in its mouth the ring so miraculously recovered.

In Scottish family history there are at least two stories of recovered rings, tending to support the possible verity of the Kentigern legend. The widow of Viscount Dundee – the famous Claverhouse – was met and wooed at Colzium House, in Stirlingshire, by the Hon William Livingstone, who subsequently became Viscount Kilsyth. The gentleman gave the lady a pledge of affection in the form of a ring, having for its posy, ‘YOURS ONLY AND EVER.’ She unluckily lost it in the garden, and it could not again be found; which was regarded as an unlucky prognostic for the marriage that soon after took place. Nor was the prognostic falsified by the event, for not long after her second nuptials, while living in exile in Holland, she and her only child were killed by the fall of a house. Just a hundred years after, the lost ring was found in a clod in the garden; and it has since been preserved at Colzium House. The other story is less romantic, yet curious, and of assured verity. A large silver signet ring was lost by Mr Murray of Pennyland, in Caithness, as he was walking one day on a shingly beach bounding his estate. Fully a century after wards, it was found in the shingle, in fair condition, and restored to Mr Murray’s remote heir, the present Sir Peter Murray Threipland of Fingask, baronet.

1 Acta Sanctorum, i. 820.

St. Mungo, Glasgow’s First Bishop, from Other Sources.

The founding of the See [of Glasgow], the election of the first bishop, the advent of Earl David, and the restoration of the bishopric – the dominant notes of the narrative – are heightened by contrast with the five centuries of anarchy, the gloomy period when Gildas and Nennius bewailed “the general destruction of everything good and the general growth of evil throughout the land.”1 The skill which gave the appearance of relevancy to so much that in no way fell under the cognisance of “the old and wise men” returning the verdict, would deserve recognition now were it only for having preserved for later times the earliest account of St. Kentigern, the pioneer missionary of Strathclyde.

That church verily with glorious ceremonials and ecclesiastical regulations grew up in the rudiments of the holy faith, and by divine arrangement received St. Kentigern as Bishop, to give to the thirsty the rich plenitude of heavenly knowledge and minister spiritual food unto the hungry as a faithful steward. But, in the course of time, the deceitful Destroyer, grieving that the said Church continued so long inviolate, with his wonted wiles, maliciously invented intolerable scandals against the Cumbrian Church. Forinsooth after St. Kentigern and his many successors were translated to God for their stedfastness in holy religion, divers insurrections arising everywhere, not only destroyed the Church and its possessions but likewise wasting the whole country, drove the inhabitants into exile.

– Scots Lore, pp.36-46.

1 It is doubtful whether the opening sentence should be read as a statement of fact or merely as words of style. Probably enough there is reference to the volume – stilo Scottico dictatum – which Jocelyn found sixty years later when writing his Life of Kentigern, or to some volume of a kindred character. In such books, as is well known (e.g. Chad’s Gospel, preserved at Lichfield; The Book of Deer. &.), Celtic clerks frequently preserved memoranda relating to Church lands. The Cumbrian judges referred to in the Notitia naturally would investigate the prima facie [at first sight] title of the Church and the possessory rights of the then owners. The grammatical construction of the opening sentence is faulty.

The beautiful street which now stretches westward from the Cross was in old times a country road leading to two chapels – one dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury and the other to St. Tanew or Thenew, the mother of Kentigern, who, according to the Aberdeen Breviary, was buried there. In a deed in 1498 mention is made of “the chapel where the bones of the beloved Thenew mother of the blessed confessor Kentigern rest now in the city of Glasgow.” It was surrounded by a burial-ground, now the site of St. Enoch’s Square. When McUre wrote his history in 1736 the remains of this old chapel were still to be seen – a solitary spot in the country, surrounded by cornfields.

Beside the “trees of St. Kentigern” mentioned in the foundation charter of Little St. Mungo’s Church, there was near the same place a well, called St. Mungo’s Well. – Fons Kentigerni. Like many of the old saints Kentigern is said to have had his bed, his bath, and his chair. The bed, Jocelin tells us, was hollowed out of the rock. He bathed in the Molendinar, and his seat, according to an ancient tradition, was super lapidem in supercilio montis vocabulo Gwleth. Gwleth, forming in combination Wleth, signifies dew, and hence, it has been said, the hill was called the Dew Hill, corrupted afterwards into the present name of Dow Hill. In a charter in 1581 it is called “Dowhill alias Gersumland.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.140-150.

1 Reg. Epis. Glasg., p. 588.

There is no reason to doubt, that about the middle of the sixth century, Saint Kentigern, deriving his faith and consecration from Servanus and Palladius, having been obliged for some time to seek shelter in Wales, returned and settled his colony of converts at Glasgow, a place then within the dominions of a petty prince of Cumbria. This little Christian family, which the monks of a later age chose to name a monastery, devoted themselves to rural industry, and learned, with their first lessons of a purer faith, many of the arts of peaceful life. Their founder and guide had at first perhaps no larger diocese. He was one of those Episcopi Britannorum who are mentioned from time to time in the history of the Church; but always with a vagueness, marking the distance and obscurity of the people amongst whom they exercised their ministry.

The full light of history first falls upon Glasgow at the restoration of the diocese by Saint David, which is recorded in the remarkable instrument standing first in the Ancient Register. It is a memoir or notitia, which, although not without parallel in Scotch records, is much less common with us than in the registers of religious houses abroad.4 In this instance, the document is very solemnly witnessed, and records an investigation directed by David, while Prince of Cumbria, regarding the lands and churches belonging to the Episcopal Church of Glasgow. The narrative, at its commencement, does not claim the same authority with the subsequent verdict of the five Juratores, – seniores homines et sapientiores totius Cumbriæ. It is simply a statement made by the framers of the instrument, in the presence of the Prince and his Court, of the tradition and belief of the country at that time. They first relate the foundation of the Church of Glasgow, and the ordination of St. Kentigern as bishop of Cumbria. They mention the death of Kentigern, and that he was succeeded by many bishops in the see; but that the confusion and revolutions of the country at length destroyed all traces of the Church, and almost of Christianity.

– Sketches, pp.29-70.

One of the legends told by the monk of Furness is that there being no men to plough the land, St. Kentigern commanded two deer which he saw on the edge of the wood to yoke themselves to the plough. They obeyed, and continued daily to perform their task. But on one occasion a wolf came out of the wood and attacked and devoured one of the deer, whereupon the saint commanded the wolf to take the stag’s place in the plough. “This he did with great humility, and, yoked with the other stag, ploughed up nine acres, whereupon the saint freely allowed him to depart.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.175-181.

1 Life by Jocelin, c. xix.
Mediaeval Architect 7

The sketch shews an open car with the corse of St. Fergus which St. Kentigern brought to this place for burial.1 The scroll is inscribed –


– Scots Lore, pp.85-94.

1 MacGeorge, Old Glasgow, p.10.

On this Day in Other Sources.


This same year [1263], also, the Queen was brought to bed [to deliver a] fair son at Jedburgh, and was christened Alexander, by [Abel de] Gullane, Bishop of St. Andrews. He was born the 13th day of January, on St. Anne’s day.

Historical Works, pp.57-77.

The king, [James II.,] thinking that he could talk Douglas over, and induce him to break the bond, invited him to a personal conference at Stirling Castle in 1452. Douglas having got a “safe-conduct” from the king, promising that he would be safe to go to the court and return from it, arrived in Stirling on the 13th of January. The king, with Douglas and they respective friends, dined and supped with much cordiality and courtesy. After supper, James took Douglas into an inner chamber, and in the course of conversation urged him to give up the bond. Douglas haughtily refused, whereupon the king in a fit of passion exclaimed, “If you will not break the league, this shall,” and stabbed him with his dagger. Sir Patrick Gray, who was at hand, glad of the opportunity of being avenged on Douglas for the murder of his nephew, came in and felled him with a pole-axe. His body was flung from the window into the court below. It was a foul deed, but unpremeditated. 

– A History of Scotland, Chapter IX. 


[Mary] returned to Stirling. And, here she remained, till the 13th of January 1567. Every moment now begins to be critical; and every minuteness, and specific caution, become, necessary, for ascertaining the truth, and guarding against slander. Robertson, who was all unaware of the nature of Darnley’s disease, declaims against the Queen, as defective, in conjugal sympathies, when she made those visits of amusement, instead of attending on her husband; without knowing, that she had sent her own physician to Darnley; and without adverting, that she had an infant to take care for. Thus it is, to write history without knowledge of facts, and still more, without the spirit of sagacity, which enables the writer, to draw the line, wisely, between falsehood, and truth.

The Queen set out from Stirling, with the Prince, for Edinburgh on the 13th of January; and remaining, during the night at Callender came to Edinburgh, on the morrow. The Queen continued to be disquieted, at Edinburgh, as she had been at Stirling, with two rumours, which seem to have given her great uneasiness: The one was, that the King intended to crown the Prince, and to take the government on himself; and the other, of a purpose, to place the King in ward.

Life of Mary, pp.136-151.


On the 13th day of January, this year, 1586, being Wednesday, Mary, Queen of Scotland, the King’s mother, was beheaded at Fotheringham castle in England, after she had remained 18 years a prisoner in that kingdom.

Historical Works*, pp.340-416.

* Balfour’s dates have always to be taken with caution, Mary was murdered on the 8th of February.


[On the 13th of] January this year, 1595, George Mure was hanged for killing of two ministers;

Historical Works, pp.340-416.


On another occasion we find the presbytery ordaining the minister of Rutherglen to summon the persons within his parish “quha in ye tyme called ʒule days used Gysrie* superstitiouslie and troublit yr nichtboars in ye nicht tyme to ye great offence of God and his kirk.”1 The offenders are afterwards ordained to make repentance.

Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.

1 13th January, 1608.
* “Gysrie” is put to the same use as guising does now in Scotland. Dressing up in a disguise or costume for a bit of nonsense.


On the 13th of January, [1687], as reported by Lord Fountainhall, Reid, a mountebank prosecuted Scott of Harden and his lady, “for stealing away from him a little girl called The Tumbling Lassie, that danced upon a stage, and produced a contract by which he had bought her from her mother for thirty pounds Scots (about £2 10s. sterling). “But we have no slaves in Scotland,” adds his lordship, “and mothers cannot sell their bairns; and physicians attested that the employment of tumbling would kill her, her joints were even now growing stiff, and she declined to return, though she was an apprentice, and could not run away from her master.” Then some of the Privy Council in the canting spirit of the age, “quoted Moses’ Law, that if a servant shelter himself with thee, against his master’s cruelty, thou shalt not deliver him up.” The Lords therefore assoilzied (i.e., acquitted) Harden, who had doubtless been moved only by humanity and compassion.

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.198-203.


In connection with the civil wars there is a curious entry in the burgh records regarding the son of one of the burgesses who had been engaged against the king’s troops:- “13 January, 1694: the said day ordaines the Mr. of Wark to pay to Adam Todd four dollars to help to pay the cure of James Todd his son who was deadlie woundit at Killicrankie.” The four dollars were well expended if the services rendered resulted in the cure of a person in such circumstances.

Old Glasgow, pp.162-175.

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