17th of January

St Anthony, patriarch of monks, 356. SS Speusippus, Eleusippus, Meleusippus, martyrs. St Nennius, abbot, 6th century. St Sulpicus the Pious, archbishop, 591. St Sulpicius the second, archbishop, 644. St Milgithe, virgin, 7th century.

Born. – B. de Montfaucon, antiquary, 1655; Archibald Bower, historical writer, 1686; Victor Alfieri, poet, 1749; J. C. W. G. Mozart, musician, 1756. 
Died. – John Ray, naturalist, 1705; Bishop Horne, 1792.


It is a curious proof of that tendency to continuity that the services appointed for national thanksgiving on account of the Gunpowder Plot, for national humiliation regarding the execution of Charles I., and for thanksgiving with respect to the Restoration of Charles II., should have maintained their ground as holidays till after the middle of the nineteenth century. National good sense had long ceased to believe that the Deity had inspired James [VI.] with ‘a divine spirit to interpret some dark phrases of a letter,’ in order to save the kingdom from the ‘utter ruin’ threatened by Guy Fawkes and his associates. National good feeling had equally ceased to justify the keeping up of the remembrance of the act of a set of infuriated men, to the offence of a large class of our fellow-Christians. We had most of us become very doubtful that the blood of Charles I. was ‘innocent blood,’ or that he was strictly a ‘martyred sovereign,’ though few would now-a-days be disposed to see him punished exactly as he was for his political shortcomings and errors. Still more doubt had fallen on the blessing supposed to be involved in the ‘miraculous providence’ by which Charles II. was restored to his kingdom. Indeed, to say the very least, the feeling, more or less partial from the first, under which the services on these holidays had been appointed, had for generations been dead in the national heart, and their being still maintained was a pure solecism and a farce.

In 1858, Earl Stanhope brought the matter formally before the House of Lords. He detailed the circumstances under which the services had originated; and then moved an address to the Crown, praying that the Queen would, by royal consent, abolish the services, as being derogatory to the present age. He pointed out that, although a nest of scoundrels planned a wicked thing early in the seventeenth century, it does not follow that the Queen should command her subjects to use offensive language towards Roman Catholics in the middle of the nineteenth [the effigy on bonfires was of the Pope until fairly recently.] He also urged that we, in the present day, have a right to think as we please about the alleged divine perfections of the sovereigns of the Stuart family. The Queen returned answers which plainly shewed what the advisers of the Crown thought on the matter. Accordingly, on the 17th of January 1859, a royal warrant was issued, abolishing the special services for the three days named.

A remark may be offered in addition, at the hazard of appearing a little paradoxical – that it might be well if a great deal of history, instead of being remembered, could be forgotten. It would be a benefit to Ireland, far beyond the Encumbered Estates Act, if nearly the whole of her history could be obliterated [an incredible claim from a historian.] Above all, it is surely most desirable that there should be no regular celebration by any nation, sect, or party, of any special transaction, the memory of which is necessarily painful to some neighbouring state, or some other section of the same population. Let us just reflect for a moment on what would be thought of a man who, in private society, loved to taunt a neighbour with a law-suit he had lost fifty years ago, or some criminality which had been committed by his great-grand-uncle! What better is it to remind the people of Ireland of their defeat at the Boyne, or our Catholic fellow-Christians of the guilt of the infatuated Catesby and his companions?

On this Day in Other Sources.


Perhaps the part of the Chronicle of the Curate of Fortirgall which may prove most useful, is his record of the weather, – of good and bad seasons, and of the consequent fluctuation of the prices of victuals. The first noticed by him is 1554, when there was frost and snow “whiles” before Andersmas (30th November), and continued frost from 13th December, and great snow from Yule day at even, and every day from thenceforth more and more without any thaw till the 17th of January. “It was the greatest snow and storm that was seen in memory of man living that time. Many wild horses and mares, kye, sheep, goats, perished and died for want of food in the mountains, and in all other parts; and though partial thaw came on 17th January, it began then to snow and freeze till the 22nd day of February, on which day men and women might well pass on the ice of Lyon in sundry places, and little tilth till the 26th day of February, and but in lyth (sheltered) places.”

Sketches, pp.341-394.


At the beginning of the year 1581, the Scotish Queen seems to have been, chiefly, occupied in forming a commission to the Duke of Guise; appointing him her lieutenant, and plenipotentiary, in a negotiation, between her, and her son. This document, was undoubtedly, intercepted. But, it is not easy to decide, whether it occasioned, an immediate measure, by Elizabeth. Whatever there may be in this, certain it is, that she issued, on the 17th of January 1581, a commission, and instructions, to Lord Shrewsbury, Sir Henry Nevil, and Sir William Pelham, for removing the Scotish Queen, from Sheffield castle, to Ashby-de-la-zouch, in Leicestershire, where Nevil, and Pelham were to take charge of her; and Shrewsbury to repair to court, with the whole of her writings, which they were directed to seize by force.

– Life of Mary, pp.260-274.


Among other offences dealt with and prohibited by the presbytery was “the playing of bagpipes on Sondaye from sun rising to its going doun,” and practising other pastimes after canonical hours under pain of censure.1 This limitation of the time for indulging in amusements appears to have been only carrying out an extraordinary order which the presbytery had issued a few years before prescribing the limits of the Sabbath. Their minute bears that they “interpret the sabbath to be from sun to sun – no work to be done between light and light in winter and between sun and sun in summer.”2

– Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.

1  7th May, 1594.
2  17th January, 1590.

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