19th of January

Ss Maris, Martha, Audifax, ad Abachum, martyrs, 270. St Lomer, 593. St Blaithmaic, abbot in Scotland, 793. St Knut (Canutus), king of Denmark, martyr, 1036. St Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, 1095.

Born. – James Watt, 1736. 
Died. – William Congreve, poet, 1729; Thomas Ruddiman, grammarian, 1757.


James Watt was, as is well known, a native of the then small seaport of Greenock, on the Firth of Clyde. HIs grandfather was a teacher of mathematics. His father was a builder and contractor – also a merchant, – a man of superior sagacity, if not ability, prudent and benevolent. The mother of Watt was noted as a woman of fine aspect, and excellent judgment and conduct. When boatswains of ships came to the father’s shop for stores, he was in the habit of throwing in an extra quantity of sail-needles and twine, with the remark, ‘See, take that too; I once lost a ship for want of such articles on board.’1 The young mechanician received a good elementary education at the schools of his native town. It was by the overpowering bent of his own mind that he entered life as a mathematical-instrument-maker.


When he attempted to set up in that business at Glasgow, he met with an obstruction from the corporation of Hammermen, who looked upon him as an intruder upon their privileged ground. The world might have lost Watt and his inventions through this unworthy cause, if he had not had friends among the professors of the University, – Muirhead, a relation of his mother, and Anderson, the brother of one of his dearest school-friends, – by whose influence he was furnished with a workshop within the walls of the college, and invested with the title of its instrument-maker. Anderson, a man of an advanced and liberal mind, was Professor of Natural Philosophy, and had, amongst his class apparatus, a model of Newcomen’s steam-engine. He required to have it repaired, and put it into Watt’s hands for the purpose. Through this trivial accident it was that the young mechanician was led to make that improvement of the steam-engine which gave a new power to civilized man, and has revolutionised the world. The model of Newcomen has very fortunately been preserved, and is now in the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow College.

Watt’s career as a mechanician, in connection with Mr Boulton, at the Soho Works, near Birmingham, was a brilliant one, and ended in raising him and his family to fortune. Yet it cannot be heard without pain, that a sixth or seventh part of his time was diverted from his proper pursuits, and devoted to mere litigation, rendered unavoidable by the incessant invasions of his patents.

He was often consulted about supposed inventions and discoveries, and his invariable rule was to recommend that a model should be formed and tried. This he considered as the only true test of the value of any novelty in mechanics.

On this Day in Other Sources.


Worn out, with all those solicitudes, the Queen resolved to retire, from the intrigues of Edinburgh, to the quiet of the country. She remained, in her metropolis, till the 19th of January: as we learn from her household book. With only a part of her train, she departed, from Edinburgh, to Fife, on the 19th of January 1565; as we also know, from that curious record.

Life of Mary, pp.78-98.


Jan. 19 [1594]. – A great tulyie or street-combat this day took place in Edinburgh.

The Earl of Montrose, head of the house of Graham, was of grave years – towards fifty: he was of such a character as to be chosen, a few years afterwards, chancellor of the kingdom: still later, he became for a time viceroy of Scotland, the king being then in England. Yet this astute noble was so entirely under the sway of the feelings of the age as to deem it necessary and proper that he should revenge the death of John Graham (see page 132) upon its author, under circumstances similar to those which attended that slaughter. On its being known that the earl was coming with his son and retinue to Edinburgh, Sandilands was strongly recommended by some of his friends to withdraw from the town, ‘because the earl was then over great a party against him. His mind was, notwithstanding, sae undantonit, and unmindful of his former misdeed, finding himself not sae weel accompanied as he wald, he sent for friends, and convokit them to Edinburgh, upon plain purpose rather first to invade the said earl than to be invadit by him, and took the opportunity baith of time and place within Edinburgh, and made a furious onset on the earl [at the Salt Tron in the High Street], with guns and swords in great number. The earl, with his eldest son, defendit manifully, till at last Sir James was dung [driven down] on his back, shot and hurt in divers parts of his body and head, [and] straitly invadit to have been slain out of hand, gif he had not been fortunately succoured by the prowess of a gentleman callit Captain Lockhart. The lord chancellor and Montrose were together at that time; but neither reverence [n]or respect was had unto him at this conflict, the fury was sae great on either side; sae that the chancellor retirit himself with gladness to the College of Justice. The magistrates of the town, with fencible weapons, separatit the parties for that time; and the greatest skaith Sir James gat on his party, for he himself was left for dead, and a cousin-german of his, callit Crawford of Kerse, was slain, and mony hurt: but Sir James convalescit again, and this recompense he obteinit for his arrogancy. On the earl’s side was but ane slain, and mony hurt.’ – H.K.J.

Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

On the 19th of January, 1594, a sharp tulzie, or combat, ensued in the High Street between the Earl of Montrose, Sir James Sandilands, and others…

On the first arrival of the earl in Edinburgh Sir James had been strongly recommended by his friends to quit it, as his enemies were too strong for him; but instead of doing so he desired the aid and assistance of all his kinsmen and friends, who joined him forthwith, and the two parties meeting on the 19th of January, near the Salt Tron, a general attack with swords and hackbuts begun. One account states that John, Master of Montrose (and father of the great Marquis), first began the fray; another that it was begun by Sir James Sandilands, who was cut down and severely wounded by more than one musket-shot, and would have been slain outright but for the valour of a friend named Captain Lockhart. The Lord Chancellor was in great peril, for the combat was waged furiously about him, and, according to the “Historie of King James the Sext,” he was driven back to fighting “to the College of Justice (i.e., the Tolbooth). The magistrates of the town with fencible weapons separatit the parties for that time; and the greatest skaith Sir James gat on his party, for he himself was left for dead, and a cousin-german of his, callit Crawford of Kerse, was slain, and many hurt.” On the side of the earl only one was killed, but many were wounded.

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.191-198.


Jan. 19. [1688] – Copious periwigs, with curls flowing down to the shoulders, were now in vogue, both at home and abroad. There being an active exportation of hair for the foreign peruke-makers, the article was found to have become dear, and the native artists began to complain. On their petition, the Privy Council forbade the exporting of hair. – Foun.

Domestic Annals, pp. 338-341.


   “More than even we anticipated the great gathering held in Edinburgh on Wednesday has proved to be national both as regards its unanimity and objects, and not less enthusiastic than harmonious. No meeting equal to it from a purely patriotic point of view has taken place in Scotland during the current century. It constituted in itself an embodied protest against the government of our ancient kingdom by Westminster officials, in accordance with English ideas at variance alike with the sentiments of the people and with the Treaty of Union; and the resolutions which emanated from the Conference will go forth with the force of an irresistible demand in favour of the construction of a State Department for the transaction of distinctly Scottish business, with a Cabinet Minister at its head. As we remarked on Wednesday, the union of all parties in the demonstration furnishes the best guarantee for its success. Its freedom from party bias is evidenced from the circumstance that men differing so widely in politics as the Marquis of Lothian (who presided), the Earl of Aberdeen, the Marquis of Bute, the Earl of Elgin, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the Earl of Stair, Dr Cameron, Mr George Anderson, Mr Ramsay, Mr Cochran-Patrick, Admiral Sir John Hay, Bart., Mr J. Balfour, and the Hon. Edward Majoribanks took active part in the proceedings, and joined cordially on behalf of the great object of the Conference.”  

– Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Saturday 19th January, 1884.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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