21st of January

St Fructuosus, 259. St Agnes, virgin martyr, 304 or 305. St Epiphanius, 497. St Vimin, or Vivian (?), 615.

Born. – Thomas Lord Erskine, 1750; Admiral William Smyth, 1788. 
Died. – Dr Robert Macnish, miscellaneous writer, 1837; Henry Hallam, historian, 1859.


It is well known that Lord Erskine had experienced what he considered as a ghostly visitation. The circumstances, as related by himself, are given in Lady Morgan’s Book of the Boudoir.

‘When I was a very young man. I had been for some time absent from Scotland. On the morning of my arrival in Edinburgh, as I was descending the steps of a close, or coming out from a bookseller’s shop, I met our old family butler. He looked greatly changed, pale, wan, and shadowy as a ghost. “Eh! old boy,” I said, “what brings you here?” He replied, “To meet your honour, and solicit your interference with my lord, to recover a sum due to me, which the steward at the last settlement did not pay.” Struck by his looks and manner, I bade him follow me to the bookseller’s, into whose shop I stepped back; but when I turned round to speak to him, he had vanished.

‘I remembered that his wife carried on some little trade in the Old Town. I remembered even the house and flat she occupied, which I had often visited in my boyhood. Having made it out, I found the old woman in widow’s mourning. Her husband had been dead for some months, and had told her on his death-bed, that my father’s steward had wronged him of some money, but that when Master Tom returned, he would see her righted. This I promised to do, and shortly after I fulfilled my promise. The impression was indelible -.’1

An amusing circumstance regarding Lord Erskine arose from his becoming possessed of a Sussex estate, which grew nothing but stunted birches, and was found totally irreclaimable. That it might not be wholly a loss to him, he commenced getting the birches converted into brooms, which were sold throughout the country. One of the broom-sellers being taken before a magistrate for acting thus without a licence, Erskine went to defend him, and contended there was a clause to meet this very case. Being asked which it was, he answered, ‘The sweeping clause, your worship, which is further fortified by a proviso, that “nothing herein contained shall prevent any proprietor of land from vending the produce thereof in any manner that to him shall seem fit.” ‘

1  Lord Erskine was born in 1750, and entered the navy as a midshipman at the age of fourteen: at eighteen he transferred his services to the army, and at twenty-seven settled in the study of that profession in which he acquired such celebrity. He died in 1823.

On this Day in Other Sources.


“Dublin, Jan. 5.

   Four plain and unanswerable Reasons, shewing that no Time can be proper for repealing the Test humbly offered to the serious Consideration of all true Lovers of our Constitution, and present Establishment in Church and State.  

   Because it is demonstratively evident, that the Repeal of the Test, or the divesting the Church by Law established, of any Right or Privilege, which by Act of Parliament it enjoys, would ipso facto dissolve the happy Union between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland; it being by the Act of the Union between the two said Kingdoms, ordained and enacted as follows; ‘That all and singular Acts of Parliament, now in force, for the Establishment and Preservation of the Church of England, and the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government thereof, shall remain and be in full Force for ever. And it is after enacted and declared, That this Act, and all and every the Matters and Things therein contained, be, and shall be for ever holden and adjudged, to be a fundamental and essential Part of the Union between the two Kingdoms.’ ”  

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 21st January, 1734.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1700-1750.


2625. Letter from Colonel Hay to Provost Cochrane as to H.R.H.’s demands on Glasgow. Bannockburn, 21st Jan., 1746.

Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.


Ramsay gave up his shop and library in 1752, transferring then to his successor, who opened an establishment below with an entrance direct from the street. This was Mr. James MacEwan, from whom the business passed into the hands of Mr. Alexander Kincaid, an eminent publisher in his time, who took a great lead in civic affairs, and died in office as Lord Provost of Edinburgh on the 21st of January, 1777.

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.148-157.

One thought on “21st of January

Leave a Reply