23rd of January

St Emerantia, virgin, martyr, about 304. St Clement of Ancyra, martyr, 304. St Agathangelus, 304. St Eusebius, abbot in Assyria, 4th century. Ildefonsus, archbishop of Toledo, 667. St John the Almoner, patriarch of Alexandria, about 7th century. St Raymond of Pennafort, 1275.

Died. – James Earl of Moray, Regent of Scotland, 1570; William Pitt, statesman, 1806; Sir Francis Burdett, political character, 1844; Archdeacon Hare, 1855.


23rd of January [1643], was published ‘A great Wonder in Heaven, shewing, &c.,’ – a thin brochure now exceedingly rare. Its statement was to the effect, that on a Saturday in the by-past Christmas time, there had occurred at Keniton, in Northamptonshire, the apparition and noise of a battle in the air, a ghostly repetition of the conflict which two months before had taken place on the adjacent fields at Edgehill between the forces of the King and the Parliament. It was between twelve and one in the morning that there was ‘heard, by some shepherds and other countrymen and travellers, first the sound of drums afar off, and the noise of soldiers, as it were, giving out their last groans; at which they were much amazed, and amazed stood still, till it seemed by the nearness of the noise to approach them; at which, too much affrighted, they sought to withdraw as fast as possibly they could; but then on a sudden, while they were in these cogitations, appeared in the air the same incorporeal soldiers that made those clamours.*


January 23, 1748, the Hon. Charles Townshend, writing to a friend, says, ‘I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me.’1 If this were a rule generally followed, and the reserved means bestowed in judicious efforts for the good of others, what an improved world it would be!

Charles Townshend is one of the minor celebrities of the last century: he died in 1767, at the age of forty-two. Burke, referring some years after to his services in parliament, said he could not even then speak of Charles Townshend without some degree of sensibility. ‘He was the delight and ornament of this House, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country, nor in any country, a man of more pointed and finished wit, and (where his passions were not concerned) of a more refined, exquisite and penetrating judgment.’

It was the good fortune of Charles to gain favour with a young and noble widow, the Countess of Dalkeith (daughter of John Duke of Argyll, and mother of Henry Duke of Buccleuch). Sir Walter Scott relates the following anecdote regarding this alliance: ‘When he [Charles Townshend] came to Scotland [after the marriage], the tide of relations, friends, and vassals, who thronged to welcome the bride, were so negligent of her husband, as to leave him in the hall, while they hurried his lady forwards into the state apartments, until he checked their haste by exclaiming, “For Heaven’s sake, gentlemen, consider I am at least Prince George of Denmark!” ‘2

This union introduced Mr Townshend to the society of the then brilliant circle of Scottish literati. But, if we may depend upon the judgment of the Rev. Alexander Carlyle, these gentlemen judged his talents to be more of a showy than a solid character; and ‘at the end of two months,’ says this shrewd observer, ‘he had stayed long enough here.’ Carlyle gives the following sketch of an afternoon spent with the English stranger:

‘I called on him one morning at Dalkeith, when he said I had come most à-propos, if not engaged, for that he was going to ride to Edinburgh to make some calls: and his wife being engaged to dine with the Duchess of Gordon, he would be very glad of a small party in a tavern. I agreed, and we rode to Edinburgh together. When we drew near that city, he begged me to ride on and bespeak a small dinner at a tavern, and get a friend or two if I could to join us, as he must turn to the left to call on some people who lived in that direction. I went to town directly, and luckily found Home and Ferguson in Kincaid [the bookseller]‘s shop, and sent a cady3 to Robertson, to ask him to meet us at the Cross Keys soon after two o’clock, who likewise came. During dinner, and for almost an hour after, Charles, who seemed to be fatigued by his morning visits, spoke not a single word, and we four went on with our kind of conversation without adverting to Mr Townshend’s absence. After he had drunk a pint of claret, he seemed to awaken from his reverie, and then silenced us all with a torrent of colloquial eloquence, which was highly entertaining, for he gave us all our own ideas over again, embodied in the finest language, and delivered in the most impressive manner. When he parted from us, my friends remarked upon his excellence in this talent, in which Robertson agreed with them, without, perhaps, being conscious that he was the most able proficient in that art.’4

Charles Townshend fully appears to have been one of those persons with showy and superficial talents who make an impression on all around them, but produce no permanent good results. He could move and delight men, but not improve or guide them. In some peculiar circumstances, and at certain crises, his gift of the tongue might have proved serviceable; but, usually, such powers are only calculated to create or support delusions, by making the worse appear the better reason. Public men possessed of fascinating eloquence should in general be viewed with suspicion, and carefully guarded against, for they are apt to do great mischief. To make a pulpit orator a leader in a church, or raise a clever special pleader to a place in the cabinet council, are dangerous movements. In general, the powers which have made them famous are, at the best, useless in grave and important circumstances; often, the prestige which these powers have given, only enables them to interfere injuriously with the course pointed out by the wise. Perilous it is for a country to have a political system in which brilliant parliamentary oratory is allowed any but a moderate sway. It might be of some service to inquire how often mere oratory has been on the side of what was just, reasonable, and for the good of a state, and how often the reverse; and whether, on the whole, the affairs of nations and of individuals would not have been in a better case at this moment, if there never had existed any man capable of standing up and sawing the air, and puffing and sweating, while pouring out an ocean of exaggerated phrases calculated to work on the feelings of a multitude.

1  Jesse’s Life of George Selwyn.
2  Quarterly Review, xxxiv. 202.
3  A street message-carrier was so called in the northern capital.
4  Autobiography of Alexander Carlyle, 1860, p. 391.
*  This is the same type of manifestation seen in Scotland, August 1529 & February 1564, “There were seen in the firmament (Feb. 15 and 18), says he, ‘battles arrayit, spears and other weapons, and as it had been the joining of two armies. Thir things were not only observed, but also spoken and constantly affirmed by men of judgment and credit.’ ” This excerpt is from this same author’s ‘Domestic Annals of Scotland’ (1885) in which he’s happy to suggest it was “a simple example of the aurora borealis.” This suggestion isn’t made for the occurrence in England.

On this Day in Other Sources.


We may readily conceive, without proof of record, that the Abbey buildings suffered no less damage in affrays of their landward neighbours. Such, for instance, was that “discord quhilk fell betweine [the Lindesays and the Ogilvies] for ane meane bailiarie of Arebroath, quhilk pertenit to Alexander Lindsay; bot Alexander Ogilvie, quhidder it cam of his awin ambitione or if it was the Abbottis pleasour it is not certain, usurped the bailiarie to himselfe and put this Alexander fra the same.”1 The “discord” was in the winter of 1445, and is thus summarily noticed by a contemporary who cared for neither faction:-

“The yer of God M.CCC.XLV. the XXIII day of Januar, the Erll of Huntlie and the Ogilbeis with him on the ta part, and the Erll of Craufurd on the toher part, met at the yettis of Arbroth on ane Sonday laite, and faucht. And the Erll of Huntlie and Wat Ogilbie fled. And thar was slane on thair party, Schir Jhon Oliphant lard of Aberdalghy, Schir William Forbes, Schir Alexander Barclay, Alexander Ogilby, David of Aberkerdach, with uther syndry. And on the tother part, the Erll of Craufurd himself was hurt in the field and deit within viij dayis. Bot he and his son wan the feild and held it, and efter that, a gret tyme, held the Ogilbyis at great subjeccioun, and tuke thair gudis and destroyit thair placis.”2

Sketches, pp.144-172.

1  The writer is not impartial where a Lindsay is concerned. – Pitscottie, p. 53.
2  Auchinleck Chronicle.


Jan. 23. [1562] – John Acheson, master-cunyer, and John Aslowan, burgess of Edinburgh, now completed an arrangement with Queen Mary, by virtue of which they had license to work the lead-mines of Glengoner and Wanlockhead, and carry as much as twenty thousand stone-weight of the ore to Flanders, or other foreign countries, for which they bound themselves to deliver at the Queen’s cunyie-house before the 1st of August next, forty-five ounces of fine silver for every thousand stone-weight of the ore, ‘Extending in the hale to nine hundred unces of utter fine silver.’

Domestic Annals, pp.13-29.


On the 23rd of January, this year [1570], the Earl of Moray, the Regent, was killed in Linlithgow, with the shot of a harquebus, from a window, by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, who immediately fled out at a back [entrance], and mounted a swift horse, which the Hamiltons had there waiting for him; and so he escaped, and presently shipped himself for France.

Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Moray, whatever opinion may be entertained of his conduct towards his sister, proved a vigorous and just ruler, insomuch as to gain the title of the Good Regent; but he was early cut off in his course, falling victim to private revenge at Linlithgow (January 23, [1570]).

Jan. 23. [1570] – ‘The Earl of Moray, the Good Regent, was slain in Linlithgow by James Hamilton of Bothwell-haugh, who shot the said Regent with a gun out at ane window, and presently thereafter fled out at the back, and leapt on a very good horse, which the Hamiltons had ready waiting for him; and, being followed speedily, after that spur and wand had failed him, he drew forth his dagger, and struck his horse behind; whilk causit the horse to leap a very broad stank; by whilk means he escaped.’ – Bir.

Domestic Annals, pp.35-44.


Here, then, was that ‘sect of thieves’ formally liable to the vengeance which the secretary of state meditated against them. The commander, Livingstone, on the 23d January [1692], wrote to Colonel Hamilton of Inverlochy garrison to proceed with his work against the Glencoe men. A detachment of the Earl of Argyll’s regiment – Campbell’s, hereditary enemies of the Macdonalds of Glencoe – under the command of Campbell of Glenlyon, proceeded to the valley, affecting nothing but friendly intentions, and were hospitably received. Glenlyon himself, as uncle to the wife of one of the chief’s sons, was hailed as a friend. Each morning, he called at the humble dwelling of the chief and took his morning draught of usquebaugh, written on the 12th at Ballachulish by Major Robert Duncanson (a Campbell also), were now in Glenlyon’s hands. They bore – ‘You are to put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care that the old fox and his son do on no account escape your hands. You are to secure all avenues, that none escape; this you are to put in execution at five o’clock precisely, and by that time, or very shortly after it, I’ll strive to be at you with a stronger party. If I do not come to you at five, you are not to tarry for me, but to fall on.’

Domestic Annals, pp.342-354.


One of the most singular trials consequent upon the rising of 1745 was that of Provost Stewart for “neglect of duty, misbehaviour in public office, and violation of trust and duty.” 

From his house in the Bow he had to proceed to London in November, 1745. Immediately upon his arrival he sent notice of it to the Secretary of State, and underwent a long and vexatious trial before a Cabinet Council. He was taken into custody, but was liberated upon the 23rd of January, 1746, on bail to the extent of £15,000, to appear, as a traitor before the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh.

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.322-329.


   “THE Right Hon. John Morley, addressing a meeting at Broughty Ferry on Saturday evening last in support of the Liberal candidate for Forfarshire, said whatever sop or dole the Government gave to the schools in England, they would have to give an equivalent grant to Scotland and he hoped Scotland would be firm against the grant being distributed for the purposes defined in the destination except it was in accordance with the wishes, views, and intentions of the people of Scotland. He described the Rating Act as a clumsy device for distributing public money for the purpose of a single class to give relief to some people who did not want it, and did not give any adequate relief to the people who did want it. The controversy regarding the financial relations of Ireland should stand clear of Home Rule, not that he was backing out of Home Rule, for he was more firmly convinced than ever that the Liberal party was right, and that the country would by and bye recognise it.”  

– Shetland Times, Saturday 23rd January, 1897.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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