St Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, 166. St Paula, widow, 404. St Conon, bishop of Man, about 648.
Born. – Lord George Sackville, 1716; J. B. Barnadotte, king of Sweden, 1764, Pau.
Died. – Francis Jeffrey, 1850, Edinburgh; Adam Gottlob Ochlenschläger, Danish poet, 1850.
Conon is a Scotch saint of the seventh century. He was for some years Bishop of Man or of the Southern Isles, and his name continued to be remembered with veneration in the Highlands till the Reformation. ‘Claw for claw,’ as Conon said to Satan, ‘and the devil take the shortest nails,’ is a proverb of the Highlanders, apparently referring to some legend of an encounter between the holy man and the great spiritual enemy of our race.
The first recognised editor of the Edinburgh Review was a man of small and slight figure, and of handsome countenance; of fine conversational powers, and, what will surprise those who think of him only as the uncompromising critic, great goodness of heart and domestic amiability. In his latter years, when past the psalmist-appointed term of life, he grew more than ever tender of heart and amiable, praised nursery songs, patronised mediocrities, and wrote letters of almost childish gentleness of expression. It seemed to be the natural strain of his character let loose from some stern responsibility, which had made him sharp and critical through all his former life.
His critical writings had a brilliant reputation in their day. He was too much a votary of the regular old rhetorical style of poetry to be capable of truly appreciating the Lake school, or almost any others of his own contemporaries. The greatest mistake he made was as to Wordsworth, whose Excursion he saluted (Edinburgh Review, November 1814) with an article beginning, ‘This will never do;’ a free and easy condemnation which, now contrasted with the reputation of Wordsworth, returns a fearful revenge upon the critic.
Jeffrey, however, is not without his companions in this kind of misfortune. Home, the author of Douglas, could not see the merit of Burns; and Ritson, while appreciating him as a poet generally, deemed his songs a failure. ‘He does not,’ says the savage Joseph, ‘appear to his usual advantage in song: non omnia possumus.’
Died on the 26th January 1855, the Right Rev. David Low. Bishop of Ross and Argyll, in the episcopal communion of Scotland. The principal reason for noticing this prelate is the fact that he was the last surviving clergyman in Scotland, who had, in his official character, acted upon scruples in behalf of the house of Stuart. At the time of the excellent bishop’s entrance to the Church, in 1787 – when he was ordained a deacon – the body to which he belonged omitted the prayer for the king and royal family from their service, being unostentatiously but firmly attached to the fortunes of the family which forfeited the British crown nearly a hundred years before; and it was not till after the death of the unfortunate Charles Edward, in January 1788, that they at length (not without some difficulty) agreed to pray for King George.
An obituary notice of Bishop Low speaks of him as follows: ‘His appearance was striking – tall, attenuated, but active – his eye sparkling with intelligence, his whole look that of a venerable French abbé of the old régime. His mind was eminently buoyant and youthful, and his memory was a fount of the most interesting historical information, especially in connection with the Cavalier of Jacobite party, to which he belonged by early association and strong religious and political predilection. Born in a district (at that time) devoted to the cause of the Stuarts, almost under the shadow of Edzell Castle, the ancient stronghold of the Lindsays in Forfarshire, and having lived much from time to time in his early years in the West Highlands, among the Stuarts of Ballachulish and Appin, he had enjoyed familiar intercourse with the veterans of 1715 and 1745, and he detailed the minutest events and adventures of those times with a freshness and a graphic force which afforded infinite delight to his younger auditors. His traditional knowledge extended even to the wars of Claverhouse and Montrose.’
Those who know of bishops and their style of living only from the examples afforded by the English Protestant Church, will hear with surprise and incredulity of what we have to tell regarding Bishop Low. This venerable man, who had never been married, dwelt in a room of the old priory of Pittenweem, on the coast of Fife, where he ministered to a congregation for which a good dining-room would have furnished tolerably ample accommodation. He probably never had an income above a hundred a year in his life; yet of even this he spent so little, that he was able at the last to bequeath about eight thousand pounds for purposes connected with his communion. A salt herring and three or four potatoes often formed the home dinner of the Bishop of Ross and Argyll.
Even in Scotland, chiefly from the introduction of English clergymen of fortune into the episcopate, a bishop is beginning to be, typically, a tolerably well-off and comfortable-looking personage. It therefore becomes curious to recall what he, typically, was not many years ago. The writer has a perfect recollection of a visit he paid, in the year 1826, to the venerable Dr Jolly, Bishop of Moray, who was esteemed as a man of learning, as well as a most devoted officer of his church. He found the amiable prelate living at the fishing town of Fraserburgh, at the north-east corner of Aberdeenshire, where he officiated to a small congregation. The bishop, having had a little time to prepare himself for a visitor, was, by the time the writer made his call, dressed in his best suit and his Sunday wig. In a plain two-storey house, such as is common in Scotch towns, having a narrow wooden stair ascending to the upper floor, which was composed of two coomceiled apartments, a but and a ben, and in one of these rooms, the beautiful old man, for he was beautiful – sat, in his neat old-fashioned black suit, buckled shoes, and wig as white as snow, surrounded entirely by shelves full of books, most of them of an antique and theological cast. Irenæus or Polycarp could not have lived in a style more simple. The look of the venerable prelate was full of gentleness, as if he had never had an enemy, or a difficulty, or anything else to contend with, in his life. His voice was low and sweet, and his conversation most genial and kindly, as towards the young and unimportant person whom he had admitted to his presence. The whole scene was a historical picture which the writer can never forget, or ever reflect on without pleasure. Bishop Jolly lived in a style nearly as primitive as Bishop Low; but the savings which consequently arose from his scanty income were devoted in a different way. His passion apart from the church was for books, of which he had gathered a wonderful quantity, including many that were of considerable value for their rarity.
SEVENTH SONS AND THEIR SEVENTH SONS.
There has been a strong favour for the number Seven, from a remote period in the world’s history. It is, of course, easy to see in what way the Mosaic narrative gave sanctity to this number in connection with the days of the week, and led to usages which influence the social life of all the countries of Europe. But a sort of mystical goodness or power has attached itself to the number in many other ways. Seven wise men, seven champions of Christendom, seven sleepers, seven-league boots, seven churches, seven ages of man, seven hills, seven senses, seven planets, seven metals, seven sisters, seven stars, seven wonders of the world, – all have had their day of favour; albeit that the number has been awkwardly interfered with by modern discoveries concerning metals, planets, stars, and wonders of the world.
Added to the above list is the group of Seven Sons, especially in relation to the youngest or seventh of the seven; and more especially still if this person happen to be the seventh son of a seventh son. It is now, perhaps, impossible to discover in what country, or at what time, the notion originated; but a notion there certainly is, chiefly in provincial districts, that a seventh son has something peculiar about him. For the most part, the imputed peculiarity is a healing power, a faculty of curing diseases by the touch, or by some other means.
In Ireland, the seventh son of a seventh son is believed to possess prophetical as well as healing power. A few years ago, a Dublin shopkeeper, finding his errand-boy to be generally very dilatory in his duties, inquired into the cause, and found that, the boy being a seventh son of a seventh son, his services were often in requisition among the poorer neighbours, in a way that brought in a good many pieces of silver. Cases are not wanting, also, in which the seventh daughter is placed upon a similar pinnacle of greatness. In Scotland, the spae wife, or fortune-teller, frequently announces herself as the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, to enhance her claims to prophetic power.
On this Day in Other Sources.
MARY CONTINUES HER TOUR OF ENGLISH CONFINEMENT.
Without money, and the proper means of transport, they departed, from Bolton castle, something against the Queen’s will, on the 26th of January 1569; [en route to] Lord Shrewsbury’s castle of Tutbury,..
– Life of Mary, pp. 235-244.
PLAGUED CITIZENS OUSTED AND LEFT TO SPREAD THE PEST.
On the 26th of January 1602, it is stated that the infected families of Crail being put forth upon the neighbouring moor, and there being no provision for ‘the entertening of the puir and indigent creatures,’ they had wandered throughout the country in quest of food, and thus endangered the spread of the disease. The sheriff of Fife was ordered to see provision made for these people, and to take measures for punishing those who had wandered.
– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.
HOUSE DESTROYED AND ANIMALS KILLED BY LIGHTNING.
Jan. 26.  – On this day – an unusual season for thunder in our climate – a ‘thunder-clap’ fell upon Castle-Kennedy, the seat of the Earl of Cassillis in Ayrshire – ‘which, falling into a room where there were several children, crushed some dogs and furniture; but happily the children escaped. From thence descending to a low apartment, it destroyed a granary of meal. At the same time, a gentleman in the neighbourhood had about thirty cows, that were feeding in the fields, struck dead by the thunder.’
– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.
RESPONSE ON BEHALF OF THOSE EXTIRPATED FROM BARRA.
Declaration of Barr McDougall, Roderick McNeill, senior, and Ann McKinnon, being three individuals of the expatriated people of Barra.
“It is not true that we were all provided with houses before we left Barra; neither were we employed, nor might have been employed by the Relief Committee at the date when we left Barra. Barr McDougall, and Donald McLean occupied houses on the farm rented by Dr. McGillvray, and got notice to quit them a week before the term of Whitsunday, 1850. They did not remove till their houses had been partly stripped and their fires put out. Donald McLean did not remove till his house was totally unroofed and remained for ten days within the bare walls without any covering but the sail of a boat: though he was at the time lingering under the disease of which he has since died. Barr McDougall did not give up his croft at Greine voluntarily; but when his rent was augmented without any corresponding advantages he fell into arrears, like all his neighbours.* His stock was seized by the factor and sold for the arrears – consequently had to surrender his croft, and finally his native country along with it. Does not deny that he sought assistance when pressed by famine; but always laboured when he could find employment.
Donald McLean was not indolent, as is falsely reported; but, the poor man was quite incapable of standing fatigue or hard labour, as he was for a long while labouring under consumptive disease which relieved him from the fangs of his pampered calumniators, six weeks after he went to Edinburgh.
Roderick McNeil, senior, was not several times accused of theft, and never apprehended. There was an attempt made once to implicate him, by another man who broke into a grocer’s shop and who afterwards (in order to lighten his own punishment) accused Roderick McNeil, senior, as being art and part; but the said Roderick appeared before the Fiscal, Mr. Duncan McNee, at Lochmaddy, North Uist, where he was honourably acquitted, and was paid the sum of twelve shillings for his trouble.
Roderick McNeil, junior, laboured for a long time for the Relief Committee, at roads and other works for 10½ lbs of meal per week, which was all the means of subsistence allowed for himself, his wife and two children. Finding death staring them in the face, Roderick’s wife went to the superintendent of the Relief Board and begged of him to allow her to work in her husband’s place that he might go to the fishing, which the superintendent granted; and for this favour Roderick shared the fish with him. There were many females labouring for 10 hours a day in the island of Barra at that time. They were compelled from the system of labour to work with wheelbarrows and carry burdens. The method taken to load them was as follows:- The female being ordered to turn her back to the turf-cutter and to place her hands behind in a position almost on her knees, the turfs were laid on her back in succession till she had a sufficient burden – enough to rise under and carry for some distance – there lay them down to come back for more. They had often to gather their petticoats about the sod in order to keep it on their back, while, in wet weather, the water, sometimes the melted snow, streamed down their back and sides. At this work Roderick McNeil’s wife continued till within two days of her confinement!!!
Ann McKinnon acknowledges having had a child ten years ago; but neither herself nor her child ever became a burden on the Parochial Board of Barra; though (in consequence of her father’s death) the maintenance of the child fell entirely on herself. She also laboured at both the turf-carrying and the wheelbarrow so long as she could get work, at the rate of 4½ lbs of meal per week.
We further declare that we went to Henry Beatson, minister, requesting certificates of character, which he refused, alleging that he was not in the habit of giving such to any one. However we see that he has sent one after us; though to his eternal shame he has given it in direct violation of the Holy Scriptures which he pretends to expound to the people, and which says, ‘Thou shalt not raise a false report; put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness’. – Exod. xxiii. 1. That the said Henry Beatson is a most unfeeling person. He once told James McDonald, an indigent man, when he solicited aid, ‘Go to the mountains and eat grass and heather!’ He has been most energetic in assisting Colonel Gordon’s underlings in forcing away from their fatherland the 2000 which were transported to America from Barra and South Uist, and who are now begging and starving in Upper Canada. That there are at the present time men and women working about his manse, raising fences, trenching, &c., for one pound of meal per day, and although they would perish of cold, they dare not approach the minister’s kitchen fire. That the meal which is doled out on these hard conditions, under the superintendence of Mrs. Beatson, is believed to be the remains of the old Relief Committee meal.
We also know D. W. McGillvray, J.P., Tacksman, and think he should be the last to speak of ‘illegitimate children,’ as a poor idiotic female who perambulated the country fathered a child on him, and declared that various stratagems were tried to prevent disclosures which cannot be mentioned here.
We have nothing particular to say of Wm. Birnie, Manager for Colonel Gordon, as he is but seldom in the island.
Of Donald N. Nicolson, M.D., Tacksman, we will only wait to say that after continuing for years, ‘adding house to house and field to field,’ the woes which are pronounced against such have at last overtaken him; his whole effects having been sold by his creditors a few weeks ago.
Archibald McDonald, Elder, Tenant, is a bastard son; and the gallant Colonel himself had no fewer than three bastard children to grace the name of Gordon.”
The above declaration was taken at Glasgow, on the 26th of January, 1852, in the presence of the undersigned witnesses, and was read in Gaelic to the Declarants, who affirm that it is correct.
ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR, Witness.
DUNCAN McDOUGALL, do.
NEIL CAMPBELL, do.
WILLIAM LIVINGSTONE, do.
– Gloomy Memories, pp.134-145.