31st of January

St Marcella, widow, 410. St Maidoc, called also Aidan, bishop of Ferus in Ireland, 632. St Serapion, martyr, 1240. St Cyrus and St John, martyrs. St Peter Nolasco, 1258.

Born. – Ben Jonson, 1574, Westminster
Died. – Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1788; Clara Clairon, 1803, Paris.



This unfortunate prince, so noted for his romantic effort to recover a forfeited crown in 1745, and the last person of the Stuart family who maintained any pretensions to it, expired at his house in Florence, at the age of sixty-eight. (It is alleged that, in reality, he died on the 30th of January, but that his friends disguised a fact which would have been thought additionally ominous for the house of Stuart.) The course of Charles Edward for many years after the Forty-five was eccentric; latterly it became discreditable, in consequence of sottishness, which not only made his friends and attached servants desert him, but caused even his wife to quit his house, to which she would never return. All that can be said in extenuation is, that he had been a greatly disappointed man: magnis incidit ausis. There is, however, a more specific and effective excuse for his bad habits; they had been acquired in the course of his extraordinary adventures while skulking for five months in the Highlands. The use of whisky and brandy in that country was in those days unremitting, when the element could be had; and Charles’s physical sufferings from hunger, exposure, and fatigue, made him but too eager to take the cup when it was offered to him. Of this fact there are several unmistakeable illustrations in a work quoted below – such as this, for example: Charles, arriving at a hovel belonging to Lochiel, ‘took,’ says the eye-witness, narrator of the incident, ‘a hearty dram, which he pretty often called for thereafter, to drink his friends’ healths.’ ‘I have learned,’ he said on another occasion, ‘to take a hearty dram, while in the Highlands.’


During the threats of invasion from France in 1803-4, the spirit of the people for national defence was wound up to a high pitch of enthusiasm. On the evening of the 31st of January 1804, a beacon at Hume Castle in Berwickshire was lighted in consequence of a mistake, and other beacons following the example, the volunteers throughout nearly all the southern counties of Scotland were in arms before next morning, and pouring fast to their respective places of rendezvous. It was held to be a most creditable example of earnest and devoted patriotism, and undoubtedly served to create a general feeling of confidence in the self-defensive powers of the island.

Some particulars of this affair have been set down by Sir Walter Scott, who had opportunities of observing what happened on the occasion. ‘The men of Liddesdale,’ says he, ‘the most remote point to the westward which the alarm reached, were so much afraid of being late in the field, that they put in requisition all the horses they could find; and when they had thus made a forced march out of their own county, they turned their borrowed steeds loose to find their way back through the hills, and they all got back safe to their own stables. Another remarkable circumstance was, the general cry of the inhabitants of the smaller towns for arms, that they might go along with their companions. The Selkirkshire yeomanry made a remarkable march; for although some of the individuals lived at twenty and thirty miles’ distance from the place where they mustered, they were nevertheless embodied and in order in so short a period, that they were at Dalkeith, which was their alarm-post, about one o’clock on the day succeeding the first signal, with men and horses in good order, though the roads were in a bad state, and many of the troopers must have ridden forty of fifty miles without drawing bridle.

‘The account of the ready patriotism displayed by the country on this occasion, warmed the hearts of Scottishmen in every corner of the world. It reached [in India] the ears of the well-known Dr  Leyden, whose enthusiastic love of Scotland, and of his own district of Teviotdale, formed a distinguished part of his character. The account, which was read to him when on a sick-bed, stated (very truly) that the different corps, on arriving at their alarm-posts, announced themselves by their music playing the tunes peculiar to their own districts, many of which have been gathering-signals for centuries. It was particularly remembered, that the Liddesdale men, before mentioned, entered Kelso playing the lively tune –

O wha dare meddle wi’ me! 
     And wha dare meddle wi’ me! 
My name it is little Jock Elliot, 
     And wha dare meddle wi’ me!

The patient was so delighted with this display of ancient Border spirit, that he sprung up in his bed, and began to sing the old song with such vehemence of action and voice, that his attendants, ignorant of the cause of excitation, concluded that the fever had taken possession of his brain; and it was only the entry of another Borderer, Sir John Malcolm, and the explanation which he was well qualified to give, that prevented them from resorting to means of medical coercion.’

A local newspaper of February 3, 1860, chronicled a festive meeting which had taken place four days before at the village of St Boswells in Roxburghshire, and gave the following curious details à-propos: ‘On the memorable night in 1804, when the blazing beacons on the Scottish hills told the false tale of a French invasion, a party of volunteers were enjoying themselves in a licensed toll-house at Ancrum Bridge, Roxburghshire. They rushed out on hearing that the beacon was lit on the Eildons, and, in their hurry to march to the appointed rendezvous, forgot to settle the reckoning with their host of the toll-house. When the alarm had subsided, and the volunteers had returned to their homes, they remembered the bill was still to pay, but the difficulty of assembling the whole party retarded the settlement till the anniversary of the day of the false alarm, the 31st January, drew near. They considered this a proper occasion to meet and clear off the old score, and it was then determined to hold an annual meeting by way of commemorating the lighting of the beacons. The toll-keeper removed first to Newtown, and then to St Boswells, but the party followed him, and the festival is still held in the Buccleuch Arms’ Inn. St Boswells, though none of the members of the original party of 1804 remain to take part in it.’

On this Day in Other Sources.


From Glasgow, the Queen [Mary] brought her husband [Lord Darnley], in a chariot, to Linlithgow, where they rested two days, and arrived at Edinburgh, on the 31st of January 1567. The house, in which Darnley was lodged, was the mansion of the provost of the collegiate church of St. Mary, in the field, usually called the Kirk of Field, which belonged to Robert Balfour, the provost; and which had been fitted up, as an infirmary, under the direction, no doubt, of the Queen’s physician.

Life of Mary, pp.136-151.


The first “manufactory” which the city possessed was established in 1638. It was a weaving factory, and the magistrates hastened to encourage the novel proposal, and to offer liberal terms to the projectors. Marking as it does the commencement, though in a very small way, of a new order of things which was destined to contribute so largely to the prosperity of the city, it may be interesting to quote the minute of the town council on the subject. It is entitled in the burgh records, “Anent the Manufactorie,” and is as follows:- “31 January 1638. The said day foirasmeikle as Robert Fleyming merchand, and his pairtineris, ar of mynd and intentioun to erect and tak up ane hous of manufactorie within this burgh, quhairby ane number of the poorer sort of people within the samin may be imployt and putt to wark; And the said provost bailies and Counsall considering the grait good, utilitie, and proffeitt will redound to this brught and haill incorporation thairof thairby, they have concludit, all in ane voyce, for the said Robert his better encuragement to the said good wark to sett to him ane lare and tak of thair grait ludging and yairds att the back thairof lyand within this burght in the drygaitt,* except the twa laich foir voultis and back galreis at the back of the samin lyand be eist the entrie of the said grait tenement, and of the buithe under the tolbuithe presentlie occupayt be James Wood, all maill frie of ony othir kynd of deutie, during the space of fifteen yeirs eftir his entry.”

Old Glasgow, pp.239-248.

*  We have a Lithograph renditioning of the Drygate in 1850ish by Thomas Fairbairn available to get an idea of the area 200 years later than this article.


Jan. 31. [1667] – Heretofore there had been only an irregular transmission of letters by means of foot-messengers between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and in the latter city there had been ‘long experience of the prejudice sustained, not only by the said burgh of Aberdeen, but by the nobility, gentry, and others in the north country, by the miscarrying of missive letters, and by the not timous delivery and receiving returns of the samen.’ It was now thought that there ought to be a constant post at Aberdeen, whereby ‘every man might have their letters delivered and answers returned at certain diets and times.’ It was therefore arranged, with the consent of Patrick Graham of Inchbrakie, his majesty’s postmaster-general, that Lieutenant John Wales should establish a regular horse-post at Aberdeen, to carry letters to Edinburgh every Wednesday and Friday, returning every Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon; every single letter to pay 2s., and every double letter 4s., every packet 5s. per ounce (in all cases Scots money). All other posts were discharged. Two years later (January 28, 1669), Inverness became sensible of a need for the same accommodation, though on a humbler footing.

Domestic Annals, pp. 302-321.


While thus encouraging innocent recreation, the magistrates were ready to suppress among the young men of the city, amusements which they considered of a more questionable tendency. In this spirit we find them, on a complaint by the university, restricting the use of billiard tables. One of the minutes of council bears that on a “complent being made be the Principall and Masters of the Colledge that some persones keeps Bulzard Tables to the prejudice of the young men, their scholars, frequenting the same neir the Colledge, quhen they could be att their books” – particularly by a person, no named, living in Milton’s land – “its concludit that he be discharged to keep the same and that no Bulzard Board be keiped betwixt the Wynd heid and the Croce.”1

Old Glasgow, pp.276-289.

1  31st January, 1679.


BULWER has just delivered himself of one of his best firework orations, as the new Lord Rector of Glasgow. He glowingly counselled the young students to go forth into the world “with the lion of Scotland in their hearts, and the white cross of ST. ANDREW” – we forget where. Now, what could be nobler knight-errantry for these young Scotch lions crossed with ST. ANDREW, than to sally forth in search of the papers, the charters, and the burgh-seals carried from Scotland by EDWARD THE FIRST,* and hidden in the closets, the store-rooms (much of the parchment covering the mouths of pickle-jars,) and the strong boxes of the Southron? The history of any one such knight duly attended by his SANCHO duly mounted, the faithful animal fed with the national thistle, would make a finer poem than the Faëry Queen, a more splendid prose epic than Don Quixotte. We make a present of the idea to PROFESSOR AYTOUN, who, should he condescend to adopt it, will for equal justice to Scotland and himself. EDWARD THE FIRST has long enough had it all his own way; and it is quite right that, even at this late hour, Scotland should bring the freebooter to the scratch.

January 31, 1857, p.42. Punch.

*  Donald MacLeod talks of Edward’s exploits in his Prologue to ‘Gloomy Memories.’

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