1st of February – St Bride’s Day

St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, martyr, 107. St Rionius, priest and martyr, 250. St Kinnia, virgin of Ireland, 5th century. St Bridget (or Bride), patroness of Ireland, 523. St Sigebert II., King of Austrasia, 656.

 

Born. – Tiberius Hemsterhuys, 1685, Groningen
Died. – Pope Alexander VIII., 1691; Sir Hew Dalrymple, President of the Court of Session, 1737; William Aiton, botanist, 1793, Kew; Edward Donovan, naturalist, 1837; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (née Godwin), novelist, 1851.

 

WILLIAM AITON AND THE ‘HORTUS KEWENSIS.’

In the neatly kept churchyard of Kew, in Surrey, rest the remains of [Scottish Botanist] William Aiton, ‘late gardener to his Majesty at Kew,’ a reputation which he largely extended by the publication of the famed Catalogue of Plants in the royal gardens, entitled the Hortus Kewensis. He had been superintendent of the gardens from their first establishment; and in honour of his professional abilities and private worth, at his funeral the pall was supported by Sir Joseph Banks, the Rev D. Goodenough, Dr Pitcairne, Mr Dundas (of Richmond), and Zoffany, the painter.

 

THE BELL ROCK LIGHTHOUSE.

For more than half a century has this noble structure braved the storms of the German Ocean without any of its masonry being displaced. It was first lighted on the 1st of February 1811.

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The Inch Cape Rock, Scape Rock, as it is termed in the oldest charts,1 or Bell Rock, lies on the coast about twenty-four miles east of Dundee harbour, in the track of all vessels making for the estuaries of the Friths of Forth and Tay, from a foreign voyage. It was, from a very remote period, the scene of numerous shipwrecks. The top of the rock being visible at low water, one of the abbots of Aberbrothock attached to its a framework and a bell, which, being rung by the waves, warned mariners to avoid the fatal reef. A tradition respecting this bell has been embodied by Dr Southey in his ballad of ‘Ralph the Rover.’ A notorious pirate of this name is said to have cut the bell from the framework, ‘to plague the Abbot of Aberbrothock,’ and some time after he is said to have received the just punishment of his wickedness, by being shipwrecked on the spot.

The necessity of erecting a lighthouse upon this rock was painfully shewn in the year 1799, when about seventy vessels were wrecked on the coast of Scotland in a terrific storm. This calamity drew the attention of the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses to the Inch Scape, and Mr Robert Stevenson, the scientific engineer of the Lighthouse Board, erected the present edifice from his own designs, between the years 1807 and 1811. The rock being bare only during short daily intervals, the work necessarily became very troublesome, as well as in some degree critical. All the stones were shaped and prepared at Arbroath; and the several courses having been dove-tailed, and cemented together by joggles of stone and oaken trenails, the whole building, when erected upon the rock and properly fixed and cramped, was constituted into one solid mass, which seems likely to defy the elements for centuries. The light-room is of cast-iron, and the entire height of the pillar is 115 feet. The cost was £60,000. In the arrangements, the primitive contrivance of the bell has not been forgotten: during stormy and foggy weather, the machinery which causes the reflectors to revolve, is made to ring two large bells, each weighing about 12 cwt., in order to warn the seaman of his danger when too nearly approaching the rock.

When Sir Walter Scott visited this lighthouse in 1815, he wrote in the album kept there the following lines:

PHAROS LOQUITUR. 
‘Far on the bosom of the deep, 
 O’er these wild shelves my watch I keep; 
 A ruddy gem of changeful light, 
 Bound on the dusky brow of Night; 
 The seaman bids my lustre hail, 
 And scorns to strike his tim’rous sail.’

A work precisely similar to the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse – the formation of a lighthouse on the rock called Skerryvore, in the Hebrides – was executed between 1835 and 1844, by Alan Stevenson, son of Robert, under circumstances of even greater difficulty and peril: such are among the works which give great engineers a kind of parallel place in our pacific age to that of the mythic heroes of a primitive one. Of each work, an elaborate detail has been published by their respective chiefs. 

A curious circumstance connected with the building of the Inch Scape Lighthouse is mentioned in a late work: ‘One horse, the property of James Craw, a labourer in Arbroath, is believed to have drawn the entire materials of the building. This animal latterly became a pensioner of the Lighthouse Commissioners, and was sent by them to graze on the island of Inchkeith, where it died of old age in 1813. Dr John Barclay, the celebrated anatomist, had its bones collected and arranged in his museum, which he bequeathed at his death to the Royal College of Surgeons [Edinburgh], and in their museum the skeleton of the Bell Rock horse may yet be seen.’2

 

THE WAY SHREWS WERE TAMED LONG AGO.

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The term Cucking-stool is sometimes used interchangeably for ducking-stool, the resemblance of the names having apparently lent to an idea that they meant the same thing. In reality, the cucking-stool was a seat of a kind which delicacy forbids us particularly to describe, used for the exposure of flagitious females at their own doors or in some other pubic place, as a means of putting upon them the last degree of ignominy.* In Scotland, and ale-wife who exhibited bad drink to the public was put upon the Cock stule, and the ale, like such relics of John Girder’s feast as were totally uneatable (see Bride of Lammermoor), was given to ‘the pure folk.’

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In Scotland there are sundry specimens of gossips’ bridles still extant; and it seems, from various notices, that its use was quite as frequent formerly in the northern kingdom as south of the Tweed. Pennant, in his Tour in Scotland, in 1772, records its use at Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, where the local magistrates had, it appears, their little piece of machinery in constant readiness for any emergency. Dr Wilson, in his Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, mentions the brank as a Scottish instrument of ecclesiastical punishment, for the coercion of scolds and slanderous gossips. The use of the apparatus occurs in the Burgh Records of Glasgow as early as 1574, when two quarrelsome females were bound to keep the peace, or, on further offending, ‘to be brankit.’** In the records of the Kirk Session at Stirling, for 1600, ‘the brankes’ are mentioned as the punishment for a shrew. In St Mary’s church, at St Andrew’s, a memorable specimen still exists, known as the ‘Bishop’s brank,’ sketched and noticed in the Abbotsford edition of The Monastery

 

1  Inch Scaup appears to be the true old name of the rock, implying something at once an island and a bed of shell-fish.
2  Jervise’s Memorials of Angus and the Mearns. 4to. 1861, p. 175.
*  This sounds like ‘Riding the Stang’, as described in Scots Lore, pp.282-285.
**  This term is used in Chamber’s Domestic Annals, pp.35-44.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

SIR JAMES’ ELEEMOSYNARY GIFT TO NEWBATTLE.

On St. Bride’s day, or the 1st of February, in the end of the year 1329, at the park of Douglas, the “good Sir James of Douglas,” being then about to depart for the Holy Land with the heart of his royal master, bestowed on the monastery of Newbattle his half of the land of Kilmad, the other half of which it already possessed by gift of Roger de Quinci; while the monks, on their part, became bound to sing a mass at St. Bridget’s altar within their abbey church on the feast of St. Bridget, yearly for evermore, and to feed thirteen poor folk, that the saint might make special intercession with God for the weal of the good knight.

– Sketches, pp.125-144.

 

MINING TOWN COMES INTO ITS OWN.

[Saltcoats] was created a burgh of barony by charter of James V. dated 1st February, 1528-9; but it is only from about 1700 that the commencement of its rise can be dated. Its advance subsequent to this date, is to be attributed to the exertions of Sir Robert Cunninghame of Auchenharvie, who becoming proprietor of the principal part of the parish of Stevenston, commenced and carried on extensive mining operations, by which the immense beds of coal contained in this parish were rendered available to home use, and to commerce. This valuable mineral has been the source of wealth to Saltcoats.

– Select Views, pp.149-150.

 

ELIZABETH’S MINION RANDOLPH PESTERS MARY.

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,.. as we learn from her household book. With only a part of her train, she departed, from Edinburgh, to Fife,..; as we also know, from that curious record. Randolph, about the 1st of February 1565, followed her thither [to Fife]; and presented to her Elizabeth’s letters; desiring her answer to the propositions,* which had been discussed, at Berwick. Enough had been said, and done, at Berwick, to satisfy her reasonable doubts, whether the Queen of Scots would marry Leicester, upon the inefficient terms, then made to the Scotish commissioners.

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.

*  For Randolph’s fairly humorous report of his meeting with the Queen who wasn’t there and her answer see page link above.

 

ELIZABETH APPOINTS UNWILLING ASSASSINS TO KILL MARY.

Elizabeth, who was naturally slow, as well as capricious, in her resolutions, began, at this late day, to consider, whether it were better to put Mary to death, or to spare her. She feared, what would happen then to her person, and thereafter, to her reputation, if she should put her to death: New phantoms rose up before her guilty eyes, from the Scotish King, who would, on his mother’s death, be brought a step nearer to her throne. On the contrary, the courtiers, continually, suggested reasons to her, for carrying into execution the sentence of the law. The French King, also, interposed vigorously, in favour of the Scotish Queen, by sending Mons. Bellievre, for that purpose, who suggested, and gave in, very elaborate reasons, in support of his master’s affectionate interposition. These reasons were as elaborately answered, with the help of Burghley. When arguments failed, the French ambassador leidger L’Aubespine, entered into concerts, for taking off Elizabeth; but, he being discovered, he was sent for, and charged with this dangerous practice; but, denying it, he was warned how he acted contrary to his duty, as an ambassador. This plot induced the enemies of the Scotish Queen, to frighten Elizabeth, with false rumours, which were propagated, throughout the realm. Elizabeth wondered that, of all the associators, for the safety of her person, none of them would dispatch the Scotish Queen: No one would commit such an act; as no one could trust Elizabeth. She was, at the first of February 1589, driven, to direct her Secretaries, Walsingham, and Davison, to urge Paulet, and Drury, to assassinate the Queen of Scots. But, these wardens of the attainted Queen, however puritanic, and strict, were too circumspect to adopt a suggestion, which had they effected, had ruined themselves, their families, and their fame for ever. For Elizabeth, according to her guilty policy, would instantly have charged them, as murderers, and as such, would have sacrificed them, to save herself, who had gone full far enough, in baseness, when she directed a woman, a relation, and a queen, to be assassinated. But, she did go farther, in such iniquity. Her attempt on Paulet, and Drury, having failed, by their refusal, to commit an aggravated murder, rumours were spread, that London was fired, and the Queen of Scots escaped; precepts of hue and cry were sent to the several towns, to retake the fugitive: As the facts are true, the question arises, why such rumours should have been propagated, but to terrify the people, who might form a tumult, and in the midst of their terror, and agitation, might lay their bloody hands upon the Scotish Queen, infirm, as she was. But, this artifice, also, failing, Elizabeth still delayed the execution of that detested object, in the hope, that time, and chance, might supply some man-killer to perform the guilty deed.

– Life of Mary, pp.304-328.

 

GLASGOW ELEVATED IN STATUS AND LIBERTIES.

“As your citie of Glasgow,” the address bears, “hath shared in the common benefit, so hath she tasted of your royal bounty and favour, in particular by giving your high commissioner a special instruction for our freedom by act of parliament. And now by your royal grant, given at Kingsintown.., wherein your majestie is graciously pleased to notice and putt ane value upon the zeal for the Protestant religion and loyal affections of your citie of Glasgow, and to give to her a full right and libertie for electing her own magistrates in all tyme comeing, als frelie as the royal borrowes of this your majesties ancient kingdom, by which being emancipated from the slaverie of ane imposed magistracie, the instruments of our bishops, their tyrannie and avarice, the public interest of this once flourishing corporation being thereby recovered, we are delivered from the fears and secured from the dangers of a future relapse into what has been the source of our past miserie.” This address was presented on the 1st of February 1690, and by the Act of William and Mary of that year the city and town council acquired for the first time “the power and privilege to choose their own magistrates, provost, bailies, and other officers within the burgh, als, fully and als freely as the city of Edinburgh or any other royal burgh within the kingdom enjoys the same.” Then, and not till then, may Glasgow be said to have acquired an independent political existence.

– Old Glasgow, pp.83-98.

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