3rd of February

St Blaize, bishop of Sebaste, 316. St Auscharius, archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen, 865. St Wereburge, patroness of Chester, 699.

Died. – Swetn (of Denmark), 1014; Charles X. of Sweden, 1660; John Beckmann, 1811, Göttingen.


Under the date February 3, 1651, we have, in Whitlocke’s Memorials, intelligence of the siege of Hume Castle in Berwickshire, by Colonel Fenwick, an officer of Cromwell’s army. This seat of a once powerful family occupied a commanding position at the western extremity of the great plain of the Merse. On its being summoned by Colonel Fenwick to surrender to Cromwell (who had recently beaten the Scots at Dunbar and overrun nearly the whole of Scotland south of the Forth), the governor answered, ‘That he knew not Cromwell. and for his castle it was built upon a rock.’ Four days later, there was intelligence in London, that Colonel Fenwick was playing with his guns upon Hume Castle, and that the governor sent this letter to him:

‘I William of the Wastle
 Am now in my castle,
 And awe the dogs in the town
 Shand garre me gang down.’

So Whitlocke prints or misprints the governor’s brave answer, which in reality was only a somewhat confused version of a rhyme used by boys in one of their games. This sport, as practised to the present day in Scotland, is as follows. One of the party takes his station upon a large stone, heap of sand, rubbish, or any other materials, with a handkerchief in his hand, and cries out, as a defiance to his companions:

I Willie Wastle
Stand in my castle,
And a’ the dogs in the town
‘ll no ding Willie Wastle down.

They assail him, trying to drive him from his position, while he endeavours to repel them with the handkerchief. Any one who succeeds in driving him off, takes the vacated position, and seeks to maintain it in the same manner; and so on. The quaint act of the governor in adopting this defiance against the Cromwellian officer, has been the means of certifying to us that the antiquity of the boy’s game is not less than two centuries.

The governor – whose name we learn from another source to have been Thomas Cockburn – appears to have made a resistance in conformity with his answer to the English commander; and it is not till three days after, that Whitlocke records the great execution which the mortar pieces had done against Hume Castle. The shot had made great breaches and spoilt many rich goods, and Fenwick was preparing for a storm, when the governor beat a parley. ‘Fenwick refused to treat unless they would presently surrender upon quarter for life; which they did; and Fenwick appointed some officers to look to the equal sharing of the goods among his soldiers; only the governor’s lady had liberty to carry out some of her goods and bedding.’1

The rhyme of Willie Wastle was used later in the century with reference to another public event. Mr William Veitch, a zealous Presbyterian clergyman who had been persecuted under the Stuarts, but after the Revolution became a prominent minister under the new establishment, is stated to have preached one day at Linton in Roxburghshire, when it pleased him to make allusion to the late episcopal frame of church government. ‘Our bishops,’ he said, ‘had for a long time thought themselves very secure, like

Willie, Willie Wastle,
I am in my castle;
A’ the dogs in the town
Dare not ding me down.

Yea, but there is a doggie in heaven that has dung them all down.’2

1  Whitlocke’s Memorials, p. 463.
2  Scots Presbyterian Eloquence Displayed.

On this Day in Other Sources.


[Mary] arrived at Lord Shrewsbury’s castle of Tutbury, upon the Dove, in Staffordshire, on the 3d of February 1569.

– Life of Mary, pp.235-244.


As Elizabeth placed herself in a hostile attitude against Mary; so the Scotish Queen acquired the same right to treat Elizabeth, as an enemy. Mary, added, she knew not what the Duke of Norfolk, and others, might have done: They must be answerable for their own actions: but for her own part, she was innocent of any attempts against her Majesty, or her government. As to the Bishop of Ross; he was a fearful priest, who would say any thing; and if he was at liberty, and out of the realm, would unsay it again. She disclaimed all connection with the man, named Rudolphi; and denied Sir Ralph’s charges of plots, though he suspected, that she knew more of such matters than she would acknowledge. He was soon tired of his situation at Sheffield, and wished to return to London; as he could not, easily, please either Queen.

Shrewsbury relieved Sir Ralph, in this invidious charge, on the 3d of February 1572. He brought with him an epistle from Cecil, in the name of his mistress. The secretary disapproved highly of the Scotish Queen’s last letter to her majesty, which was filled, said he, with “uncomely, passionate, ireful, and vindictive speeches;” and he referred the Scotish Queen to a memorial, which Shrewsbury would deliver; and to which her majesty desired a rational and temperate answer. Elizabeth was so used to flattery, and submission, that she could not relish the plain, and vigorous writing of such a character, as the Scotish Queen, who derived animation from her feelings.

– Life of Mary, pp.251-260.


‘On the 3d of Febuary [1587] [five days before Mary’s execution], the king appointed Patrick, Archbishop of St Andrews, a man evil thought of by the ministry and others, to preach in the kirk of Edinburgh, and resolved to attend the preaching himself.1 When the day came, Mr John Coupar, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, accompanied with the rest of the brethren, came in and prevented the bishop, by taking place in the pulpit before his coming into the kirk; and as the said John was beginning the prayer, the king’s majesty commanded him to stop; whereupon he gave a knock on the pulpit, using an exclamation in these terms: “This day shall bear witness against you in the day of the Lord. Woe be to thee, O Edinburgh! for the last of thy plagues shall be worse than the first!” After having uttered these words, he passed down from the pulpit, and, together with the whole wives in the kirk, removed out of the same.’ – Moy. R.

– Domestic Annals, pp.99-123.


Feb. 3. [1700] – This is the date of a conflagration in Edinburgh, which made a great impression at the time, and was long remembered. It broke out in one of the densest parts of the city, in a building between the Cowgate and Parliament Close, abut ten o’clock of a Saturday night. Here, in those days, lived men of no small importance. We are told that the fire commenced in a closet of the house of Mr John Buchan, being that below the residence of Lord Crossrig, one of the judges. Part of his lordship’s family were in bed, and he was himself retiring, when the alarm was given, and he and his family were obliged to escape without their clothes. ‘Crossrig, naked, with a child under his oxter [armpit], happing for his life,’ is cited as one of the sad sights of the night.

– Domestic Annals, pp.355-378.

This magnificent hall [in Parliament House] and the buildings connected with it had a narrow escape in the “Great Fire” of 1700. It broke out in Lord Crossrig’s lodging, at Mr. John Buchan’s, near the meal-market, on a night in February; and Duncan Forbes of Culloden asserts (“Culloden Papers”) in a letter to his brother the colonel, that he never beheld a more vehement fire; that 400 families were burned out, and that from the Cowgate upwards to the High Street scarcely one stone was left upon another.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.157-166.

In the fire we have mentioned as occurring in 1700 the bank perished. Assisted by the Earl of Leven, Governor of the Castle and also of the bank, with a party of soldiers, and by David Lord Ruthven, a director, who stood in the turnpike stair all night, keeping the passage free, the cash, bank-notes, books, and papers, were saved. Thus, though every other kind of property perished, the struggling bank was able to open an office higher up in the city. (“Hist. Of Bank of Scot.,” 1728.)

In that fire the Scottish Treasury Room perished, with the Exchequer and Exchange, and the Parliament Square was afterwards rebuilt (in the picturesque style, the destruction of which was so much regretted), in conformity with an Act passed in 1698, regulating the mode of building in Edinburgh with regard to height, convenience, strength, and security from fire. The altitude of the houses was greatly reduced. Previous to the event of 1700, the tenements on the south side of the Parliament Close, as viewed from the Kirkheugh, were fifteen storeys in height, and till the erection of the new town were deemed the most splendid of which the city could boast.

Occurring after “King William’s seven years of famine,” which the Jacobites believed to be a curse sent from heaven upon Scotland, this calamity was felt with double force; and in 1702 the Town Council passed an Act for “suppressing immoralities,” in which, among the tokens of God’s wrath, “the great fire of the 3d February” is specially referred to.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.174-182.

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