5th of February

St Agatha, virgin martyr, patroness of Malta, 251. The martyrs of Pontus, 304. St Abraamius, bishop of Arbela, martyr, 348. St Avitus, archbishop of Vienne, 525. St Alice (or Adelaide), abbess at Cologne, 1015. The twenty-six martyrs of Japan, 1697.

Died. – Marcus Cato, B.C. 46, Utica; James Meyer, Flemish scholar, 1552; Adrian Reland, Orientalist and scholar, 1718, Utrecht; Dr William Cullen, 1790, Kirknewton; Lewis Galvani, discoverer of galvanism, 1799, Bologna.


Moth, in Love’s Labour Lost, wishing to prove how simple is a certain problem in arithmetic, says, ‘The dancing horse will tell you.’ This is believed to be an allusion to a horse called Morocco, or Marocco, which had been trained to do certain extraordinary tricks, and was publicly exhibited in Shakspeare’s time by it master, a Scotchman named Banks. The animal made his appearance before the citizens of London, in the yard of the Belle Savage Inn, the audience as usual occupying the galleries which surrounded the court in the centre of the building, as is partially delineated in the annexed copy of a contemporary wood-print, which illustrates a brochure published in 1595, under the name of ‘Maroccus Exstaticus: or Bankes and is Beast… intituled to Mine Host of the Belsauage and all his honest guests.’ Morocco was then a young nag of a chestnut or bay colour, of moderate size. The tricks which the animal performed do not seem to us now-a-days very wonderful; but such matters were then comparatively rare, and hence they were regarded with infinite astonishment. The creature was trained to erect itself and leap about on its hind legs. We are gravely told that it could dance the Canaries. A glove being thrown down, its master would command it to take it to some particular person: for example, to the gentleman in the large ruff, or the lady with the green mantle; and this order it would correctly execute. Some coins being put into the glove, it would tell how many they were by raps with its foot. It could, in like manner, tell the numbers on the upper face of a pair of dice. As an example of comic performances, it would be desired to single out the gentleman who was the greatest slave of the fair sex; and this it was sure to do satisfactorily enough. In reality, as is now well known, these feats depend upon a simple training to obey a certain signal, as the call of the word Up. Almost any young horse of tolerable intelligence could be trained to do such feats in little more than a month. 


Morocco was taken by its master to be exhibited in Scotland in 1596, and there it was thought to be animated by a spirit. In 1600, its master astonished London by making it override the vane of St Paul’s Cathedral. Banks also exhibited his horse in France, and there, by way of stimulating popular curiosity, professed to believe that the animal really was a spirit in equine form. This, however, had very nearly led to unpleasant consequences, in raising an alarm that there was something diabolic in the case. Banks very dexterously saved himself for this once by causing the horse to select a man from a crowd with a cross on his hat, and pay homage to the sacred emblem, calling on all to observe that nothing satanic could have been induced to perform such an act of reverence. Owing, perhaps, to this incident, a rumour afterwards prevailed that Banks and his curtal [nag] were burned as subjects of the Black Power of the World at Rome, by order of the Pope. But more authentic notices shew Banks as surviving in King Charles’s time, in the capacity of a jolly vitner in Cheapside.1

1  See Halliwell’s Shakspeare, notes to Love’s Labour Lost, for a great assemblage of curious notices regarding Banks and Morocco; also Chambers’s Domestic Annals of Scotland, under April 1596.

On this Day in Other Sources.


Gavin Dunbar, the nephew of the Bishop of Aberdeen of the same name, and tutor to James V., was, on the promotion of Bethune, elected Archbishop of Glasgow, and consecrated at Edinburgh on the 5th of February 1525.

– Sketches, pp.29-70.


Anent the promised present…1

– Scots Lore, pp.15-29.

1 Council Records, I. 220. An act of the Privy Council, dated 5th February, 1618, recites a petition then presented to it by the magistrates and council, in which it was set forth that in 1601 the bridge “quhilk is ane of the moist remarcable monumentis within this kingdome” had become very much decayed and was at the point of ruin – the pillars, pends, and underprops being so shaken and “brugille” by the inundation, force, and violence of the river as to have become altogether loose, to its apparent overthrow that divers parts of the river beneath the bridge were so “ovirblowne” with sand as to be unnavigable by boats and vessels of small burden, by which the commodities of the city were for the most part brought to and from it. [Privy Council Records xi. 304-5.]


In 1641, when Charles visited Edinburgh for the second time, Johnston was knighted and made a Lord of Session, and after sitting in the Parliament of Scotland in 1644, he attended, as one of the Commissioners, the assembly of divines at Westminster. In the following year he was Lord Advocate; and in 1649 he performed one of his last official duties, proclaiming Charles II. King of Scotland, on the 5th of February, 1650.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.219-227.


William Cullen was born in Lanarkshire, in 1710, and after passing in medicine at Glasgow, made several voyages as surgeon of a merchantman between London and the Antilles; but tiring of the sea, he took a country practice at Hamilton, and his luckily curing the duke of that name of an illness, secured him a patronage for the future, and after various changes, in 1756, on the death of Dr. Plummer, he took the vacant chair of chemistry in the University of Edinburgh. On the death of Dr. Alston he succeeded him as lecturer in materia medica, and three years afterwards resigned the chair of chemistry to his own pupil, Dr. Black, on being appointed professor of the theory of medicine.

Most honourable to [Dr. William Cullen] also were the resolutions passed on the 27th of January by the entire Senatus Academicus; but he did not survive those honours long, as he died at his house in the Mint, on the 5th of February, 1790, in his eightieth year.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.266-274.

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