9th of February

St Apollpnia, virgin martyr at Alexandria, 249. St Nicephorus, martyr at Antioch, 260. St Attracta, virgin in Ireland, 5th century. St Theliau, bishop of Llandaff, circ. 580. St Ansbert, archibishop of Rouen, 695. St Erhard, of Scotland, 8th century.


Born. – Daniel Bernouilli, a celebrated Swiss mathematician, 1700, Gröningen; C. F. Volney, French philosopher, 1757.
Died. – Agnes Sorel, 1450, Memel; Henry Lord Darnley, consort of Mary Queen of Scots, murdered, 1567; Dr John Gregory, author of A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters, 1773, Edinburgh; Nevil Maskelyne, astronomer-royal, 1811, Flamsteed House.



Dr Maskelyne, the astronomer-royal, amongst many investigations in astronomy and general physics, distinguished himself in a special manner by one which had for its object directly to ascertain the attraction of mountains, and remotely the mean density of the earth. The scene of this great labour was the mountain Schiehallion, in Perthshire. Arriving there in the latter part of June 1774, the philosopher and his assistant, Mr Burrow, had a station prepared for themselves half way up the south side of the hill; afterwards another on the north side. It is a long bare mountain of 3,500 feet in elevation, in the midst of a country purely Alpine, and subject to the dreariest climatal influences. Three weeks elapsed before the learned investigator got a clear day for the ascertainment of a meridian line wherein to place his astronomical quadrant. Amidst the greatest difficulties – for the season was the worst seen for several years – he was just enabled, before November, to fix approximately the declination which the plumb-line made from the perpendicular on the respective sides of the mountain, being 5” 8; whence it was afterwards deduced by Dr Charles Hutton, that, if the rock of the hill be taken as that of free-stone, or 2.5 of water, the earth’s density will be 4.5 of the same measure (subsequently corrected by Professor Playfair into 4.867). 

The writer of this notice has often amused himself by reflecting on what would be the feelings of the English philosopher, fresh from the Greenwich Observatory, and Crane-court, Fleet-street, on finding himself in a wilderness, whence, but thirty years before, there had poured down a host of half-naked barbarians upon the plains of his native country, and where there had recently died an old Highland chief and bard (Robertson, of Struan) who had been out with both Dundee and Mar. What, also, would be the conception of his enterprise, his instruments, his measurements and surveyings, adopted by the Clan Donnochie, of the Moor of Rannoch? What would they think when they were told that a man had come to Schiehallion to weigh it, – nay, to weigh the earth? Maskelyne tells us, however, in his paper in the Philosophical Transactions, that Sir Robert Menzies, the chief gentleman near Schiehallion, paid him many hospitable attentions, and that he received visits from Wilson, Reid, and Anderson, professors in Glasgow, and from various other men of science, throughout the autumn – ‘so great a noise had the attempt of this uncommon experiment made in the country, and so many friends did it meet with interested in the success of it.’ 

The mountain Schiehallion was adopted for the experiment, because it was a lofty and narrow one, whereof the longer axis lay nearly east and west, thus giving a small difference of latitude between the two stations in proportion to the bulk of the mass lying bet3ween. Maskelyne himself, and even his geological friend and visitor Playfair, might have felt some additional interest in the affair, if they had known that the mountain had been shaped for their purpose by the great ice-flow of the glacial period, the marks of whose passage can be clearly traced along its sides and ridge, up to nearly the summit.



On the night of the 9th of February 1567, Lord Darnley was murdered, the house in which he slept beside the Kirk of the Field having been blown up by gunpowder. And just about a year before, on the 9th March 1566, David Rizzio, the Italian secretary of Mary of Scotland, was murdered in Holyrood Palace, by certain Protestant leaders of her court, with the assistance of her husband, Lord Darnley. The poor foreigner was torn from her side as she sat at supper, and dragged through her apartments to the outer door, where he was left on the floor for the night, dead with fifty-six wounds, each conspirator having been forced to give a stab, in order that all might be equally involved in guilt and consequent danger. The queen, who was then pregnant of her son (James VI.), deeply resented the outrage. This murder was the first of the series of tragic events in which the queen was involved.

The floor at the outer door of the queen’s apartments presents a large irregular dark mark, which the exhibitor of the palace states to be the blood of the unfortunate Rizzio. Most strangers hear with a smile of a blood-stain lasting three centuries, and Sir Walter Scott himself has made it the subject of a jocular passage in one of his tales,1 representing a Cockney traveller as trying to efface it with the patent scouring drops which it was his mission to introduce into use in Scotland. The scene between him and the old lady guardian of the palace is very amusing; but it may be remarked of Scott, that he entertained some beliefs in his secret bosom which his worldly wisdom and sense of the ludicrous led him occasionally to treat comically or with an appearance of scepticism. In another of his novels – the Abbot – he alludes with a feeling of awe and horror to the Rizzio blood-stain; and in his Tales of a Grandfather, he deliberately states that the floor at the head of the stair still bears visible marks of the blood of the unhappy victim. Joking apart, there is no necessity for disbelieving in the Holyrood blood-mark. Therre is even some probability in its favour. In the first place, the floor is very ancient, manifestly much more so than the late floor of the neighbouring gallery, which dated from the reign of Charles II. It is in all likelihood the very floor which Mary and her courtiers trod. In the second place, we know that the stain has been shewn there since a time long antecedent to that extreme modern curiosity regarding historical matters which might have induced an imposture; for it is alluded to by the son of Evelyn as being shewn in 1722. Finally, it is a matter of experiment, and fully established, that wood not of the hardest kind (and it may be added, stone of a porous nature) takes on a permanent stain from blood, the oxide of iron contained in it sinking deep into the fibre, and proving indelible to all ordinary means of washing. Of course, if the wearing of a blood-stained floor by the tread of feet were to be carried beyond the depth to which the blood had sunk, the stain would be obliterated. But it happens in the case of the Holyrood mark, that the two blotches of which it consisted are out of the line over which feet would chiefly pass in coming into or leaving the room. Indeed, that line appears to pass through and divide the stain, – a circumstance in no small degree favourable to its genuineness.



Shrove Tuesday derives its name from the ancient practice, in the Church of Rome, of confessing sins, and being shrived or shrove, i.e. obtaining absolution, on this day. Being the day prior to the beginning of Lent, it may occur on any one between the 2nd of February and the 8th of March. In Scotland, it is called Fasten’s E’en, but is little regarded in that Presbyterian country. The character of the day as a popular festival is mirthful: it is a season of carnival-like jollity and drollery – ‘Welcome, merry Shrovetide!’ truly sings Master Silence. 


When Shrove Tuesday dawned, the bells were set a ringing, and everybody abandoned himself to amusement and good humour. All through the day, there was a preparing and devouring of pancakes, as if some profoundly important religious principle were involved in it. The pancake and Shrove Tuesday are inextricably associated in the popular mind and in old literature. Before being eaten, there was always a great deal of contention among the eaters, to see which could most adroitly toss them in the pan. 

Among the revels which marked the day, football seems in most places to have been conspicuous. There is perhaps no part of the United Kingdom where this Shrovetide sport is kept up with so much energy as at the village of Scone, near Perth, in Scotland. The men of the parish assemble at the cross, the married on one side and the bachelors on the other; a ball is thrown up, and they play from two o’clock till sunset. A person who witnessed the sport in the latter part of the last century, thus describes it: ‘The game was this: he who at any time got the ball into his hands, ran with it till overtaken by one of the opposite party; and then, if he could shake himself loose from those on the opposite side who seized him, he ran on; if not, he threw the ball from him, unless it was wrested from him by the other party, but no party was allowed to kick it. The object of the married men was to hang it, that is, to put it three times into a small hole on the moorm which was the dool, or limit, on the one hand: that of the bachelors was to drown it, or dip it three times in a deep place in the river, the limit on the other: the party who could effect either of these objects won the game; if neither one, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset. In the course of the play, there was usually some violence between the parties; but it is a proverb in this part of the country, that “A’ is fair at the ba’ o’ Scone.” ‘

Cock-fights were also common on this day. Strange to say, they were in many instances the sanctioned sport of public schools, the master receiving on the occasion a small tax from the boys under the name of a cock-penny. Perhaps this last practice took its rise in the circumstance of the master supplying the cocks, which seems to have been the custom in some places in a remote age. Such cock-fights regularly took place on Fasten’s E’en in many parts of Scotland till the middle of the eighteenth century, the master presiding at the battle, and enjoying the perquisite of all the runaway cocks, which were technically called fugies. Nay, so late as 1790, the minister of Applecross, in Ross-shire, in the account of his parish, states the schoolmaster’s income as composed of two hundred merks, with 1s. 6d. and 2s. 6d. per quarter from each scholar, and the cock-fight dues, which are equal to one quarter’s payment for each scholar.2


1  Introduction to Chronicles of the Canongate
2  Cock-fighting is now legally a misdemeanour, and punishable by penalty.


On this Day in Other Sources.



On 9th February, 1490, the king bestowed on “his friend” [the architect, John Morow,] the lands of Grevistoun.1

– Scots Lore, pp.364-374.

1 Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. ii. 1927.



Up Blackfriars Wynd, past the house of the late cardinal, Queen Mary proceeded on the fatal night of the 9th of February, 1567, about the same time nearly that Bothwell and his accomplices passed down the next alley, on their way to the Kirk-of-field. She had dined that day at Holyrood, and about eight in the evening went to sup with the Bishop of Argyle. At nine she rose from the table, and accompanied by the Earls of Argyle, Cassilis, and Huntly, escorted by her archer-guard and torch-bearers, went to visit Darnley in the lonely Kirk-of-field, intending to remain there for the night, but returned home. As she was proceeding, three of Bothwell’s retainers, Dalgleish, Powrie, and Wilson, in their depositions, stated that after conveying the powder-bags to the convent gate, at the foot of the Blackfriars Wynd, they saw “the Quenes grace gangand before them with licht torches,” on which Powrie, as if conscience-stricken, exclaimed to Wilson, “Jesu! Pate! What na gate is this we are ganging? I trow it be not gude.”

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.258-266.

BELOW Blackfriars Street opens Toddrick’s Wynd, to which a special interest is attached, from its association with one of the darkest deeds of a lawless age, for it was by that dark and narrow alley that James Hepburn Earl of Bothwell and his heartless accomplices proceeded towards the gate of the Blackfriars monastery in the Cowgate, on the night of the 9th of February, 1567, to fire the powder lodged in the vaults of the provost’s house in the Kirk-of-field, 

– “and blew a palace into atoms, 
Sent a young king – a young queen’s mate at least, 
Into the air, as high as e’er flew night-hawk, 
And made such wild work in the realm of Scotland 
As they can tell who heard.”

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.266-274.

[Mary], with several of the nobles, spent the evening of the 9th of February with him, and only left him at eleven o’clock; to give her presence, at an entertainment, in Holyrood-house, to two of her domesticks. At parting she kissed her husband, and took a ring, from her own finger, which she put upon his; as a sincere tribute of her kindest affections. On the morrow, about two o’clock, in the morning, the King, with his servant Taylor, were found dead, in the adjoining garden, without any marks of violence, on their bodies; and the house blown up, with gunpowder. Thus perished the wayward Darnley, whose fortune and whose fate, will, for ever, give him that place, in history, which his insignificance, and unkingly conduct, would have denied him.

– Life of Mary, pp.136-151.



Feb. 9. [1592] – ‘… the Earl of Moray’s mother, accompanied with her friends, brought over her son’s and the sheriff of Moray’s dead corpse, in litters, to Leith, to be brought from thence to be buried in the aile of the Great Kirk of Edinburgh, in the Good Regent’s tomb, and, as some report, to be made first a spectacle to the people at the cross of Edinburgh; but they were stayed by command from the king.

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.



The 9th of February, this same year [1602], [Alister] the Laird of MacGregor, with 400 of his name and kindred, enters the county of Lennox, spoils it, and kills above 200 men, women and children, using all the acts of hostility that a merciless and barbarous enemy could do.

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Feb. 9. [1603] – This is the date of an outbreak of private warfare which throws all contemporary events of the same kind into the shade. 

In pursuance of a quarrel of some standing between the Clan Gregor and Colquhoun, Laird of Luss, the former came in force to the banks of Loch Lomond. The parties met in Glenfruin, and the Colquhouns, out-manœuvred by the enemy, were overthrown. The Macgregors, besides killing a number of persons, variously stated at three score and four score, in the battle, are alleged to have murdered a number of prisoners (amongst whom, by the way,was Tobias Smollett, bailie of Dumbarton, very likely an ancestor of the novelist, his namesake), and also some poor unarmed people. The whole slaughter is set down at 140 persons. Besides all this, they carried off 600 cattle, 800 sheep and goats, fourteen score of horse and mares, ‘with the haill plenishing, gudes and geir, of the four-score-pound land of Luss, burning and destroying everything else.’ It has been alleged that they killed the laird after taking him prisoner, and murdered a number of school-boys from the college or school of Dumbarton; but these would appear to be groundless charges. Such as their guilt was, it proved the commencement of a long course of oppression and misery endured by this clan. According to a contemporary writer, a mournful procession came to Edinburgh, bearing eleven score of bloody shirts, to excite the indignation of the king against the Macgregors. There being no friend of the Macgregors present to plead their cause, letters of intercommuning were immediately issued against them.

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.



In the beginning of the seventeenth century (1604) we find the Presbytery of Glasgow complaining of “a plurality of schools: they consider the school taught by John Buchanan, and the Grammar School quite sufficient.” Some thirty years after this the town council, proceeding on the same principal of restriction, “statut and ordainit that na mae Inglische Scooles be keipt or haldin within this burghe heireftir bur four onlie with ane wrytting schooll.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  9th Feb. 1639.

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