20th of February

Saints Tyrannio, Zenobius, and others, martyrs in Phœnicia, about 310. St Sadoth, bishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, with 128 companions, martyrs, 342. St Eleutherius, bishop of Tournay, martyr, 522. St Mildred, virgin abbess in Thanet, 7th century. St Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, 743.


Born. – François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, poet, dramatist, historical and philosophical writer, 1694, Chatenay. 
Died. – Charles III. (of Savoy), 1773; Joseph II. (Emperor), 1790; Dr John Moore, novelist, 1802. Richmond; Andreas Hofer, Tyrolese patriot, shot by the French, 1810; Joseph Hume, statesman, 1855.



The name of Joseph Hume has become so inseparably associated with his long-continued exertions to check extravagance in the use of public money, that most persons will hear with a feeling of surprise that he was in reality disposed to a liberal use of the state funds wherever a good object was to be served, and especially is that object involved the advancement of knowledge among the people. The Earl of Ellesmere, in his address to the Geographical Society, in 1855, bore strong testimony to the help which Mr Hume had given in promoting the claim of that body for assistance towards giving it a better place of meeting, and enabling it to throw open to the public the use of its ‘instruments of research and instruction.’ The present writer can add a grateful testimony, in regard to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. That body, being a few years ago hardly rich enough to keep a person to shew its valuable museum, a proposal was made that it should hand its collection over to the state, who might then keep it open for the instruction and gratification of the public at its own expense. Mr Hume became satisfied that the proposal was an honest one, calculated to prove serviceable to the public; and the Society had no such friend and advocate as he in getting the transaction with the Treasury effected. The result has been such as fully to justify the zeal he shewed on the occasion. 

Mr Hume was a native of Montrose, made his way through poverty to the education of a physician, and, realizing some wealth in India, devoted himself from about the age of forty to political study of this remarkable man to protect and advance the interests of the pubic; he specially applied himself, in the earlier part of his career, to the advocacy of an economical use of the public purse. He met with torrents of abuse and ridicule from those interested in opposite objects, and he encountered many disappointments; but nothing ever daunted or disheartened him. Within an hour of a parliamentary defeat, he would be engaged in merry play with his children, having entirely cast away all sense of mortification. The perfect single-heartedness and honesty of Joseph Hume in time gained upon his greatest enemies, and he died in the enjoyment of the respect of all classes of politicians.


On this Day in Other Sources.


The 20th day of February, 1452, the King stabs [William] the Earl of Douglas in his closet window, in Edinburgh castle; thus ended the father of all the insolencies and mischiefs of these times: and to him succeeded his brother James, formerly provided to the succession (by the King’s grant and confirmation) in case of his brother’s decease without heirs male of his own body.

– Historical Works, pp.166-189.


On the 20th of February, 1550, both the castle and fort were taken by Des Thermes, who brought against the English in this quarter an army composed of Scots, Germans, and French.

– Scotland Illustrated, p.143.


‘A vehement frost continued from Martinmas till the 20th of February [1608.] The sea froze so far as it ebbed, and sundry went into ships upon ice and played at the chamiare a mile within the seamark. Sundry passed over the Forth a mile above Alloa and Airth, to the great admiration of aged men, who had never seen the like in their days.’ – Cal.

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.


A few years afterwards a poor woman who had ventured to become a teacher without official permission, is thus summarily disposed of by the town council: “The same day appoynts the Baillies to discharge [inhibit] the womane that hes tackine vpe an schole in the heid of the Salt Mercatt at hir awin hande.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  20th Feb. 1658.


During February [1674], the rough weather continued; and at length, on the 20th of the month, a heavy fall of snow, accompanied by vehement frost, set in, which lasted for thirteen days. This was afterwards remembered by the name of the Thirteen Drifty Days.

– Domestic Annals, pp.322-337.


C.E. 1796 In this year MacPherson died. Mrs. Grant of Laggan describes his end in a letter dated February 20, and tells that one of his latest acts was to “frank a letter.” So the Highland schoolmaster had risen high.

– Popular Tales, v.4, pp.75-96.

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