25th of February

St Victorinus, and six companions, martyrs, 284. St Cæsarius, physician of Constantinopole, 369. St Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople, 806.

Born. – Germain de Saint Foix, 1703, Rennes.
Died. – Count Wallenstein, commander, assassinated, 1634, Eger; Frederick I. (of Prussia), 1713; Dr William Buchan, 1805, St Pancras; George Don, naturalist, 1856.


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 moor, 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.1


Who has not heard of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine, the medical Mentor, ‘the guide, philosopher, and friend’ of past generations, and scarcely yet superseded by Graham and Macaulay? This book, bearing on its title-page the epigraph, ‘The knowledge of a disease is half its cure,’ a sort of temptation to the reading of medical books in general, first appeared in 1769: it speedily obtained popularity by the plain and familiar style in which it is written; and no less than nineteen editions of the book, amounting to 80,000 copies, were sold during the author’s life-time.

Dr Buchan, who was born in Roxburghshire, in 1729, long enjoyed a good London practice as a physician. He lived many years at the house of his son, Dr Alexander Buchan, No. 6, Percy-street, Bedford-square; and there he died, at the age of seventy-six; he was buried in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey church.

The Domestic Medicine was written in Sheffield; and James Montgomery, in his Memoirs, relates the following particulars of the author: ‘I remember seeing the old gentleman when I first went to London. He was of venerable aspect, neat in his dress, his hair tied behind with a large black ribbon, and a gold-headed cane in his hand, quite realizing my idea of an Esculapian dignitary.’ Montgomery acknowledges that he never spoke to the Doctor, as he was quite out of his reach; but he looked upon him with respect, as a man who had published a book. In one of the Scottish editions of Buchan, there was an astounding misprint, in which a prescription containing one hundred ounces of laudanum, instead of that number of drops, is recommended.

In no other science does Pope’s maxim that ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’ hold so strongly as in medicine; for those who read medical works, professing to be popular, are almost certain to suppose themselves affected with every disease about which they read. They forthwith take alarm at the probable consequences, and having some lurking suspicion that they may have mistaken the symptoms, they follow the prescriptions laid down in their book in secret, lest they should bring themselves into open ridicule. There is an old Italian epitaph which, with a little amendment, would run thus: ‘I was well – I wished to be better – read medical books – took medicine – and died.

1 Cock-fighting is now legally a misdemeanour, and punishable by penalty.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Feb. 25 [1598.] – On this day, being Saturday, occurred an eclipse of the sun, total at Edinburgh, and probably so throughout the country generally. No event entirely similar had occurred within the memory of living people in Scotland, and the impression which it was naturally calculated to produce in an age when such things were regarded as prodigies, was aggravated by the critical state in which the favourite Presbyterian institutions were then believed to be placed. Men regarded it as the omen of a dark period for the Kirk of Scotland.

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

In connection with printing may be noticed a minute in the burgh records in the beginning of the seventeenth century, which is interesting not only from its reference to the publication, under government authority, of the body of laws known as the Regiam Majestatem, but as showing the low state of the city finances at that time. The expense of printing these ancient statutes had been ordered to be provided by an assessment on all the Scottish burghs. The share to be paid by Glasgow was fixed at one hundred pounds Scots – only £8, 6s. 8d.; but so poor was the corporation that they were unable to provide the amount, and being threatened with “horning” they had to borrow the money “fra William Burn merchand burgess.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.299-307.

1 Minute of Council, 25th Feb. 1609.

After the pacification, the Castle, with thirty others, was restored to the king, who placed therein a garrison, under Sir Patrick Ruthven (previously Governor of Ulm under the great Gustavus), who marched in, on the 25th February, 1640, with drums beating and matches lighted.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.47-66.

On the 25th of February, 1657, the surgeons and apothecaries were, at their request, united into one community. This was ratified by Parliament, and from that time the corporation ceased entirely to act as barbers.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.382-384.

“Adverting to the alleged statement of the Vice-Chancellor, to the effect that the Court of Session had neglected its guardianship, his lordship said that the facts, as appearing from the proceedings of this court, which were before the Vice-Chancellor, were are nearly as possible precisely the reverse of what was represented in the reported speech. It was further, he said, out of the question to receive as accurate a report which ascribed to the learned judge such a statement as this – that the Great Seal of Great Britain ‘is as much the Great Seal of Scotland as of England;’ for such a statement would imply ignorance of the terms of the Treaty of Union, which made it perfectly clear (in Article 24) that the Great Seal of Great Britain represents the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain in so far as regards all treaties and public acts, but has power within England alone ‘in all other matters,’ while the Great Seal of Scotland is to have effect in Scotland in all matters other than treaties and public acts of the United Kingdom.”

– Dublin Evening Mail, Monday 25th February, 1861.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.


Born, 1st July, 1770; died, 25th February, 1873.

One of the twenty-two children of John Wallace of Kelly (No. 21), and the second of sixteen children by his marriage, in 1764, to Janet Colquhoun of St. Kitts. Of this marriage three children were living in 1864, 100 years afterwards, and Ann in 1873, 109 years afterwards. (See Nos. 410, 550.)

SCULPTOR – Biagiotti.

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 3.

GLASGOW ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY (25th February [1895]). – The Rev. Howell Brown, M.A., read a paper on “Utility as a Factor in Ecclesiastical Architecture.” Quoting the dictum of Sir H. Wotton:- “In architecture the end is to build well, and well building hath three conditions – commodity, firmness, and delight”; he said that in ecclesiastical architecture we must add one other condition, “symbolism.” To substantiate his theory Mr. Brown referred to the architecture of Egypt, India, and Greece, and then applied the rules of “well building” to “Christian architecture.” This term he explained to mean the “pointed” style. Whether this style was imported from the East or originated in a study of forest scenes, or was merely evolved from the intersection of two common round arches, the fact remained that the style was developed by Christian art, and became the expression of Christian doctrines and Christian enthusiasm. It was easy to show a sufficient reason for this development. In “pointed” architecture all the lines were vertical – in the classical style all the principal lines are horizontal. The upward reaching of the vertical lines was the true expression of the spiritual aspirations of the Christian faith. The set horizontal lines of a classical building tell of dogma, conciseness, even of stability; but it is a dogma without the element of faith, a conciseness which is ignorant of the charm of mystery, and a stability which weighs us down to earth. Passing on to consider the different styles of (so-called) Gothic architecture, Mr. Brown showed that the evolution exhibited the gradual progress of sentiment from religion to ecclesiasticism, till “in the perpendicular style we trace the form without the spirit, the vertical lines of idealism exaggerated to assume an aspiration which was already extinct.” With the revival of classical literature came also the renewal of classical architecture, and the natural development of Gothic architecture received a check which proved its death-blow.

– Scots Lore, pp.173-180.

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