6th of March

St Fridolin, abbot, 538. St Baldred, of Scotland, about 608. Saints Kyneburge, Kyneswide, and Tibba, 7th century. St Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, 766. St Cadroe, about 975. Colette, virgin and abbess 1447.

 

Born. – Michael Angelo Buonarotti, painter, sculptor, and architect, 1474, Chiusi; Francesco Guicciardini, diplomatist, 1482, Florence; Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier, 1786, Merchistoun
Died. – Zachary Ursinus, German divine, 1583, Neustadt; G. T. F. Raynal, philosophical historian, 1796, Passey; George Mickle Kemp, architect (Scott Monument), 1844, Edinburgh; Professor Heeren, history and antiquities, 1842.

 

G. M. KEMP.

The beauty of the monument to Sir Walter Scott at Edinburgh1 becomes the more impressive when we reflect that its designer was a man but recently emerged at the time from the position of a working carpenter. It is a Gothic structure, about 185 feet high, with exquisite details, mostly taken from Melrose Abbey. Kemp’s was one of a number of competing plans, given in with the names of the designers in sealed envelopes; so that nothing could be more genuine than the testimony thus paid to his extraordinary genius. In his earlier days as a working carpenter, Kemp adopted the plan of travelling from one great continental dom-kirk or cathedral to another, supporting himself by his handicraft while studying the architecture of the building. It was wonderful how much knowledge he thus acquired, as it were at his own hand, in the course of a few years. He never obtained any more regular education for his eventual profession. Kemp was a man of modest, almost timid demeanour, very unlike one designed to push his way in the world. After becoming a person of note, as entrusted with the construction of Scotland’s monument to the most gifted of her sons, he used to relate, as a curious circumstance, the only connexion he had ever had with Scott in life. Travelling toilsomely one hot day between Peebles and Selkirk, with his tools over his back, he was overtaken by a carriage containing a grey-haired gentleman, whom he did not know. The gentleman, observing him, stopped the carriage, and desired the coachman to invite the wayfaring lad to a seat on the box. He thus became the subject of a characteristic piece of benevolence to the illustrious man with whose name he was afterwards to meet on so different a level. 

Most sad to relate, while the monument was in the progress of construction, the life of the architect was cut short by accident, he having fallen into a canal one dark evening, in the course of his homeward walk.

 

MIDLENT, OR MOTHERING SUNDAY.

In the year 1864, the 6th of March is the fourth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Midlent Sunday. Another popular name for the day is Mothering Sunday, from an ancient observance connected with it. 

The harshness and general painfulness of life in old times, must have been much relieved by certain simple and affectionate customs which modern people have learned to dispense with. Amongst these was a practice of going to see parents, and especially the female one, on the mid Sunday of Lent, taking for them some little present, such as a cake or trinket. A youth engaged in this amiable act of duty was said to go a-mothering, and thence the day itself came to be called Mothering Sunday. One can readily imagine how, after a stripling or maiden had gone to service, or launched in independent housekeeping, the old bonds of filial love would be brightened by this pleasant annual visit, signalised, as custom demanded it should be, by the excitement attending some novel and perhaps surprising gift. There was also a cheering and peculiar festivity appropriate to the day, the prominent dish being furmety – which we have to interpret as wheat grains boiled in sweet milk, sugared and spiced. In Scotland, there seems to have been a greater leaning to steeped pease fried in butter, with pepper and salt. Pancakes so composed passed by the name of carlings; and so conspicuous was this article, that from it Carling Sunday became a local name for the day.

 

TRADITION AND TRUTH.

The value of popular tradition as evidence in antiquarian inquiries cannot be disputed, though in every instance it should be received with the greatest caution. A few instances of traditions, existing from a very remote period and verified in our own days, are worthy of notice. 

On the northern coast of the Firth of Forth, near to the town of Largo, in Fifeshire, there has existed from time immemorial an eminence known by the name of Norie’s Law. And the popular tradition respecting this spot, has ever been that a great warrior, the leader of a mighty army, was buried there, clad in the silver armour he wore during his lifetime. Norie’s Law is evidently artificial, and there can be no wonder that the neighbouring country people should suppose that a great chief had been buried underneath it, for the interment of warrior chieftains under artificial mounds, near the sea, is as ancient as Homer. So it was only natural for the rustic population to say that a chief was buried under Norie’s Law. Agricultural progress has, in late years, thrown over hundreds of burial barrows, exposing mortuary remains, and there are few labourers in England or Scotland who would not say, on being pointed out a barrow, that a great man, at some distant period, had been interred beneath it. But silver armour, with one single exception, has never been found in barrows; and as Norie’s Law is actually the barrow in which silver accoutrements were found, the tradition of the people was fully verified. For only by tradition, and that from a very distant period, could they have known that the person interred at Norie’s Law was buried with silver armour. 

It appears that, about the year 1819, a man in humble life and very moderate circumstances, residing near Largo, was – greatly to the surprise of his neighbours – observed to have suddenly become passing rich for one of his position and opportunities. A silversmith, in the adjacent town of Cupar, had about the same time been offered a considerable quantity of curious antique silver for sale; part of which he purchased, but a larger part was taken to Edinburgh, and disposed of there. Contemporary with these events, a modern excavation was discovered in Norie’s Law, so it did not require a witch to surmise that a case of treasure-trove had recently occurred. The late General Durham, then owner of the estate, was thus led to make inquiries, and soon discovered that the individual alluded to, induced by the ancient tradition, had made an excavation in the Law, and found a considerable quantity of silver, which he had disposed of as previously noticed. But influenced, as some say, by a feeling of a conscientious, others of a superstitious character, he did not take all the silver he discovered, but left a large quantity in the Law. Besides, as this ingenious individual conducted his explorations at night, it was supposed that he might have overlooked part of the original deposit. Acting in accordance with this intelligence, General Durham caused Law to be carefully explored, and found in it several lozenge-shaped plates of silver, that undoubtedly had been the scales of a coat of mail, besides a silver shield and sword ornaments, and the mounting of a helmet in the same metal. Many of these are still preserved at Largo House, affording indisputable evidence of the very long perseverance and consistency which may characterise popular tradition.

 

1  Colour illustrations of the Scott Monument can be seen in ‘Views of Edinburgh’ (1884). Black and white view in the Introduction to Old and New Edinburgh’ (1880).

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

This year [1218,] likewise, Malcolm, Earl of Fife, founded the abbey of Culross, to which, [on] the 6th of March, the abbot and convent of Kinloss [was] translated. 

– Historical Works, pp.38-57.

 

The King, this year, by the advice of some good men, and his mother, calls a parliament to be [held] at Edinburgh, the 6th of March [1525,] to which he comes in person, in royal robes, and the crown on his head and sceptre in his hand, and there solemnly takes on himself the government; which act of his makes all former factions vanish. 

– Historical Works, pp.238-275.

 

The convention, endeavoured, by an act, to quiet persons, and possessions of kirk lands, as had been leased to the parties, since the 6th of March 1558. The great object of this convention, though it was not strictly legal, was to obtain a revenue both for the Queen, and the reformed preachers. The bishops protested against their proceedings, as informal, and illegal. The ecclesiastical rentals of the whole kingdom were ordered to be given in to the privy council. 

– Life of Mary, pp.42-61.

 

For the affection, which the Queen bore her people, and for the mutual quiet of her subjects, she passed an act of oblivion, for all acts done, from the 6th of March 1558, to the 1st of September 1561. This act, was plainly intended, for burying, in oblivion, the whole violences of the reformation; and the chief reformers were appointed, by the act, for carrying it into effect. 

… 

The Queen, by missing her attempt, to have Knox banished, for his sedition, perceived, that there would be difficulty to attain her own desire; the power of the faction being so strong. Under such circumstances, the Queen found it more invigorating to her health, and exhilarating to her spirits, to prefer the country to her metropolis. On the 6th of March she left Edinburgh, and proceeded to Perth, where she remained till the 24th, when she rode to Falkland. 

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.

 

Another favourite amusement of the Glasgow people was foot-ball – a game for which their Green was well adapted. This game was prohibited by the old acts of Parliament, as it was thought to interfere with the practice of archery. But James IV. was fond of it, and notwithstanding the law, he often indulged in it himself. It was certainly encouraged and promoted by the magistrates of Glasgow, who always provided the foot-balls; and the burgh minutes, from the very earliest times of which there is any record, contain notices on the subject. From one of these, in 1575, we learn that the price of a foot-ball was twopence.1 From another in the beginning of the seventeenth century we learn that there was “gifen upon the xxviii day of Feb. 1609 to John Neill, cordoner, younger, for fute ballis to the toune at fasterins evin conforme to the ald use xxvis. viid.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  Burgh Accounts, 6th March, 1575.
.

A patent was granted for the establishment of a glass manufacture in Scotland. The business was commenced at Wemyss, in Fife, and, about ten years after, we find it, to all appearance, going on prosperously. ‘Braid glass’ – that is, glass for windows – was made, measuring three-quarters of a Scots ell and a nail in length, while the breadth at the head was an ell wanting half a nail, and at the bottom half an ell wanting half a nail. It was declared to be equal in quality to Danskine glass. The glasses for drinking and other uses not being of such excellence, it was arranged that some specimens of English glass should be bought in London and established in Edinburgh Castle, to serve as patterns for the Scotch glass in point of quality. For the encouragement of the native manufacture and to keep money within the country, the importation of foreign glass was (March 6, 1621) prohibited. – P. C. R. 

Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

 

It is not unworthy of notice,” continues Dr. Chambers, “that from the low state of the arts in Scotland, the bowls required for this green had to be brought from abroad. It is gravely reported to the company on the 6th of March, 1693, that the bowls are ‘upon the sea homeward.’ Ten pairs cost £6 4s. 3d. Scots.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.373-382.

 

Jean Gordon, widow of Mr William Fraser, minister of Slaines, Aberdeenshire, had been for some years decayed in body and mind, so as probably to be a considerable burden to her surviving relatives. One morning in this month, she was found dead in her bed, and after the usual interval, she was duly interred. Soon after, some suspicions arose against Mr William Fraser, minister of the gospel, stepson of the deceased, to the effect that he had poisoned and bled her to death, although, as he alleged, he had been absent at Aberdeen at the time of her death. A warrant being obtained, the body was raised from the grave and examined. No external mark of violence was discovered, and science did not then give the means of detecting the internal consequences of poison. It was resolved, however, to revive, in this instance, a mode of discovering murder which has long been ranked with vulgar superstitions. The body being laid out in open view, Mr William Dunbar, minister of Cruden, prayed to God that he would discover the authors of any violence done to the deceased lady, if any there were; and then the persons present, one by one, including the suspected stepson, touched the body; ‘notwithstanding whereof there appeared nothing upon the body to make the least indication of her having been murdered.’ A precognition reporting all these circumstances, and making no charge against any one, was sent to the Lord Advocate. 

The friends of the deceased nevertheless continued to suspect the stepson, and caused him to be apprehended and thrown into Aberdeen jail. He lay there unaccused for three months, ‘to the ruin of himself and his small family,’ till at length they agreed to have him charged before the Commissioners of Justiciary for the Highlands. Hereupon (March 6, 1699), he petitioned the Privy Council for trial before the High Court of Justiciary; which was granted. What was the upshot of the affair does not appear. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.355-378.

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