8th of March

Saints Apollonius, Philemon, and others, martyrs of Egypt, about 311. St Senan, Bishop in Ireland, about 544. St Psalmoid, or Saumay, of Ireland, about 589. St Julian, Archbishop of Toledo, 690. St Ross, virgin of Viterbo, buried 1252. St Duthak, Bishop of Ross, 1253. St John of God, founder of the Order of Charity, 1550.

Born. – St John of God, 1495; Dr John Campbell, historical writer, 1708, Edinburgh. 
Died. – Thomas Blackwell, LL.D., classical scholar, 1757, Edinburgh; Sir William Chambers, R.A., architect, 1796; Karl Johann (Bernadotte), King of Sweden, 1844.


In our day, which is distinguished by an unprecedentedly high culture of architecture, the attainments of Sir William Chambers, the great architect of the eighteenth century, are apt to be set down as mediocre. There must, nevertheless, have been some considerable gifts in possession of the man who could design such a noble pile as Somerset House. 

Chambers was born at Stockholm (1726), the son of a Scotchman who had gone there to prosecute some claims of debt for warlike stores which he had furnished to Charles XII. Educated in England, he started in life as supercargo in a mercantile ship trading with China. In that country he busied himself in taking sketches of the peculiar buildings of the country, and thus laid the foundations of a taste which clung to him in his subsequent professional career. He was afterwards able to study architecture both in Italy and France. His command of the pencil seems to have been the main means of his advancement. It recommended him to the Earl of Bute as a teacher of architectural drawing to the young Prince Georg, afterwards George III. Having thus secured an opening into important fields of professional exertion, his energetic character and assiduity did all the rest; and Chambers reigned for thirty years the acknowledged architectural chief of his day, received a Swedish order of knighthood, and retired from business with a handsome fortune. 

It was in 1775, that Sir William, as Comptroller of his Majesty’s works, proceeded to the great work of his life, the reconstruction of Somerset House. He is admitted to have shewn in the internal arrangements of this great quadrangle all desirable taste and skill, while the exterior is the perfection of masonry. Many of the ornamental details were copied from models executed at Rome, under Chambers’s direction: the sculptors employed were Carlini, Wilton, Geracci, Nollekens, and Bacon. Telford, the engineer, when he came to London, in 1782, was employed on the quadrangle. Chambers received £2,000 a-year during the erection of Somerset House; it cost more than half a million of money; but it is one of the noblest structures in the metropolis, and, in some respects, superior to any; the street-front and vestibule have always been much admired. After Somerset House, Chambers’s most successful designs are the Marquis of Abercorn’s mansion at Duddingstone near Edinburgh; and Milton Abbey, in Dorsetshire, which he built in the Gothic style for Lord Dorchester. 

Sir William Chambers also designed the royal state coach, which has now been used by our sovereigns for a century. Walpole describes it as a beautiful object, though crowded with improprieties; its palm-trees denote the architect’s predilection for oriental objects. The bill was £8,000, but being taxed, was reduced nearly £500.

On this Day in Other Sources.

On the 8th of March, [Queen Mary] received, in Edinburgh castle, the condolence of Elizabeth, by Henry Kyllygrew. 


Here follows Kyllygrew’s letter, from Edinburgh, on the 8th of March 1567, to Secretary Cecil, which is the more curious, and important; as it is written, simply, without any affectation, or sarcasm, like the epistles of Randolph.  


Although I trust, to be shortly with you, yet, have I thought good to write somewhat, in the meantime. I had no audience before this day, [8th March 1567] which was after I had dined, with my Lord of Murray, who was accompanied with my Lord Chancellor [Huntley] the Earl of Argyle, my Lord Bothwell, and the Laird of Liddington [Secretary Maitland.]  

I found the Queen’s majesty, in a dark chamber, so as I could not see her face; but, by her words, she seemed very doleful; and did accept my sovereign’s letters, and message, in very thankful manner; as I trust, will appear, by her answer, which I hope to receive, within these two days; and I think will tend to satisfy the Queen’s majesty, as much as this present can permit, not only for the matters of Ireland, but also the treaty of Leith.  

Touching news, I can write no more, than is written by others. I find great suspicions, and no proof, nor appearance of apprehension: Yet, although I am made believe, I shall, ere I depart hence, receive some information.  

My Lord of Lennox hath sent, to request the Queen, that such persons, as were named, in the bill [placard] should be taken: Answer is made him, that if he, or any, will stand to the accusation of any of them, it shall be done; but, not by virtue of the bill, or his request. I look to hear what will come from him to that point. His Lordship is among his friends, beside Glasgow, where he thinketh himself safe enough, as a man of his told me.  

I see no troubles at present, nor appearance thereof; but, a general misliking, among the commons, and some others, which the detestable murder of their king, a shame, as they suppose, to the whole nation. The preachers say, and pray, openly to God, that it will please him, both to reveal, and revenge it; exhorting all men to prayer, and repentance.  

Your most bounden to obey,  

H. Kyllygrew.

– Life of Mary, pp.151-155.

Mar. 8 [1575.] – Though copies of the English Bible had found their way into Scotland, and been of great service in promoting and establishing the reformed doctrines, there was as yet no abundance of copies, nor had any edition been printed within the kingdom. There was, however, a burgess of Edinburgh named Thomas Bassendyne, who for some years had had a small printing-office there. He was probably too poor a man to undertake the printing of a thick quarto, the form in which the Bible was then usually presented; but he took into association with himself a man of better connection and means, named Alexander Arbuthnot, also an Edinburgh burgess; and now it was deemed possible that an edition of the Scriptures might be brought out within the realm of Scotland. The government, under the Regent Morton, gave a favourable ear to the project, and it was further encouraged by the bishops, superintendents, and other leading men of the kirk. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.

This year, 1592, [James Stewart] the Earl of Moray was cruelly murdered by [George Gordon] the Earl of Huntly, at his house in [Donibristle,] in Fifeshire, and with him [James] Dunbar [of Westfield,] Sheriff of Moray; it [having been] given out and publicly [said] that the Earl of Huntly was only the instrument of perpetrating this fact, to satisfy the King’s jealousy of Moray, whom the Queen, more rashly than wisely, some few days before had commended in the King’s hearing, with too many epithets of a proper and gallant man. The reasons of these surmises proceeded from a proclamation of the King’s, the 8th of March following, inhibiting [James] the young Earl of Moray, to pursue the Earl of Huntly for his father’s slaughter, in respect he being warded in the castle of Blackness for the same murder, was willing to abide his trial; averring that he had done nothing but by the King [his] majesty’s commission; and so was neither art nor part of the murder. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Horse-racing was a very innocent thing in those days compared with what it afterwards became, and there were not only races at Glasgow, but the magistrates encouraged them by giving cups. In the early part of the seventeenth century we find an order in the burgh records which “ordainis the Horss Raiss to be proclamit to the xxv day of May instant and the cours to be maid.” Forty years later one of the minutes directs “that Glasgow raice be keeped in maner as is set doune and contained in the diurnall, and recommends to the Provest to cause provyde what is necessar to be made for that effect.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  8th March, 1665.

William died on the 8th March 1702. His vigorous talents, his courage, his essential mildness and tolerance, abated as they were by an unpopular coldness of manners, are amply recognised in English history; among the Scots, while Presbyterians thank him for the establishment of their church, there is little feeling regarding the Dutch king, besides a strong resentment of his concern in the affairs of Glencoe and Darien. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.355-378.

THE death of King William without children (March 8, 1702), opened the succession to the Princess Anne, second daughter of the late King James. Following up the policy of her predecessor, she had not been more than two months upon the throne, when, in conjunction with Germany and Holland, she proclaimed was against the king of France, whose usurpation of the succession to Spain for a member of his family, had renewed a general feeling of hostility against him. This war, distinguished by the victories of the Duke of Marlborough, lasted till the peace of Utrecht in 1713. The queen had been many years married to Prince George of Denmark, and had had several children; but all were now dead. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.379-389.

Scotsman, Friday 8 March 1889, p. 3.


… In the absence of Mr Wallace of Cloncaird, the lenial descendant of Sir William Wallace, who was expected to unveil the “shrine” of the Wallace Sword. Colonel McFADYEN was called upon to perform this ceremony, and in doing so he remarked that however much they might sympathise with the Dumbarton people in being deprived of that famous weapon, they were all agreed that now it rested in its proper place. (Applause.) As long as it remained there, which he thought would be in all time coming, the custodiers would take good care of it. (Applause.)” 

– Scots Lore, pp.280-282.

DUMFRIESSHIRE AND GALLOWAY ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (8th March [1895]). – A motion was adopted expressing regret for the death of Mr. Patrick Dudgeon, of Cargen. A superstitious custom in Galloway was the theme of a paper by Mr. John McKie, R.N., Kirkcudbright. Superstition died hard, and customs lingered in the land for generations after their original cause had disappeared. The habit of putting “cow sherne” into the mouth of a young calf before it was allowed to milk its mother was one commonly practised within his recollection; and from an old woman who followed the practice he received the following explanatory legend: In the olden time, when Galloway was stocked with the black breed of cattle, there was a carle who had a score of cows, not one of which had a white hair on it. They were the pride of the owner. One day, while they were being driven out, the carle’s dog worried the cat of an old woman who lived in a hut hard by, and though he expressed sorrow for what his dog had done, she cursed him and all his belongings. Afterwards, when the cows began to calf, instead of giving fine rich milk as formerly, they only gave a thin watery ooze, on which the calves “dwined away” to skin and bone. During this unfortunate state of affairs a pilgrim, on his journey probably to the shrine of St. Ninian, sought lodgings for the night. The wife of the carle, though unwilling to take in a stranger during the absence of her husband, eventually granted his request. On her making excuse for the poverty of the milk she offered, he tasted and said the cows were bewitched, and for her kindness he would tell her what would break the spell. This was to put some “cow sherne” into the mouths of the calves before they were allowed to suck. As the carle approached his home when returning from his journey he noticed a bright light in the hut of the old hag who had cursed him. Curiosity induced him to look in; he saw a pot on the fire, into which she was stirring something, muttering incantations till it boiled, when, instead of milk as she doubtless expected, nothing came up but “cow sherne.” This left no doubt that it was the ungrateful old witch who had bewitched the cows. Next day, when she came expecting her usual dole, the carle’s wife caught hold of her before she had time to cast any cantrips and scored her above the breath until she drew blood with a crooked nail from a worn horse shoe, which left her powerless to cast further spells. The cows now gave as rich a yield of milk as formerly; and the custom thus begun was continued long after witchcraft had ceased to be a power in the land. 

– Scots Lore, pp.231-236.

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