12th of March

St Maximilian of Numidia, martyr, 296. St Paul of Cornwall, bishop of Leon, about 573. St Gregory the Great, Pope, 604.

Born. – Godfrey Bidloo, anatomist, 1649, Amsterdam; John Thomas Desaguliers, philosophical writer, 1683, Rochelle; Bishop G. Berkeley, philosopher, 1684, Kilcrin, Kilkenny
Died. – Cæsar Borgia, killed, 1508, Castle of Viana; Alexander Piccolomini, Italian miscellaneous writer, 1578, Siena; Rev. R. Polwhele, topographer and poet, 1838.


There have been Popes of every shade of human character. Gregory the Great is one distinguished by modesty, disinterestedness, and sincere religious zeal, tempered by a toleration which could only spring from pure benevolence. The son of a Roman senator, with high mental gifts, and all the accomplishments of his age, he was drawn forward into prominent positions, but always against his will. He would have fain continued to be an obscure monk or a missionary, but his qualities were such that at length even the popedom was thrust upon him (on the death of Pelagius II. in 590). On this occasion he wrote to the sister of the Emperor, ‘Appearing to be outwardly exalted, I am really fallen. My endeavours were to banish corporeal objects from my mind, that I might spiritually behold heavenly joys… I am come into the depths of the sea, and the tempest hath drowned me.’ 

Gregory was a weakly man, often suffering from bad health, and he did not get beyond the age of sixty-four. We owe to him a phrase which has become a sort of formula for the popes – ‘Servant of the servants of God.’ His name, which is the same as Vigilantius or Watchman, became, from veneration for him, a favourite one; we find it borne, amongst others, by a Scottish prince of the eighth century, the reputed progenitor of the clan McGregor. It is curious to think of this formidable band of Highland outlaws of the seventeenth century as thus connected by a chain of historical circumstances with the gentle and saintly Gregory, who first caused the lamp of Christianity to be planted in Britain.


About a hundred years ago, when false hair was perhaps more in use than it is now, a woman residing in a Scotch burgh used to get a guinea from time to time for her tresses, which were of a bright golden hue.

On this Day in Other Sources.


So odious became the administration of Morton that, in 1578, James VI., though only twelve years of age, was prevailed upon by Argyle and Athole to summon the peers, assume the government, and dismiss Morton, an announcement made by heralds at the cross on the 12th of March, under three salutes from the new half-moon; but it was not until many scuffles with the people, culminating in a deadly brawl which roused the whole city in arms and brought the craftsmen forth with morions, plate sleeves, and steel jacks, and when theentire High Street bristled with pikes and Jedwood axes, that Parkhead, when summoned, gave up the fortress to the Earl of Mar, to whom the Earl of Morton delivered the regalia and crown jewels conformably to an ancient inventory, receiving in return a pardon for all announcement made by heralds at the cross on the 12th of March, under three salutes from the new half-moon; but it was not until many scuffles with the people, culminating in a deadly brawl which roused the whole city in arms and brought the craftsmen forth with morions, plate sleeves, and steel jacks, and when the entire High Street bristled with pikes and Jedwo his misdemeanours – a document that failed to save him, when, in 1580, he was condemned and found guilty of that crime for which he had put so many others to death – the murder of Darnley – and had his head struck off by the “Maiden,” an instrument said to be of his own adoption, dying unpitied amid the execrations of assembled thousands. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.47-66.

The 12th of March, this year [1598,] the memorable General Assembly [began] at Dundee, during which the Queen’s brother[-in-law, John Adolph] the Duke of Holstein, arrived at Leith; and in May thereafter, he was solemnly feasted [with] by the town of Edinburgh;.. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

On a subsequent occasion “Alexander Cunningham servitor to the jayler” is allowed sixty-six pounds eight shillings Scots as “expenses in maintaining witches and warlocks in the Tolbuith imprisoned by order of the Commissioners of Justiciarie at Paisley.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.140-150. 

1  12th March, 1698.

Another Glasgow citizen, Mr. Reid (“Senex”), gives us his own recollections of two other great floods. Referring to one which occurred in 1782 he says: “In King street the river reached the second shop above the Mutton Market. I stood on the upper step of that shop on the 12 of March of that year, and while I was there a boat arrived close to me, having been through the Bridgegate with provisions for the inmates of houses in that quarter. Both the markets were inundated, and I remember how the flood cleared them of rats.” This flood covered all the lower parts of the Green, “and the then village of Gorbals was so completely surrounded that it seemed like an island rising up in the midst of an estuary.” The river on this occasion rose twenty feet above its ordinary level. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.248-266.

Before returning to Edinburgh Mr. Macpherson paid a visit to an early acquaintance, the Rev. Andrew Gallie, then missionary at Badenoch, who was a proficient in the Gaelic language, to whom, and to Mr. Macpherson of Strathmashie in Badenoch, he exhibited the poems and manuscripts which he had collected during his tour. “They consisted,” says Mr. Gallie, “of several volumes, small octavo, or rather large duodecimo, in the Gaelic language and characters, being the poems of Ossian, and other ancient bards. I remember perfectly,” continues the Reverend Gentleman, “that many of those volumes were, at the close, said to have been collected by Paul Macmhuirich, Bard Clanraonuil, and about the beginning of the 14th century. Mr. Macpherson and I were of opinion, that though the bard collected them, yet that they must have been writ by an ecclesiastic, for the characters and spelling were most beautiful and correct. Every poem had its first letter of its first word most elegantly flourished and gilded, some red, some yellow, some blue, and some green: the material writ on seemed to be a limber yet coarse and dark vellum: the volumes were bound in strong parchment. Mr. Macpherson had them from Clanronald.”1

– History of the Highlands, pp.36-59.

1  Letter from Mr. Gallie to Charles Macintosh, Esq., W.S., dated March 12th, 1799, inserted in Report referred to. 

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