THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (Lady Day). St Cammin, of Ireland, abbot.
Born. – Archbishop John Williams, 1582, Aberconway; Sir Richard Cox, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, 1650, Bandon; Joachim Murat, King of Naples, 1771, Bastide Frontonière.
Died. – Archbishop John Williams, 1650, Llandegay.
This day is held in the Roman Catholic Church as a great festival, in the Anglican Reformed Church as a feast, in commemoration of the message of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, informing her that the Word of God was become flesh. In Britain it is commonly called Lady Day; in France, Nortre Dame de Mars. It is a very ancient institution in the Latin Church. Among the sermons of St Augustine, who died in 430, are two regarding the festival of the Annunciation.
‘In representations of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary is shewn kneeling, or seated at a table reading. The lily (her emblem) is usually placed between her and the angel Gabriel, who holds in one hand a sceptre surmounted by a fleur-de-lis, on a lily stalk; generally a scroll is proceeding from his mouth with the words Ave Maria gratiâ plenâ; and sometimes the Holy Spirit, represented as a dove, is seen descending towards the Virgin.’ – Calendar of the Anglican Church.1
1 J. H. Parker, Oxford and London, 1851.
On this Day in Other Sources.
It seems more certain, that she attempted to escape, on the 25th of March [1568,] from Lochleven castle, in the disguise of a laundress; and had well nigh effected her purpose, by means of George Douglas, the youngest brother of William Douglas of Lochleven, the Queen’s jailor, as well as half brother of the Regent; being all the children of Margaret Erskine, the mistress of James V. whom Sir Robert Douglas, afterwards married: Those Douglasses were of course legitimate; the Regent Murray was illegitimate. George Douglas, having thus failed, and being turned out of the castle, and island, was not, however, driven from his purpose: He gained to what he supposed the noble design of effecting the liberation of a Queen, William Douglas, an orphan boy, who was then under eighteen years of age, who had been brought up, in Lochleven castle: This boy was quite equal to the trust put in him; as he was sly, and silent, enterprizing and persevering. Such were the two persons, who chiefly effected the escape of the Scotish Queen, from Lochleven castle.
– Life of Mary, pp.184-206.
Till this time, the new year legally held in Scotland was that pitched upon in the sixth century by Dionysius Exiguus when he introduced the Christian era – the 25th of March, or day of the Annunciation. King James, probably looking upon the approaching year 1600 as the beginning of a new century, thought it would be a good occasion for bringing Scotland into a conformity with other countries in respect of New-year’s Day. There was therefore passed this day at Holyrood an act of Privy Council, in which it is set forth that ‘in all other weel-governit commonwealths and countries, the year begins yearly upon the first of January, commonly called New-year’s Day, and that this realm only is different frae all others in the count and reckoning of the years;’ for which reason they ordained that, in all time coming, Scotland shall conform to this usage, and that the next first of January shall be the first day of the year of God 1600.*
– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.
* This is why dates between January and March have the year designated as 1546-7, as Robert Chambers himself does throughout this book. George Chalmers does it throughout his ‘Life of Mary, Queen of Scots‘ too. Chambers also writes in his ‘Book of Days’ (1886) for the month of January;
“Although, however, there was a general popular regard to the 1st of January as the beginning of the year, the ancient Jewish year, which opened with the 25th of March, continued long to have a legal position in Christian countries. In England, it was not till 1752 that the 1st of January became the initial day of the legal, as it had long been of the popular year. Before that time, it was customary to set down dates between the 1st of January and the 24th of March inclusive, thus: January 30, 1648-9: meaning, that popularly the year was 1649, but legally 1648. In Scotland, this desirable change was made by a decree of James VI. in privy council, in the year 1600. It was effected in France in 1564; in Holland, Protestant Germany, and Russia, in 1700; and in Sweden in 1753.”
For the better preservation of order they got the town council to enact, on the occasion of the filling up of “the beddellship of the Laigh Kirk in Trongait,” that it should be the duty of that official not only to ring the bells, “but also to walk throw the kirk in tyme of divyne service with ane whyt staff in his hand, as wont to be of old, for the crubbing of bairnes and uthirs that maks disturbance in the kirk, and for impeiding of all abuses therin.”1
– Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.
1 25th March, 1665.
On the 25th of March, 1707, the treaty of union was ratified by the estates.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.157-166.
Years of national torpor and accepted degradation followed, and to the Scot who ventured south but a sorry welcome was accorded; yet from this state of things Scotland rose to what she is to-day, by her own exertions, unaided, and often obstructed. A return made to the House of Commons in 1710 shows that the proportion of the imperial revenue contributed by Scotland was only 2¼ per cent., whereas, by the year 1866, it had risen to 14½ per cent. During that period the revenue of England increased 800 per cent., while that of Scotland increased 2,500 per cent., thus showing that there is no country in Europe which has made such vast material progress; and to seek for a parallel case we must turn to Australia or the United States of America; but it is doubtful if those who sat in the old Parliament House on that 25th of March, 1707, least of all such patriots as Lord Banff, when he pocketed his £11 2s., could, in the wildest imagery, have forseen the Edinburgh and the Scotland of to-day!
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.157-166.
The absence of lamps in a town then so small as Glasgow is less remarkable when we know that till near the end of the seventeenth century the streets of London remained unlighted. In the last year of the reign of Charles II. a projector named Heming obtained letters patent confirming to him for a term of years the exclusive right of lighting up the metropolis. After all, what he undertook was merely to place a light before every tenth door on moonless nights – that is, one night in three – from the beginning of October to the 25th of March, and only from six o’clock till midnight. This accommodation, scanty as it was, was hailed as something wonderful, and the projector was overwhelmed with applause.1
– Old Glasgow, pp.289-299.
1 Angliæ Metropolis, 1690, § 17.
IT is to be feared that there still prevails a very general belief in witchcraft. The continued faith reposed with more or less seriousness in fortune-telling is not otherwise explainable. It is for the most part a mild and not very harmful faith, but it has unfortunately not lost its ancient possibilities of ferocity. The recent horrible Irish story shews that the survival of a superstition may, even in this boasted century, lead to murder. That at this time of day a woman should have been, with the slow torture of fire, put to death as a witch at the hands of active and in presence of a number of passive relatives is a terrible proof that much of our civilisation is only skin deep. The event is dreadful to think of; notwithstanding, the logic of human history makes it only too plain that ignorance and bigotry are bound to issue in brutality.
[South Wales Echo reports on the incident, 25th March, 1895.]
– Scots Lore, pp.227-231.
GLASGOW ECCLESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY (25th March ). – The Rev. John Charleson, B.D., read a paper entitled “A Pilgimage to Paisley.” Approaching Paisley from the north-east, he said he saw a coronal-tipped tower rising above every roof and spire. Is this, he thought, built over S. Mirren’s shrine, or for the honour of the other saints to whom Paisley’s erstwhile fair Abbey was dedicated? Or does it crown some other temple built for the glory of God in the faith once delivered to the saints? It cannot surely be for the glorifying of some paltry modern sect and the perpetuation of error and schism? He loathed to say it was, and yet he knew it was. Soon he found himself beside an ancient, smoke-begrimed ruin called the Abbey. He spoke of the “Sounding Aisle” on the south side, once the chapel of S. Mary, S. Columba, and S. Mirren, of the north transept with its spacious window, and of the aisleless choir, now roofless and waste. But it still retains the four seats for the celebrants at the altar, the credence niche and water drain. No altar now is there, but a waste of tombs; and the long reach of the choir is open to the skies, to the blast and the rain. A hideous post-Reformation wall separates the nave proper from the choir and chancel, and in this nave worships the Abbey Parish congregation. To a lover of the beautiful and of a true ecclesiology it is, alas! A veritable chamber of torture.
– Scots Lore, pp.231-236.