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25th of March – Lady Day

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.

   “…the bill would alter these proportions altogether; and he should like to hear from the hon. and learned advocates of that bill on what ground they had knocked off 62 members from, not, be it borne in mind, the aggregate representation of the United Kingdom, but the direct representation of the people of England. (Hear.) The inviolability of the numerical ratio and aggregate sum of the representatives of the three countries, was laid down over and over by the advocates of the Catholic question as an argument against those who contended that the admission of Catholics to civil power would be fraught with danger to existing institutions. (Hear.) Such was the line of argument urged by Mr. Pitt, by Mr. Fox, and by Mr. Wyndham; that the numeral aggregate being inviolable, the infusion of a few Catholic members could not affect the Protestant excess of the entire body of representatives in that house; that the few Catholics who might find their way into Parliament would be so many “rari nantes, [rare swimmers]” undistinguishable from the “gurgite vaste [vast vortex]” of Protestant representatives. But this was a point of too much importance to be thus incidentally touched upon. He would bring it in the distinct form of a resolution before the committee, to the effect that the lopping off 62 English Protestant members, while they were adding to the Irish and Scotch representation, was fraught with danger to the interests of the established church in this country. (Hear.) But more of this anon. With reference to the mere principle of disenfranchising 62 members of the people of England, he could not help expressing his surprise that a bill, based on such a monstrous principle, should receive the support of the hon. member for Preston, who was in his own opinion, though not in fact, par excellence, the representative of the vox populi [voice of the people] in that house. (“Hear,” and a laugh.) That hon. member seemed to think that he performed his duty as an echo of the popular will by securing the stability of the popular franchise of his own popular borough; but such narrow and selfish compromising was unworthy of a representative of the people of England.”  

Evening Mail, Friday 25th March, 1831.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1800-1850.


   On the motion for the adjournment.  

   Dr CLARK proceeded to call the attention of the House to the position of Scotland under the Civil Service Estimates, especially as regarded the salaries of its officials, compared with those of English and Irish officials – Scotland, he said, paying 2s. more per head for taxation than England did, and the probate duty in Scotland was growing faster than it was in England. As far as Scotland was concerned, it was paying more money per head, and getting almost nothing back again. Scotland had got no Government docks, although it could build ships about 50 per cent. cheaper than the Government could build them in their own dockyards. The Home Secretary in England received £5000 a year, the Chief Secretary for Ireland £4425, and the Secretary for Scotland had less than one half – £2000 a year. The Under Secretaries were paid in the same fashion. The English and Irish were paid at the rate of £2000. The Under Secretary in Scotland was only paid at the rate of £1500. The system extended to the clerks. The principal clerks in England were paid at from £900 to £1000, in Ireland from £700 to £900, and in Scotland from £300 to £400. The system was even carried out in the Scottish Office itself. As far as the law officers were concerned, they had the Attorney-General for England getting £7000 a year, the Attorney-General for Ireland getting £5000 a year, and the same officer in Scotland only got £2300 a year. £2300 a year for the services of the right hon. gentleman the Lord Advocate!.. The Solicitor-General in Scotland received £900, in contrast with the much larger sums paid to the English and Irish officials. He would like to know on what ground this disparity could be supported… The entire sum for England was £166,000. It was £133,000 for Ireland, and only £9808 for Scotland. The whole cost in Scotland was under £10,000, while Scotland contributed very much more of revenue than Ireland did. Looking at the matter on the basis per head of the population in England, the cost was 2½ times more than in Scotland, and in Ireland it was 10 times more than in Scotland. Let them take the Medical Department of the Board by which the public health Acts were carried out. The cost in England was £17,416; in Ireland £4400, and in Scotland £500. The result was they had not got the same attention paid to public health matters in Scotland that they had either in England or Ireland, and he believed a great deal of preventable disease that might not occur from the parsimony of this House in everything that was Scottish. The President in England had £2000 a year, the same officer in Ireland had £2000 a year. In Scotland the President had only £1200 a year… In England the prison surgeons got from £400 to £500 a year. In Ireland they were paid from £350 to £400, and in Scotland they were paid from £250 to £300. The assistants in England began at the same salary as the principal officers in Scotland… Then there were the grants in aid. He was sorry to say that so far as these were concerned Scotland was treated in the same shabby fashion. A sum of £16,000 was voted every year by Parliament for teachers and for scholarships in London, under which young English lads could be educated free by the State, and were able to compete unfairly with the Scottish lads, who could not get anything of the kind. A sum of £3800 was given in addition for the museum, making £20,000 voted by Parliament for technical education in London. They had the same thing in Ireland, where £7000 was voted for the teaching of technology and for scholarships for Irish lads. This House absolutely refused to vote a single penny for Scotland in that direction… When two years ago £15,000 was voted for England and Ireland, only £500 had been granted to Scotland, and that was only granted for one year. There was a Watt College at Edinburgh performing the same functions that they had got in Ireland and England performed by the State. Government had refused to give a single penny of this £15,000 grant. In the case of the college at Dundee, it only got it for one year, and it had been stopped… A commission appointed by this House had been sitting, and they had come before the Treasury and told them that the sum granted was utterly inadequate, and would not perform the work they had to carry out. It was the same with the National Galleries. They were paying their money that they were compelled to pay under the Treaty of Union. The value of money at that time, nearly two hundred years ago, was quite different from the value of money now; so that, as far as Scotland was concerned, in all these matters Ireland got more than she wanted, and Scotland got nothing… Looking at the grand total, the grants in England amounted to £1,000,000, in Scotland to £230,000, and in Ireland to over £2,000,000…”  

– Scotsman, Wednesday 25th March, 1891.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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 [1895]). – 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.

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