31st of March

St Acacius (or Achates), Bishop of Antioch, 3rd century. St Benjamin, Deacon, martyr, 424. St Guy (or Witen), Abbot at Ferrara, 1046.


Born. – Prince Arthur, Duke of Brittany, 1187; Henry II. of France, 1518, St Germain; René Descartes, French philosopher, 1596, La Haye; Pope Benedict XIV., Bologna; Frederick V. of Denmark, 1732; Francis Joseph Haydn, musical composer, 1732, Rohrau
Died. – Francis I. of France, 1547, Rambouillet; Philip III. of Spain, 1621, Madrid; Peter Burman, law-writer and Leyden professor, 1741; George, Earl Macartney, Ambassador to China, 1806, Chiswick; Ludwig Beethoven, musical composer, 1827, Vienna; JOhn C. Calhoun, American Statesman, 1850.



George Macartney, a descendant of the Macartneys of Auchenleck, near Kirkcudbright, was born at his father’s seat, Lissanoure, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, on the 14th of May 1737. So quick was he to learn, and so well instructed by a private tutor named Dennis, that, at the early age of thirteen, he was admitted a fellow commoner of Trinity College, Dublin. His choice of profession inclined him towards medicine, until accidentally reading ‘certain curious old tracts on chronology’ (the Book of Days of the period), his circle of ideas became enlarged, and an honourable spirit of ambition changed his first design. And long after, when he had it in his power to reward his tutor’s care with two rich benefices, he emphatically acknowledged that ‘the events, dates, and other facts’ gleaned up, when a boy, from those old chronological works, not only pointed out the way, but were of the greatest service to him as he travelled the arduous path which eventually led to wealth and distinction. Having obtained the degree of M.A., he spent some time in travel, during which he fortunately made the acquaintance of Stephen, son of Lord Holland, and elder brother of the renowned orator and statesman, Charles James Fox. Here was the tide that led to fortune, nor was the ambitious youth, whose head was stored with ‘facts, dates, and other events,’ slow to take advantage of the flood. The abilities and personal advantages of the young Irishman were soon recognised at Holland Housel; and, after a short course of political training, he was brought into Parliament for the borough of Midhurst, then at the command of his influential patron. He did not disappoint the expectations of his friends. Just at that period, statesmen of all parties were puzzled by the attitude of Russia. Scarcely permitted, by the public opinion of Europe, to hold a place among civilized states, the empire of the Czars had, at one bound, stepped into the first class, under the clever guidance of an ambitious woman, whom romantically unexpected events had placed upon the throne. Macartney was the first to see the position and accept it, in the following oracular words, – ‘Russia,’ he said, ‘is no longer to be gazed at as a distant glimmering star, but as a great planet, that has obtruded itself into our system, whose place is yet undetermined, but whose motions must powerfully affect those of every other orb.’

He was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, and soon after made a Knight Companion of the Bath. For several stormy sessions, he sat in the Irish House of Commons, and on one occasion, being taunted with his red ribbon and White Eagle, he gave a reply which effectually prevented any other attacks of that kind; observing in conclusion – ‘Thus, Sir, I was employed at a very early age, whilst some of my opponents were engaged in the weighing of syllables, the measurement of words, and the construction of new phrases. If, in my embassies, I have received testimonies never before granted but to my superiors; if my person is adorned with extraordinary proofs of distinction, let me tell these gentlemen that they are badges of honour, not of shame and disgrace. Let me tell them that, if, from my public situation, my name should ever pass to posterity, it will be transmitted as a testimony of my services and integrity, not as a record of infamy and crimes.’

We next find Sir George in the British parliament, representing the burghs of Ayr, Irvine, Rothesay, &c., most probably by the influence of Lord Bute, whose daughter, Lady Jane Stewart, he had lately married. In 1775 he was appointed Governor of Grenada, and in the following year advanced to the Irish peerage, under the title of Lord Macartney, Baron of Lissanoure.


On this Fay in Other Sources.


The last of March, the most part of the nobility, with seven noblemen of England, and his majesty’s secretary of state, [James Elphinstone] the Lord Balmerino, came to Edinburgh cross, the Secretary read, and Sir David Lindsay of [the Mount], knight, Lyon King of Arms, proclaimed King James [VI.], King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.


Mar. 31 [1631.] – There being a scarcity at this time on the continent, while Scotland possessed a considerable quantity of wheat, the Privy Council, considering these facts, and, moreover, that wheat is not ‘the common grain wherewith the whole lieges are ordinarily fed,’ granted license for the exporting of 4000 bolls. – P. C. R

– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.


On Easter Sunday, the 31st of March, 1689, the assassin loaded his pistols, and went to the choir of St. Giles’s church, from whence he dogged him home to the Old Bank Close, and though accompanied by Lord Castlehill and Mr. Daniel Lockhart, shot him in the back just as he was about to enter his house – the old one whose history we have traced. Lady Lockhart – aunt of the famous Duke of Wharton – was confined to her bed with illness, but sprang up on hearing the pistol-shot; and on learning what had occurred, rushed forth in her night-dress and assisted to convey in the victim, who was laid on two chairs, and instantly expired. The ball had passed out at the left breast. Chiesly was instantly seized. “I am not wont to do things by halves,” said he, grimly and boastfully; “and now I have taught the president how to do justice!” He was put to the torture to discover if he had any accomplices; and as he had been taken red hand, he was on Monday sentenced to death by Sir Magnus Price, Provost of the city, without much formality, according to Father Hay, and on a hurdle he was dragged to the Cross, where his right hand was struck off when alive; then he was hanged in chains at Drumsheugh, says another account; between the city and Leith at the Gallowlee, according to a third, with the pistol tied to his neck. His right hand was nailed on the West Port. The manor house of Dalry, latterly the property of Kirkpatrick, of Allisland, was after this alleged to be haunted, and no servant therein would venture, after dark, alone into the back kitchen, as a tradition existed that his body – which his relations had unchained and carried off, sword in hand, under cloud of night – was buried somewhere near that apartment. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.112-118.


But besides such gratuities there appear to have been both “fees” and perquisites paid to the provosts and bailies. Thus in 1573-4 there occurs an entry of a payment “to my lord provost for his fie xiij lib. vjs. viijd. (£2, 4s. 6d.) and to thrie of the bailies for their fies xx lib.” (about £1, 18s. each). And from a subsequent minute of council it appears that each year were given to the provost, “quhilk hesbein in vse thairof of befoir.” In subsequent years the fees vary in amount. They appear to have been discontinued before the end of the seventeenth century, and in 1720 a small fixed allowance was made to the provost. On the 31st of March of that year a minute of council bears that “in respect the provest as Chiefe Magistrat whiles in that station is obliged to keep up a post suitable thereto, and cannot but be at considerable charge in furnishing his house with wines for the entertainment of gentlemen who may have occasion to wait on him at his house, it is their judgment there should be fourty pound sterling settled upon the provest yearly for defraying the said charge and he may therewith furnish himself with what wines he thinks most fitted.” This payment continued to be made down to the passing of the first reform act, when it was abolished. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.215-237.


Mr. D. Ross thus writes in reference to one of those clearances and evictions which had just then taken place under the authority of a certain Sheriff of the district, and by means of a body of policemen as executioners:- ‘The feeling on this subject, not only in the district, but in Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire is, among the great majority of people, one of universal condemnation of the Sheriff’s reckless conduct, and of indignation and disgust at the brutality of the policemen. Such, indeed, was the sad havoc made on these females on the banks of Carron, on the memorable 31st March [1854], that pools of blood were on the ground – that the grass and earth were dyed red with it – that the dogs of the district came and licked up the blood; and at last, such was the state of feeling of parties who went from a distance to see the field, that a party (it is understood by order or instructions from head-quarters) actually harrowed the ground during the night to hide the blood!’ 

These things were brought to light during the recent war with Russia; who can marvel at the sympathising author thus expressing himself, when concluding the astonishing account – 

‘The affair at Greenyard, on the morning of the 31st March last, is not calculated to inspire much love of country, or rouse the martial spirit of the already ill-used Highlanders. The savage treatment of innocent females on that morning, by an enraged body of police, throws the Sinope butchery into the shade; for the Ross-shire Haynaus have shown themselves more cruel and more blood-thirsty than the Austrian women-floggers. What could these poor men and women, with their wounds, and scars, and broken bones, and disjointed arms, stretched on beds of sickness, or moving on crutches, the result of the brutal treatment of them by the police at Greenyard, have to dread from the invasion of Scotland by Russia?’ 

‘What, indeed,’? echo back these depopulated glens. 

Mr. Ross went from Glasgow to Greenyard, Ross-shire, to investigate the case on the spot, and found that Mr. Taylor, a native of Sutherland, (well educated in eviction schemes and murderous cruelty of that county) and Sheriff substitute of Ross-shire, marched from Tain upon the morning of the 31st March at the head of a strong party of armed constables, with heavy bludgeons and fire arms, conveyed in carts and other vehicles, allowing them as much ardent drink as  they chose to take before leaving and upon their march, so as to qualify them for the bloody work they had to perform. Fit for any outrage, fully equipped, and told by the Sheriff to shew no mercy to any one who would oppose them, and not allow themselves to be called cowards, by allowing these mountaineers victory over them. In this excited half drunk state they came in contact with the unfortunate women of Greenyard, who were determined to prevent the officers from serving the summons of removal upon them, and keep their holding of small farms where they and their forefathers lived and died for generations. But no time was allowed to parley; the Sheriff gave the order to clear the way, and be it said to his everlasting disgrace (but to the credit of the county of Sutherland) that he struck the first blow at a woman, the mother of a large family, and large in the family way at the time, who tried to keep him back, then a general slaughter commenced, the women made noble resistance, until the bravest of them got their arms broken, then they gave way. This did not allay the rage of the murderous brutes, they continued clubbing at the protectless creatures until every one of them was stretched on the field wallowing in their blood, or with broken arms, ribs, and bruised limbs; in this woeful condition many of them were handcuffed together, others tied with coarse ropes, huddled into carts and carried prisoners to Tain jail. I have seen myself in the possession of Mr. Ross of Glasgow, patches or scalps of the skin with the long hair adhering to them, which was found upon the field a few days after this inhuman affray. 

– Gloomy Memories, pp.191-202.

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