Roman captives, martyrs in Persia, 362. St Mary of Egypt, 5th century. Massylitan martyrs in Africa. St Eupsychius, martyr. St Dotto, abbot in Orkney, 6th century. St Waltrude, 686. St Gautier, abbot in Limousin, 1130.
Born. – Fisher Ames, American statesman, President of Harvard College, 1758, Dedham, Massachusetts.
Died. – Constantine II., Roman emperor, assassinated, 340; Zenon, Emperor of the East, 491; Pope Constantine, 715; Gabrielle d’Estrées (‘La Belle Gabrielle’), 1599; Simon, Lord Lovat, beheaded, 1747; Christian Wolf, philosophical writer, 1754, Halle; Jacques Necker, French financial minister (1788), 1804, Geneva.
Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, is one of the three great festivals of the Christian year, – the other two being Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the greatest joy, and accounted the Queen of Festivals. In primitive times it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘And hath appeared unto Simon;’ – a custom still retained in the Greek Church.
The common name of this festival in the East was the Paschal Feast, because kept at the same time as the Pascha, or Jewish passover, and in some measure succeeding to it. In the sixth of the Ancyran Canons it is called the Great Day. Our own name Easter is derived, as some suppose, from Eostre, the name of a Saxon deity, whose feast was celebrated every year in the spring, about the same time as the Christian festival – the name being retained when the character of the feast was changed; or, as others suppose, from Oster, which signifies rising. If the latter supposition be correct, Easter is in name, as well as reality, the feast of the resurrection.
Though there has never been any difference of opinion in the Christian church as to why Easter is kept, there has been a good deal as to when it ought to be kept. It is one of the moveable feasts; that is, it is not fixed to one particular day – like Christmas Day, e.g., which is always kept on the 25th of December – but moves backwards or forwards according as the full moon next after the vernal equinox falls nearer or further from the equinox. The rule given at the beginning of the Prayer-book to find Easter is this: ‘Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the twenty-first day of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.’
The paschal controversy, which for a tie divided Christendom, grew out of a diversity of custom. The churches of Asia Minor, among whom were many Judaizing Christians, kept their paschal feast on the same day as the Jews kept their passover; i.e. on the 14th of Nisan, the Jewish month corresponding to our March or April. But the churches of the West, remembering that our Lord’s resurrection took place on the Sunday, kept their festival on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan. By this means they hoped not only to commemorate the resurrection on the say on which it actually occurred, but also to distinguish themselves more effectually from the Jews. For a time this difference was borne with mutual forbearance and charity. And when disputes began to arise, we find that Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, when on a visit to Rome, took the opportunity of conferring with Anicetas, bishop of that city, upon the question. Polycarp pleaded the practice of St Philip and St John, with the latter of whom he had lived, conversed, and joined in its celebration; while Anicetas adduced the practice of St Peter and St Paul. Concession came from neither side, and so the matter dropped; but the two bishops continued in Christian friendship and concord. This was about A.D. 158.
Towards the end of the century, however, Victor, bishop of Rome, resolved on compelling the Eastern churches to conform to the Western practice, and wrote an imperious letter to the prelates of Asia, commanding them to keep the festival of Easter at the time observed by the Western churches. They very naturally resented such an interference, and declared their resolution to keep Easter at the time they had been accustomed to do. The dispute henceforward gathered strength, and was the source of much bitterness during the next century. The East was divided from the West, and all who, after the example of the Asiatics, kept Easter-day on the 14th, whether that day were Sunday or not, were styled Quartodecimans by those who adopted the Roman custom.
One cause of this strife was the imperfection of the Jewish calendar. The ordinary year of the Jews consisted of 12 lunar months of 291/2 days each, or of 29 and 30 days alternately; that is, of 354 days. To make up the 11 days’ deficiency, they intercalated a thirteenth month of 30 days every third year. But even then they would be in advance of the true time without other intercalations; so that they often kept their passover before the vernal equinox. But the Western Christians considered the vernal equinox the commencement of the natural year, and objected to a mode of reckoning which might sometimes cause them to hold their paschal feast twice in one year and omit it altogether the next. To obviate this, the fifth of the apostolic canons decreed that, ‘If any bishop, priest, or deacon, celebrated the Holy Feast of Easter before the vernal equinox, as the Jews do, let him be deposed.’
At the beginning of the fourth century, matters had gone to such a length, that the Emperor Constantine thought it his duty to take steps to allay the controversy, and to insure uniformity of practice for the future. For this purpose, he got a canon passed in the great Œcumenical Council of Nice (A.D. 325), ‘That everywhere the great feast of Easter should be observed upon one and the same day; and that not the day of the Jewish passover, but, as had been generally observed, upon the Sunday afterwards. And to prevent all future disputes as to the time, the following rules were also laid down:
- ‘That the twenty-first day of March shall be accounted the vernal equinox.’
- ‘That the full moon happening upon or next after the twenty-first of March, shall be taken for the full moon of Nisan.’
- ‘That the Lord’s-day next following that full moon be Easter-day.’
- ‘But if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter-day shall be the Sunday after.’
On Easter-day depend all the moveable feasts and fasts throughout the year. The nine Sundays before, and the eight following after, are all dependent upon it, and form, as it were, a bodyguard to this Queen of Festivals. The nine preceding are the six Sundays in Lent, Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima; the eight following are the five Sundays after Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and Trinity Sunday.
Easter in Other Sources.
RODERICK MORISON, commonly called “An Clarsair dall,” the Blind Harper, a native of Lewis, was born in the year 1646, and died at an advanced age. His Gaelic is altogether free from English words and idioms, but is less ancient in structure than that of Mackay, the blind piper. Drinking is mentioned, but the kind of drink is not named. The word stóp, stoup, occurs. The following terms relating to the Christian religion are found:- La Caisge, Easter Day; “Seachduin na Ceusda,” the week of the Crucifixion; “Dhireadh a‘ Charbhais,” the end of Lent; and these mark the existence of Catholicism.
– Popular Tales, Volume 4, pp.180-197.
Birch branches, primroses, and other flowers, were placed upon the dresser, tar was put upon the cattle, snails were put upon a table under a dish, and were expected to write the first letter of a lover’s name, holes were dug in the ground and fortunes foretold from the kind of animals which were found in them. People used to get up early on the morning of Easter Sunday and go to the tops of hills before sunrise, in the full belief that they would “see the sun take three leaps, and whirl round like a mill wheel” for joy, which seems to be a mixture of Paganism and Christianity. the ram, the hawk, the lion of Manus, and all that tribe of mythological beings may be derived from astronomical symbols, and those of Egypt and the far East may perhaps explain those on the sculptured stones of Scotland.
– Popular Tales, Volume 4, pp.286-299.
It is common in the Highlands now to speak of the “wheel” of the sun, and it was the custom not long ago to ascend some high hill on Easter Sunday to see the sun rise, and “whirl round like a mill wheel, and give three leaps.” But a peasant of a practical turn of mind rebuked a friend, saying –
“Fool! And dost thou think to see the sun rise from these, when she rises beyond Edinburgh, and so many hills as there are in the way?”
– Popular Tales, Volume 4, pp.348-369.
The burgh [St. Andrews] owes its origin to a college of Culdees early founded here. In the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries, the city attained its highest point of wealth and commercial importance. During this period a yearly fair or great market – called the Senzie market, commencing in the second week of Easter, and continuing for fifteen days – was held within the quadrangle of the Priory, to which resorted merchants from most of the trading kingdoms of Europe, and, on some occasions, from 200 to 300 vessels have entered the harbour. The destruction of the religious houses, and the general want of security to property arising from civil commotion, reduced St. Andrews from its high estate.
– Scotland Illustrated, pp.2-4.
The Queen had, a small establishment of singers. Melvill informs us, that the Queen had three valets of her chamber, who sung three parts, and wanted a bass, to sing the fourth part: And Rizzio being recommended to the Queen, as a person fit to make the fourth, in concert, was drawn in, sometimes, to sing with the other valets. Before the reformation, organs were the common instruments of music, in churches. In 1559 and 1560, the organs were, generally, destroyed as profane. Those in the chapel royal, within Stirling castle, were saved; as the mob could not reach them, with their polluted hands. A pair of organs, which had been recently purchased, for the chapel of Holyrood-house, were saved, by the master of works. In December 1562, Randolph intimated to Cecil, that one of the Queen’s priests had been assaulted, in a dark night: and, he added, that her musicians, both Scots, and French, refused to play, and sing, at her mass, and evensong, upon Christmas-day: thus, continued he, is her poor soul so troubled, for the preservation of her silly mass, that she knoweth not, where to turn herself, for defence of it. In April 1565, the Queen spent her Easter, at Stirling: and, besides the organs, she had a band of music, which gave offence to those, who were, as silly as Randolph, in being offended, at the Queen’s mode of worship, which was agreeable to ancient practice, and the established law. In April 1565, said Randolph to Cecil, your honour shall know for certain, that greater triumph, there was never, in any time of most popery, than was this Easter, at the resurrection, and at her high mass: organs were wont to be the common music; she wanted now, neither trumpet, drum, nor fife, bagpipe, nor tabor… The Queen acted, wisely, in tolerating her subjects, to worship the supreme Being, in their own way. But, the tolerated were those, who persecuted the Queen, because she worshipped God, with more ceremony, and more pomp, than their ignorance approved, or their uncharitableness could allow. We have lived to see some attempts made, to restore the organ to the church of Scotland, while musick of the highest order is admired, in the metropolis of that ancient kingdom.
– Life of Mary, pp.42-61.
The Queen kept her Easter, which happened on the 14th of April, in the castle. But, she had little solace, and less hilarity, with Darnley, whose conduct, in Rizzio’s assassination, she was completely acquainted with: And, as he had thus shewn, his own, and his father’s purpose, to have been, to seize her sceptre, it was not easy to remove her jealousy of his future conduct. He soon after rode to Stirling, with a dozen horse; meaning to have treated with Argyle, and Murray: But, the Queen sent Robert Melvill, to warn those nobles, not to deal with him; so that he was disappointed of his purpose, whatever it were. The Queen, soon after, recalled Murray, and Argyle, to court, when she endeavoured, to promote a general reconcilement among the nobles; as we have seen. But, the Queen never could be persuaded, that she was endeavouring to perform impossibilities: she could not be made to believe, even after Murray’s rebellion, and Murray’s conspiracy, with Darnley, Lennox, the whole officers of state, and many able, and vigorous characters, that he was capable of conspiring against her; that he had an overpowering faction; and that his ambition was, constantly, aiming at interests of his own, quite distinct from hers; and that he, invariably, courted Elizabeth, but never his sister: The influence of Murray over Mary, as it was not to be described, so can it only be compared to the singular influence of the rattlesnake over its prey: She could not resist it. The discords, between her, and her husband, created town-talk, at Edinburgh, and at London, during some months, as we learn, from Cecil’s correspondents. They became reconciled, about the middle of June: But, such a reconcilement, between such personages, could not be sincere, or of long endurance.
– Life of Mary, pp.127-136.
Previous to this nearly the whole, probably, of the Strathclyde Britons, as well as the entire nation of the Picts, had conformed to Rome, and there is evidence of Sedulius having been at Rome in 721. But the movement towards Rome was resisted by the Columban community till the year 717, when they were expelled from Iona. They were the last to disappear of the Celtic communities, and they were replaced by monks who adopted the canonical observance of Easter and the coronal mode of tonsure. The breaking up of the monastic church and the introduction of a secular clergy followed. Early in the ninth century the supremacy exercised from Iona came to an end. In Ireland it was transferred to Kells, and in Scotland to Dunkeld, but the supremacy of the Columban Church remained, and the Abbot of Dunkeld was placed at the head of the Pictish Church.
– Old Glasgow, pp.31-37.
About Easter this same year , died at Cramond, in Midlothian, Richard, Bishop of Dunkeld, and was interred at the abbey of St. Columba’s, in the Isle of Inchcolm; and in June thereafter, was Sir Thomas [de] Colville apprehended [unjustly] at Edinburgh, and committed by the King to close prison for his rebellion.
– Historical Works, pp.19-38.
Robert Gourlay’s house passed from the possession of Sir Thomas Hope and Lord Aberuchill into that of Sir George Lockhart (the great legal and political rival of Sir George Mackenzie), Lord President of the Session in 1685, and doomed to fall a victim to private revenge. Chiesly of Dalry, an unsuccessful litigant, enraged at the president for assigning a small aliment of £93 out of his estate – a fine one south-westward of the city – to his wife, from whom we must suppose he was separated, swore to have vengeance. He was perhaps not quite sane; but anyway, he was a man of violent and ungovernable passions. Six months before the event we are about to relate he told Sir James Stewart, an advocate, when in London, that he was “determined to go to Scotland before Candlemas and kill the president!” “The very imagination of such a thing,” said Sir James, “is a sin before God.” “Leave God and me alone,” was the fierce response, “we have many things to reckon betwixt us, and we will reckon this too!” The Lord President was warned of his open threats, but unfortunately took no heed of them. 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. “On repairing the garden-wall at a later period,” says Dr. Wilson, “an old stone seat which stood in a recess of the wall had to be removed, and underneath was found a skeleton entire, except the bones of the right hand – without doubt the remains of the assassin, that had secretly been brought thither from the Gallowlee.” But Dr. Chambers also writes of a skeleton, found a century after, “when removing the hearth-stone of a cottage in Dalry Park, with the remains of a pistol near the situation of the neck. No doubt was entertained that these were the remains of Chiesly, huddled into this place of concealment, probably in the course of the night in which they had been abstracted from the gallows.” This pistol is still preserved.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.112-118.
Under the shadow of that cross have been transacted many deeds of real horror, more than we can enumerate here – but a few may suffice. There, in 1563, Sir James Tarbat, a Roman Catholic priest, was pilloried in his vestments, with a chalice bound to his hands, and, as Knox has it, was served by the mob with “his Easter eggs,” till he was pelted to death. There died Sir William Kirkaldy, hanged “with his face to the sun” (as Knox curiously predicted before his own death), for the execution took place at four in the afternoon, when the sun was in the west (Calderwood); and there, in time to come, died his enemy Morton. There died Montrose and many of his cavalier comrades, amid every ignominy that could be inflicted upon them; and the two Argyles, father and son. An incredible number of real and imaginary criminals have rendered up their lives on that fatal spot, and among the not least interesting of the former we may mention Gilderoy, or “the red-haired lad,” whose real name was Patrick Macgregor, and who, with ten other caterans, accused of cattle-lifting and many wild pranks on the shores of Loch Lomond, when brought to Edinburgh, were drawn backwards on a hurdle to the cross, on the 27th of July, 1636, and there hanged – Gilderoy and John Forbes suffering on a higher gallows than the rest, and, further, having their heads and hands struck off, to be affixed to the city gates. Gilderoy, we need scarcely add, has obtained a high ballad fame. There is a broadside of the time, containing a lament to him written by his mistress, in rude verses, not altogether without some pathos; one verse runs thus:-
“My love he was as brave a man
As ever Scotland bred,
Descended from a highland clan,
A catheran to his trade.
No woman then or woman-kind
Had ever greater joy,
Than we two when we lived alone,
I and my Gilderoy!”
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.148-157.
Mr Campbell, who has himself spoken Gaelic from his childhood, went systematically upon story-hunting tours, as other men engaged by other sciences set out upon botanical or geological excursions. His specimens were of a kind to be got only by the skilful. Thus we are told how he went at Easter,
“To a Highland district, near the lowlands, where a gamekeeper had marked down a lot of tale-tellers, and I was soon convinced that there was plenty of game, though hard to get.
The difficulty may be worth some explanation, for it exists elsewhere, and hears on the collection of tales everywhere. Highland peasants and fishermen, especially those dwelling near the lowlands, are shy and proud, and even more peculiarly sensitive to ridicule than peasants elsewhere. Many have a lurking belief in the truth of the stories which they tell, and a rooted conviction that any one with a better education will laugh at the belief, and the story, and the narrator and his language, if he should be weak enough to venture on English, and betray his knowledge of Sgeultachd and his creed. He cannot imagine that any one out of his own class can possibly be amused by his frivolous pastimes. No one ever has hitherto. He sees every year a summer flood of tourists of all nations pouring through his lochs and glens, but he knows as little of them as they know of him. The shoal of herrings that enter Loch Fyne know as much of the dun-deer on the hill-side, as Londoners and Highland peasants know of each other. Each gets an occasional peep at the other as the deer may see the herrings capering on the loch – each affects the other slowly but surely, as the herrings do drive away the wild deer by attracting men to catch them; but the want of a common language here as elsewhere, keeps Highlands and Lowlands, Celt and Saxon, as clearly separate as oil and water in the same glass.
The first step, then, towards the acquisition of a story is to establish confidence. It may be that the would-be collector sees before him a strapping lad dressed in the garb of a west country fisherman – a rough blue bonnet, jacket, and trousers. He steps out and ranges up alongside. The Highlander glances from under his bushy eyebrows, and sees with his sharp grey eyes that the new comer is a stranger; he looks rather like a Saxon; Highland curiosity is strong, and he longs to ask whence he comes; but politeness is stronger, and it would be uncivil to begin questioning at once. So with a nervous kick of one foot, and a quick shy glance, the fisherman jerks out, ‘”It’s a fine day.” “Tha n’ latha briagh” (The day is fine) replies the stranger; and as he speaks, the whole face and manner of his companion change as if by magic; doubt and hesitation, suspicion and curiosity, become simple wonder; his eyes and his heart open wide at the sound of his native tongue, and he exclaims, “You have Gaelic!” “You will take my excuse by your leave, but what part of the Gaeldom are you from?” And then having found out all that is to be discovered, the ice broken, and confidence established, it oozes out gradually that the fisherman knows a story, and after much persuasion he tells it, while he rows the gentleman who can talk Gaelic across a Highland loch. At parting, he adds that he has told it only to please a “Gael,” and that he would not have said one word to a Gall (stranger). But the man who is fluent in his boat, is shy and awkward when set down to repeat his story for transcribing, and it is only when set with one of his neighbours whom he knows, that his story is got on paper.
Or it may be an old dame in a tall white mutch with a broad black silk band, a red cloak, and clean white apron. She is seventy, and can walk ten miles; she has known all the neighbouring families for generations. If you can claim cousinship with any, she is your friend; but she will praise the ancestors and tell of the adventures of Rob Roy the Gregorach, the last of the freebooters. “But Mary can you say Murachag and Mionachag?” “Huch! My dear, that is an ursgeul that is nonsense. The Good Being bless you, I knew your grandmother, “ etc. Etc. So one must rest contented with the fact that old Mary knows one tale, and probably many more, which a week’s persuasion might perhaps extract.”
– ‘Literary Examiner‘ London, December 8th 1860., Review of ‘Popular Tales of the West Highlands‘, John F. Campbell.
Associated Words from Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary.
LAIF SOUNDAY, LEIF SOUNDAY, LAW SONDAY. The name of a certain holiday. Acts Ja. V. Laif Sounday is undoubtedly q. “Loaf-Sunday.” Law Sunday must be between the end of March and Whitsunday.
PAYS, PAS, PASE, PASCE, PASK, PASCH, s. Easter; pron. As pace, S. B. Elsewhere as peace. Wyntown. – Moes. G. Pascha, A.S. pasche, &c. Id.
PAYS-EGGS. Eggs dyed of various colours, given to children to amuse themselves with at the time of Easter, S. – Dan. Paaske-egg, coloured eggs; Belg. Pasch-eyeren, ova paschalia.
PAYSYAD, s. A contemptuous term for a female who has nothing new to appear in at Easter; originating from the custom which prevails among Episcopalians, of having a new dress for this festival, S. B. From Pays, and perhaps yad, an old mare.
PEICE. The Fest of Piece, Pasch, or Easter. Acts Mary. V. PAYS.
PESSE PIE. Apparently a pie baked for Easter. Jacobite Relics. V. PAYS, PAS, &c.
On this Day in Other Sources.
James I. returned to Scotland on the 9th April, 1424,1 and was murdered in 1436.2
– Scots Lore, pp.341-364.
1 Ex. Rolls, iv. pref. lxxxvi.
2 Ibid. iv. pref. clxxii.
On the 9th of April , the Earl of Murray, with the Queen’s leave, set out for France; as he could not remain any longer, in Scotland, with propriety; considering his engagements, with the conspirators.
– Life of Mary, pp.151-155.
On the 9th of April , having obtained the Queen’s permission, Murray set out, from Edinburgh to France; taking his journey through England. Abroad, he seems to have had no business; but, at home, he had much business, critical, as the moment was; and speedily as the Parliament was to meet.
– Life of Mary, pp.155-184.
From the epoch of all those conspiracies, at Michaelmas 1566, Murray was intimately acquainted with the various plots; as the chief advantage of them was to result to him. When he set out, for France, on the 9th of April , he was perfectly aware of what was in contemplation. From the moment, that Morton, and other guilty nobles, drew their swords, at Stirling, for dethroning the Queen, and crowning her infant son, Murray’s elevation was the great end; and the conspirators, constantly informed him of their progress; solicited his return; and refused, to act with Thorkmorton, as ambassador, till Murray’s arrival. His influence, and his energy, in Scotland, were sufficiently known, in France. He was even induced to swear to the King of France, and to the Queen’s uncles, that he would set the Queen, at liberty, on his return, and restore her to her dignity.
– Life of Mary, pp.184-206.
April 9, 1574. – ‘Alexander Curry and Marion Smith, spouses, are found in the wrang for troublance done by them to Margaret Hunter, in casting down of two pair of sheets, tamping them in the gutter, and striking of the said Margaret.’ Surety is given that Alexander and Marion shall in future abstain from striking each other; and ‘gif they flyte, to be brankit‘ – that is, invested with the king of iron bridle, with a tongue retroverted into the mouth, of which a description has already been given.
– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.
Major Weir, “after a life characterised externally by all the graces of devotion, but polluted in secret by crimes of the most revolting nature, and which little needed the addition of wizardry to excite the horror of living men, fell into a severe sickness, which affected his mind so much that he made open and voluntary confession of all his wickedness.”
According to Professor Sinclair, the major had made a compact with the devil, who of course outwitted his victim. The fiend had promised, it was said, to keep him scatheless from all peril, but a single “burn;” hence the accidental naming of a man named Burn, by the sentinels at the Nether Bow Port, when he visited them as commander of the Guard, cast him into a fit of terror; and on another occasion, finding Libberton Burn before him, was sufficient to make him turn back trembling.
His sick-bed confession, when he was now verging on his seventieth year, seemed at first so incredible that Sir Andrew Ramsay of Abbotshall, who was Lord Provost from 1662 to 1673, refused for a time to order his arrest. Eventually, however, the major, his sister (the partner of one of his crimes), and the black magical staff, were all taken into custody and lodged in the Tolbooth.
The staff was secured by the express request of his sister, and local superstition still records how it was wont to perform all the major’s errands for any article he wanted from the neighbouring shops; that it answered the door when “the pin was tirled,” and preceded him in the capacity of a link-boy at night in the Lawnmarket. In his house several sums of money in dollars were found wrapped up in pieces of cloth. A fragment of the latter, on being thrown on the fire by the bailie in charge, went up the wide chimney with an explosion like a cannon, while the dollars, when the magistrate took them home, flew about in such a fashion that the demolition of his house seemed imminent.
While in prison he confessed, without scruple, that he had been guilty of crimes alike possible and impossible. Stung to madness my conscience, the unfortunate wretch seemed to feel some comfort in sharing his misdeeds with the devil, yet he refused to address himself to Heaven for pardon. To all who urged him to pray, he answered by wild screams. “Torment me no more – I am tortured enough already!” was his constant cry; and he declined to see a clergyman of any creed, saying, according to “Law’s Memorials,” that “his condemnation was sealed; and since he was to go to the devil, he did not wish to anger him!”
When asked by the minister of Ormiston if he had ever seen the devil, he answered, “that any fealling he ever hade of him was in the dark.”
He and his sister were tried on the 9th of April, 1670, before the Justiciary Court; he was sentenced to be strangled and burned [the usual punishment for witchcraft in Scotland], between Edinburgh and Leith, and his sister Grizel (called Jean by some), to be hanged in the Grassmarket.
When his neck was encircled by the fatal rope at the place of execution, and the fire that was to consume his body – the “burn” to which, as the people said the devil had lured him – he was bid to say, “Lord, be merciful to me!” But he only replied fiercely and mournfully, “Let me alone – I will not; I have lived as a beast and must die like a beast.” When his lifeless body fell from the stake into the flaming pyre beneath, his favourite stick, which (according to Ravaillac Redivivus) “was all of one piece of thornwood, with a crooked head,” and without the aid of which he could perform nothing, was cast in also, and it was remarked by the spectators that it gave extraordinary twistings and writhings, and was as long in burning as the major himself.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.309-315.
According to the Courant of April 9th, 1724, the denizens of the High Street, and other greater thoroughfares, were startled by “a bank” of drums, beating up for recruits for the King of Prussia’s gigantic regiment of Grenadiers. Two guineas as bounty were offered, and many tall fellows were enlisted.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.198-203.
Lady Eleanor was happier as Countess of Stair than she had ever been as Viscountess Primrose; but the Earl had one failing – a common one enough among gentlemen in those days – a disposition to indulge in the bottle, and then his temper was by no means improved; thus, on coming home he more than once treated the Countess with violence. Once – we regret to record it of so heroic a soldier – when transported beyond the bounds of reason, he gave her a blow on the face with such severity as to draw blood; and then, all unconscious of what he had done, fell asleep. Poor Lady Stair, overwhelmed by such an insult, and recalling perhaps much that she had endured with Lord Primrose, made no attempt to bind up the wound, but threw herself on the sofa, and wept and bled till morning dawned. When the Earl awoke, her bloody and dishevelled aspect filled him with horror and dismay. “What has happened? How came you to be thus?” He exclaimed. She told him of his conduct over-night, which filled him with shame – such shame and compunction, that he made a vow never again to take any species of drink, unless it had first passed through her hands; and this vow he kept religiously till the day of his death, which took place on the 9th April, 1747, at Queensberry House in the Canongate, when he was in his seventy-fifth year.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.102-111.
An Act to reduce the Allowance on Spirits made from Malt only in Scotland and Ireland.
[9th April 1832.]
– Acts Relating to Scotland, William IV., Chapter XXIX.
HOUSE OF LORDS, MONDAY, APRIL 7.
SUPPLY. – BILLETING IN SCOTLAND.
… Not many days ago the House voted 1,750,000l. for barracks, but not a single farthing of that sum was allocated to Scotland. The hon. member concluded by moving ‘that, in the opinion of this House, the practice of billeting soldiers of the militia and of the line in Scotland upon private families is injurious to the comfort and discipline of the men, as well as oppressive to the people; and that it is the duty of the Government to take means permanently to abolish the grievance.’
Mr. JOHN McGREGOR regretted that any allusion should have been made to the Treaty of Union of Scotland with England. Since that period two rebellions had occurred in Scotland, but the memory of which the loyalty of the people had subsequently effaced. During, however, such a period it became necessary to adopt a different system in Scotland from that which prevailed in England and Ireland. But at the present time nothing was more obnoxious to the people of Scotland than the billeting system in that country. Although he could not expect the system to be immediately altered, yet he did hope that it would be ultimately changed, and assimilated to that which was pursued in England and Ireland.
Mr. Ellice (Coventry) was aware that this system of billeting was felt to be a great grievance by the people of Scotland; but he begged the House to consider how any attempt to remedy it in the way in which his hon. friend below him had suggested would be perceived by the public in England, and especially how it would press upon the public purse of the united kingdom…”
– Evening Mail, Wednesday 9th April, 1856.
– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.