Site icon Random Scottish History

4th of May

St Monica, widow, 387. St Godard, bishop, 1038.

Born. – John James Audubon, ornithologist, 1782, Louisiana.. 
Died. – Ulysses Aldovrandi, naturalist, 1605; Louis XIII., King of France, 1643; Tippoo Sahib, Sultan of Mysore, killed at the siege of Seringapatam, 1799; Sir Robert Ker Porter, traveller, artist, 1842, St Petersburg.


On the 4th of May 1799, Seringapatam was taken, and the empire of Hyder Ali extinguished by the death of his son, the Sultan Tippoo Sahib.* The storming of this great fortress by the British troops took place in broad day, and was on that account unexpected by the enemy. The commander, General Sir David Baird, led one of the storming parties in person, with characteristic gallantry, and was the first man after the forlorn hope to reach the top of the breach. So far, well; but when there, he discovered to his surprise a second ditch within, full of water. For a moment he thought it would be impossible to get over this difficulty. He had fortunately, however, observed some workmen’s scaffolding in coming along, and taking this up hastily, was able by its means to cross the ditch; after which all that remained was simply a little hard fighting. Tippoo came forward with apparent gallantry to resist the assailants, and was afterwards taken from under a heap of slain. It is supposed he made this attempt in desperation, having just ordered the murder of twelve British soldiers, which he might well suppose would give him little chance of quarter, if his enemy were aware of the fact.

It was remarkable that, fifteen years before, Baird had undergone a long and cruel captivity in this very fort, under Tippoo’s father, Hyder Ali. The hardships he underwent on that occasion were extreme; yet, amidst all his sufferings, he never for a moment lost heart, or ceased to hope for a release. He was truly a noble soldier. As with Wellington, his governing principle was a sense of duty. In every matter, he seemed to be solely anxious to discover what was right to be done, that he might do it. He was a Scotchman, a younger son of Mr Baird, of Newbyth, in East Lothian (born in 1757, died in 1829). His person was tall and handsome, and his look commanding. In all the relations of his life he was a most worthy man, his kindness of heart winning him the love of all who came in contact with him.

An anecdote of Sir David Baird’s boyhood forms the key to his character. When a student at Mr Locie’s Military Academy at Chelsea, where all the routine of garrison duty was kept up, he was one night acting as sentinel. A companion, older than himself, came and desired leave to pass out, that he might fulfil an engagement in London. Baird steadily refused – ‘No,’ said he, ‘that I cannot do; but, if you please, you may knock me down, and walk out over my body.’1

The taking of Seringapatam gave occasion for a remarkable exercise of juvenile talent in a youth of nineteen, who was studying art in the Royal Academy, and whose name appears in the obituary list at the head of this day. He was then simply Robert Ker Porter, but afterwards, as Sir Robert, became respectfully known for his Travels in Persia; while his two sisters Jane and Anna Maria, attained a reputation as prolific writers of prose fiction. There had been such a thing before as a panorama, or picture giving details of a scene too extensive to be comprehended from one point of view; but it was not a work entitled to much admiration. With marvellous enthusiasm this boy artist began to cover a canvas of two hundred feet long with the scenes attending the capture of the great Indian fort; and, strange to say, he had finished it in six weeks. Sir Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy, got an early view of the picture, and pronounced it a miracle of precocious talent. When it was arranged for exhibition, vast multitudes both of the learned and the unlearned flocked to see it. ‘I can never forget,’ says Dr Dibdin, ‘its first impression upon my own mind. It was as a thing dropped from the clouds, – all fire, energy, intelligence, and animation. You looked a second time, the figures moved, and were commingled in hot and bloody fight. You saw the flash of the cannon, the glitter of the bayonet, and the gleam of the falchion. You longed to be leaping from crag to crag with Sir David Baird, who is hallooing his men on to victory! Then again you seemed to be listening to the groans of the wounded and the dying – and more than one female was carried out swooning. The oriental dress, the jewelled turban, the curved and ponderous scimitar – these were among the prime favourites of Sir Robert’s pencil, and he treated them with literal truth. The colouring was sound throughout; the accessories strikingly characteristic… The public poured in thousands for even a transient gaze.’2

1  Theodore Hook’s Life of Sir David Baird.
2  Reminiscences of a Literary Life, i. 145.
*  Tippoo Sahib [Tipu Sahib] is mentioned in ‘Old and New EdinburghChapter 32.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Eustace de Vesci confirms to the Abbey all the lands in his fee of Wittum, which it held on the year after Alexander Prince of Scotland rendered homage to King John of England, on the morrow of the invention of the Holy Cross (4th May). This homage was not known to our historians. It may be conjectured to have taken place on the occasion of the Prince receiving knighthood at the hands of John in 1212; but if this be the case, the date generally assigned to that event must be erroneous.1

– Sketches, pp.91-121. 

1  The chronicle of Melrose gives 8 idus Martii as the date of Alexander’s knighthood, but destroys its authority by adding ad letare Jerusalem, which Sunday happened on the 4th, not the 8th March of that year.

The queen was at St Andrews, inquiring into a conspiracy of which the Duke of Chatelherault and the Earl of Bothwell had been accused by the Duke’s son, the Earl of Arran. In the midst of the affair, Arran proved to be ‘phrenetick.’ On the 4th of May [1562], ‘my Lords Arran, Bothwell, and the commendator of Kilwinning came fra St Andrews to the burgh of Edinburgh in this manner – that is to say, my Lord Arran was convoyit in the queen’s grace’s coach, because of the phrenesy aforesaid, and the Earl of Bothwell and my Lord Commendator of Kilwinning rade, convoyit with twenty-four horsemen, whereof was principal Captain Stewart, captain of the queen’s guard.’ – D. O. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.13-29.

In the beginning of the spring this year, 1584, some of these that had fled unto Ireland, returned upon a pact [between] them and [William Ruthven] the Earl of Gowrie, who had a new again [conspiracy] to take the King; but the King hearing thereof, sent Colonel [William] Stewart to apprehend the Earl of Gowrie, who lay at the [haven] of Dundee, as if he had been going out of the land; who, after he had defended himself an hour or two in his house, he was taken and led to prison; and on the 4th day of May, this same year, was arraigned at [Stirling] before his peers on these points: 

  1. That he intended and began a new conspiracy against the King, whom he also had kept prisoner in his house before time.
  2. That he conferred by night with the servants of Angus, to seize upon the towns of Perth and [Stirling].
  3. That he resisted the King’s authority at Dundee, and had conceived a conspiracy against the life of the King and his mother.
  4. That [about] the event of his conspiracy and enterprises, he had consulted with one [Maclena],* a witch.

He being found guilty by his peers, was sentenced to lose his head, which sentence was put in execution in the [evening], a little beneath the castle wall of [Stirling]. His servants did sew his head to the body, and [immediately] buried the same. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

*  Could this be Euphemia Maclean who was burned on Edinburgh’s Castle Hill in 1591 for witchcraft?

Cromwell defaced the royal arms at the Castle gate and elsewhere; yet his second in command, Monk, was fêted at a banquet by the magistrates, when, on the 4th May, 1652, he was proclaimed Protector of the Commonwealth. 

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.47-66.

May 4 [1653]. – General Monk coming down to Edinburgh to take command of the forces against Glencairn and Kenmure, and to proclaim Oliver’s union of Scotland and England, had a most honourable reception. ‘The provost and bailies in their scarlet gowns met him at the Nether Bow Port, the haill council in order going before them.’ After the proclamation, they ‘did convoy him to a sumptuous dinner and feast, prepared by the town of Edinburgh for him and his special crowners [colonels]. This feast was six days in preparing, whereat the bailies of Edinburgh did stand and serve the haill time of that dinner.’ ‘There was great preparation for firewarks, whilk was actit at the Mercat Cross betwixt nine and twelve hours in the nicht, to the admiration of many people.’ – Nic

– Domestic Annals, pp.278-301.

The people complained loudly of being deprived of their accustomed arms in times so unsettled, and so great did the outcry become that two years later the magistrates made an attempt to get the arms back. Their minute bears that “taking to their consideratioune the great danger sundrie of our nighbours may fall in regard of the last proclamatioune emittit anent the inbringing of armes, and that many of our nighbors and com-burgesses may not now frielie trauell abrodd as they wont to doe without carieing of some armes, it is therfor concludit that the Provest sall ryd to Edinbrughe and petitioune the Lords of his Majesties Privie Counsall for granting liberty to our honest nighbors for carieing armes when they goe abroad.”1 It does not appear what success the provost had in his mission. Probably none, for it was well known that the city was at that time far from being well affected to the Stewart dynasty, and the covenanting leanings of so many of the citizens gave great offence. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.162-175. 

1  4th May, 1667.

   “The Bill for improving the Fishery, and such other Manufactories in Scotland, as might conduce to the general Good of the United Kingdoms, Enacts, That his Majesty establish a particular Plan, and fix proper Rules, whereof the Funds already provided may be distributed according to the 15th Article of the Treaty of Union, which allows 2000L. per Annum for 7 Years, towards promoting the foresaid Manufactures.” 

Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 4th May, 1727.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1700-1750.

Some of the notices of marriages in this Glasgow Journal are amusing. For example:… “May 4th 1747 On monday last Dr. Robert Hamilton Professor of Anatomy and Botany in the University of Glasgow was married to Miss Mally Baird a beautiful young lady with a handsome fortune.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.299-307.

Taken seriatim, the records of the Tolbooth contain volumes of entries made in the following brief fashion:- 

“1756, May 4. – Sir William Dalrymple of Cousland; for shooting at Capt. Hen. Dalrymple of Fordell, with a pistol at the Cross of Edinburgh. Liberated on 14th May, on bail for 6,000 merks, to answer any complaint.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.123-138.


   At a largely-attended meeting of the Conservatives held in Edinburgh last night, resolutions were adopted disapproving of the Irish bills of the Government. The chief speakers were Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald, M.P., and Mr. George Auldjo Jamieson. The latter gentleman announced that he would give way to any politician at next election who would vote against the Home Rule Bill and would pledge himself to maintain the unity of the Empire, and he appealed to Liberals and Conservatives to unite in supporting only such candidates. Mr. Macdonald condemned the bills as mere makeshifts to enable the Government to get over the difficulties which they foresaw might arise from the teaching of Mr. Parnell. He believed there was a better way out of the difficulty than by the insane and monstrous proposal of the Government.” 

– Glasgow Evening Post, Tuesday 4th May, 1886.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.





   Having met the Rev. David Macrae, of Dundee, during his recent visit to Glasgow, and had a conversation with him about his views on home Rule and Scottish nationality, and having corresponded with him since, we append the remarks which bring out his general position on this question:-


   ‘Yes, I have been speaking a good deal of late about Scottish nationality,’ Mr. Macrae said, ‘and I wish others would do the same. I wish the papers would take it up. They should fight the battle for Scotland. that, for instance,’ said Mr. Macrae, pointing to the title-page of The Scottish News, ‘I consider a change in the right direction. I am on the other side politically, but that is a recognition of our nationality which I heartily welcomed.’ 

   ‘I attach great importance to the use of “Britain” and “British” instead of “England” and “English,” and with good reason. If that point be surrendered, the whole position of Scotland is weakened. Why should it be surrendered? It is only the assertion of a truth. England is not Britain; it is only a part of it. This fashion of calling the United Kingdom “England,” as if Scotland were a mere English county, is a falsification of history. In English people it is dishonourable as well as inaccurate. It is a violation of the Treaty of Union. The Treaty stipulates as the very first condition of Union, that the United Kingdom shall be called – not England – but Great Britain. Scotland would never have consented to union but for that, and the English public are therefore doing us a wrong, and violating their own solemn pledge when they use “England” for “Britain,” and speak of the Government, or the Empire, or the Parliament, or Imperial affairs, as ”English.” We hear a great deal about the “Constitutional Party.” That party at this point is the most unconstitutional party that exists. There was Salisbury – the leader of it. When Prime Minister lately, he made the Queen in her speech, speak of “England” instead of “Britain,” in violation of the Constitution. I call that treason; and Salisbury made the Queen a party to it. Yet he talks about loyalty to the Constitution.’ 

   To the suggestion that the English people do not understand why there should be any feeling about the mere name, Mr. Macrae said –  

   ‘Don’t they? Just you try. Go and call an Englishman an Irishman! You will soon find that no man on earth is quicker than an Englishman to understand what there is in a name when it touches his own vanity or self-respect. He expects us Scotch people to be content to be called an Irishman? A Scotchman is quite as proud of his nationality as an Englishman is, and with quite as much reason. This English disregard of every national sentiment except their own is a stupendous blunder on the part of the English people.’


   ‘Yes, I think the whole policy of disregarding national sentiment has done immeasurable harm. Our difficulty with Ireland is no mere difficulty about bad laws – though some of the laws are bad enough. Ireland is not exceptional in that. We have bad laws here, and bad laws in England too. The deepest root of our difficulty in Ireland is that Irish national sentiment has been persistently irritated and outraged for generations, turning the Irish people both at home and abroad into enemies when they might have been made our friends.’ 

   ‘Certainly, I am in favour of Home Rule for Ireland and for Scotland too. I admit that the Irish people are hostile to us, but it would be folly to refuse them more power, and thus make them more hostile to us than ever.


   in itself. The English fashion of treating the smaller nationalities is creating a necessity for it; for Ireland it has become indispensable, and the only hope of disarming Irish hostility is by showing the Irish people that we are growing wiser and kindlier – that we are prepared to grant their rights and do our best to atone for the errors and cruelties of the past.’ 

   ‘Yes, I do think Ireland would respond if the Orange faction will permit her. She will do it even for her own interest. As soon as she is made responsible for her own government, she will not only see the necessity of proving the capacity for self-government, but see the immense importance of cultivating friendly relations with England and Scotland.’


   ‘What will the Protestants in Ireland do if Home Rule be granted?’ repeated Mr. Macrae. ‘Why, if they are people of sense they will do their duty – they will do what they can to make Ireland prosperous. They will lay aside their religious animosity, which is quite as bad in a Protestant as in a Catholic, and join with the rest of the Irish people in promoting order and peace and progress. If Mr. Parnell, who is a Protestant, can work so harmoniously with the Catholic members of the Irish people, why should not the Ulster Protestants be able to work harmoniously with the Ulster Catholics and the Irish people generally? There isn’t a finer race of people in the world than the Scotch-Irish of Ulster – if they would only turn Orangeism into Christianity, and do by the Catholics as they would like the Catholics to do by them.’


   ‘What would Scotland gain by Home Rule? She would be able to deal for herself with Scottish questions, and with larger questions on which she is ahead of England – such, for example, as education, the liquor question, the Church question, and the land question. If we had Home Rule in Scotland, the Crofters Bill would not have been the abortion it is; and we should not see our Highlands turned into mere sporting ground for Mr. Winans and a few idle aristocrats. For another thing, we should be saved the endless trouble, annoyance, and expense of having to carry all our Scottish Parliamentary business up to London, when we want the money at home, and would manage the business itself more easily and better.’


   ‘Yes, I would be for a Federal system. I don’t believe in anything else for Ireland either. I don’t see how Mr. Gladstone’s plan of excluding the Irish representatives from the Imperial Parliament would work, except as a mere temporary expedient. It would be in one sense a calamity if it did work; for we want not separation, but a better, and truer, and wider union. I would have Home Rule for England and Wales, as well as for Ireland and Scotland; and I would have all these nationalities represented in an Imperial Parliament – “British,” not “English” – and I would have this general Parliament meet somewhere else than in London, to escape the disturbing influence of that stupendous mass of provincialism.’


   ‘I admit,’ continues Mr. Macrae, ‘that would be a startling change, but it would be a wise one, and it would only be doing in this country what was done so wisely in the United States, where Congress is kept away from huge cities like New York or Philadelphia or Chicago, and meets in Washington – in a district reserved for the purpose – a district not even included in any one State.’


   ‘Certainly, I would include the Colonies in the Federal system, and India and Canada and Australia should be represented in the Imperial or general Parliament.’ 

   ‘No, I do not think such a system would be inconsistent with the Monarchy. I don’t see why it shouldn’t work sufficiently well either with a Monarchy or a Republic. But we needn’t trouble about that. Happily, it would not need a revolution now to turn this Empire into a Republic should that form be found best. We have the substance of Republicanism here already.’ ”

– Glasgow Evening Post, Tuesday 4th May, 1886.

– Treaty of Union Articles, Collection of the Rev. David Macrae on Centralisation & Home Rule.

Dr. J. O. Mitchell next read a paper on the “Story of Katherine Carmichael,” which has since been published (4th May [1895]) in the Glasgow Herald. A brief abstract follows:-

   Cowthally Castle, by Carnwath, the seat of the Somervilles, was noted for hospitality: the wits of the day declared that its name should be “Cow-daily.” James V. was a frequent visitor. Especially he was there in July, 1532, on the marriage of the Laird of Cockpool to Margaret Somerville, eldest daughter of Hugh, Lord Somerville, then lord of Cowthally. Among the guests his quick eye caught a young girl whose face was new to him: he marked her beauty and grace – she was but sixteen, and country-bred. She was Katherine Carmichael, daughter of John Carmichael, laird of Medowflat, a small property in Covington, and hereditary captain of his own Royal Castle of Crawford. At once he “did affect her extremely, and begin his intrigues of love.” The Lady Somerville detected his evil purpose, and as long as the girl was under her roof safeguarded her. But the young libertine was not to be so baulked. A few weeks afterwards, “upon Saturnesday at night,” he appeared unexpectedly at Cowthally, and urged Lady Somerville to have Katherine there to meet him. On her refusal, he denounced her as ” most courteous or rather the most scrupulous persone under heaven,” and forthwith sent off a horseman to tell the Captain of Crawford he would be with him the next night.: His Majesty would go a-hunting in his own Baronie and lodge in his own castle. And so on the Sunday morning, after duly hearing mass at the “Colledge Church of Carnwath,” he rode up Clydeside, and as night fell he pulled up at Crawford Castle. What game he had come to hunt they all knew: even Katherine could not misread his purpose; but James was a young and gallant cavalier, he was the King and had her father’s fortunes in his hand to make or mar, and she could not escape his eager siege. Few in her day, maid or matron, would have needed a second summons. It says much for Katherine’s virtue that it was near a year before she surrendered, and became the King’s maitresse en titre, with the Bog House of Crawford-John as her abode; the King built it for her with the stones of the Castle of Crawford-John. In her dreary oubliette two children were born, Joneta Joanna or Jean Stuart, and John Stuart.

– Scots Lore, pp.286-292.

Exit mobile version