5th of May

St Hilary, Archbishop of Arles, 449. St Avertin, confessor, about 1189. St Angelus, Carmelite friar, martyr, 1225. St Pius V., pope, 1572.

Born. – Emperor Justinian, 482, Tauresium, in Bulgaria
Died. – Paulus Æmiliusm 1529, Paris; Stephen Morin, 1700, Amsterdam; John Pichon, 1751; Thomas Davies (dramatic biography), 1785, London; Pierre J. G. Cabanis, French materialist philosopher, 1808; Robert Mylne, architect, 1811; Napoleon Bonaparte, ex-Emperor of the French, 1821, St Helena.



Among the many relics of superstition still extant in the Highlands of Scotland, one of the most remarkable is the veneration paid to certain wells, which are supposed to possess eminent virtues as charms against disease, witchcraft, fairies, and the like, when visited at stated times, and under what are considered favourable auspices. 

Craigie Well is situated in a nook of the parish of Avoch, which juts out to the south, and runs along the north shore of the Munlochy bay. The well is situated within a few yards of high-water mark. It springs out between two crags or boulders of trap rock, and immediately behind it the ground, thickly covered with furze, rises very abruptly to the height of about sixty feet. Probably the name of the well is suggested by the numerous masses of the same loose rock which are seen to protrude in so many places here and there through the gorse and broom which grow round about. There is a large briar bush growing quite near the two masses of rock mentioned, which is literally covered with small threads and patches of cloth, intended as offerings to the well. None, indeed, will dare go there on the day prescribed without bringing an offering, for such would be considered an insult to the ‘healing waters!’ 

For more than a week before the morning appointed for going upon this strange pilgrimage, there is scarcely a word heard among farm servants within five miles of the spot, but, among the English speaking poeple, ‘Art thee no ganging to Craigack wall, to get thour health secured another year?’ and, among the Gaelic speaking population, ‘Dol gu topar Chreckack?’ 

Instigated more by curiosity than anything else, I determined to pay this well a visit, to see how the pilgrims passed the Sunday morning there. I arrived about an hour before sunrise; but long before crowds of lads and lasses from all quarters were fast pouring in. Some, indeed, were there at daybreak, who had journeyed more than seven miles! Before the sun made his appearance, the whole scene looked more like a fair than anything else. Acquaintances shook hands in true highland style; brother met brother, and sister sister; while laughter and all manner of country news and gossip were so freely indulged in, that a person could hardly hear what he himself said. Some of them spoke tolerable English, others spoke Gaelic, while a third party spoke Scotch, very quaint in the phraseology and broad in the pronunciation. 

Meantime crowds were eagerly pressing forward to get a tasting of the well before the sun should come in sight; for, once he made his appearance, there was no good to be derived from drinking of it. Some drank out of dishes, while others preferred stooping on their knees and hands to convey the water directly to their mouths. Those who adopted this latter mode of drinking had sometimes to submit to the inconvenience of being plunged in over head and ears by their companions. This practice was tried, however, once or twice by strangers, and gave rise to a quarrel, which did not end till some blows had been freely exchanged. 

The sun was now shooting up his first rays, when all eyes were directed to the top of the brae, attracted by a man coming in great haste, whom all recognised as Jock Forsyth, a very honest and pious, but eccentric individual. Scores of voices shouted, ‘You are too late, Jock: the sun is rising. Surely you have slept in this morning.’ The new-comer, a middle-aged man, with a droll squint, perspiring profusely, and out of breath, pressed nevertheless through the crowd, and stopped not till he reached the well. Then, muttering a few inaudible words, he stooped on his knees, bent down, and took a large draught. He then rose up and said: ‘O Lord! thou knowest that weel would it be for me this day an’ I had stooped my knees and my heart before thee in spirit and in truth as often as I have stoopet them afore this well. But we maun keep the customs of our fathers.’ So he stepped aside among the rest, and dedicated his offering to the briar-bush, which by this time could hardly be seen through the number of shreds which covered it. 

Thus ended the singular scene. Year after year the crowds going to Craigach are perceptibly lessening in numbers.


Mr Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars Bridge in London, had aimed at perfecting himself in his profession by travel, by study, and a careful experience. His temper is said to have been rather peculiar, but his integrity and high sense of duty were universally acknowledged. He was born in Edinburgh in 1733, the son of one respectable architect, and nephew of another, who constructed the North Bridge in that city. The father and grandfather of his father were of the same profession; the latter (also named Robert) being the builder of Holyrood Palace in its present form, and of most of the fine, tall, ashlar-fronted houses which still give such a grandeur to the High-street. Considering that the son and grandson of the architect of Blackfriars Bridge have also been devoted to this profession, we may be said to have here a remarkable example of the perseverance of certain artistic faculties in one family; yet the whole case in this respect has not been stated. In the Greyfriars churchyard, in Edinburgh, there is a handsome monument, which the palace builder reared over his uncle, John Mylne, who died in 1667, in the highest reputation as an architect, and who was described in the epitaph as the last of six generations, who had all been ‘master-masons’ to the kings of Scotland. It cannot be shown that this statement is true, though it may be so; but it can be pretty clearly proved that there were at least three generations of architects before the one we have called the palace builder; exhibiting, even on this restricted ground, an example of persistent special talents in hereditary descent such as is probably unexampled in any age or country.


The sarcastic definition of oats by Johnson, in his Dictionary – ‘A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people,’ has been the subject of much remark. It is, however, worthy of notice that, when the great lexicographer launched this sneer at Caledonia, England herself was not a century advanced from a very popular use of oatmeal. Markham, in his English Housewife, 1653, speaks of oatmeal as a viand in regular family use in England. After giving directions how it should be prepared, he says the uses and virtues of the several kinds are beyond all reckoning. There is first, the small ground meal, used in thickening pottage of meat or of milk, as well as both thick and thin gruel, ‘of whose goodness it is needless to speak, in that it is frequent with every experience.’ Then there are oat-cakes, thick and thin, ‘very pleasant in taste, and much esteemed.’ And the same meal may be mixed with blood, and the liver of sheep, calf, or pig; thus making ‘that pudding which is called haggas, or haggus, of whose goodness it is in vain to boast, because there is hardly to be found a man that does not affect them.’

It is certainly somewhat surprising thus to find that the haggis of Scotland was a dish which nearly every man in England affected in the time of the Commonwealth. More than this, Markham goes on to describe a food called wash-brew, made of the very small oatmeal by frequent steeping of it, and then boiling it into a jelly, to be eaten with honey, wine, milk, or ale, according to taste. ‘I have,’ says he, ‘seen them of sickly and dainty stomachs which have eaten great quantities thereof, beyond the proportion of ordinary meats.’ The Scotsman can be at no loss to recognise, in this description, the sowens of his native land, a dish formerly prevalent among the peasantry, but now comparatively little known. To illustrate Markham’s remark as to the quantity of this mess which could be eaten, the writer may adduce a fact related to him by his grandmother, who was the wife of an extensive store-farmer in Peeblesshire, from 1768 to 1780. A new ploughman had been hired for the farm. On the first evening, coming home just after the sowens had been prepared, but when no person was present in the kitchen, he began with one of the cogs or bowls, went on to another, and in a little time had despatched the very last of the series; after which he coolly remarked to the maid, at that moment entering the house, ‘Lass, I wish you would to-morrow night make my sowens all in one dish, and not in drippocks and drappocks that way!’

On this Day in Other Sources.

The 5th day of May [1512], this same year, the Lord Dacre [Thomas Fiennes], and Doctor [Hugh] Weston, ambassadors from King Henry VIII., came to Scotland and deceived the King with false flourishes of [the] repairing of damages. 

– Historical Works, pp.214-238.

The term laid or load, as applied to coals, is not now used in Lanarkshire, but in some other districts it is. In Haddingtonshire, where the term is still employed, there are seven laids in a ton of coal. That gives 320 pounds to a laid, or very nearly what is practically the burden of a pack-horse. This, it is highly probable, was the quantity represented by the “laid” in the archbishop’s lease. From another entry in the council minutes four years before this time1 we find that the price of “a laid of colis to the tolbuytht” was twenty-two pence Scots, or less than 2½d., and as that was for only a single laid we may safely assume that the value of what the tacksman had to deliver would be at most not more than twopence the laid. At this rate the entire rent drawn by the archbishop for all the coal within the barony was only £7, 5s. per annum. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.239-248. 

1  5th May, 1574.

It has also been of considerable note in the Scottish history, particularly as the seat of that parliament, during the reign of King Robert Bruce, in which the celebrated manifesto was addressed to the pope. After the death of Beaton, the abbey felt the destructive rage of the reformers. The last commendatory abbot of Aberbrothock was John Hamilton, second son to the duke of Chatelherault, who was afterwards created Marquis of Hamilton. This abbey was erected into a temporal lordship, in favour of James, Marquis of Hamilton, son to the former, upon the 5th May, 1608. It afterwards belonged to the Earl of Dysart, from whom Patrick Maule of Panmure, gentleman of the bed-chamber to King James the Sixth, purchased it with the right of patronage of all the parishes thereto belonging, thirty-four in number.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.48-51.

“The said day foirasmeikle as Robert Fleyming merchand, and his pairtineris, ar of mynd and intentioun to erect and tak up ane hous of manufactorie within this burgh, quhairby ane number of the poorer sort of people within the samin may be imployt and putt to wark; And the said provost bailies and Counsall considering the grait good, utilitie, and proffeitt will redound to this brught and haill incorporation thairof thairby, they have concludit, all in ane voyce, for the said Robert his better encuragement to the said good wark to sett to him ane lare and tak of thair grait ludging and yairds att the back thairof lyand within this burght in the drygaitt, except the twa laich foir voultis and back galreis at the back of the samin lyand be eist the entrie of the said grait tenement, and of the buithe under the tolbuithe presentlie occupayt be James Wood, all maill frie of ony othir kynd of deutie, during the space of fifteen yeirs eftir his entry.” But the days of free trade had no yet come. The incorporation of Weavers got alarmed, and it was reported to the town council, on the 5th of May [1638] following, “that the weivors friemen feirit that the erecting of the manufactorie suld prove hurtfull and prejudiciall to thame,” and they insisted that provision should be made that anything required to be woven by the citizens should be done by the incorporation of Weavers only. The projectors yielded, and thairfoir,” as the minute of council bears, Patrick Bell, ane of the undertakeris, for himself and in name of his partineris, was content that it suld be enactit that there sould be no woovis wovin of tounis folkis thairin be thair servandis in hurt and prejudice of the said friemen, bot be thais onlie quha ar frie with this calling.” Such was the first manufactory in Glasgow, and such the ideas then prevailing as to freedom of trade. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.239-248.

All along the Trongate, and also in Argyll Street, there was in early times an irregular succession of thatched houses, with kilns and other erections, some nearer the centre of the street and some farther back, and the space between the houses and the roadway was used not for ashpits only, but for the deposit of every kind of refuse. In 1589 there is an order by the magistrates “that na midding be laid vpoun the hiegat;” but no attention seems to have been paid to it, as we find the practice continuing till near the end of the next century. It was a time-honoured institution with which the magistrates appear to have been for a time powerless to grapple. So great had become the nuisance caused by throwing all sorts of refuse on the side of the street, and so great the accumulation of water in consequence, that, as we learn from a minute of council (5th May, 1655), many of the inhabitants on the north side of the Trongate were obliged “to mak brige stones” – stepping stones – through the water lying between them and the street “for entrie to thair houssis.” This obliged the magistrates to interfere again – not this time, however, to prohibit the ashpits, but to secure a free passage for the sewage water along the street. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.266-276.

In 1809 No. 7 St. James’s Square was the residence of Alexander Geddes, A.R.S.A., a well-known Scottish artist. He was born at 7 St. Patrick Street, near the Cross-causeway, in 1783. In 1812 he removed to 55 York Place, and finally to London, where he died, in Berners Street, on the 5th of May, 1844. His etchings in folio were edited by David Laing, in 1875, but only 100 copies were printed. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.364-372.

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