8th of May

Apparition of St Michael. St Victor, martyr, 303. St Odrian, of Waterford (era unknown). St Wiro, of Ireland, 7th century. St Gybrian, of Ireland, 8th century. St Peter, Archbishop of Tarentaise, in Savoy, 1174.

Born. – Alain René le Sage, French novelist, 1668, Sargeau, in Brittany.
Died. – Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmi, Marquis d’Argenson, French minister, 1721; Archbishop William King, 1729, Donnybrook; Pope Benedict XIV., 1758; Sebastian, Marquis de Pombal, Portuguese statesman, 1782, Pombal; [Étienne-François,] Duc de Choiseul, French minister, 1785; Antoine L. Lavoisier, chemist, guillotined at Paris, 1794; Captain Barclay Allardice, noted athlete and pedestrian, 1854.


By this name, without the affix of Allardice, was recognised, in the early part of the present century, a man whose pride and pleasure it was to exhibit the physical potentialities of human nature in their highest stretch. Rather oddly, he represented genealogically a man of wholly different associations, the celebrated Robert Barclay, who, in the reign of Charles II., wrote the Apology for the Quakers. It appears, however, that both the father and son of Robert were remarkable for their bodily strength. A powerful athletic figure was in fact hereditary in the family.

One of Captain Barclay’s first notable feats – done, indeed, in his fifteenth year – was to walk, ‘fair toe and heel,’ six miles in an hour. In June 1801, when two and twenty, he walked from his family seat of Ury, in Kincardineshire, to Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, a distance of 300 miles, in five oppressively hot days. It was on the 10th of November in the same year, that he completed the performance of one of his most notable feats, walking ninety miles in twenty-one and a half successive hours, on a bet of 5000 guineas. This he accomplished in an hour and eight minutes within time, without being greatly fatigued. Some years later, the task of walking 1000 miles in 1000 successive hours, a mile within each hour, in which many had before failed and none succeeded, was undertaken by Barclay, and about £100,000 was staked on the issue. He began his course at Newmarket, at midnight, on the 1st of June, and duly finished it at 3 p.m. on the 12th of July, amidst a vast concourse of spectators. Here, of course, the shortness of the periods of repose was what constituted the real difficulty. The pain undergone by the gallant captain is understood to have been excessive; he had often to be lifted after resting, yet his limbs never swelled, nor did his appetite fail; and, five days after, he was off upon duty in the luckless Walcheren expedition.

The great amateur athlete of the nineteenth century was a frank, honourable man, in universal esteem among his neighbours, and distinguished himself not a little as a promoter of agricultural improvements.

On this Day in Other Sources.

When the Accounts relating to the reign of James IV. are reached – embracing the decade 1488 to 1498 – we find three payments to “Ross Herald” between 1488 and 1489, and one on 8th May, 1490, to “Johne the Ross.” If the 1490 entry refers to John Ramsay as “the Ross” herald, which I think it does, it must have been the last he received from the household treasurer, for the Exchequer Rolls of the same year chronicle his decease.1

– Scots Lore, pp.293-307. 

1  In the Exchequer Rolls, vol. x., we find “A.D. 1490, et quondam Ross heraldo de terris de Cullessy sibi alias concessis de dictis duobus annis j celdra, &c.,” and in the appendix in the Rental, “In Quarterium de Lindoris – Cullessy… assedatur Johan. Knollis pro terminis ut supra per mortem quondam Ross heraldi.”

There immediately repaired to the Queen a dozen nobles, many gentlemen, and so many common men, as to form an army of 6000 strong. On the 8th of May [1568], only five days after the Queen’s enlargement, there was a written engagement, entered into, for her defence, by nine earls, nine bishops, eighteen lords, and many others. Those facts evince what a powerful body of every rank were attached to the Queen, after all her misfortunes. The French ambassador remarked, that he had never seen so many men, so speedily convened. 

– Life of Mary, pp.184-206.

In this state of things, with regard to both those great persons, Burghley advised the calling of a Parliament, which he could influence, for consultation, and advice. Meanwhile, he applied to the English bishops, for their spiritual advice, in respect to the Scotish Queen. The Parliament assembled, on the 8th of May 1572. The Scotish Queen had been, sufficiently, calumniated, both at home, and abroad, by Burghley’s artifices, to admit of any member, of either house of Parliament, to be ignorant of what was laid to her charge, either proved, or unproved, by whatever means. There seems to have been no speech from the throne, pointing to the causes of the Parliamentary meeting: But, we perceive Burghley very busy, in managing the several members of both houses of Parliament. We see what he had communicated, privately, to both: We see the “reasons, drawn out of the Scriptures, for proceeding severely against the Scotish Queen:” We see “an argument, persuading the Queen’s majesty to have great care of the safety of her own person:” We see “reasons, out of the civil law, against the Scotish Queen:” We see “reasons, to prove the fitness, both in honour, and in justice, of proceeding against the Queen of Scots, for the treasons committed by her.” Both houses, owing to these causes, were violently heated, as well by their zeal for religion, as their enmity to the Scotish Queen, and by their attachment to Elizabeth: They saw every object through the mist of prejudice. Under this influence, it was said, in the humble petition to her majesty, “that the late Queen of Scots being driven through violence, to take harbour in your realm, had not only your majesty’s most gracious protection, but was saved, by your authority, from the execution of death, within her own kingdom.” But, protection, and imprisonment are quite different, in their nature; and supply very different inferences: The fact is, that the Scotish Queen was imprisoned, and not protected, when she landed, peaceably, in England: And neither Elizabeth, nor Cecil, ever justified this act of imprisonment; because, it could not be defended, by any law, or any policy: It was a mere act of violence, which continued to the present moment; and nullified the reasonings of those, who called for the blood of the Scotish Queen. 

– Life of Mary, pp.251-260.

In 1581, among the names of the Commissioners appointed by James VI., “anent the cuinze,” that of William Napier of the Wrightshouse appears; and in 1590 his sister Barbara Napier was accused of witchcraft on the 8th of May, and of being present at the great meeting of Scottish witches held by the devil in North Berwick.  

The wife of Archibald Douglas (brother of the Laird of Carshoggil), her trial was one of great length, involving that of many others; but a portion of the charges against her will suffice as a sample of the whole, from “Pitcairn’s Trials.”  

“Satan had informed the witches that James VI. of Scotland was the greatest enemy he had, and the latter’s visit to Norway, to bring over his queen, seemed to afford an opportunity for his destruction. Accordingly, Dr. Fiar of Tranent, the devil’s secretary, summoned a great gathering of witches on Hallow Eve, when 200 of them embarked, each in a riddle or sieve, with much mirth and jollity; and after cruising about somewhere on the ocean with Satan, who rolled himself before them on the waves, dimly seen, but resembling a huge haystack in size and aspect, he delivered to one of the company, named Robert Grierson, a cat, which had been drawn previously nine times through a crook, giving the order to ‘cast the same into the sea.’ ” 

This remarkable charm was intended to raise such a furious tempest as would infallibly drown the king and queen, then on their homeward voyage from Christiania, which, if any credit may be given to the declaration of James (who greedily swallowed the story), was not without some effect, as the ship which conveyed him encountered a furious contrary wind, while all the rest of the fleet had a fair one and a smooth sea. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.315-321.

Nicoll, the diarist, tells us, that on the 8th of May, 1662, all the newly consecrated bishops were convened in their gowns at the house of the Archbishop, in the Nether Bow, from whence they proceeded in state to the Parliament House, conducted by two peers, the Earl of Kellie (who had been specially excepted out of Cromwell’s act of indemnity for his loyalty), and David Earl of Wemyss. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.212-218.

Though father of all in this country who grind day and night at the newspaper “organ,” [Thomas Sydserff’s] own feet were caught in “snares,” and it is not quite clear that “dirty reproaches” that affected his character were ever thoroughly removed. Though he had done valiant service both to Church and State in his time, and in his own way, he felt it necessary to leave Edinburgh. Whether he found the labour of the paper too heavy, or the city too hot, tradition sayeth not. He turned up again in a few years, and once more proved himself an originating genius, as manager of a play-house in the Canongate – the first School of Thespis, it is believed, in Scotland. On the 8th May 1669 he narrowly escaped being slain in the theatre by a Mungo Murray, lieutenant in the King’s Guard. 

Caledonian Mercury.

The Village of Innerkip [Inverkip], was erected into a burgh of barony before the Union; and has three annual fairs, on the third Wednesday of January, the second Wednesday of May, and the first Thursday of November, all O. S. 

– Select Views, pp.129-130.

Cookery was more studied in Glasgow in the last century by the better classes than it is in our more refined times, and it was not thought infra dig. in a lady to know how her husband’s dinner should be dressed. We get some insight as to this from a minute of council in 1740 “anent the petition given in by James Lochead teacher of cookery.” It sets forth that the applicant, “being regularly educated by his Majesty’s cooks, under whom he served in the Art of Cookery, pastry, confectionery, candying, preserving, and pickling, and of making of milks, creams, seyllabubs, gellies, soups, and broaths of all sorts, and also taught to dress and order a table, and to make bills of fare for entertainments of all kinds; and that of late he has successfully taught severall young ladies, to their own and their parents satisfaction, and that for instruction of his scholars he is obliged to provide, on his own charge, flesh, fowles, fish, spiceries, and severall other ingredients, but when dresst lye on his hand for want of sale, by which he is a loser, and will be obliged to lay aside his teaching unless he be assisted in carrying it on.” He therefore appeals to the magistrates for aid. The plea was allowed, and a grant is made to him of £10 sterling yearly during the magistrates’ pleasure.1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  8th May, 1740.

Owing to a severe spring, a malady called ‘fever and cold’ prevailed in Edinburgh, and was spreading all over the country. On Sunday, the 8th May [1743], fifty sick people were prayed for in the city churches, and in the preceding week there had been seventy burials in the Greyfriars, being three times the usual number. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.398-408.

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