22nd of May

Saints Castus and Æmilius, martyrs, 250 (?). St Basiliscus, Bishop of Comana, in Pontius, martyr, 312. St Conall, abbot. St Bobo, confessor, 985. St Yvo, confessor, 1353.

 

Born. – Alexander Pope,* 1688, Lombard Street, London.
Died. – Emperor Constantine the Great, 337; Robert, Lord Molesworth, 1725; Jean Baptiste Beccaria, author of a work on crimes and punishments, 1781, Turin; General Duroc, killed at Wurtschen, 1813.

 

FIRST CREATION OF BARONETS – MYTHS.

The 22nd May 1611 is memorable for the first creation of baronets. It is believed to have been done through the advice of the Earl of Salisbury to his master King James VI., as a means of raising money for his majesty’s service, the plan being to create two hundred on a payment of £1,000 each. On the king expressing a fear that such a step might offend the great body of the gentry, Salisbury is said to have replied, ‘Tush, sire; you want the money: it will do you good; the honour will do the gentry very little harm.’ At the same time care was professedly taken that they should all be men of at least a thousand a-year; and the object held out was to raise a band for the amelioration of the province of Ulster – to build towns and churches in that Irish province, and be ready to hazard life in preventing rebellion in its native chiefs, each maintaining thirty soldiers for that purpose.

One curious little particular about the first batch of eighteen now created was, that to one – Sir Thomas Gerard, of Bryn, Lancashire – the fee of £1,000 was returned, in consideration of his father’s great sufferings in the cause of the king’s unfortunate mother [Mary, Queen of Scots].1

From the connexion of the first baronets with Ulster, they were allowed to place in their armorial coat the open red hand heretofore borne by the forfeited O’Neils, the noted Lamh derg Eirin, or red hand of Ulster. This heraldic device, seen in its proper colours on the escutcheons and hatchments of baronets, has in many instances given rise to stories in which it was accounted for in ways not so creditable to family pride as the possession of land to the extent of £1,000 per annum in the reign of King James.

For example, a coat-armorial of the Holts, baronets of Aston, containing the red hand, which is accounted for thus. Sir Thomas Holt, two hundred years ago, murdered his cook in a cellar, by running him through with a spit; and he, though forgiven, and his descendants, were consequently obliged to assume the red hand in the family coat.

In like manner, the bloody hand upon a monument in the church of Stoke d’Abernon has a legend connected with it, to the effect that a gentleman, being out shooting all day with a friend, and meeting no success, vowed he would shoot the first live thing he met; and meeting a miller, he fired and brought him down dead. The red hand in a hatchment at Wateringbury Church, and on a table on the hall of Church-Gresly, has found similar explanations. Indeed, there is scarcely a baronet’s family in the country respecting which this red hand of Ulster has not been the means of raising some grandam’s tale, of which murder and punishment are the leading features.

We find that, a wear having b4een thrown across the Tweed at an early period for the driving of mills, the common people, when its origin was forgotten, came to view it as one of certain pieces of taskwork which Michael Scott the wizard imposed upon his attendant imps, to keep them from employing their powers of torment upon himself. 

Even simpler objects of a natural kind have become the bases of myths. Scott tells us, in Marmion, how, in popular conception,

‘St Cuthbert sits and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name;’

said beads being in fact sections of the stalks of encrinites, stone-skeletoned animals allied to the star-fish, which flourished in the early ages of the world. Their abundance on the shore of Holy Island, where St Cuthbert spent his holy life in the seventh century, is the reason why his name was connected with their supposed manufacture.

At St Catherine’s, near Edinburgh, is a spring containing petroleum, and oil exuding from the coal-beds below, but little understood before our own age. For many centuries this mineral oil was in repute as a remedy for cutaneous diseases, and the spring bore the pretty name of the Balm Well. It was unavoidable that anything so mysterious and so beneficial should become the subject of a myth. Boece accordingly relates with all gravity how St Catherine was commissioned by Margaret, the consort of Malcolm Canmore, to bring her a quantity of holy oil from Mount Sinai. In passing over Lothian, by some accident she happened to lose a few drops of the oil; and, on her earnest supplication, a well appeared at the spot, bearing a constant supply of the precious unguent.

The highland fable which described the parallel roads of Glenroy as having been formed for the use of the hero Fingal, in hunting, was condemned by the geologist: but the lacustrine theory of Macculloch, Lauder, and other early speculators, regarding these extraordinary natural objects, is but a degree less absurd in the eyes of those who are now permitted to speculate on upheavals of the frame of the land out of the sea – a theory, however, which very probably will sustain great modifications as we become better acquainted with the laws of nature, and attain more clear insight into their workings in the old world before us.

 

QUARANTINE.

If a hundred persons were asked the meaning of the word quarantine, it is highly probable that ninety-nine would answer, ‘Oh! it is something connected with shipping – the plague and yellow-fever.’ Few are aware that it simply signifies a period of forty days; the word, though common enough at one time, being now only known to us through the acts for preventing the introduction of foreign diseases, directing that persons coming from infected places must remain forty days on shipboard before they be permitted to land.

In ancient prognostications of weather, the period of forty days plays a considerable part. An old Scotch proverb states:

‘Saint Swithin’s day, gin ye do rain,
 For forty days it will remain;
 Saint Swithin’s day, an ye be fair,
 For forty days ‘twill rain nae mair.’

There can be no reasonable doubt that this precise term is deduced from the period of Lent, which is in itself a commemoration of the forty days’ fast of Christ in the wilderness. The period of forty days is, we need scarcely say, of frequent occurrence in Scripture. Moses was forty days on the mount; the diluvial rain fell upon the earth for forty days; and the same period elapsed from the time the tops of the mountains were seen till Noah opened the window of the ark.

Even the pagans observed the same space of time in the mysteries of Ceres and Proserpine, in which the wooden image of a virgin was lamented over during forty days; and Tertullian relates as a fact, well known to the heathens, that for forty days an entire city remained suspended in the air over Jerusalem, as a certain presage of the Millenium. The process of embalming used by the ancient Egyptians lasted forty days; the ancient physicians ascribed many strange changes to the same period; so, also, did the vain seekers after the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life.

 

1  Nichols’s Progress of James I. Vol. ii., 428. 
* My historical interest began with the Classical Greece of Homer. To that end I obtained a couple of volumes of his translation of the Iliad, one of which includes a map of Homer’s Greece.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

A very early notice occurs in the burgh records of Aberdeen, by which the magistrates prescribe to each trade the fancy characters which it is to contribute to these pageants. It is as follows:- “This craftes vnderwritten sall fynd yerly in the offerand of our Lady at Candelmas thir personnes vnderwritten: that is to say The littistaris [dyers] sal fynd the Empriour and twa doctoures; the Smiths and Hammermen sal fynd the three kingis of Culane; the talzoures sal find Our lady Sancte Bride, Sancte Helene, and Joseph; the skynnaris sal fynd two bischops and four angeles,” and so on through all the trades – each, in addition to the personated characters, being enjoined to provide “als mony honeste squiares as thai may.”1 A hundred years later, we find from the same records that the custom was still observed, and the magistrates give very special directions on the subject, enjoining “the craftismen of this burgh in thair best array to keipe and decoir the processioun on Corpus Cristi dais and Candelmas day als honorabillye as they can, every craft with thair awin baner with the armes of thair craft thairin” – following in all this, as the order bears, “the auld lovabill consuetudis and rytt of this burgh, and the nobill burgh of Edinburgh, of the quhilkis rite and consuetude the provest had gotin copy in write.” And then follows the order of the procession and the particular characters which each trade is to provide.2

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289.

1  Burgh Records of Aberdeen, Sept. 1442.
2  Ibid., 22d May, 1531.

 

Francis I. assigned to the Duchess of Longueville, on her marriage, with James V., an annuity of 20,000 livres. There were assigned her, for dower, Orkney, and Zetland, and the Earldom of Ross. To the king, who had thus endowed her, she gave a son, on the 22d of May 1540, at St. Andrews, who was baptised, at the same place, on the 26th of the month, by the name of James.

– Life of Mary, pp.9-15.

 

The last abbot was Mark Ker, the second son of Sir Andrew Ker of Cesford. The date of his election is not accurately ascertained. On the 22d of May 1555, being indicted in the High Court of Justiciary for hurting and wounding several of the French troops then serving in Scotland, in some affray which had taken place at Newbattle in April preceding, Master Mark Ker appeared in person, “and desired to be repledged as he that was ane kirkman, to his Juge ordinare.” Then ensued a curious dispute between the officials of Glasgow and St. Andrews, each claiming jurisdiction in the case. The right of Glasgow seems to have rested only on Ker holding benefices in that diocese. The accused plainly preferred the Archbishop of St. Andrews for his judge; perhaps expecting that Hamilton would look more leniently upon his violence committed against French troops than the zealous Beaton. Mr. James Balfoure, afterwards well known as Sir James Balfoure, then official of the archdeaconry of Lothian, claimed the accused to his court, “be resoun he hes producit ane testimonial of his order of crownebennet berand that he was scolare in the dyocy of Sanctandrois, and als allegit that he was born within the said diocy in the castell of Edinburgh, and maid residence continwallie within the samin dyocy, viz., within the place and toun of Neubotil or Edinburgh; and als that the allegit cryme he wes to be accusit of wes committit within the said dyocy of Sanctandrois.” To strengthen his plea, Mark Ker immediately demitted his benefice of the Maisondieu of Jedburgh. The official found caution that he should minister justice, but we hear nothing more of the case.1

– Sketches, pp.125-144.

1  Record of Justiciary, quoted in Mr. Pitcairn’s Crim. Trials. The entry in the record has been sought for in vain.

 

This same year, also, the King calls a parliament, to be [held] at Edinburgh, [on] the 22nd of May [1584], wherein [was] acted a ratification of the declaration touching the proceedings against the King at Ruthven; also a ratification of the prosecution and punishment of the said rebellion, and a ratification of his majesties revocation, with a commission to coin new pieces of gold; and an approbation of the late lay money, coined by act of counsel, against which the people murmured extremely.

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

 

May 22 [1668]. – The town of Kilmarnock was wholly destroyed by an accidental fire, ‘wherethrough about sexscore families are set to the fields destitute both of goods and houses’ – indeed, ‘in a condition of starving.’ Matters were the worse for them, by reason that they, ‘being all poor tradesmen, and having no other means of livelihood but their daily employment,’ had some time before been reduced to ‘great misery and affliction,’ in consequence of the quartering upon them of a great party of the king’s forces, when these were sent to the west to prevent a rebellion. Under the sanction of the Privy Council, a collection was made at the parish churches for the succour of these poor people.

– Domestic Annals, pp.302-321.

 

The jailers in those days received no salary. They appear to have been remunerated by fees derived from the fines imposed upon prisoners of the class who could afford to pay, and in earlier times there were doubtless many such; but when only those of the baser sort, or those in absolute poverty, came under their care, their emoluments must have been very small. A keeper of the Glasgow jail who had suffered from this cause applied to the town council in 1661, and there is a minute by which the treasurer is ordained “to pay to Charles McCleane Jylor twentie punds for his extraordinarie paines in attending the tolbuith this long tyme bygane haveing got no profeit therby, having only thiefes and lounes his prisoners.” Witches being an exceptional class a special allowance was made for them. On one occasion the jailer gets “four score two pounds fourteen shillings four pennies Scots money, depensed be him for the maintenance of the witches who are prisoners here in the tolbuith be order of the Commissioners, from the 22d of May [1697] to this day.”

– Old Glasgow, pp.140-150.

 

The troops under General St. Clair, which had wintered at Cork, had been ordered home; and Dr. [John] Clephane, through the unsolicited attention of Lord Sandwich, was almost immediately appointed one of the Physicians to the Hospital of the British Troops in Flanders, where “camp fever” and “marsh fever” were cutting down the strength of the army more than the guns of Bergen-op-zoom. His new appointment was dated 22d May 1747.

– Sketches, pp.437-490.

 

At the breaking out of the rebellion, Barrisdale and his son acted as partisans of the Stuart cause, the latter in an open manner, the consequence of which was his being named in the act of attainder. During the frightful time of vengeance that followed upon Culloden, the father made some sort of submission to the government troops, which raised a rumour that he had undertaken to assist in securing and delivering up the fugitive prince. What truth or falsehood there might be in the allegation, no one could now undertake to certify; but certain it is that, when a party of the Camerons were preparing, in September 1746, to leave the country with Prince Charles in a French vessel, they seized the Barrisdales, father and son, as culprits, and carried them to France, where they underwent imprisonment, first at St Malo, and afterwards at Saumur, for about a year.

The younger Barrisdale, making his escape from the French prison, returned to the wilds of Inverness-shire, and was there allowed for a time to remain in peace. The father, liberated when Prince Charles was expelled from France, also returned to Scotland; but he had not been more than two days at his house in Knoydart, when a party from Glenelg apprehended him. Being placed as a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle, he died there in June 1750, after a confinement of fourteen months. The son was in like manner seized in July 1753, in a wood on Loch-Hourn-side, along with four or five other gentlemen in the same circumstances, and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. He was condemned upon the act of attainder to die in the Grassmarket on the 22d of May 1754, and while he lay under sentence, his wife, who attended him, brought a daughter into the world. He was, however, reprieved from time to time, and ultimately, after nine years’ confinement, received a pardon in March 1762, took the oath of allegiance to George III., and was made a captain in Colonel Graeme’s regiment, being the same which was afterwards so noted under the name of the Forty-second. When Mr John Knox made his tour of the West Highlands in 1786, to propagate the faith in herring-curing and other modern arts of peace, he found ‘Barrisdale’ residing at the place from which he was named. ‘He lives,’ says the traveller, ‘in silent retirement upon a slender income, and seems by his appearance, conversation, and deportment, to have merited a better fate. He is about six feet high, proportionably made, and was reckoned one of the handsomest men of the age. He is still a prisoner, in a more enlarged sense, and has no society excepting his own family, and that of Mr Macleod of Arnisdale. Living on opposite sides of the loch, their communications are not frequent.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.398-408.

 

On the 22nd of May, 1784, [Mrs. Siddons] made her appearance at the Theatre Royal, when, as the Edinburgh Weekly Magazine records, “the manager took the precaution, after the first night, to have an officer’s guard of soldiers at the principal door. But several scuffles having ensued, through the eagerness of the people to get places, and the soldiers having been rash enough to use their bayonets, it was thought advisable to withdraw the guard on the third night, lest any accident had happened from the pressure of the crowd, who began to assemble round the doors at eleven in the forenoon.”

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.340-348.

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