24th of May

Saints Donatian and Rogatian, martyrs, about 287. St Vincent of Lerins, 450. St John de Prado, priest, martyr.

Born. – Charles Von Linné (Linnæus), illustrious naturalist, 1707; John Henry Foley, artist, 1818, Dublin; Her Majesty Queen Victoria, 1819, Kensington.
Died. – Pope Gregory VII., 1085; Nicolas Copernicus, astronomer, 1543, Thorn, Prussia.


Sir William Read, originally a tailor or a cobbler, became progressively a mountebank and a quack doctor, and gained, in his case, the equivocal honour of knighthood from Queen Anne. He is said to have practised by ‘the light of nature’; and though he could not read, he could ride in his own chariot, and treat his company with good punch out of a golden bowl. He had an uncommon share of impudence; a few scraps of Latin in his bills made the ignorant suppose him to be wonderfully learned. He did not seek his reputation in small places, but practised at that high seat of learning, Oxford; and in one of his addresses he called upon the Vice-Chancellor, University, and the City, to vouch for his cures – as, indeed, he did upon the people of the three kingdoms. Blindness vanished before him, and he even deigned to practise in other distempers; but he defied all competition as an oculist. 

Queen Anne and George I. honoured Read with the care of their eyes; from which one would have thought the rulers, like the ruled, as dark intellectually as Taylor’s (his brother quack) coach-horses were corporeally, of which it was said five were blind in consequence of their master having exercised his skill upon them. 

Dr Radcliffe mentions this worthy as ‘Read the mountebank, who has assurance enough to come to our table upstairs at Garraway’s, swears he’ll stake his coach and six horses, his two blacks, and as many silver trumpets, against a dinner at Pontack’s.’ 

Read died at Rochester. May 24, 1715. After Queen Anne had knighted him and Dr Hannes, there appeared the following lines:-

‘The Queen, like Heav’n, shines equally on all,
 Her favours now without distinction fall:
 Great Read and slender Hannes, both knighted, show
 That none their honours shall to merit owe.
 That Popish doctrine is exploded quite,
 Or Ralph1 had been no duke, and Read no knight.
 That none may virtue or their learning plead,
 This has no grace, and that can hardly read.’

There is a curious portrait of Read, engraved in a sheet, with thirteen vignettes of persons whose extraordinary cases he cured.

1  Ralph, first Duke of Montague.

On this Day in Other Sources.

David – “sair sanct for the crown” though King James I. is said to have styled him – was one of the best of the early kings of Scotland. “I have seen him,” remarks Aldred, “quit his horse and dismiss his hunting equipage when any, even the humblest of his subjects, desired an audience; he sometimes employed his leisure hours in the culture of his garden, and in the philosophical amusement of budding and engrafting trees.” 

In the priory of Hexham, which was then in Scottish territory, he was found dead, in a posture of devotion, on the 24th of May, 1153, and was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV, who, though he frequently resided in the Castle, considered Scone his capital rather than Edinburgh. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.21-26.

The 24th of May this year [1153], died that pious and holy King David, (to whom succeeded his grandchild, Malcolm, the eldest son of Henry the Prince, a youth of 12 years of age,) at Carlisle, 1153. 

– Historical Works, pp.9-14.

Bain’s Calendar IV. 1714. Newark Castle was assigned to [Queen Margaret] on 24th May, 1503. Ibid. Iv. 1706. I may add here that Margaret of Denmark, queen of James III., was granted the lordship of the forrest of Ettrick and tower and manor of Newerk in 1473. Acts Parl. Scot. ii. 189. The connection of the queens of Scotland with Melrose Abbey was most intimate. 

– Scots Lore, pp.341-364.

The pest on this occasion remained in Perth for several months, working great destruction. It was ordained by the kirk-session, May 24, 1585, that ‘hereafter during the time of the plague, no banquets should be at marriages, and no persons should resort to bridals under pain of ten pounds… forty pounds to be paid by them that call more than four on the side to the banquet, or bridal, during the pest.’

– Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.

On 24th May, 1595, the council having inspected a little house which had been erected on the east side at the south end of the bridge found the erection to be prejudicial to the town. They therefore ordered the officers of the burgh and of the barony to see the building removed, and, if necessary, to demolish it themselves.1

– Scots Lore, pp.15-29.

1  Glasgow Charters, No. xcii. part ii. P.164.

On 24th May, 1656, the council “appoyntes the tounes dennar on the first Tysday of June next to be made reddie in Thomas Glenis hous, and the Dein of Gild to have ane cair thereof and of thais quha sould be invited thairto.”

– Old Glagsow, pp.215-237.

On the south side of Dechmont, stands Latrick, which, about the beginning of the 17th century, was the seat of a Sir John Hamilton, whose family is extinct. On the north side of the same hill, stands the turreted house of Gilbertfield. Long the residence of a family of the name of Cunningham: about the beginning of the 18th century, this estate was purchased by the laird of West-Burn. Lieutenant William Hamilton, the friend and poetical correspondent of Allan Ramsay, lived many years, first at Gilbertfield, and then at Latrick. where he died on the 24th of May, 1751, at an advanced age.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.196-198.

   The magistrates having now got some of the inhabitants armed, and their courage further supported by the arrival of some military from Montrose, set Fall at defiance, and “ordered him to do his worst, for they would not give him a farthing.” Whereupon, says the worthy historian of this memorable transaction in the annals of Arbroath, terribly enraged, and no doubt greatly disappointed, he began a heavy fire upon the town, and continued it for a long time; but happily it did no harm, except knocking down some chimney-tops, and burning the fingers of those who took up his balls, which were heated. On the 24th [May, 1781,] he sent a third letter on shore, by some of our own people, whom he had captured at sea. It run thus: 

At sea, May 24th

   “Gentlemen, See whether you will come to some terms with me, or I come in presently with my cutter into the arbour, and I will cast down the town all over. Make haste, because I have no time to spare. I give you a quarter of an hour for your decision, and after I’ll make my duty. I think it would be better for you, Gentlemen, to come some you aboard presently, to settle the affairs of your town. You’ll sure no to be hurt. I give you my parole of honor. I am your,” &c. 

   To this letter the magistrates sent a verbal reply informing Monsieur Fall that they would be glad to see him on shore, and, at the same time, they hoisted a flag of defiance on the Ballast-hill. Finding all his threats in vain, alter firing a few ineffectual shot, the Frenchman weighed anchor, sailed in pursuit of some sloops which had appeared in the offing, and did not return. To prevent the recurrence of insults of this kind, a battery was soon after erected by subscription, between the harbour and the sea, on the Ballast-hill, mounting 6 twelve-pounders, and having a complete command of the bay, “so that,” adds our annalist with most excusable triumph, “now no Fall, with his Fearnought, dare insult Arbroath with impunity.”

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.48-51.

In reference to the removals from Lochtayside, your Lordship claims great credit on that account, alleging that pauperism would have produced “disastrous results before this.” Again, you claim great credit, because there was no destitution in 1846-7.1 Now, I most flatly deny the insinuation here thrown out upon the peasant population; and not only so, but I aver that it is to clearing landlords like yourself that we are indebted for the great abundance of pauperism in large towns! The deplorable destitution on the west coast was in great measure occasioned by lairds thrusting out the population (which they had previously done so much to develop), and huddling them together in fishing villages along the coast.2 I do not remember of any peasantry in Scotland being afflicted with the evils you name. On those parts of the Breadalbane property not yet cleared, did any destitution prevail? Was there any of it felt at the densely populated neighbourhood of Acharn? I can point out to numerous estates, as densely populated as ever Lochtayside was, and in as unfavourable circumstances, and yet destitution was never dreamt of.

– Gloomy Memories, pp.154-161.

1  Pray, how could there be pauperism when the people were banished?
2  See “Theory of Human Progression,” page 322, and also Parliamentary Report of 24th May 1841.

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