24th of June – Midsummer Day

Nativity of St John the Baptist.1 The Martyrs of Rome under Nero, 1st century.

 

Born. – Theodore Beza, reforming divine, 1519, Vezelai, in Burgundy; Dr Alexander Adam, eminent classical teacher, 1741, Rafford, near Forres; Deodatus de Dolomieu, mineralogist, 1750, Grenoble; Josephine, Empress of the French, 1763, Martinico; General Hoche, 1768, Montreuil; Read-Admiral Sir John Ross, Arctic navigator, 1777; Alexander Dumas, French novelist, 1803. 
Died. – Vespasian, Emperor of Rome, 79, Cutilia; Nicolas Claude Piersc, 1637, Aix, Provence.

 

Midsummer Day – the Nativity of St John the Baptist.

The Eve of St John is a great day among the mason-lodges of Scotland. What happens with them at Melrose may be considered as a fair example of the whole. ‘Immediately after the election of office-bearers for the year ensuing, the brethren walk in procession three times round the Cross, and afterwards dine together, under the presidency of the newly-elected Grand Master. About six in the evening, the members again turn out and form into line two abreast, each bearing a lighted flambeau, and decorated with their peculiar emblems and insignia. Headed by the heraldic banners of the lodge, the procession follows the same route, three times round the Cross, and then proceeds to the Abbey. On these occasions, the crowded streets present a scene of the most animated description. The joyous strains of a well-conducted band, the waving torches, and incessant showers of fireworks, make the scene a carnival. But at this time the venerable Abbey is the chief point of attraction and resort, and as the mystic torch-bearers thread their way through its mouldering aisles, and round its massive pillars, the outlines of its gorgeous ruins become singularly illuminated and brought into bold and striking relief… The whole extent of the Abbey is with “measured step and slow” gone three times round. But when near the finale, the whole masonic body gather to the chancel, and forming one grand semicircle around it, where the heart of King Robert Bruce lies deposited near the high altar, and the band strikes up the patriotic air, “Scots wha ha’e wi’ Wallace bled,” the effect produced is overpowering. Midst showers of rockets and the glare of blue lights the scene closes, the whole reminding one of some popular saturnalia held in a monkish town during the middle ages.’ – Wade’s Hist. Melrose, 1861, p. 146.

 

1  The festivals of the Saints are generally celebrated on the anniversary of their death, but an exception to this rule holds in the case of John the Baptist.

 

On this Day in Other Sources.

 

In this year, 1314, the [24th of June], on St. John [the] Baptist’s day, was fought that memorable and famous battle of Bannockburn, near to Stirling, between King Robert I. and King Edward, surnamed Caernarfon, King of England, and 2nd of that name. Most of the writers of the time report that the English army did consist of above a hundred thousand, and the Scots not passing 30000. The total overthrow of the English army in this battle made up all King Robert’s former losses, and enriched his whole army. In this battle the English [lost] above 50000 of their best men, with all their baggage and furniture [artillery, &c.], which was great and rich; their King fled for his life; [Gilbert de Clare] the [Earl] of Gloucester, with above 200 knights and men of quality were killed; John of Brittany, [Earl of Richmond], and 300 knights, noble men, and commanders were taken prisoner. [John] of Brittany was exchanged for King Robert’s wife and the old Bishop of Glasgow [Robert Wishart]. King Robert lost none of note this day but Sir William [de] Vepont and Sir Walter Ross, knights. Amongst the English captives was one [Robert] Baston, a Carmelite friar, a poet, as these days went, whom King Edward had brought with him to sing his triumphs, (for in conceit with his huge army, he had devoured all [of] Scotland, till God confounded him in the midst of his greatest confidence); this poet fell in King Robert’s own hands, and was his own prisoner, with whom he stayed a long while, and wrote in rhyme the passages of that day, and thereafter was nobly rewarded and dismissed. 

– Historical Works, pp.88-104.

 

THIS celebrated weapon [Wallace’s Sword] figured in an imposing ceremony some years ago, when it was deposited in the Wallace Monument near Stirling, having to the surprise of many (including the Town Council of Dumbarton) been removed, by consent of the authorities, from Dumbarton Castle, where it has been long kept. A leading article in the Scotsman at the time summed up with impartiality the arguments for and against its genuineness. Most Scotsmen would fain believe the former alternative, but from what was said in the Scotsman it does not seem to have been continuously in the Castle since the patriot was a prisoner there. Here is a further piece of evidence – negative only, it must be admitted – that it can hardly have been there in 1510. On 24th June of that year, William Stirling, of Glorat, keeper of the Castle, delivered the “geir and gudis” within it to Robert lord Erskine. Particular mention is made of “Wallas toure” and its contents – a bell, iron gate, beds, &c., but not a word about a sword. 

This tower must have been so called from the fact of Wallace being confined in it by Sir John Menteith. It can hardly be that his sword, if there in 1510, should not also have been particularly named. It would have been too important an article to be forgotten. And the inference is that wherever the sword was, if then known as Wallace’s, it was not in the Castle of Dumbarton in 1510. The document from which this note is taken is printed in the “Stirlings of Keir” (edited by Sir William (then Mr.) Fraser in 1858). 

– Scots Lore, pp.280-282.

Scotsman Articles Relating to WALLACE‘S SWORD transcribed directly: 
Wednesday 24 June 1846, p. 1.  
FINE OLD OIL PAINTINGS 
AND ENGRAVINGS, RARE BOOKS, 
PIANO-FORTE, HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, 
WALLACE’S SWORD, &c., &c., 
AT WEEDINGSHALL. 
To be SOLD by Public Roup, on FRIDAY the 26th day of June, 1846, at WEEDINGSHALL, near Falkirk. 
A Considerable Quantity of HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, together with the whole of the fine old OIL PAINTINGS and ENGRAVINGS, in frames, and the LIBRARY of Antique and Rare Books; WALLACE’S TWO-HANDED SWORD, and various other valuable effects. 
The Household Furniture comprises 
A GRAND SQUARE PIANO-FORTE; 
… 
THE OIL PAINTINGS 
… 
THE LIBRARY OF BOOKS 
… 
A LARGE TWO-HANDED SWORD 
Which is said to have belonged to Sir William Wallace; a Double-Barrelled Gun and Gun-Case; and a considerable variety of other Effects, all of which will be Sold without Reserve. 
Roup to begin at Eleven o’clock forenoon exactly. 
JAMES NEILSON, Auctioneer.”

 

At a later period there was a market for butcher-meat in Anderston. Butter-milk was an article much in demand. It was sold at the cross till after the middle of the seventeenth century, when an order of the magistrates “ordaines the sour milk mercatt quhilk is now keiped at the croce to be transported thence and keiped at the Gallowgait brige heireftir.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.266-276. 

1  24th June, 1661.

 

     And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Person who on the Twenty fourth Day of June, in the Year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and forty eight, shall be a Governor, Deputy Governor, Director, Secretary, Cashier, Treasurer, Accountant or Teller of, or use or exercise any such Employment in either of the Banks in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland (that is to say) The Bank called or known by Name of the Bank of Scotland, or the Bank called or known by the Name of the Royal Bank, shall within the Space of Three Months after the said Twenty fourth Day of June, take and subscribe the Oaths of Allegiance and Abjuration, and subscribe the Assurance appointed by Law to be taken and subscribed by Persons in Offices of Publick Trust in Scotland, either in the Court of Session, Court of Justiciary, or in the Sheriff or Stewart’s Court of the County, Shire, or Stewartry where such Person shall reside, or in One of His Majesty’s Courts at Westminster: And every Person who after the said Twenty fourth Day of June shall be elected or appointed to be, or accept or take upon him the Employment of a Governor, Deputy Governor, Director, Secretary, Cashier, Treasurer, Accountant, or Teller of either of said Banks, shall within Three Months after he shall accept or take upon him such Employment, take and subscribe the said Oaths, and subscribe the said Assurance, either in the said Court of Session, Court of Justiciary, or in the Sheriff’s or Stewart’s Court of the County, Shire or Stewartry where such Person shall reside, or in One of His Majesty’s Courts at Westminster; the taking and subscribing of which said Oaths and Assurance by all such Persons respectively, shall be entered on a Roll or in a Book for that Purpose, and be kept amongst the Records of the said several Courts. 

… 

     And whereas it is necessary to make some farther Provision for the more effectually suppressing the Crimes of Theft of Cattle in Highlands of Scotland, or the Depredations committed by the unlawful taking or maintaining the Possession of Cattle by Force and Violence; be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That from and after the Twenty fourth Day of June, One thousand seven hundred and forty eight, in all Trials or Prosecutions within that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, for the Crimes of Theft of Cattle, or the masterful taking away or detaining the same, it shall not be allowed to be a good Objection to any Witness produced for proving such Libel or Indictment, that he was Particeps or Socius Criminis, nor shall the Evidence given by such Witness be made use of against himself, nor shall he be liable to be prosecuted for his Accession to the Offence which he shall as a Witness give Evidence, that the same was committed by the Prisoner or Pannel, in whose Trial he shall be so adduced, or that such Prisoner or Pannel was Art and Part thereof; any Law, Custom, or Usage to the contrary notwithstanding.*

George II. 21st Year, Chapter 26, 1747. 

*  Shame this part of the law was repealed. As we read in ‘Gloomy Memories’; 
“These were the circumstances to which this devoted people were reduced, and to which none but a hardy, patient and moral race, with an ardent attachment to their country, would have quietly submitted; here they, with their cattle, had to remain for the present, expecting the southern dealers to come at the usual time (the months of June and July) to purchase their stocks; but the time came and passed, and no dealers made their appearance; none would venture into the country! The poor animals in a starving state, were continually running to and fro, and frequently could not be prevented from straying towards their former pasture grounds, especially in the night, notwithstanding all the care taken to prevent it. When this occurred, they were immediately seized by the shepherds and impounded without food or water, till trespass was paid! This was repeated till a great many of the cattle were rendered useless. It was nothing strange to see the penfolds, of twenty to thirty yards square, filled to the entrance with horses, cows, sheep and goats, promiscuously for nights and days together, in that starving state, trampling on and goring each other. The lamentable neighing, lowing, and bleating of these creatures, and the pitiful looks they cast on their owners when they could recognise them, were distressing to witness; and formed an addition to the mass of suffering then prevailing. But this was not all that beset the poor beasts. In some instances when they had been trespassing, they were hurried back by the pursuing shepherds of by their owners, and in running near the precipices many of them had their bones broken or dislocated, and a great number fell over the rocks into the sea, and were never seen more. Vast numbers of sheep and many horse and other cattle which escaped their keepers and strayed to a distance of their former pastures, were baited by men and dogs till they were either partially or totally destroyed, or became meat for their hunters. I have myself seen many instances of the kind, where the animals were lying partly consumed by the dogs, though still alive, and their eyes picked out by birds of prey. When the cattle were detained by the shepherds in the folds before mentioned, for trespass, to any amount the latter thought proper to exact, those of their owners who had not money – and they were the majority – were obliged to relieve them by depositing their bed and body clothes, watches, rings, pins, brooches, &c., many of these latter were the relics of dear and valued relatives, now no more, not a few of whom had shed their blood in defence of that country from which their friends were now ignominiously driven, or treated as useless lumber, to be got rid of at any price. The situation of the people with their families and cattle, driven to these inhospitable coasts, and harassed and oppressed in every possible way, presented a lamentable contrast to their former way of life.” pp.22-25.

 

Early on the morning of the 24th of June, 1824, a fire broke out in a spirit-vault, or low drinking-shop, at the head of the Royal Bank Close, and it made great progress before the engines arrived, and nearly all the old edifices being panelled or wainscoted, the supply of water proved ineffectual to check the flames, and early in the afternoon the eastern half of the Parliament Square was a heap of blackened ruins. To the surprise of all who witnessed this calamity, and observed the hardihood and temerity displayed by several persons to save property, or to arrest the progress of the flames, the only individual who fell a sacrifice was a city officer named Chalmers, who was so dreadfully scorched that he died in the infirmary a few days after. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.174-182.

 

Glasgow Evening Post, Monday 24 June 1867, p.2. 

GEP246672

SINGULAR DEATH IN EDIBURGH.

   Early yesterday morning a respectably-dressed man, apparently about forty years of age, met his death in a singular manner in Regent Road, opposite the High School. As Charles Thomson, the policeman on the beat, was going his rounds between five and six o’clock in the morning, he observed, as he thought, a man leaning over the railing at the top of a place popularly known as “Jacob’s Ladder,” on account of the long flight of steps which require to be climbed to gain Regent Road from the North Back of Canongate. On closer inspection, however, he discovered that life was extinct, death having evidently been produced by compression of the windpipe. With the assistance of a labourer named Sutherland, the body was conveyed to the Central Police Office, where it lies for identification. The position in which the unfortunate man was found is thus described in the official report:- “The head was resting between two of the spiked heads of the railing, the arms being extended, and the left knee slightly bent.” – Scotsman

Curious and Interesting Deaths.

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