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12th of July

Saints Nabor and Felix, martyrs, about 304. St Gualbert, abbot, 1073.

Born. – Caius Julius Cæsar, 100. B.C. 
Died. – Desiderius Erasmus, scholar, 1536, Basel; General St Ruth, killed at Aghrim, Ireland, 1691; Christian G. Heyne (illustrator of ancient writings), 1814, Gottingen; Dr John Jamieson (Scottish Dictionary), 1838, Edinburgh; Robert Stevenson, engineer of Bell Rock light-house, &c., 1850.


Church-bells are beginning to awake a regard that has long slumbered. They have been deemed, too, recently, fit memorial of the mighty dead. Turrets, whose echoes have repeated but few footfalls for a century, have been intrepidly ascended, and their clanging tenants diligently scanned for word or sign to tell their story. Country clergymen, shewing the lions of their parishes to archæological excursionists, have thought themselves happy in the choice of church-bells as the subject of the address expected of them. And it will be felt that some of the magic of the International Exhibition was due to the tumultuous reverberations of the deep, filling, quivering tones of the many bells. 

In monkish medieval times, church-bells enjoyed peculiar esteem. They were treated in great measure as voices, and were inscribed with Latin ejaculations and prayers, such as – Hail, Mary, full of grace, pray for us; St Peter, pray for us; St Paul, pray for us; St Katharine, pray for us; Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy upon us; their tones, swung out into the air, would, ecstatically, appear to give utterance to the supplication with which they were inscribed. 

In those old times, pious queens and gentlewomen threw into the mass of metal that was to be cast into a bell their gold and silver ornaments; and a feeling of reverence for the interceding voices was common to gentle and simple. They were sometimes cast in monasteries under the superintendence of ecclesiastics of rank. 

The inscriptions on ancient bells were generally placed immediately below the haunch or shoulder, although they are sometimes found nearer the sound bow. The legends are, with few exceptions, preceded by crosses. Coats of arms are also of frequent occurrence, probably indicating the donors. The tones of ancient bells are incomparably richer and softer, more dulcet, mellow, and sufficing to the ear than those of the present iron age. 

Within the last half century, at Brenckburne, in Northumberland, old people pointed out a tree beneath which, they had been told when they were young, a treasure was buried. And when this treasure was sought and found, it turned out to be nothing more than fragments of the bell of the ruined priory church close by. Tradition recounts that a foraging-party of moss-trooping Scots once sought far and near for this secluded priory, counting upon the contents of the larders of the canons. But not a sign or a track revealed its position, for it stands in a cleft between the wooded banks of the Coquet, and is invisible from the high lands around. The enraged and hungry marauders – says the legend – had given up the search in despair, and were leaving the locality, when the monks, believing their danger past, bethought themselves to offer up thanksgivings for their escape. Unfortunately, the sound of the bell, rung to call them to this ceremony, reached the ears of the receding Scots in the forest above, and made known to them the situation of the priory. They retraced their steps, pillaged it, and then set it on fire. 

The ordinary passing bell, now commonly called the dead-bell, used to be rung when the dying person was receiving the sacrament, so that those who wished to do so could pray for him at this moment; but it is now only rung after death, simply to inform the neighbourhood of the fact. In the same way the sanctus-bell used to be rung in the performance of mass, when the priest came to the words ‘Sancte, Sancte, Sancte, Deus Sabaoth,’ so that those persons unable to attend, might yet be able to bow down and worship at this particular moment. For this reason, the bell was always placed in a position where it might be heard as far as possible. In the gables of the chancel arches of ancient churches, are seen small square apertures, whose use few people can divine. It was through these that the ringers watched the services below, so as to be able to ring at the right time. 

The more polite the nation, it is argued, the smaller their bells. The Italians have few bells, and those that they have are small. The Flemish and Germans, on the other hand, have great numbers of large bells. The Chinese once boasted of possessing the largest bells in the world; but Russia has borne off the palm, or in other words carried away the bell, by hanging one in Moscow Cathedral, measuring 19 feet in height, and 63 feet 11 inches round the rim. 

The great bell in Glasgow Cathedral,* tells its own history, mournfully, in the following inscription: ‘In the year of grace, 1583, Marcus Knox, a merchant in Glasgow, zealous for the interest of the Reformed Religion, caused me to be fabricated in Holland, for the use of his fellow-citizens of Glasgow, and placed me with solemnity in the Tower of their Cathedral. My function was announced by the impress on my bosom: ME AUDITO, VENIAS, DOCTRINAM SANCTAM UT DISCAS, and I was taught to proclaim the hours of unheeded time. One hundred and ninety-five years had I sounded these awful warnings, when I was broken by the hands of inconsiderate and unskilful men. In the year 1790, I was cast into the furnace, refounded at London, and returned to my sacred vocation. Reader! thou also shalt know a resurrection; may it be to eternal life! Thomas Mears fecit, London, 1790.’

*  For more information see MacGeorge’s ‘Old Glasgow’ chapter ‘The Bell and the Miracles’.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Stirs arise among the nobility this year, also; some would have a firm peace concluded with England, others not: so the Queen Regent, to pacify matters, calls a convention of the estates at Edinburgh, the 12th day of July [1514], wherein all matters were debated, jealousies removed, and ambassadors sent to England for ratification of the peace. 

The Duke of Albany, thus initiat[ed] in his government, calls a parliament, to be [held] at Edinburgh on Thursday the 12th of July, this same year [1515], wherein many laws were made; and the Governor, to show his justice, with advice of the estates of the realm, [forfeits] the Lord [John] Drummond, for striking [the Lord] Lyon King of Arms [Sir William Comyn] with his hand; but thereafter, by the Lyon’s earnest solicitation, with the Duke and nobility, the said Lord was restored, and his [forfeiture] repealed: he humbly, on his knees, acknowledging his offence to the estates, and submitting himself to the [Lord] Lyon’s will. 

– Historical Works, pp.238-275.

At length, arrived, at Edinburgh on the 12th of July [1567], Throkmorton, Elizabeth’s envoy. He had public instructions, from Elizabeth, who was not much gratified with the principles, and practices, of the secret council, who avowed, as the true motive of the insurrection to be, for freeing the Queen, from Bothwell’s bondage; yet, the moment, that she had freed herself, by leaving Bothwell, those secret counsellors, sent Elizabeth’s good cousin, secretly, to prison. Throkmorton had private instructions, from Cecil, who did not approve of this melting mood of his mistress. 

– Life of Mary, pp.155-184.

A parliament [held] at Edinburgh, the 12th day of July, this year [1592], not mentioned among the printed statutes of this King, wherein Francis, Earl of Bothwell, with his [whole] followers, were [forfeited]

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

We have now (1639) the contract for building “the Auld Hall and Kitchen of Calder.” A Tutor undertaking so considerable an amount of building while the heir of the family was in so melancholy seclusion, shows the greatness of the necessity, or else that affairs were not so desperate as the hornings and escheats and all the diligence of the law put in force against the careless Sir John, would lead us to suppose. What the habitable house of Cawdor was before this time, it is difficult, but perhaps not impossible, to guess, by the help of some materials that would guide a practised and intelligent builder. There can be no doubt that the superstructure of the house north of the tower is altogether of this date or later; and the description of the simple requisites of a Scotch gentleman’s house of that period is not without interest. It is apparent that drawings or plans were not used, and that, in the very time when Heriot’s Hospital was building in Edinburgh, Glammis in Strathmore, and Castle Fraser and Craigievar in Aberdeenshire, the Tutor of Cawdor was satisfied to leave the architecture of his family mansion to the Nairn masons, provided the “armes, names, and siferis upon the windockis were wrocht to the said Colin Campbell his contentment.”1

– Sketches, pp.395-436.

1  It is only after the battle of Auldearn that Spalding chronicles how “Efter this gryte victorie, Montroiss directis to burn the Laird of Caddell Campbellis lands and houssis in Nairne and plunderit his haill goodis;” but it is evident that each party plundered and destroyed as they had power. More formal and legalized exactions were levied indiscriminately “on the country” and on friends. We find at Cawdor a certificate by the Marquis of Argyll, that George Campbell, Tutor of Calder, did furnish, in the spring of 1644, to the Laird of Ardkinglass and the forces under his command against Allister McDonald and the Irish rebels, quantities  of meal, marts, butter, and cheese, which, with two months’ pay appointed for the Tutor himself as a captain in that expedition, doth amount in money to £1579; for payment whereof there was assigned to him the loan and taxt of the Laird of Calder’s rents in the shire of Argyll, extending to the same sum. The certificate is granted only on 12th July 1655.

In 1633 the Countess of Argyll called “Gaelic “Erise” and “Irishe,”* so the German words “Irren” and “Irländer” are easily explained, if there were Scotch lowlanders in the regiment to name their Highland comrades.

– Popular Tales, Vol. 4, pp.333-348. 

*  We find Gaelic being termed “Irish” in the Act and remit in favour of the synod of Argyll (12 July, 1695; Edinburgh), in reference to the 1616 School Establishment Act (Scotland), where it’s stated:  
“Our soveraign lord, considering that several of the inhabitants within the bounds of the synod of Argile and Isles are very refractory in paying to the chamberlands and factors the rents of the bishopricks of Argile and Isles, which now his majesty has been graciously pleased to bestow upon erecting of English schools for rooting out of the Irish language, and other pious uses within the said synod during his majesties’ pleasure,..”

In 1715, James Anderson, W.S., the well-known editor of Diplomata Scotiæ, obtained the office of Deputy Postmaster-General, in succession to Main, the jeweller. When he took office, on the 12th of July, there was not a single horse post in Scotland, foot-runners being the conveyers of the mails, even so far north as Thurso, and so far westward as Inverary. 

“After his appointment,” to quote Lang’s privately-printed history of the Post-office in Scotland, “Mr. Anderson directed his attention to the establishment of the horse posts on the Western road from Edinburgh. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.353-358.

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