Site icon Random Scottish History

7th of August

St Donatus, bishop of Arezzo, in Tuscany, martyr, 361. St Cajetan of Thienna, confessor, 1547.

Born. – Adam von Bartsch, engraver, 1757, Vienna
Died. – Leonidas, Spartan hero, slain at Thermopylæ, 480 B.C.; Herod Agrippa, persecutor of the Apostles, 44 A.D., Cæsarea; Henry IV. the Great, Emperor of Germany, 1106, Liege.


Lady Clerk, of Penicuick, née Mary Dacre, who spent a long widowhood in Edinburgh,1 where some little singularities of dress made her extremely well known, used to relate (and ultimately communicated to Blackwood’s Magazine2) a dream-story, of the general truth of which she was well assured. It represented her father, a Cumberland gentleman,3 as attending classes in Edinburgh about the year 1731, and residing under the care of an uncle, Major Griffiths, of the regiment then stationed in the castle. The young man, who was accustomed to take rambles with some companions, announced to his uncle and aunt one night, that he and his friends had agreed to join a fishing-party, which was to go out in a boat from Leith the next morning at six o’clock. No objection being made, they separated for the night; but during her sleep Mrs Griffiths screamed out: ‘The boat is sinking; save, oh save them!’ To pursue Lady Clerk’s relation: ‘The major awakened her, and said, “Were you uneasy about the fishing-party?” “Oh. no,” she said, “I had not once thought of them.” She then composed herself, and soon fell asleep again; in about another hour, she cried out, in a dreadful fright: “I see the boat is going down!” The major again awoke her, and she said: “It has been owing to the other dream I had; for I feel no uneasiness about it.” After some conversation, they both fell sound asleep; but no rest could be obtained for her; in the most extreme agony, she again exclaimed: “They are gone – the boat is sunk!” When the major awakened her, she said: “Now I cannot rest: Mr Dacre must not go, for I feel, should he go, I would be miserable till his return; the thoughts of it would almost kill me.” ‘ In short, on the strength of this dream, Mrs Griffiths induced her nephew to send a note of apology to his companions, who, going out, were caught in a sudden storm, and perished. 

Unlike many stories of the same kind, this one can be traced to an actual occurrence, which was duly chronicled in the brief records of the time. On the 7th of August 1734 (Lady Clerk’s suggested date being three years too early), five men of respectable positions in life, including Patrick Cuming, a merchant, and Colin Campbell, a shipmaster, accompanied by two boys, one of whom was ‘John Cleland, a nephew of Captain Campbell’s,’ went out in a boat with two sailors, to fish in the Firth of Forth. All was well till eleven o’clock, when a squall came on from the southwest, and they were forced to run for Prestonpans. On their way, Captain Campbell, observing a flan coming on, called to a sailor to loose the sail; but the man failed to acquit himself rightly, and the boat went over on its side. The party clung to it for a while, but one after another fell off, or sunk in trying to swim to land, all except Captain Campbell, who was taken up by a boat, and brought ashore nearly dead with fatigue, after being five hours in the water.4

1  See some reference to Lady Clerk in our first volume, page 520
2  Blackwood, June 1826. 
3  Dacre, of Kirklinton. 
4  Caledonian Mercury, August 12, 1734.

On this Day in Other Sources.

In rebutting the charge “that the haill pannels are Sorners and Egyptians,” it was argued “that the exacting of Quarters is not sorning,” – a very daring assertion. Moreover, the indictment was said to be too loosely framed, and ought to have specified certain acts of sorning. Further, the gypsies’ counsel contended that they ought not to be found guilty as Egyptians in the terms of the Act of 1609, because that was “but a temporary Law” and “extended only to the Egyptians then in being.” The correctness of this objection was utterly denied by the Advocate for the Crown. And, in reply to the argument that the Act of 1609 “was a Law so extreamly severe that it was never observed save once… and is since in desuetude,” it was answered that “desperate diseases require severe remedies, and its nottour how honest men are not only cheated by tricks and Shifts committed on them by Egyptians at mercats and otherwayes; But Likewise what a terrour they are in the Cuntries where they resort, what housebreaking, Thifts, Robberies, Murders and other insufferable Insolencies these men are guilty of, and with what obstinate Courage and Contempt of fear they have defended themselves against Lawful authority; – yea, even against parties of the regular Troops commanded out to apprehend them.” 

After a good deal of such fencing, the trial was fixed for August 3rd, but then came the news of Queen Anne’s death, and it had to be postponed to the 7th. On the previous day, however, one of the gypsy women, Agnes Brown, endeavoured to show “that she was wrong named in the Inditement, her true name being Margaret.” But it appeared that when she had been arrested at Blyth, in February, by a party of General Carpenter’s dragoons, she had given her name as Agnes Brown, and had “owned Agnes Brown to be her name all the way from Blyth to Haddingtoun,” whither they had carried her. This being sworn to by the corporal and one of his men, her objection was over-ruled. 

The actual trial, then, took place on the 7th of August, the prisoners being all in court. Of the twenty-seven witnesses who gave evidence on the various points, the most important were the two young renegade gypsies, and their testimony proved most damaging to their kinsfolk. The young woman stated that on the night of the burglary at Gilmerton, she and her parents and Janet Johnston (one of the accused) were in a house in that neighbourhood when Baillie, Watson, Jean Baillie , the woman Brown, and Agnes McDonald entered, and the two men, drawing their swords, intimidated her and Johnston into accompanying them to Gilmerton House, which they declared they were going to break into. And she added a circumstantial account of the whole proceedings. The youth Kerr, who also professed to have been brought there against his will, testified further to William Baillie opening the outer gate of Gilmerton with false keys; and described the robbery in much the same terms as Yorkstoun. He deponed also “That the sd William Baillie and James Watson and one James Brown had each of them a good horse, The one black, the Second Brown and the other Gray, and rode on horseback to the house of Gilmertoun, and caried away the Stollen goods after they were putt on horseback with great Speed, and the women followed on foot.” That they rode in a south-westerly direction (the direction of Blyth) is indicated in Helen Yorkstoun’s statement “That Watson & Baillie promised to give the Deponent a Share of the Stollen goods at Eddlestoun Kirk or Stobo, whither they were to go to divide the same.” 

– Scots Lore, pp.30-35.

   “On the trial of Taylor, at Guildford, for the murder of Mr. Smith, the first witness produced in favour of the prosecution, was asked, “Sir, do you know how to hold a pint pot?” Yes, said the witness. Then the Council, stretching out his arm, said, “Did not you, at the Wheat-sheaf, and in company with the prisoner, hold out your arm thus, and say, Here is damnation to all the Scots, and damnation to them that will not drink it?” Being answered in the affirmative, the Judge said, “Turn that fellow out of Court; I will admit no such evidence!” This done, a woman appeared; but it being objected to her, that she had frequently sworn she would hang the prisoner, her evidence was refused likewise. Three more witnesses were examined, but as none of them swore any thing to effect the prisoner’s life, it was thought needless to bring any exculpatory proof. The Judge then summed up the evidence with candour and impartiality: he observed, ‘Reflections upon countries were really horrid in themselves, and such as he, from the bottom of his heart, detested and abhorred: there is, continued he, no Scotsman nor Englishman; we are all Britons, the subjects of the same prince. and under the protection of the same government. The inhabitants of North-Britain have fought our battles, and prevailed; let national prejudices be exploded; every Scotsman is an Englishman, and every Englishman is a Scotsman: this is the sense of the treaty of Union.’ ”

Kentish Gazette, Tuesday 7th August, 1770.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1750-1800.

History scarcely affords more striking contrasts than the past and the present of some of our Scotch towns. Call up, for instance, Edinburgh on the fearful night that brought the news of the king and his army slaughtered at Flodden (1513), and take the same city as it was lately seen when the Queen reviewed the volunteers in the park of Holyrood (7th August 1860). 

– Sketches, pp.29-70.

Exit mobile version