28th of August

St Hermes, martyr, about 132. St Julian, martyr at Brioude. St Augustine or Austin, bishop of Hippo, confessor, and doctor of the church, 430.

Died. – Emperor Louis I. of Germany, ‘the Pious,’ 876, Frankfort; Hugo Grotius, eminent jurist, 1645, Rostock; Count Axel Oxenstiern, Swedish chancellor under Gustavus Adolphus, 1654; William Lyon Mackenzie, leader in the Canadian Rebellion of 1837, 1861, Toronto.


It was an idea not unworthy of a young nobleman of ancient lineage and ample possessions, to set forth a living picture, as it were, of the medieval tournament before the eyes of a modern generation. When the public learned that such an idea had occurred to the Earl of Eglintoun, and that it was to be carried out in the beautiful park surrounding his castle in Ayrshire, it felt as if a new pleasure had been at length invented. And, undoubtedly, if only good weather could have been secured, the result could not have fallen short of the expectations which were formed. 

Nearly two years were spent in making the necessary preparations, and on the 28th of August 1839, the proceedings commenced in the presence of an immense concourse of spectators, many of whom, in obedience to a hint previously given, had come in fancy-costumes. The spot chosen for the tourney was about a quarter of a mile eastward of the castle, surrounded by beautiful scenery; it comprised an arena of sour acres, with a boarded fence all round. At convenient places, were galleries to hold 3000 persons, one for private friends of the earl and the knights who were to take part in the mimic contest, and the other for visitors of a less privileged kind. In the middle of the arena were barriers to regulate the jousts of the combatants. each of the nights had a separate marquee or pavilion for himself and his attendants. The decorations everywhere were of the most costly character, being aided by many trappings which had recently been used at the Queen’s coronation. Besides keeping ‘open house’ at the castle, the earl provided two temporary saloons, each 250 feet long, for banquets and balls. But the weather was unfavourable to the ‘brave knights;’ the rain fell heavily; spectators marred the medievalism of the scene by hoisting umbrellas; and the ‘Queen of Beauty’ and her ladies, who were to have ridden on elegantly-caparisoned palfreys, were forced to take refuge in carriages. A procession started from the castle in the midst of a drenching shower. It comprised men-at-arms clad in demi-suits of armour, musicians, trumpeters, banner-bearers, marshals, heralds, pursuivants, a ‘judge of the peace,’ retainers, halberdiers, a knight-marshal, a jester, archers, servitors, swordsmen, and chamberlains – all attired in the most splendid costumes that befitted their several characters. These were mostly subordinates. The chiefs were fifteen knights, and about double as many esquires and pages – nearly all in magnificent armour, whole or demi. The knights were the Marquis of Waterford, the Earls of Eglintoun, Craven, and Cassilis; Viscounts Alford and Glenlyon; Captains Gage, Fairlie, and Beresford; Sirs Frederick Johnstone and Francis Hopkins; and Messrs Jerningham, Lamb, Boothby, and Lechmere. these knights all bore chivalric appellations – such as the Knights of the Dragon, the Griffin, the Black Lion, the Dolphin, the Crane, the Ram, the Swan, the Golden Lion, the White Rose, the Stag’s Head, the Burning Tower, the Lion’s Paw, &c.; these emblems and symbols being emblazoned on the trappings of the several knights and their retainers. Some of the dresses were exceedingly gorgeous. The Marquis of Londonderry, as ‘King of the Tournament,’ wore a magnificent train of green velvet, embroidered with gold, covered by a crimson-velvet cloak trimmed with gold and ermine, and having a crown covered in with crimson velvet; the Earl of Eglintoun, as ‘Lord of the Tournament,’ had a rich damasked suit of gilt armour, with a skirt of chain-mail; and Sir Charles Lamb, as ‘Knight Marshal,’ had a suit of black armour, embossed and gilt, and covered by a richly-emblazoned surcoat. The esquires and pages were all gentlemen of fortune and position. Lady Seymour, as ‘Queen of Beauty,’ wore a robe of crimson velvet, with the Seymour crest embroidered in silver on blue velvet, and a cloak of cerise velvet trimmed with gold and ermine. the ladies in the chief gallery were mostly attired in the costumes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 

Under most discouraging circumstances the cavalcade set forth – the gaily-trimmed horses splashing in the dirt, the armour washed with pitiless rain, and the velvets and laces saturated with wet. The knights with their esquires entered their several pavilions, while the rest of the personages took up the posts allotted to them. The knights issued forth for their pavilion two and two, paid their devoirs to the fair ladies in the galleries, and then fought to the sound of trumpet. This fighting consisted in galloping against each other, and each striking his lance against the armour of the other; the lances were so made of wood as to be easily broken, and thus there was no great danger incurred. After several couples had thus jousted, the Earl of Eglintoun and the Marquis of Waterford (the ‘Lord of the Tournament’ and the ‘Knight of the Dragon’) came forward, most gorgeously arrayed and armed, and attended by no fewer than eight esquires and pages. After running at each other until two lances were broken, the earl was declared the best knight of the day, and was rewarded by the ‘Queen of Beauty’ with a crown of victory. But the incessant rain sadly marred the whole affair; and the day’s jousting ended with a very unpicturesque broadsword combat between an actor and a soldier, engaged for the purpose. In every sense was the day’s joyousness damped; for when the guests were quite ready for a grand banquet and ball in the evening, it was found that the two temporary pavilions, fitted up in the most splendid manner, were flooded with water from the heavy rains, and were quite useless for the purposes intended. On the 29th, the weather was nearly as bad; no jousting in the lists was attempted, but some mimic tilts took place under cover, in which one personage took part who was destined to fill an important place in the history of Europe – Prince Louis Napoleon, afterwards the Emperor Napoleon III. of France. On the 30th, the skies were more favourable; the joustings were renewed, and were wound up by a tourney of eight knights armed with swords – used in some inoffensive way against each other’s armour. Measures had been taken to render the banqueting-hall and ball-room available, and the day ended with a banquet for 300 persons and a ball for 1000. The 31st came, and with it weather so stormy and ungenial that any further proceedings with the tournament were abandoned. And thus ended this most costly affair. The spot had been so selected that, outside the fence, an enormous number of spectators might witness the proceedings; and it was estimated that little under 200,000 persons availed themselves of this opportunity on one or other of the four days – coming from almost every county in Scotland, and from various parts of England and Ireland. The Ardrossan Railway Company trebled their fares; and whoever had a gig or other vehicle to let at Glasgow, could command extravagant terms for it.

On this Day in Other Sources.

“Frere William, priour de Blantyr,” swore fealty to Edward I. at Berwick, on the 28th August, 1296.” 

– Select Views, pp.47-52.

In August, this year [1298], the Protector, accompanied with Sir John Graham, Sir John Menteith, and Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, constable of Dundee, with 500 resolute soldiers, severely punished the foolish Galwegians, that had partied the English and Comyns against their own country; and in their return south, they, by night [on the 28th of August], burnt 300 English in the barns of Ayr. 

– Historical Works, pp.77-88.

It is time to turn now to the few biographical scraps supplied by Ramsay himself, and examine these in the light of what has been gleaned from the exchequer rolls and household accounts. There are five manuscripts of his, each having a colophon. The oldest of these, The Bruce, now in the library of St. John’s College, Cambridge, tells us that it was finished on August 28, 1487, by the hand of J. de R., chaplain.1 The same manuscript also contains two short poems, both written “by the same hand at the same time” – the one entitled, “How the good wife taught her daughter,” with this colophon, “Explicit documentum matris as filiam per manum J. de. R., capni.,” the other the copy of a poem by Lydgate rendered into lowland Scottish dialect.2 Next in order of date comes The Wallace, attested thus – Explicit vita nobilissimi Defensoris Scotie, viz., Willielmi Wallace militis per me Johannem Ramsay, anno domini 1488 (Here ends the life of a noble defender of Scotland, viz., William Wallace, soldier through me John Ramsay of the year 1488). It is bound in the same volume with the copy of The Bruce (in the Advocates’ Library), having this colophon – Finitur Codicellus de virtutibus et actibus bellicosis, viz., Domini Roberti Broyss, quondam Scottorum regis illustrissimi, raptim scriptus per me Johannem Ramsay, &c,3 1489 (An end note, the acts and actions defenders, viz., Lord Robert Broyss, once illustrious king of Scots, was hastily written by me, John Ramsay, &c, 1489). 

– Scots Lore, pp.293-307.

1  Explicit liber excellentissimi et nobilissimi principis Roberti de Broyss Scottorum regis illustrissimi qui quidem liber scriptus fuit et finitus in vigilia sancti Johannis Baptiste, viz., decollacio ejusdem per manum J. de R. capellani anno domini 1487. Vide S. T. edition, edited by Dr. Skeat, p. 197.
[Here ends the most illustrious king of Scots, and the leaders of Robert Bruce that the book was written and ended on the eve of St. John the Baptist, viz., The same decollacio by J. R. chaplaîn year of 1487. See S. T. edition, edited by Dr. Skeat, p. 197.]
2  The colophon of the last-mentioned poem begins – “Explicit documentum valde utile quod I to zow,” &c. S. T. edition, p. 218.
[“Ends the document is very useful 1 to zow,” & c. S. T. edition, p. 218.]
3  The remainder of the colophon is  
“ex jussu venerabilis et circumspecti viri, viz., Magistri Symonis Lochmaloney de Ouchtermounsye, vicarii bene digni anno domini 1489. Anima domini Roberti Bruyss et anime omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei manum requiescant in pace. Amen. Amen. Amen.  
Desine grande loqui frangit Deus omne superbum  
Magna cadunt inflata crepant tumefacta premuntur  
Scandunt celsa humiles trahuntur as yma feroces  
Vincit opus verbum minuit jactancia famam.  
Per ea viscera Maria virginis que portauerunt eterni Patris Filium. Amen.”  
[“command, hold a prudent man, viz., the Master Simon Lochmaloney of Ouchtermounsye, adjutant well worthy of the year 1489, Sir Robert Bruce the life and soul of the faithful departed rest in peace by God’s hand. Amen. Amen. Amen.  
Breaks down, the God of all that is proud, leave your big talk  
The great fall blown swollen face harsh clash  
Climb as high base before being dragged downward ferocious  
My work is diminished by the ostentation report.  
During the virgin Mary carried the Eternal Father. Amen.”]

[On 28th] August this year [1570], Matthew, Earl of Lennox, the Regent, held a parliament at [Stirling], which is not recorded among the printed statutes of this King’s reign, wherein (the young King being present) the said Regent made a speech to the estates of the realm there present, during which the King looked up, and [espied] a hole in the roof of the house, by the lack of some [slates], and after the Regent had ended his [speech], (he said,) I think there is a hole in this parliament. So that in effect ere long his Majesty’s words were found true, for in this same month, about the ending of the parliament, there came to [Stirling] in the night, ere the nobility or town knew, [George Gordon] the Earl of Huntly, the Queen’s Lieutenant, Claud Hamilton [Lord Paisley], with Lairds of Buccleuch [Walter Scott] and Ferniehirst [Thomas Kerr], and ere daybreak, had possessed themselves of the town, crying God and the Queen; so that these that were for the King and his Regent, for the multitude of enemies, could not come to a head, but [wherever] they could see any that belonged to the Regent, him they killed without mercy; the Regent being taken prisoner by the Laird of Bucceluch, and horsed behind him, a wicked fellow lifted up his jacket, and shot him through the body with a pistol. The Earl of Lennox, the Regent, thus killed by a pack of wicked traitors, who departed the town immediately; and [John Erskine] the Earl of Mar was declared Regent, and concluded the parliament. This was the [hole] which the young King did see in the parliament, although he [meant] nothing less. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Aug. 28 [1570]. – The Regent Lennox held a parliament at Stirling, where he made an oration to the nobility. The king, five years old, was present, and, while his grandfather was speaking, he looked up and espied a hole in the roof, occasioned by ‘the lack of some sclates.’ At the conclusion of the harangue, the child remarked: ‘I think there is ane hole in this parliament.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.45-55.

I have referred to the general practice of carrying arms, and the presbytery books afford evidence that in this the clergy formed no exception. The following entry occurs not long after the Reformation: “On Sunday 28th August 1587 William Cuningham when going up by the Wynd heid with his son Umphra and some other persons abused Mr. Wemyss the minister of the Hie Kirk, and in coming down from the kirk the father and son attacked Mr. Wemyss with a quhingear and a pistolet, called him a liar, and struck him on the head and breast which made him retire. Mr. Wemyss in fear of his life cast his goun over his arm and drew his quhingear in his defence. The Cuninghams attempted to draw their pistolets but were prevented by the Parson of Renfrew, who coming doun the Rattonraw at the time, and seeing the scuffle drew his quhingear, and defeated the Cuninghams, who were sentenced to ask pardon of God, of the Kirk, of the Magistrates, and of Mr. Wemyss, first at the Wynd heid, and then before the Congregation of the Kirk.” The record goes on to say that “the Presbiterie heron admonished their ministers to be diligent in their study, grave in their apparel and not vain with long rufils and vain gaudy toys in their clothing.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.

In consequence of this agreement, the two sons of Kenneth Buy, William and John before-mentioned, were delivered to Lord Berridale, who gave security for their keeping the peace; and John Gun and Alexander, his cousin, were released and delivered to Lord Forbes and Mackay, who gave surety to the lords of the council to present them for trial whenever required; and as the earl of Caithness had deprived them of their possessions in Caithness on account of the discovery they had made, Mackay, who had lately been knighted by the king, gave them lands in Strathnaver as he had promised. Matters being thus settled, Lord Berridale presented himself before the court at Edinburgh to abide his trial; but no person of course appearing against him, the trial was postponed. The earl of Caithness, however, failing to appear, the diet against him was continued till the twenty-eighth day of August following [1616]. 

– History of the Highlands, pp.257-286.

The General Assembly and the parliament met in the course of summer (1639) under royal commissioners, but with only the effect of formally affirming the abolition of Episcopacy. The king [Charles I.] accordingly resolved on a second expedition against the Scots. The Scots mustered a second army as good as his own. They crossed the Tweed (August 28, 1640), and advanced on the Tyne. After a smart action, in which they were victorious, they crossed that river, and took possession of Newcastle. With a disaffected army, and all but a few zealots muttering around him, the king could only come a second time to a convention, but now it was upon less favourable terms than before. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.257-277.

In 1647-8, the Commissioners appointed by the four Universities of Scotland – St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh – met at Edinburgh, and adopted measures for promoting a correspondence among them, and a uniform course of study. Some of their resolutions are worthy of notice. 

“1647, 28th Aug. – It was fund expedient to communicat to the generall assemblie no more of our Universitie afaires but such as concerned religion or that had some evident ecclesiastick relatione… 

– Sketches, pp.254-324.

[On 28th] August, 1758, there occurred a dreadful fire in Carrubber’s Close, on which occasion four tenements containing fifteen families were burned down, and many persons were severely injured. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.235-241.

5 thoughts on “28th of August

  1. I had never heard of the Eglinton Tournament till I saw a piece about it on the People’s History Show a while back. I put Eglinton on my list of places to go – and we went on Sunday. Not much left of the castle, but it’s a pleasant walk round the country park.

    1. The tournament sounds like it was something of a fiasco in the end. A bit of a failed affair but interesting to read about how much work went into the failure 😂

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