20th of September

St Eustachius and companions, martyrs, 2d century. St Agapetus, pope and confessor, 536.

Born. – Alexander the Great, Macedonian conqueror, 356 B.C., Pella; Emperor Antoninus Pius, 86 A.D.; Maria Paulina Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, 1780, Ajaccio.
Died. – Lucius Crassus, orator, 91 B.C., Rome; Owen Glendower, Welsh patriot, 1415, Monnington; John Gruter, eminent scholar and critic, 1527, Heidelberg; Jerome Cardan, physician, 1576; Charles VI., emperor of Germany, 1740, Vienna; José Gaspar Rodríguez Francia, dictator of Paraguay, 1840.


One of the most voluminous authors that ever wrote, perhaps the ablest physician of his day, and certainly a man of the most decided and versatile genius, Jerome Cardan, or to designate him more properly by his Italian name, Girolamo Cardano, presents, in his singular history, a curious epitome of the sixteenth century, its eccentricities, energies, and modes of thought… 

In the middle of the sixteenth century, the regency of the kingdom of Scotland was held by James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, whose weak and vacillating disposition was very markedly controlled by his more decided and energetic brother John, abbot of Paisley, and afterwards archbishop of St Andrews. The health of the latter, whose course of life was by no means consonant to his ecclesiastical character, had for some years been in a declining condition, and he laboured under a ’periodic asthma.’ Benefiting apparently little by the ministration of his own physician, William Cassanate, a Frenchman, of Spanish extraction, settled in Edinburgh, Hamilton was recommended to consult the famous Cardan, who had now quitted Pavia for Milan. The suggestion was readily accepted by the archbishop, and a flattering letter was forthwith despatched by Cassanate to Italy, in which he besought Cardan to travel to Paris or at least to Lyon, where he would be met by the Archbishop Hamilton, who had resolved to make this journey for the sake of his health. Such an invitation happened to fall in with Jerome’s humour at the time, and he returned a favourable reply. The sum of two hundred crowns was paid him, in name of travelling expenses, by the archbishop’s messenger, and on 23d February 1552, he started on his journey across the Alps, taking the Simplon Pass into Switzerland, and proceeding from thence through Geneva to Lyon. At the latter town, he expected to meet either the archbishop of his physician, but neither made appearance, and he remained upwards of a month  in the place, where he reaped a golden harvest from the exercise of his profession of the healing art, nobles and distinguished persons eagerly pressing to him to avail themselves of his services. At last Cassanate arrived, bearing a letter from Archbishop Hamilton, in which that prelate, after apologising for his inability from cares of church and state to visit France at present, besought the learned Cardanus to give him the benefit of his professional skill, by extending his journey to Scotland. He further intimated that Cassanate would provide him with a safe-conduct, and also give him the security of any banker in Milan, for such suitable remuneration as might be agreed on. 

It was not without considerable difficulty that Cardan was prevailed on to enter on this new undertaking, as he entertained the perfectly natural belief that the archbishop had inveigled him so far on the way, knowing well that he would have absolutely refused to visit Scotland had he been invited to do so at Milan. However, a reluctant consent was at last given, and after receiving an additional guerdon of three hundred crowns, Cardan and Cassanate set out together on their journey northward. Having arrived at Paris, the travellers made a stay of a few weeks, during which the most flattering attentions were paid to Cardan, including a request from Henry II. that he would take up his abode with him as court-physician, but the MIlanese professor declined thus to expatriate himself. In like manner as he had practised at Lyon, however, he held numerous and crowded levees of patients, and realised large sums of money in shape of fees, Towards the end of May, he and  Cassanate quitted Paris, a place of which Cardan seems to have carried away no exalted opinion in point of cleanliness and salubrity. He suggests sarcastically, indeed, that its ancient name, Lutetia, may have been derived from dirt (lutum) which formed, in his opinion, one of the leading characteristics of the place. They then proceeded down the Seine to Rouen, of which our physician speaks in the most eulogistic terms, and from thence journeyed to Boulogne and Calais, where they took ship for London, and arrived there on 3d June. After a rest in the English metropolis of three days, they set out on their overland journey to Edinburgh, which they reached at the end of twenty-three days. 

From the end of June to the middle of September, Cardan remained in Edinburgh in attendance on Archbishop Hamilton, who seems to have benefited greatly by the prescriptions of his Italian doctor. A full account has been left us by the latter of the remedies employed and the regimen prescribed for his distinguished patient, much of which seems sufficiently absurd at the present day, but is, nevertheless, accompanied by numerous sensible and judicious injunctions. Among these were recommendations to use frequently the cold bath (the water to be poured from a pail or pitcher over the archiepiscopal head and shoulders), feather-beds and pillows to be avoided, a sufficient amount of sleep to be taken, moderation and regularity to be observed as regards meals, and the mind to be kept free from harassing cares. So sensible was Hamilton of the benefits which he had received from this treatment, that he would gladly have detained Cardan for a much longer period; but the latter was inexorable, being both impatient to return to his country and family, and unwilling to face the inclement skies of a Scottish winter. He, accordingly, quitted Edinburgh for London, after receiving from the archbishop the princely remuneration of eighteen hundred gold crowns, of which four hundred went to Cardan’s attendants. The subsequent history of the prelate, to whom a renewed lease of life had thus been granted, is well known to all readers of Scottish history. After endeavouring ineffectually to avert the change in religion and ecclesiastical establishments which shortly afterwards took place in the country, he became, on the arrival of Queen Mary in Scotland, one of her most favoured counsellors; and on her deposition and subsequent confinement in Loch Leven, an active member of that party which sought to reinstate her on the throne. Doomed to see all his hopes disappointed, he took refuge in Dumbarton Castle, and on the capture of that fortress by the government forces in 1571, was tried and condemned on the charge, among others, of participating in the murder of the Regent Murray. In pursuance of this sentence, Hamilton was ignominiously hanged in his pontifical robes on the common gibbet at Stirling, being both the last Roman Catholic primate of Scotland, and the first of its prelates to suffer capital punishment. 

The value of his contributions to mathematical science is still recognised, but most of his disquisitions on medicine and philosophy, which excited such attention in his own day, have long ago been completely forgotten. Of his personal character, it is not possible to speak very favourably, as he seems to have been loose in morals, and to have been imbued to an ample extent with all the objectionable tendencies of his time. but he appears to have been a kind and affectionate husband and parent, and a genial and agreeable companion, though his manners, like his person, are said to have been unprepossessing. Considering the misfortune of his birth, the defects of his education, and the period in which he lived, we may fairly give our tribute of admiration to his undoubted genius; and while making the most of the good points, cast the mantle of charity over the defects in the character of Jerome Cardan.


The instances are more numerous than most observers would suppose, of animals falling to the ground in the manner of rain, sometimes accompanied by real rain. On the 14th of April 1828, Major Forbes Mackenzie, of Fodderty, in Ross-shire, while walking in a field on his farm, saw a great portion of the ground covered with herring-fry, three to four inches in length, fresh and entire. the spot was three miles from the Firth of Dingwall. About two years afterwards, in the island of Islay, in Argyleshire, after a day of very heavy rain, the inhabitants were surprised to find a large number of small herrings strewed over the fields, perfectly fresh, and some of them alive. On another occasion, during a strong gale, herrings and other fish were carried from the Firth of Forth so far as Loch Leven, eight or ten miles distant. More recently, a Wick newspaper stated that, on a particular morning, a large quantity of herrings were found lying scattered in a garden about half a mile from the shore at that town. The peasants cooked and ate them – not without misgiving on the part of others as to the possibility of some Satanic agency having been concerned in the transfer of herrings to such a spot. 

How are these phenomena to be accounted for? There seems little doubt that winds, whirlwinds, and waterspouts are the chief source of their production. Waterspouts are not unknown in that portion of Ross-shire where the shower of herrings took place in 1828. The herring fall at Islay occurred after a day of very heavy rain; and that at Loch Leven during a strong gale from the Firth of Forth. the occurrence at Wick was attributed by the more intelligent inhabitants to a waterspout.

On this Day in Other Sources.

According to Dugdale, it was at “Turnebyrie, in Carryk,” 20th September, 1286, that a solemn compact was entered into between “Robert, the competitor with Baliol, for the throne of Scotland, designed Robert Brus, Lord of Annandale, with his son Robert Brus, Earl of Carryk, and his brother-in-law Thomas de Clare, Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, James Stuard of Scotland, with several other Scottish nobles, to stand by each other, saving their allegiance to the King of England, and fidelity to him, who should gain the kingdom of Scotland by right of blood from King Alexander, then lately deceased.” 

– Scotland Illustrated, pp.122-124.

From the laird of Banff’s house, she proceeded, on the 20th of September [1562], to the Shiretown, where she slept; on the morrow she proceeded to Gight, the house of a Gordon, where she slept, in safety;.. 

– Life of Mary, pp.62-77.

THE following extracts are taken from a little book of sixteen leaves, which notes the Thane’s personal and travelling expenses from 20th September to 7th November 1591. The first three days’ expenses are given in full; afterwards only extracts.



   In Taylone the xx day of September 1591 resauit fra Johne Caldar  

ic merk     

   Item deliuerit to Makconchie Stronechormicheis man the same day, that brought the aquavytie  

vj s. viij d.

– Sketches, Appendix VIII.

In the same old catalogue one of the breviaries is described as being outside of the choir – chained, no doubt, for the use of the general public, few of whom probably were capable of taking advantage of it. Other books are mentioned as chained both in the choir and in the library. This collection is all now lost or scattered. In a minute of the town council of 20th September, 1660, Bailie Pollock reports “that he had gottin in from James Porter the thrie great Bybilles belongs to the kirks, and that they are now lying in the clarkes chamber.” But these were in all likelihood English versions belonging to a much later period – probably the first large folio of 1611, or other folio editions of the version now in use. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.104-116.

This obliged the magistrates to interfere again – not this time, however, to prohibit the ashpits, but to secure a free passage for the sewage water along the street. To effect this there is a minute of the town council, under date 20th September, 1666, which bears “that the syre in Trongait, on the north syde therof from Hutchesounes Hospitall to St. Tenowes burn, was levelled and maid once straight for covoyeing away the water that way, but now of lait divers persones, yea almost all who hes houses and killes narrest the said syre, casts in stra ilk ane foiragainst their awin land to mak fuilzie of, quhilk stops the passage of the water should goe that way, and jorgs wp so that filth and myre is made to be sein in the gutters quhilk is verie lothsome to the beholders; and the said Magistrats taking this to their wyse consideratioune, and being desyrous that that abuse should be remeided, they therfoir do heirby statut and ordaine that no maner of persones presume to do the lyk hereafter, but that everie heritor or tennant of the said lands narrest the syre keep the same frie ilk ane foir against themselfes for thair parts therof to the effect the passage of the watter be not gorged or impeided thereby.” 

But the nuisances mentioned were nothing to another of which we find the magistrates taking cognisance. What would be thought nowadays of the butchers using the sides of the most public streets in the city as the places for slaughtering cattle! The minute of the town council on this subject, 20th September 1666, speaks for itself:- “The same day forsuameikle as the Provest baillies and Counsell taking to their consideratioune that it had been the vse and custome of the fleshers of this burgh heirtofoir to slay and bluid the wholl bestiall they kill on the Hie street in Trongait on both sydes of the gait, quhilk is very lothsome to the beholders, and also raises ane filthie and noysome stink and flew to all mener of persones that passeth that way throw the king’s hie street, and is most unseinlie to be sein that the lyk should be done thereon; And the said Magistrats and Counsell vderstanding that the lyk is not done in no place within this kingdome or outwith the same in any weill governed citie,” therefore the fleshers are commanded “ilk ane of them to provyd houses in baksyds for the doeing thereof, as is done in Edinburgh and uthir weill governed cities, and that betwixt and the term of Witsunday next to come.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.266-276.

Previous to the erection of the harbour, Greenock as well as other places on the Clyde appears to have prosecuted the herring fishing. “There were” says Crawford1 “about the year 1670, a Company erected, which employed a considerable stock of money for curing herring; and because His Majesty King Charles II, put in a share of the stock, they were called the Royal Company: they built a large warehouse at Greenock, and made that place the seat of their trade, where they had large cellars for keeping their salt and herring till exporting. By this erection, none, except that Company, were allowed to cure herring before the 20th day of September yearly; which being represented to the government as a very hard restraint upon the merchants: the said Company was dissolved in the year 1684. Their houses at Greenock being exposed to roup were purchased by the magistrates and town council of the City of Glasgow.” 

– Select Views, pp.103-114.

1  History of Renfrewshire, p. 13.

On Sept. 20, 1715, the Chevalier was proclaimed at the cross of Aberdeen; and on Sept. 27, 1745, the chamberlain of the ducal family of Gordon proclaimed the Pretender on the same spot.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.3-11.

Though it is so long ago as [20th] September, 1722, since Lord Fountainhall died, a tradition of his residence has come down to the present time. “The mother of the late Mr. Gilbert Innes of Stow,” says Chambers, “was a daughter of his lordship’s son, Sir Andrew Lauder, and she used to describe to her children the visits she used to pay her venerable grandfather’s house, situated, as she said, where James’s Court now stands. She and her sister always went with their maid on the Saturday afternoons, and were shown into a room where the aged judge was sitting – a room covered with gilt leather, and containing many huge presses and cabinets, one of which was ornamented with a death’s head at the top. After amusing themselves for an hour or two with his lordship they used each to get a shilling from him, and retire… It is curious to think that the mother of a gentleman living in 1839 (for only then did Mrs. Innes of Stow leave this earthly scene) should have been familiar with a lawyer who entered at the bar soon after the Restoration (1668), and acted as counsel for the unfortunate Earl of Argyle in 1681 – a being of an age as different in every respect from the present as the wilds of North America are different from the long-practised lands of Lothian or Devonshire.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.94-102.

The battle of Preston Pans is apart from the history of Edinburgh; but there, on the 20th September [1745], the Highlanders, suffering under innumerable disadvantages, gained a signal victory, in a few minutes, over a well-disciplined and veteran army, sweeping it from the field in irretrievable confusion. The cavalry escaped by the speed of their horses, but all the infantry were killed or taken, with their colours, cannon, baggage, drums, and military chest containing £6,000. Charles, who, the night before the victory, slept in a little house still shown at Duddingston, bore his conquest with great moderation and modesty, even proposing to put the wounded – among whom was the Master of Torphichen, suffering from twenty sword wounds, of which he died – in Holyrood, but the Royal Infirmary was preferred, as the palace was required for the purposes of royalty. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.322-329.

In Train’s history of the Island, published by Mary Quiggin, 1845, at page 359, is this note:-  

“In a letter, dated 20th September 1844, from a highly respected correspondent in the Isle of Man, he says – ‘Are you aware that the septennial appearance of the island, said to be submerged in the sea by enchantment near Port Soderick, is expected about the end of this month?’ Though the spell by which this fancified island has been bound to the bottom of the ocean since the days of the great Fin McCoul, and its inhabitants transformed into blocks of granite, might, according to popular belief, be broke by placing a bible on any part of the enchanted land when at its original altitude above the waters of the deep, where it is permitted to remain only for the short space of thirty minutes. No person has yet had the hardihood to make the attempt, lest, in case of failure, the enchanter, in revenge, might cast his club over Mona also.” 

– Popular Tales, Volume 1, pp.xxiii-xxxviii.

James McKechnie VC

Janefield Cemetery 9

He was born to Colin and Jane McKechnie (née McGregor) and was married to Elizabeth McLean. McKechnie was 28 years old and a Sergeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards, Brit. It was during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. On 20 September 1854 at the Battle of the Alma, Crimea, when the shot and fire from the batteries just in front of the battalion threw it into momentary disorder, it was forced out of its formation, becoming something of a huge triangle, with one corner pointing towards the enemy. A captain was carrying the Queen’s Colours which had the pole smashed and 20 bullet holes through the silk. Sergeant McKechnie held up his revolver and dashed forward, rallying the men round the Colours. He was wounded in the action. 

Glasgow’s Eastern Necropolis.

   “… The Glasgow Provost and merchants appear to have been princely in their hospitalities, and one likes to see this blending of commerce and science in social union and interest. But some zealous Glaswegians I see complain of a grievous heraldic insult from the English – the royal arms over the new Glasgow Post-Office are all wrong, or are to be wrong, the English arms and symbols taking precedence of the Scottish on the soil of Scotland, in violation of the treaty of Union. A bold insult just now, with so many of the heads of English families also on Scottish soil! Why does not fiery Glasgow send out spear and jack and sweep the pockpuddings into the donjon-keep until reparation be made?” 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday 20th September, 1855.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.

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