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21st of September

St Matthew, apostle and evangelist. St Maura, virgin, 850. St Lo or Laudus, bishop of Coutances, 568.

Born. – John Loudon McAdam, improver of roads, 1756; Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland, 1778, Ajaccio, Corsica
Died. – Sultan Selim I. 1520; Emperor Charles V., 1558, Monastery of St Just, Spain; Colonel James Gardiner, killed at Prestonpans, 1745.


On or about the 21st of September and 21st of March, the ecliptic or great circle which the sun appears to describe in the heavens, in the course of the year crosses the terrestrial equator. The point of intersection is termed the equinoctial point or the equinox, because at that period, from its position in relation to the sun, the earth, as it revolves on its axis, has exactly one-half of its surface illuminated by the sun’s rays, whilst the other half remains in darkness, producing the phenomenon of equal day and night all over the world. At these two periods, termed respectively, from the seasons in which they occur, the autumnal and the vernal equinox, the sun rises about six o’clock in the morning, and sets nearly at the same time in the evening. From the difference between the conventional and the actual or solar year, the former consisting only of 365 days, while the latter contains 365 days and nearly six hours (making the additional day in leap-year), the date at which the sun is actually on the equinox, varies in different years, from the 20th to the 23d of the month. In the autumnal equinox, the sun is passing from north to south, and consequently from this period the days in the northern hemisphere gradually shorten till, on 21st December, the winter solstice is reached, from which period they gradually lengthen to the spring or vernal equinox on 21st March, when day and night are again equal. The sun then crosses the equator from south to north, and the days continue to lengthen up to the 21st of June, or summer solstice, from which they diminish, and are again equal with the nights at the autumnal equinox or 21st of September. 

Owing to the spherical form of the earth causing a protuberance of matter at the equator, on which the sun exercises a disturbing influence, the points at which the ecliptic cuts the equator, experience a constant change. They, that is the equinoxes, are always receding westwards in the heavens, to the amount annually of 5”·3, causing the sun to arrive at each intersection about 20’ earlier than he did on the preceding year. The effect of this movement is, that from the time the ecliptic was originally divided by the ancients into twelve arcs or signs, the constellations which at that date coincided with these divisions now no longer coincide. Every constellation having since then advanced 30° or a whole sign forwards, the constellation of Aries or the Ram, for example, occupies now the division of the ecliptic called Taurus, whilst the division known as Aries, is distinguished by the constellation Pisces. In about 24,000 years, or 26,000 from the first division of the ecliptic, the equinoctial point will have made a complete revolution round this great circle, and the signs and constellations as originally marked out will again exactly coincide. The movement which we have thus endeavoured to explain, forms the astronomical revolution called the precession of the equinoxes, for the proper ascertainment and demonstration of which, science is indebted to the great French mathematician, D’Alembert. 

In connection with the ecliptic and equator, the mutual intersection of which marks the equinoctial point, an interesting question is suggested in reference to the seasons. It is well known that the obliquity of the ecliptic to the equator, at present about 231/2o, is diminishing at the rat3e of about 50 seconds in a century. Were this to continue, the two circles would at last coincide, and the earth would enjoy in consequence a perpetual spring. There is, however, a limit to this decrease of obliquity, which it has been calculated has been going on from the year 2000 B.C., and will reach its maximum about 6600 A.D. From that period the process will be reversed, and the obliquity gradually increase till a point is reached at which it will again diminish. From this variation in the position of the ecliptic, with regard to the equator, some have endeavoured to explain a change of climate and temperature, which it is imagined the world has gradually experienced, occasioning a slighter contrast between the seasons than formerly, when the winters were much colder, and the summers much hotter than they are at present. It is believed, however, tha5t, whatever truth there may be in the allegations regarding a more equable temperature, throughout the year in modern times, it is not to the variation of the obliquity of the ecliptic that we are to look for a solution of the question. The entire amount of this variation is very small, ranging only from 23o 53’ when the obliquity is greatest, to 22o 54’ when it is least, and it is therefore hardly capable of making any sensible alteration on the seasons. 

As is well known, both the autumnal and vernal equinoxes are distinguished over the world by the storms which prevail at these seasons. The origin of such atmospheric commotions has never yet been very satisfactorily explained, but is supposed, as stated by Admiral Fitzroy, to arise from the united tidal action of the sun and moon upon the atmosphere; an action which at the time of the equinoxes is exerted with greater force than at any other period of the year.


Many appellations perfectly clear in the days of their origin, lose significance in course of time, and occasionally become grossly perverted, or absolutely caricatured. Thus a villain was originally a distinctive term, applied, with no evil significance, to a serf upon a feudal domain. A cheater has, like that, now become equally offensive, though it is simply derived from the officer of the king’s exchequer, appointed to receive dues and taxes, and who was called the escheator. One of the best examples of grotesque change is the appellation beef-eater, applied to the yeoman of the guard, and which is a caricature of buffetier, the guardian of the buffet on occasions of state banqueting. The law-officer whose business was to apprehend criminals, was long popularly known as the catchpole; but few remembered that he obtained that designation, because he originally car5ried with him a pole fitted by a peculiar apparatus to catch a flying offender by the neck. Our cut, copied from a Dutch engraving dated 1626, represents an officer about to make such a capture., The pole was about six feet in length, and the steel implement at its summit was sufficiently flexible to allow the neck to slip past the V-shaped arms, and so into the collar; when the criminal was at the mercy of the officer to be pushed forward to prison, or dragged behind him. This was the simplest form of the catchpole, sometimes it was a much more formidable thing, as will be more readily understood from our second cut (see [below]), copied from the antique instrument itself, obtained at Wurtzburg, in Bavaria. The fork at the upper part is strengthened by double springs, allowing the neck to pass freely, but acting as a check against its return; rows of sharp spikes are set round the collar, and would severely punish any violent struggler for liberty, whose neck it had once embraced. The criminal was, in fact, garrotted by the officer of the law, according to the most approved fashion of ‘the good old times,’ when justice was armed with terrors, and indulged in many cruelties now happily unknown. 

On this Day in Other Sources.

On 21st September, 1489, James IV. made [John Morow/Murray] a gift of 20 angels, or 24l. “to by him a horss.”1

– Scots Lore, pp.364-374.

1  Treas. Accounts, p. 121.

From Dundee, she crossed the Tay to St. Andrews, where she remained, on Sunday the 21st, where there seems to have been some insult offered to her religion. She remained at St. Andrews, however, several days; being the seat of the commendator, Lord James. She afterwards visited Faulkland, where her father died; and then returned to Edinburgh, on the 29th of September [1561].* Knox, after enumerating the towns she polluted with her idolatry. Fire followed her very commonly, in that journey; the towns gave her presents very liberally, and thereof were the French enriched. What prejudice! Every event is supernatural with Knox. Multitudes followed the Queen, through those towns; which, as they were covered with thatch. were very easily fired. Had one of the French nobles received all the gifts, which were given, as presents, to the Queen, he would not have enriched France, by his opulence. 

– Life of Mary, pp.42-61.

*  180 mile journey of the Scottish Queen.

Prince Vincenzo (b. Sept. 21st, 1562), however, did his best to keep the Court in a ferment, and destroy by his licentiousness and prodigality the pious influence exercised by his parents. As dissolute as they were sober, as spendthrift as they were frugal, he was the centre of a circle of scapegraces who seconded him in all his wild doings, and however much his preceptors, Marcellus Donati and Aurelius Pomponazzo, men of judgment and talent, tried to keep him from going too far astray, they had little reason to boast of their success. His health, naturally delicate, was much injured by his debaucheries, and neither his mother’s tearful prayers nor his father’s menacing commands had the slightest effect on the wayward prince. 

– Scots Lore, pp.181-192.

The Queen returned to her husband, on the 21st of September [1566]; and endeavoured to persuade him, to accompany her to Edinburgh, where her presence was necessary; but, she tried, in vain, and he chose to remain, at Stirling. Beaton, the brother of the archbishop, the Queen’s ambassador, at Paris, arrived, from France, at Stirling; where he found the Queen, in good health, and the Prince, in a growing state. 

– Life of Mary, pp.136-151.

In February this year, 1569, [James Stewart] the Earl of Moray, Regent, returned out of England, where he had remained since the 21st of September [1568], in the preceding year. The Regent having laid a sure foundation for the young King with Queen Elizabeth, and also lulled Queen Mary asleep with hopes of her [release], that he might the more easily catch her friends, calls a convention of the estates of the realm, to meet at Edinburgh immediately after his return. Among the first comes [James Hamilton] the Duke of [Châtellerault], and [John Maxwell] the Lord Herries; them both he catches, and commits to close prison in the castle of Edinburgh. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.



xxi day of September [1591] being Tysday.

   Item giffin to the gall boyis wyfe in Innerreray for your denner in meit  

v s.

   Item fyve quartis aill  

viij s.

   Item ane quart wyne  

xiij s. iiij d.     

   Item thrie muskingis aquavitye  

xv s.

   Item giffin to the gardiner for the peirs and plowmis he brocht unto yow in that hous  

iij s. iiij d.

   Item giffin to the puir ther  

xxviij d.

   Item giffin to the ferrioris for taking yow to Doundaraw fra Innerreray  

vj s. viij d.

– Sketches, Appendix VIII.

This magnificent hall and the buildings connected with it had a narrow escape in the “Great Fire” of 1700. It broke out in Lord Crossrig’s lodging, at Mr. John Buchan’s, near the meal-market, on a night in February; and Duncan Forbes of Culloden asserts (“Culloden Papers”) in a letter to his brother the colonel, that he never beheld a more vehement fire; that 400 families were burned out, and that from the Cowgate upwards to the High Street scarcely one stone was left upon another. 

“The Parliament House very hardly escapt,” he continues, “all registers confounded; clerks, chambers, and processes, in such a confusion, that the lords and officers of state are just now met in Rosse’s taverne in order to adjourning of the sessione by reason of the dissorder. Few people are lost, if any at all; but there was neither heart nor hand left amongst them for saveing from the fyre, nor a drop of water in the cisterns; 20,000 hands flitting their trash they knew not wher, and hardly 20 at work; these babells of ten and fourteen story high, are down to the ground, and their fall very terrible. Many rueful spectacles, such as Crossrig, naked, with a child under his oxter, hopping for his lyffe; the Fish Mercate, and all from the Cowgate to Pett-streets Close, burnt; the Exchange, vaults and coal-cellars under the Parliament Close, are still burning.” 

Many of the houses that were burned on this occasion were fourteen storeys in height, seven of which were below the level of the Close on the south side. These houses had been built about twenty years before, by Thomas Robertson, brewer, thriving citizen, whose tomb in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard had an inscription, given in Monteith’s Theatre of Morality, describing him as “remarkable for piety towards God, loyalty to his king, and love to his country.” He had given the Covenant out of his hand to be burned at the Cross in 1661 on the Restoration; and now it was remembered exultingly “that God in his providence had sent a burning among his lands.” 

But Robertson was beyond the reach of earthly retribution, as his tomb bears that he died on the 21st of September, 1686, in the 63rd year of his age, with the addendum, Vivit post funera virtus – “Virtue survives the grave.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.157-166.

On a later date the treasurer is ordained “to pay to James Robison Schoolmaster three guinzeas for his encouradgment in compiling and printing a litle book entituled a dialogue betwixt a young Lady and her Schoolmaster shewing the right way of sillabing.”1 

– Old Glasgow, pp.215-237.

1  21st Sept. 1723.

On the 21st [September, 1745], preceded by 100 pipers playing “The king shall enjoy his own again,” the prisoners, to the number of 1,500, of whom 80 were officers, were marched through Edinburgh (prior to their committal to Logierait and the Castle of Doune), together with the baggage train, which had been taken by the Camerons, and the colours of the 13th and 14th Light Dragoons, the 6th, 44th, 46th, 47th, and Loudon’s Corps. The Prince had the good taste not to accompany this triumphal procession. The officers were for a time placed in Queensberry House in the Canongate. 

Curiously enough, Sir John Cope’s cannon were all captures on a tramway, or line of wooden rails, the first of the kind known in Europe, and belonging to some coal-pits in the vicinity of the field. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.322-329.

An act of hostility was committed by General Preston on the 21st September [1745], when, overhearing some altercation in the dark at the West Port, where the Highland guard made some delay about admitting a lady in a coach drawn by six horses, he ordered three guns to be loaded with grape, depressed, and fired. Though aimed at random, the coach was pierced by several balls, and its fair occupant, Mrs. Cockburn, authoress of the modern version of the “Flowers of the Forest,” had a narrow escape, while William Earl of Dundonald, captain in Forbes’s Foot, who rode by her side, had his horse shot under him. At that moment, Mrs. Cockburn, who was returning from Ravelston, and who was a keen Whig, had in her pocket a burlesque parody on one of Prince Charles’s proclamations, to the air of “Clout the Cauldron.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.329-334.

   “Scotland has to complain not only of the appropriation of nineteen twentieths of her revenue for imperial purposes – of the utter neglect of her charitable institutions – were these all her grievances this agitation would never have been begun – but in every department of government it is the same. Every one of the boards for the management and regulation of home affairs, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, Customs, &c., manifests the same glaring and outrageous partiality – neglects and overlooks Scotland. Each department is independent of and uncontrolled by each other, yet, instinctively, they have adopted the same mode of acting to Scotland. The object and purpose – not well-defined and avowed indeed – seems to be to obliterate Scotland’s nationality – to merge Scotland into England. It is very curious and instructive to remark the anomalous position Scotland now occupies, and the light in which she is regarded by statesmen. She is neither Scotland, a distinct kingdom, nor yet a province of England; but first the one and then the other, as it suits their purpose. Of a boon is to be conferred on England or Ireland, grants of money to be made to charities, universities, museums, libraries, parks, or for the building or repairing national buildings, harbours or quays, then Scotland is treated as a separate and independent kingdom, to which, by a separate act, to be passed at the Greek Kalends, these grants are to be extended. But when she is to be robbed of some right, or deprived of some hardly-won and dearly-cherished privilege, then Scotland is but a part of England, with common interests and rights, Scotland obtains none of the benefits she would receive as an English province, being a distinct kingdom when benefits are conferred; and suffers all the disadvantages of distant and unimportant provinces, being part and parcel of England when any wrong is to be perpetrated, or any privilege to be taken away; Scotland is thus deprived of those rights secured to her by the Treaty of Union, while she shares in none of the benefits that would belong to her as an English province.  

   We put it to every Scotchman whether this is as it should be? whether he is prepared to sink Scotland’s nationality, and see her become an English province? or whether he is ready, calmly and respectfully, yet resolutely, to demand Scotland’s just and lawful right? We must choose one of these alternatives. The time has come, assuredly, when Scotland must insist that justice be done her, or, ‘infamous and contented,’ sink into a neglected and unimportant province of the empire. She must assert her separate, distinctive, and independent nationality – her right to be governed by her own laws – to preserve her own customs – and to worship God after her own manner; or to have English laws, English usages, and the English form of worship substituted. Scotland is the more ancient kingdom of the two; the Queen takes precedence of every European monarch except the Pope, as Queen of Scotland; and Scotland, up to the time of her union with England, maintained her national independence. ‘Nature,’ says the eloquent writer of the address to the people of Scotland, ‘had sparingly accorded her a subsistence in return for honest and incessant toil; yet nature had endowed her with men – with men who stood in the presence of the great world, and gave place to none. She had an inheritance of patriotic history second to nothing that had appeared since the downfall of the Roman empire. She had succumbed to none – been conquered by none – enslaved by none. England, that had seen the fields of Agincourt and of Cressy in France – that could march at one time from the Tweed to the Pyrenees – had found in Scotland Bannockburn. Are the men of Scotland prepared to see their ancient kingdom blotted out from the map of nations – to witness without struggle that effected by crooked policy and cunning statecraft which force of arms failed to accomplish?’ We do not advocate – nor does the National Association advocate – the Repeal of the Union. What we demand, and what we shall have, is, that the terms of the treaty of Union be observed; and that Scotland shall share equally and impartially with England and Ireland in all the advantages of Imperial legislation; in all grants of money from the Treasury for education, charities, and every national institution; and that she shall be left free to regulate her own internal affairs as she chooses, and to ‘develop for herself such germs of excellence as Providence has endowed her with.’ ” 

– Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Wednesday 21st September, 1853.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.

Glasgow Herald, Monday 21st September 1857, p.6.

   Mysterious Deaths by Drowning. – At half-past seven o’clock on Friday morning, the police on duty at Lancefield Quay picked up the bodies of two men who had been drowned in the river. The deceased were identified as Richard Parker, captain of the Rose, a steamer plying between this port and Limerick, and Thomas Magee, a seaman belonging to the same vessel. The facts, as nearly as we have been able to collect them, are these:- Mr. Parker spent the evening of Wednesday last with a friend in the city, from whose place he departed about eleven o’clock, for the purpose of returning to pass the night on board the Rose, which was lying nearly mid-stream at the time. It would seem that about half-past eleven, on arriving at Lancefield Quay, just opposite where his vessel was moored, he hailed her, and Thomas Magee, the watchman on board, put out the small boat and skulled alongside the Padstow steamer that lay alongside the quay side. Some of the crew, who had been at the Theatre, reached the quay about half-past twelve, and hailed for a boat to go on board the Rose. The engineer replied to their hail, by telling them that Magee had taken the boat to fetch the captain, and told them to look where he had gone to. They searched, but could see no trace of Magee, the captain, or the boat. Some two hours later the boat was recovered empty, drifting down the river; but neither the captain nor Magee could be discovered until their dead bodies were found on Friday. It is surmised that Captain Parker, in crossing from the Padstow steamer to the small boat, fell into the water, and Magee, in trying to rescue him, fell in also, and, neither being able to swim, they were drowned. Dr. Robertson, who examined the bodies, states that they present no appearance like that occasioned by a violent death. Both were natives of Ireland. – Mail

Curious and Interesting Deaths.

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