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16th of October

St Gall, abbot, 646. St Mummolin or Mommolin, bishop of Noyon, confessor, 7th century.

Born. – Dr Albert Von Haller, distinguished physiologist, 1708, Berne; John George Sulzer, writer on the fine arts, 1720, Winterthur, in Zurich
Died. – Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery, politician and versifier, 1679; Robert Fergusson, Scottish poet, 1774, Edinburgh; Marie Antoinette, queen of Louis XVI., guillotined at Paris, 1793; John Hunter, celebrated anatomist, 1793, London; Victor Amadeus III. of Sardinia, 1796; Sharman Crawford, Irish political character, 1861; Thaddeus Kosciusko, Polish patriot, 1817, Soleure, in Switzerland.


The drinking-customs of various nations would form a curious chapter in ethnology. The Teutonic races have, however, the most claim to be considered ‘potent in potting.’ The Saxons were great drinkers; and took with them to their graves their ornamental ale-buckets and drinking-glasses, the latter made without foot or stand, so that they must be filled and emptied by the drinker before they could be set down again on the festive-board. Mighty topers they were, and history records some assertion of Iago, that ‘your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander, are nothing to your English’ in powers of drinking, it may be doubted if the Germans have ever been outdone. Certainly no persons have bestowed more thought on quaint inventions for holding their liquors, or enforcing large consumption, than they have. The silversmiths of Augsburg and Nuremburg, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, devoted a large amount of invention to the production of drinking-cups, taking the form of men, animals, birds, &c., of most grotesque design. our engraving (see [above]) represents one surmounted by a wind-mill. It will be perceived that the cup must be held in the hand to be filled, and retained there till it be emptied, as then only it can be set upon the table. The drinker having swallowed the contents, blew up the pipe at the side, which gave a shrill whistle, and set the sails of the wind-mill in motion also. The power of the blow, and the length of the gyration, were indicated in a small dial upon the front of the mill, and also in some degree testified to the state of the consumer. Among the songs of Burns is one upon a whistle, used by a Dane of the retinue of Anne of Denmark, which was laid upon the table at the commencement of the orgie, and won by whoever was last able to blow it. The Dane conquered all-comers, until Sir Robert Lawrie of Maxwelton, ‘after three days and three nights’ hard contest, left the Scandinavian under the table.’ On 16th October 1789, a similar contest took place, which has been immortalised in Burns’s verses.


Amongst jocular bequests, that of David Hume to his friend John Home, author of Douglas, may be considered as one of the most curious. John Home liked claret, but detested port wine, thinking it a kind of poison; and the two friends had doubtless had many discussions on the subject. They also used to have disputes as to which of them took the proper way of spelling their common family-name. The philosopher, about a fortnight before his death, wrote with his own hand the following codicil to his will: ‘I leave to my friend, Mr John Home, of Kilduff, ten dozen of my old claret at his choice, and one single bottle of that other liquor called port. I also leave him six dozen of port, provided that he attests under his hand, signed John Hume, that he has himself alone finished that bottle at two sittings. By this concession, he will at once terminate the only two differences that ever arose between us concerning temporal matters.’ 

Somewhat akin to this humour was that shewn in a verbal bequest of a Scotch judge named Lord Forglen, who died in 1727. ‘Dr Clerk, who attended Lord Forglen at the last, told James Boswell’s father, Lord Auchinleck, that, calling on his patient the day his lordship died, he was let in by his clerk, David Reid. “How does my lord do?”  inquired Dr Clerk. “I houp he’s weel!” answered David, with a solemnity that told what he meant. He then conducted the doctor into a room, and shewed him two dozen of wine under a table. Other doctors presently came in, and David, making them all sit down, proceeded to tell them his deceased master’s last words, at the same time pushing the bottle about briskly. After the company had taken a glass or two, they rose to depart; but David detained them. “No, no, gentlemen; not so. It was the express will of the deceased that I should fill ye a’ fou, and I maun fulfil the will o’ the dead.” All the time the tears were streaming down his cheeks. “And, indeed,” said the doctor afterwards in telling the story, “he did fulfil the will o’ the dead, for before the end o ‘t there was na ane of us able to bite his ain thoomb!” ‘1


It is doubtful whether any private individual ever formed a museum more complete and valuable than that of John Hunter, now under the care of the Royal College of Surgeons, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Whatever else the great surgeon was doing, he never forgot or neglected his museum. In 1755, when his brother Dr William Hunter was a surgeon and lecturer of eminence, John was his assistant, and helped him in making anatomical preparations. He soon, however, went far beyond his mere duties as an assistant, and examined all the living and dead animals he could get hold of, to compare their structure with that of the human body. He made friends with the keepers of all the travelling-menageries, and lost no opportunity of profiting by the facilities thus afforded. A mangy dog, a dead donkey, a sick lion, all alike were made contributory to the advancement of science in the hands of John Hunter. He took a house in Golden Square in 1764, and then built a second residence at Earl’s Court, where he might carry on experiments in science. After having been made a member of the College of Surgeons, he removed from Golden Square to Jermyn Street, where he packed all the best rooms in the house full of anatomical specimens and preparations. He married in 1771, and his wife thereafter lived at Earl’s Court, for there was no room for her among the physiological and pathological wonders of Jermyn Street. Indeed, for more than twenty years, he was accustomed to carry on his favourite researches at Earl’s Court, only being in London a sufficient time each day to attend to his practice as a surgeon. His collection increased so rapidly, that the house in Jermyn Street became filled to repletion; insomuch that, in 1782, he took a larger house on the east side of Leicester Square. Here he built a new structure expressly as a museum, comprising a fine room fifty-two feet by twenty-eight, lighted at the top, and provided with a gallery all round. Sir Joseph Banks aided John Hunter out of his own ample store of natural-history specimens, and the museum soon became a wealthy one. Mr Home, a brother-in-law, who had been an assistant army-surgeon, came to reside with him as a sort of curator of the museum. Hunter also employed a Mr Bell for fourteen years, in making anatomical drawings and preparations; while he himself was accumulating a vast mass of MS. papers – building up almost a complete system of physiology and surgery, on the evidence furnished by the specimens in his museum. Hunter was always poor, and very frequently embarrassed, by the expenses which his scientific enterprise entailed upon him, and this notwithstanding the fact that his professional income reached £5000 a year for some years before his death. In 1794, he began to open his museum occasionally to the public, and justly prided himself on the scientific way in which it was arranged. Being a hasty and irritable man, he soon took offence, and was not readily appeased; and he himself predicted that any sudden or violent anger would probably kill him. The result mournfully verified his prediction; for, on the 16th October 1795, having had a very exciting quarrel with some of the members at the College of Surgeons, he dropped down dead in the attempt to suppress his feelings. 

In his will, he directed that his museum, the pride of his life, should be offered to the nation is anything like a fair sum were tendered for it; in order that it might be retained in the country. Failing in this, it was to be offered to certain foreign governments, in succession; and if all these attempts failed, it was to be disposed of by private contract. After much negotiation, the government bought the splendid collection, in 1799, for £15,000. The question, what to do with it? had then to be decided, and the following arrangement was come to. The College of Surgeons received a new charter in 1800, constituting it a ‘Royal’ College, and giving it increased powers. The Hunterian Collection was intrusted to the keeping of the college, on condition of the public being allowed access to it; and twenty-four ‘Hunterian Lectures’ on surgery being given annually by the college. The government granted £27,500 to construct a building for the reception of the collection; but it was many years before the museum was really opened. 

One painful circumstance connected with this museum roused the indignation of the whole medical profession of Europe. John Hunter left a vast mass of manuscripts of priceless value, recording the results of forty-years’ researches in comparative and pathological anatomy and physiology. this treasure was placed in the museum. Mr (Afterwards Sir Everard) Home was one of the executors, and also one of the trustees. He took these manuscripts to his own house, about 1810, under pretence of drawing up a catalogue of them; and no entreaties or remonstrances would ever induce him to return them. He kept them ten or twelve years, and then burned them! The only reason he assigned was, that John Hunter had requested him to do so. The world viewed the matter otherwise. Year after year, while the manuscripts were in his possession, Sir Everard poured forth scientific papers in such profusion as astonished all the physicians and anatomists of Europe, who had hitherto been ignorant of his possessing such attainments. Then, after years of surprise and disappointment at the non-return of the Hunter manuscripts, the act of their destruction was openly admitted by Home, and the source of his scientific inspiration now became tolerably manifest. Unhappily, this disgraceful transaction remains beyond a doubt. The trustees and the board of curators indignantly remonstrated with Home in 1824 and 1825, and compelled him to make an attempt to vindicate himself, but none of his excuses or explanations could do away with the one cruel fact, that the invaluable manuscripts were irrevocably gone. 

The Hunterian Museum, comprising 22,000 specimens, occupies a fine suite of rooms and galleries at the Royal College of Surgeons, on the south side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Most of them are valuable only to medical men; but some, such as the skeletons of the Bosjesman, the Irish giant, and the Sicilian dwarf, and the embalmed body of the wife of Martin Van Butchell, a celebrated quack-doctor in the last century, will be viewed by all with the greatest interest.*

1  This anecdote is taken from Boswelliana, a volume privately printed by R. M. Milnes, Esq. 
*  People unfamiliar with John Hunter may be wondering why a Scottish history website is including an article about a surgeon who seems as though he may perhaps be a Londoner. Robert Chambers here has quite deftly managed to avoid including any allusion to Hunter’s being Scottish, having been originally from East Kilbride. The Hunterian Museum “on the south side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields” remains there with a sister museum having been founded 8 years after that of the south of England in Glasgow’s west end.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Among those committed prisoners to the Castle by Albany were the Lord Home and his brother William for treason; they escaped, but were retaken, and beheaded 16th October, 1516, and their heads were placed on the Tolbooth.1 Huntly and Moray were next prisoners, for fighting at the head of their vassals in the streets; and the next was Sir Lewis Stirling, for an armed brawl. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.32-47.

1  Crawford’s “Lives.”

After the Queen had remained here a week, in administering justice, she went to Hermitage castle, on the 16th [October, 1566], to enquire into the outrage, which had ended, by wounding her lieutenant: And, though the distance was twenty statute miles, she returned, on the same day, to Jedburgh. Robertson, copying Buchanan’s misrepresentations, informs us: How Mary, hearing of Bothwell’s misfortune, “instantly flew thither, with an impatience, which has been considered, as marking the anxiety of a lover, but little suited to the dignity of a Queen.” On the morrow, the Queen sent a large parcel of papers to Bothwell, illustrative, perhaps, of the purpose, entertained, by some of his servants, to assassinate him; and she directed some provision of victual, to be supplied to Hermitage castle, which was the Queen’s, and not Bothwell’s. 

– Life of Mary, pp.136-151.

On 16th October, 1636, King Charles I. granted to the magistrates and community a charter under the Great Seal by which he confirmed all their previous charters and privileges… 

– Scots Lore, pp.15-29.

971. Signature of Warrant for Charter, by King Charles I., authorising a Charter under the Great Seal to be granted to the Provost, Bailies, Council, and Community of the City of Glasgow, confirming all their previous charters, lands, rights, and privileges, dated 16th October, 1636. Superscribed by the King, and subscribed by the Earl of Traquaire, Lord High Treasurer, and other Officers of State.

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 4.

In the Edinburgh Courant for October 16th, 1707 (then edited by Daniel Defoe), we have the following advertisement from a quack in this locality:- 

“There is just now come to town the excellent Scarburay Water, good for all diseases whatsomever, except consumption; and this being the time of year for drinking the same, especially at the fall of leaf and the bud, the price of each chapin bottle is fivepence, the bottle never required, or three shillings (Scots, 3d. English) without the bottle. Any person who had a mind for the same may come to the Fountain Close within the Nether Bow of Edinburgh, at William Muidies, where the Scarburay woman sells the same.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.212-218.

The Council Chamber contains a fine bronze statue of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, in Roman costume, and having a curious and mysterious history. It is said – for nothing is known with certainty about it – to have been cast in France, and was shipped from Dunkirk to Leith, where, during the process of unloading, it fell into the harbour, and remained long submerged. It is next heard of as being concealed in a cellar in the city, and in the Scots Magazine it is referred to thus in 1810:- 

“On Tuesday, the 16th October, a very singular discovery was made in one of our churches. Some years ago a chest, without any address, but of enormous weight, was removed from the Old Weigh House at Leith, and lodged in the outer aisle of the old church (a portion of St. Giles’s). This box had lain for upwards of thirty years at Leith, and several years in Edinburgh, without a claimant, and, what is still more extraordinary, without any one ever having had the curiosity to examine it. On Tuesday, however, some gentlemen connected with the town caused the mysterious box to be opened, and, to their surprise and gratification, they found it contained a beautiful statue of his majesty (?), about the size of life, cast in bronze… Although it is at present unknown from whence this admirable piece of workmanship came, by whom it was made, or to whom it belongs, this cannot remain long a secret. We trust, however, that it will remain as an ornament in some public place in this city.” 

Old and New Edinburgh, pp.183-191.

To enable young tradesmen to become acquainted with the principles of chemistry and mechanics, and such other branches of science as were necessary in their various crafts, an association was formed, and with this general object in view the School of Arts was duly inaugurated on the 16th of October, 1821, by a meeting at which the Lord Provost, afterwards Sir William Arbuthnot, Bart., presided. The two leading classes then established, and which continue to this day to be fundamental subjects of education in the school, were Chemistry and Mechanical or Natural Philosophy. The first meetings of the school were in a humble edifice in Niddry Street, but after a time it was moved to one of the large houses described in Adam Square. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.373-382.

The outside of the McManus Gallery. The statue here is of Robert Burns and the inscription reads, 








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