31st of October – Hallowe’en

St Quintin, martyr, 287. St Foillan, martyr, 655. St Wolfgang, bishop of Ratisbon, 994.

Born. – Pope Clement XIV., 1705.
Died. – John Palæologus, Greek emperor, 1448; Victor Amadeus, first king of Sardinia, 1732; Jean Pierre Brissot, distinguished Girondist, guillotined, 1793.


There is perhaps no night in the year which the popular imagination has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October, known as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. It is clearly a relic of pagan times, for there is nothing in the church-observance of the ensuing day of All Saints to have originated such extraordinary notions as are connected with this celebrated festival, or such remarkable practices as those by which it is distinguished. 

The leading idea respecting Halloween is that it is the time, of all others, when supernatural influences prevail. It is the night set apart for a universal walking abroad of spirits, both of the visible and invisible world; for, as will be afterwards seen, one of the special characteristics attributed to this mystic evening, is the faculty conferred on the immaterial principle in humanity to detach itself from its corporeal tenement and wander abroad through the realms of space. Divination is then believed to attain its highest power, and the gift asserted by Glendower of calling spirits ‘from the vasty deep,’ becomes available to all who choose to avail themselves of the privileges of the occasion. 

There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night all over the United Kingdom. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and consumed in immense numbers. [Nuts] are not only cracked and eaten, but made the means of vaticination in love-affairs. And here we quote from Burns’s poem of Halloween: 

‘The auld guidwife’s well-hoordit nits 
   Are rund and round divided, 
And mony lads’ and lasses’ fates 
   Are there that night decided: 
Some kindle, couthie, side by side, 
   And burn thegither trimly; 
Some start awa wi’ saucy pride, 
   And jump out-owre the chimly 
Fu’ high that night. 
Jean slips in twa wi’ tentie e’e; 
   Wha ‘twas, she wadna tell; 
But this is Jock, and this is me, 
   She says in to hersel’: 
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him, 
   As they wad never mair part; 
Till, fuff! he started up the lum, 
   And Jean had e’en a sair heart 
To see ‘t that night.’ 

Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, is more explicit: ‘It is a custom in Ireland, when the young women would know if their lovers are faithful, to put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married. 

As to apples, there is an old custom, perhaps still observed in some localities on this merry night, of hanging up a stick horizontally by a string from the ceiling, and putting a candle on the one end, and an apple on the other. The stick being made to twirl rapidly, the merry-makers in succession leap up and snatch at the apple with their teeth (no use of the hands being allowed), but it very frequently happens that the candle comes round before they are aware, and scorches them in the face, or anoints them with grease. The disappointments and misadventures occasion, of course, abundance of laughter. But the grand sport with apples on Halloween, is to set them afloat in a tub of water, into which the juveniles, by turns, duck their heads with the view of catching an apple. great fun goes on in watching the attempts of the youngster in the pursuit of the swimming fruit, which wriggles from side to side of the tub, and evades all attempts to capture it; whilst the disappointed aspirant is obliged to abandon the chase in favour of another whose turn has now arrived. The apples provided with stalks are generally caught first, and then comes the tug of war to win those which possess no such appendages. Some competitors will deftly suck up the apple, if a small one, into their mouths. Others plunge manfully overhead in pursuit of a particular apple, and having forced it to the bottom of the tub, seize it firmly with their teeth, and emerge, dripping and triumphant, with their prize. This venturous procedure is generally rewarded with a hurrah! by the lookers-on, and is recommended, by those versed in Halloween-aquatics, as the only sure method of attaining success. In recent years a practice has been introduced, probably by some tender mammas, timorous on the subject of their offspring catching cold, of dropping a fork from a height into the tub among the apples, and thus turning the sport into a display of marksmanship. It forms, however, but a very indifferent substitute for the joyous merriment of ducking and diving. 


It is somewhat remarkable, that the sport of ducking for apples is not mentioned by Burns, whose celebrated poem of Halloween presents so graphic a picture of the ceremonies practised on that evening in the west of Scotland, in the poet’s day. Many of the rites there described are now obsolete or nearly so, but two or three still retain place in various parts of the country. Among these is the custom still prevalent in Scotland, as the initiatory Halloween ceremony, of pulling kail-stocks or stalks of colewort. The young people go out hand-in-hand, blindfolded, into the kailyard or garden, and each pulls the first stalk which he meets with. They then return to the fireside to inspect their prizes. According as the stalk is big or little, straight or crooked, so shall the future wife or husband be of the party by whom it is pulled. The quantity of earth sticking to the root denotes the amount of fortune or dowry; and the taste of the pith or custoc indicates the temper. Finally, the stalks are placed, one after another, over the door, and the Christian names of the persons who chance thereafter to enter the house are held in the same succession to indicate those of the individuals whom the parties are to marry. 

Another ceremony much practised on Halloween, is that of the Three Dishes or Luggies. Two of these are respectively filled with clean and foul water, and one is empty. They are ranged on the hearth, when the parties, blindfolded, advance in succession, and dip their fingers into one. If they dip into the clean water, they are to marry a maiden; if into the foul water, a widow; if into the empty dish, the party so dipping is destined to be either a bachelor or an old maid. As each person takes his turn, the position of the dishes is changed. Burns this describes the custom: 

‘In order, on the clean hearth-stane, 
   The luggies three are ranged, 
And every time great care is ta-en 
   To see them duly changed: 
Auld uncle John, wha wedlock’s joys 
   Sin’ Mar’s year did desire, 
Because he gat the toom dish thrice, 
   He heaved them on the fire 
In wrath that night. 

The ceremonies above described are all of a light sportive description, but there are others of a more weird-like and fearful character, which in this enlightened incredulous age have fallen very much into desuetude. One of these is the celebrated spell of eating an apple before a looking-glass, with the view of discovering the inquirer’s future husband, who it is believed will be seen peeping over her shoulder. A curious, and withal, cautious, little maiden, who desires to try this spell, is thus represented by Burns: 

‘Wee Jenny to her granny says: 
   “Will ye go wi’ me, granny? 
I’ll eat the apple at the glass, 
   I gat frae uncle Johnny.” ’ 

A request which rouses the indignation of the old lady: 

‘She fuff’t her pipe wi’ sic a lunt, 
   In wrath she was saw vap’rin’, 
She notic’t na, an aizle brunt 
   Her braw new worset apron 
Out through that night. 
“Ye little skelpie-limmer’s face! 
   I daur you try sic sportin’, 
As seek the foul thief ony place, 
   For him to spae your fortune: 
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight! 
   Great cause ye hae to fear it; 
For mony a ane has gotten a fright, 
   And lived and died deleeret, 
On sic a night.” ’ 

Granny’s warning was by no means a needless one, as several well-authenticated instances are related of persons who, wither from the effects of their own imagination, or some thoughtless practical joke, sustained such severe nervous shocks, while essaying these Halloween-spells, as seriously to imperil their health. 

Another of these, what may perhaps be termed unhallowed, rites of All Hallows’ Eve, is to wet a shirt-sleeve, hang it up to the fire to dry, and lie in bed watching it till midnight, when the apparition of the individual’s future partner for life will come in and turn the sleeve. Burns thus alludes to the practice in one of his songs: 

‘The last Halloween I was wauking’, 
   My droukit sark-sleeve, as ye ken; 
Hi likeness cam’ up the house staulkin’, 
   And the very gray breeks o’ Tam Glen!’ 

Other rites for the invocation of sprits might be referred to, such as the sowing of hemp-seed, and the winnowing of three wechts of nothing, i.e., repeating three times the action of exposing corn to the wind. In all of these the effect sought to be produced is the same – the appearance of the future husband or wife of the experimenter. A full description of them will be found in the poem of Burns, from which we have already so largely quoted. It may here be remarked, that popular belief ascribes to children born on Halloween, the possession of certain mysterious faculties, such as that of perceiving and holding converse with supernatural beings. Sir Walter Scott, it will be recollected, makes use of this circumstance in his romance of The Monastery

In conclusion, we shall introduce an interesting story, with which we have been favoured by a lady. The leading incidents of the narrative may be relied on as correct, and the whole affair forms matter of curious thought on the subject of Halloween divination. 

Mr and Mrs M—– were a happy young couple, who, in the middle of last century, resided on their own estate in a pleasant part of the province of Leinster, in Ireland. Enjoying a handsome competence, they spent their time in various rural occupations; and the birth of a little girl promised to crown their felicity, and provide them with an object of perpetual interest. On the Halloween following this last event, the parents retired to rest at their usual hour, Mrs M—– having her infant on her arm, so that she might be roused by the slightest uneasiness it might exhibit. From teething or some other ailment, the child, about midnight, became very restless, and not receiving the accustomed attention from its mother, cried so violently as to waken Mr M—–. he at once called his wife, and told her the baby was uneasy, but received no answer. He called again more loudly, but still to no purpose; she seemed to be in a heavy uneasy slumber, and when all her husband’s attempts to rouse her by calling and shaking proved ineffectual, he was obliged to take the child himself, and try to appease its wailings. After many vain attempts of this sort on his part, the little creature at last sobbed itself to rest, and the mother slept on till a much later hour than her usual time of rising in the morning. When Mr M—– saw that she was awake, he told her of the restlessness of the baby during the night, and how, after having tried in vain every means to rouse her, he had at last been obliged to make an awkward attempt to take her place, and lost thereby some hours of his night’s rest. ‘I, too,’ she replied, ‘have passed the most miserable night that I ever experienced; I now see that sleep and rest are two different things, for I never felt so unrefreshed in my life. How I wish you had been able to awake me – it would have spared me some of my fatigue and anxiety! I thought I was fragged against my will into a strange part of the country, where I had never been before, and, after what appeared to me a long and weary journey on foot, I arrived at a comfortable-looking house. I went in longing to rest, but had no power to sit down, although there was a nice supper laid out before a good fire, and every appearance of preparations for an expected visitor. Exhausted as I felt, I was only allowed to stand for a minute or two, and then hurried away by the same road back again; but now it is over, and after all it was only a dream.’ Her husband listened with interest to her story, and then sighing deeply, said: ‘My dear Sarah, you will not long have me beside you; whoever is to be your second husband played last night some evil trick of which you have been the victim.’ Shocked as she felt at this announcement, she endeavoured to suppress her own feelings and rally her husband’s spirits, hoping that it would pass from his mind as soon as he had become engrossed by the active business of the day. 

Some months passed tranquilly away after this occurrence, and the dream on Halloween night had well-nigh been forgotten by both husband and wife, when Mr M—–’s health began to fail. He had never been a robust man, and he now declined so rapidly, that in a short time, notwithstanding all the remedies and attentions that skill could suggest, or affection bestow, his wife was left a mourning widow. Her energetic mind and active habits, however, prevented her from abandoning herself to the desolation of grief. She continued, as her husband had done during his life, to farm the estate, and in this employment, and the education of her little girl, she found ample and salutary occupation. Alike admired and beloved for the judicious management of her worldly affairs, and her true Christian benevolence and kindliness of heart, she might easily, had she been so inclined, have established herself respectably for a second time in life, but such a thought seemed never to cross her mind. She had an uncle, a wise, kind old man, who, living at a distance, often paid a visit to the widow, looked over her farm, and gave her useful advice and assistance. This old gentleman had a neighbour named C—–, a prudent young man, who stood very high in his favour. Whenever they met, Mrs M—–’s uncle was in the habit of rallying him on the subject of matrimony. On one occasion of this kind, C—– excused himself by saying that it really was not his fault that he was still a bachelor, as he was anxious to settle in life, but had never met with any woman whom he should like to call his wife. ‘Well, C—–,’ replied his old friend, ‘you are, I am afraid, a saucy fellow, but if you put yourself into my hands, I do not despair of suiting you.’ Some bantering then ensued, and the colloquy terminated by Mrs M—–’s uncle inviting the young man to ride over with him next day and visit his niece, whom C—– had never yet seen. The proffer was readily accepted; the two friends started early on the following morning, and after a pleasant ride, were approaching their destination. Here they descried, at a little distance, Mrs M—– retreating towards her house, after making her usual matutinal inspection of her farm. The first glance which Mr C—– obtained of her made him start violently, and the more he looked his agitation increased. Then laying his hand on the arm of his friend, and pointing his finger in the direction of Mrs M—–, he said: ‘Mr —–, we need not go any further, for if ever I am to be married, there is my wife!’ ‘Well, C—–,’ was the reply, ‘that is my niece, to whom I am about to introduce you; but tell me,’ he added, ‘is this what you call love at first sight, or what do you mean by your sudden decision in favour of the person with whom you have never exchanged a word?’ ‘Why, sir,’ replied the young man, ‘I find I have betrayed myself, and must now make my confession. A year or two ago, I tried a Halloween-spell, and sat up all night to watch the result. I declare to you most solemnly, that the figure of that lady, as I now see her, entered my room and looked at me. She stood a minute or two by the fire and then disappeared as suddenly as she came. I was wide awake, and felt considerable remorse at having thus ventured t tamper with the powers of the unseen world; but I assure you, that every particular of her features, dress, and figure, have been so present to my mind ever since, that I could not possibly make a mistake, and the moment I saw your niece, I was convinced that she was indeed the woman whose image I beheld on that never-to-be-forgotten Halloween.’ The old gentleman, as may be anticipated, was not a little astonished at his friend’s statement, but all comments on it were for the time put a stop to by their arrival at Mrs M—–’s house. She was glad to see her uncle, and made his friend welcome, performing the duties of hospitality with a simplicity and heartiness that were very attractive to her stranger-guest. After her visitors had refreshed themselves, her uncle walked out with her to look over the farm, and took opportunity, in the absence of Mr C—–, to recommend him to the favourable consideration of his niece. To make a long story short, the impression was mutually agreeable. Mr C—–, before leaving the house, obtained permission from Mrs M—– to visit her, and after a brief courtship, they were married. They lived long and happily together, and it was from their daughter that our informant derived that remarkable episode in the history of her parents which we have above narrated.

On this Day in Other Sources.

As regards other inclosures for the protection of the city, these are dealt with by ordinances such as this:- “31 October, 1588. It is statut that everie persone repair and hauld clois thair yairds endis and bak sydis, swa that nane may repair thairthrow to the toun bot be the common ports, vnder the pane of fyve pundis to be taiken of ilk persone quha contravenis the same.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.162-175.

A convention of the estates [held] at Edinburgh, the last of October this year, [1598,] in which it was resolved by the estates:- 

  1. That none presume to [receive] nor entertain Jesuits.
  2. Against such as were at feud with others, and would not communicate, but made that their pretext to eschew the sacrament.
  3. That a table and roll of the contemptuous horners and rebels, be fixed on the [market] cross of the head burgh of each shire.
  4. [Foreign] coin inhibited to have course as it formerly had within this kingdom; viz. the French crown at 3 [pounds] 4 [shillings]; the English teston at 13 [shillings] 4 [pence]; the Spanish real of 8, at 43 [shillings] 4 [pence].

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

A few pages on we find an individual dealt with “for swearing and blasphemy;” another for coming into the church of Cathcart armed with hagbut and steel bonnet, and making a disturbance. A little farther on, Matthew Fleming, merchant burgess of Glasgow, is delated for having “in ane rage and anger” struck off the hat of Mr. John Young, minister of Beith, “on the high street of Glasgow,” for which “hevie sclander to Godis kirk” he is ordained to make his public repentance.1

– Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.

1  31st October, 1603.

In the beginning of the seventeenth century the town maintained a horse post between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but this was soon abandoned, and after the middle of the century there was for some time only a foot post between the two cities. In 1663 there is a minute appointing John Fergusone to this office, and fixing his wages at three pounds Scots – five shillings, “and to receive a penny sterling for ilk letter he receaves and als much for ilk letter hamewards.”1 It is interesting to see a penny postage thus established in Glasgow more than two hundred years ago. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.289-299.

1  31st Oct. 1663.

Strahan had a servant named Helen Bell to keep his town mansion, and probably she was left a good deal by herself. As other young women in her situation will do, she admitted young men to see her in her master’s house. On Hallowe’en night [1705], she received a visit from two young artisans, William Thomson and John Robertson, whom she happened to inform that on Monday morning – that is, the second morning thereafter – she was to go out to Craigcrook, leaving the town-house of course empty. 

About five o’clock on Monday morning, accordingly, this innocent young woman locked up her master’s house and set forth on her brief journey, little reckning that it was the last she would ever undertake in this world. As she was proceeding through the silent streets, her two male friends joined her, telling her they were going part of her way; and she gave them a couple of bottles and the key of the house to carry, in order to lighten her burden. On coming to a difficult part of the way, called the Three Steps, at the foot of the Castle Rock, the two men threw her down and killed her with a hammer. They then returned to town, with the design of searching Mr Strahan’s house for money. 

According to the subsequent confession of Thomson, as they returned through the Grassmarket, they swore to each other to give their souls and bodies to the devil, if ever either of them should inform against the other, even in the event of their being captured. In the empty streets, in the dull gray of the morning, agitated by the horrid reflections arising from their barbarous act and its probable consequences, it is not very wonderful that almost any sort of hallucination should have taken possession of these miserable men. It was stated by them that, on Robertson proposing that their engagement should be engrossed in a bond, a man started up between them in the middle of the West Bow and offered to write the bond, which they had agreed to subscribe with their blood; but, on Thomson’s demurring, this stranger immediately disappeared. No contemporary of course could be at any loss to surmise who this stranger was. 

The two murderers having made their way into Mr Strahan’s house, broke open his study and the chest where his cash was kept. They found there a thousand pounds sterling, in bags of fifty pounds each, ‘all milled money,’ except one hundred pounds, which was in gold; all of which they carried off. Robertson proposed to set the house on fire before their departure; but Thomson said he had done wickedness enough already, and was resolved not to commit more, even though Robertson should attempt to murder him for his refusal. 

Mr Strahan advertised a reward of five hundred merks for the detection of the perpetrator or perpetrators of these atrocities; but for some weeks no trace of the guilty men was discovered. At length, some suspicion lighting upon Thomson, he was taken up, and, having made a voluntary confession of the murder and robbery, he expiated his offence in the Grassmarket.1

– Domestic Annals, pp.379-389.

1  Wodrow reports a wild tale about the discovery of the guilty man. It is to the effect that Lady Craigcrook, a twelvemonth after the fact, dreamed she saw the murderer, whom she recognised as an old servant, kill the woman, and then hide the money in two old barrels filled with trash. Her husband made inquiry, and finding the man possessed of a suspicious amount of money, got him apprehended, and had his house searched, when he found his bags, which he readily identified, and a portion of the missing coin. – Analecta, iv. 171.

Among other institutions of New Edinburgh to be found in picturesque Cockburn Street, under the very shadow of the old city, such as the Ear and Eye Dispensary, instituted in 1822, and the rooms of the Choral Society, are the permanent Orderly Rooms of the Edinburgh Volunteer Artillery, and the Queen’s Edinburgh Rifle Volunteer Brigade, respectively at No. 27 and No. 35. 

Both these corps were embodied in the summer of 1859, when the volunteer movement was exciting that high enthusiasm which happily has never died, but has continued till the auxiliary army then, self-summoned into existence, though opposed by Government in all its stages, has now become one of the most important institutions in the kingdom. 

The City Artillery Volunteer Corps, commanded in 1878 by Sir William Baillie, Bart., of Polkemet, consisting of nine batteries, showed in 1880 a maximum establishment of 519 (57 of whom were non-efficients), 14 officers, and 36 sergeants.1

Formed in two battalions (with a third corps of cadets), the Queen’s Edinburgh Rifle Brigade, of which the Lord Provost is honorary colonel, consists now of 25 companies, seven of which were called Highland, with a total strength on the 31st of October, 1880, of 2,252 efficients, 106 non-efficients, with 82 officers, 116 sergeants, extra-proficients. Since its embodiment in 1859 there have enrolled in this corps more than 11,537 men, of whom 9,584 have resigned, leaving the present strength, as stated, at 2,252. 

As a shooting corps, and for the excellence of its drill, it has always borne a high character, and its artisan battalion is “second to none” among the auxiliary forces. At the International Regimental Match shot for in May, 1877, the Queen’s Edinburgh Brigade were twice victorious, and in the preceding year no less than 78 officers and 121 sergeants received certificates of proficiency. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.282-290.

1  In addition to this corps, there are the Midlothian Coast Volunteer Artillery, whose headquarters are at Edinburgh, and who showed in 1877 a maximum establishment of 640, 442 of whom were efficients, with 21 officers and 30 sergeants. (Volunteer Blue Book.)


SIR, – In July last, at the request of the Grampian Club, I sent a communication to the Secretary of State for War, begging that the sword of Wallace at Dumbarton Castle might be transferred to the Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig, and stating that I had reason to believe that a suitable case would by the custodiers be prepared for its reception. I had an immediate acknowledgment and promise that the request of the Club would not be overlooked, and that I would receive another communication on the subject. The second communication reached me a few days ago, and as its contents are somewhat remarkable, I subjoin a copy for the information of your readers. It is to be regretted that the War Authorities did not withdraw the sword from public exhibition at the time of Dr Meyrick’s report, 17 years ago. – Yours, &c.  



Surveyor-General’s Department, War Office, 

18th October 1872. 

SIR,  – In reference to your letter dated 8th July last, requesting, on behalf of the Grampian Club, that the sword of Sir William Wallace might be recovered from Dumbarton Castle, and placed, under the care of the Provost and Magistrates of Stirling, in the National Wallace Monument. 

I am directed by Mr Secretary Cardwell to acquaint you that this sword was sent to the Tower of London in the year 1825 for repair, and to be fitted with a new hilt, and was, by direction of the late Duke of Wellington, Master-General of the Ordinance, submitted for the opinion of Dr Meyrick. That gentleman was of the opinion that the sword never could have belonged to Sir William Wallace, but was of the time of Edward IV.; and at page 146, vol. Ii., of his work on Ancient Armour, he writes – “The two-handled sword shown at Dumbarton Castle as that of Wallace, is of this period (temp. Edward IV.), as will be evident to any one who compares it with the sword of state of the earldom of Chester, which belonged to Prince Edward V., and probably was used when he entered Chester in state in 1475.”  

This opinion having been concurred in by the Tower authorities, the sword was fitted with a new handle of the 15th century, and returned to Dumbarton. 

Mr Cardwell, therefore, desires me to state that there appears to be no truth in the belief that has been entertained by some persons that this sword was that of Sir William Wallace, and directions will be sent to Dumbarton Castle to refrain from exhibiting as such in future. – I have, &c.  


Colonel Royal Artillery, Asst. Director of Artillery. Rev. Dr Chas. Rogers, L.L.D.,  

          Snowdoun Villa, Lewisham, S.E.” 

– Wednesday 31 October 1888, p. 8.

– Scots Lore, pp.280-282.

Associated Words from Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary.

GIEAN CARLINS. “A set of carlins common in the days away. They were of a prying nature; and if they had found any one alone on Auld Halloween, they would have stuffed his mouth with beerawns and butter.” Gall. Encycl.

HALLOWEEN, s. The evening preceding Allhallows, S. 

To HAUD HALLOWEEN. To observe the childish or superstitious rites appropriated to this evening, S. Burns.

HALLOWEEN BLEEZE. A fire kindled on this evening by young people, on some rising ground, S.

HALLOWMASS RADE. The name given to a general assembly of warlocks and witches, formerly believed by the vulgar to have been held at this season, S. Cromek’s Remains of NIthsdale Song. The term Rade evidently refers to their riding, by virtue of their enchantments, to these meetings. It is borrowed from a military expedition. V. RADE.

GUIZARD, s. A masker, S. V. GYSAR, GYSARD.

LAWAINE, s. The eve of All-hallows. Lady of the Lake. – This does not appear to be a Gael. or Ir. word, but merely the designation used in the low country, viz. Halloween.

MEALANBREENIGHT, s. Halloweven. Morays.

MORT-HEAD, s. 1. A death’s head, S. 2. A large turnip excavated, with the representation of a face cut through the side, and a lighted candle put within. This is carried about under night, by mischievous boys, as an object of terror, S.