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2nd of December

St Bibiana, virgin and martyr, 363.

Born. – Francis Xavier Quadrio, learned Jesuit, and historical writer, 1695, Valtellina.
Died. – Hernan Cortes, conqueror of Mexico, 1547, near Seville; Margaret of Navarre, grandmother of Henri IV., 1549; St Francis Xavier, Catholic missionary, 1552, China; Gerard Mercator (Kaufmann), geographer, 1594, Doesburg; Philip, Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, 1723.


On the 2d December 1824, an institution was opened in London concerning which very warm anticipations were entertained, but which has not fully borne the fruit hoped for. After one or two minor attempts in various towns, it was resolved to establish a place in the metropolis, where workmen could acquire a knowledge of science, and of the principles of those arts on which they were daily employed. Scarcely any books on such matters were then accessible to persons of limited means, and popular lectures were nearly unknown. Many men in high places dreaded such innovations; insomuch that one declared, that ‘science and learning, if universally diffused, would speedily overturn the best-constituted government on earth.’ It is to the credit of Scotland that she took the lead of England in this matter. The Andersonian Institution at Glasgow had a mechanics’ class, at which the late benevolent Dr Birkbeck lectured to large audiences on scientific subjects connected with the occupations of working-men; and the School of Arts at Edinburgh, under the auspices of Mr Leonard Horner and other enlightened men, furnished similar instruction, though to smaller audiences.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The 2nd of December this year, [1214,] King William departed this life, at Stirling, the 49th year of his reign, and 74 of his age; and was solemnly interred at the monastery of St. Thomas of Arbroath, under the high altar, built and founded by himself. 

– Historical Works, pp.19-38.

Lennox not only had obtained the Queen’s favour; but had endeavoured, to secure the good opinion of her council. He gave to the Queen, and to most of her counsellors, jewels: The Countess of Lennox sent Murray a diamond; and Maitland was amply satisfied with gifts. A parliament was, accordingly, convened, on the 2d of December 1564. On the subsequent, day, in pursuance of the established form, the Queen made a speech to Parliament; recommending the reversal of the Earl of Lennox’s forfeiture. Secretary Maitland, who supplied the chancellor’s place, by the Queen’s command, in an eloquent oration, explained the policy of the Queen’s recommendation. And, on the same day, an act was passed, for restoring Lennox to his estate, and honours. The earldom of Moray was confirmed to the Queen’s minister, who had obtained great objects, by illegitimate means. 

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.

In consequence of the houses being set on fire by the Castle guns under Kirkaldy, in 1572, it was ordered that all the thatched houses between Beith’s Wynd and St. Giles’s should be unroofed, and that all stacks of heather should be carried away from the streets and burned, and “that ilk man in Edinburgh have his lumes (vents) full of watter in the nycht, under pain of deid!” (“Diurnal.”) This gives us a graphic idea of the city in the sixteenth century, and of the High Street in particular, “with the majority of the buildings on either side covered with thatch, encumbered by piles of heather and other fuel accumulated before each door for the use of the inhabitants, and from amid these, we may add the stately ecclesiastical edifices, and the substantial mansions of the nobility, towering with all the more imposing effect, in contrast to their homely neighbourhood.” 

Concerning these heather stacks we have the following episode in “Moyse’s Memoirs:” – “On the 2nd December, 1584, a Baxter’s boy called Robert Henderson (no doubt by the instigation of Satan) desperately put some powder and a candle to his father’s heather-stack, standing in a close opposite the Tron, and burnt the same with his father’s house, to the imminent hazard of burning the whole town, for which, being apprehended most marvellously, after his escaping out of town, he was next day burnt quick at the cross of Edinburgh as an example.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.118-123.

Dec. 2 [1584]. – ‘… a baxter’s boy, called Robert Henderson – no doubt by the instigation of Satan – desperately put some powder and a candle in his father’s heather-stack, standing in a close opposite to the Tron of Edinburgh [the public weighing-machine], and burnt the same, with his father’s house, which lay next adjacent, to the imminent hazard of burning the whole town. For which, being apprehended most marvellously, after his escaping out of the town, he was on the next day burnt quick at the cross, as an example.’ – Moy. R. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.

Captain James Stewart (who called himself Earl of Arran) returned from exile, 2nd of December, this year, [1592,] having been out of the country some 8 years, ever since the [Raid] of [Stirling]

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

These books have a great additional interest from mentioning the guests visiting the family, and occasionally domestic occasions of more sumptuous housekeeping.1

– Sketches, pp.341-394.

1  Thus, at Finlarg, “beginnand the 28 of Junii 1590, and spendit till the 5 of Julii; the Laird and Ladie present, my Lord Bothwall, the Erle Monteth, my Lord Inchechaffray, with sindrie vther strangers.”…
“Balloch, the 2 day of December 1621 to Sonday the 9 of December 1621, the Lairds of Drum elder and younger, the Laird of Glenbervie, the Laird of Banff, the Laird of Pitfoddellis, the Laird of Lathes, the Laird of Inchemarten, the Laird of Glenlyoun, the Laird of Keillour, Robert Campbell of Glenfalloch, the Lady Weyme, the Lady Comrie, the Lady Edunammpbell, the Lady Glenlyoun, with thair heall company and boyis, being all present, the space of three nichtis, at the mareage of the Lairdis secund dochtir upon Robert Irwing of Feddrat, secund son to the Laird of Drum.”

Dec. 2 [1628]. – George Lauder of the Bass, and his mother, ‘Dame Isobel Hepburn, Lady Bass,’ were at this time in embarrassed circumstances, ‘standing at the horn at the instance of divers of their creditors.’ Nevertheless, as was complained of them, ‘they peaceably bruik and enjoy some of their rents, and remain within the craig of the Bass, presuming to keep and maintein themselves, so to elude justice and execution of the law.’ A Scotch laird and his mother holding out against creditors in a tower on that inaccessible sea-rock, forms rather a striking picture to the imagination. But debt even then had its power of exorcising romance. The Lords of Council issued a proclamation, threatening George Lauder and his mother with the highest pains if they did not submit to the laws. A friend then came forward and represented to the Lords ‘the hard and desolate estate’ of the two rebels, and obtained a protection for them, enabling them to come to Edinburgh to make arrangement for the settlement of their affairs. – P. C. R. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.

On 2nd December, 1685, that “Mr. Patrick Bell minister of the word of God at the church of Port in Monteith,” was served heir to his brother James in the barony of Antermainie. This reverend gentleman is no doubt McUre’s “Peter,” and also the “Peter Bell esq.” of the tombstone inscription noticed presently.  

– Scots Lore, pp.141-148.

One William Muir, brother of two men who had recently been hanged at Ayr for theft, was this day tried before a jury, for housebreaking, by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, acting as ‘High Sheriff within burgh.’ The man was condemned to death, and the sentence was duly executed on the ensuing 2d of December, [1730,] he dying penitent. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.398-408.

In Surrey towards the end of the 18th century two men were pilloried for having been found guilty of engaging in acts of sodomy. The death of Mr Smith due to having been knocked unconscious and left dangling from his neck, thereby being strangled to death, led to the beginning of conversations surrounding the banning of this form of punishment.

   “On the 10th of April [1780], [Theodosius] Reed a plaisterer, and [William] Smith a coachman, sentenced for sodomitical practices, were carried from the New Gaol privately, in a hackney-coach (to save them from the mob), and set in the pillory at St Margaret’s-hill. The under-sheriffs, with their officers, and a great number of constables, attended. The unhappy wretches were, nevertheless, so severely pelted by the populace, that in half an hour Smith sunk down; in which position he remained, till he appeared black in the face, the blood gushing from his ears; when he was taken out, and laid on the pillory. When carried back to the gaol, a surgeon was sent for; but Smith was found to be dead; and Reed’s recovery was doubtful. On an inquisition taken, April 12, it appeared to the coroner and his jury, that Reed turning round faster than usual, and Smith being just then seized with a giddiness and fainting from the extreme severity of the populace, lost the strength of his legs, and hung by his head. the jury’s verdict was, “Strangled in the pillory.” – The Solicitor-General moved the court of king’s-bench, April 20. for an attachment against the under-sheriff, for his not preventing this mischief. But Lord Mansfield, upon hearing the affidavits, said, they did not appear to prove any inattention in the under-sheriff; so the affair was deferred till further inquiry should be made. – Can a country be said to be civilized where such barbarity is committed at mid-day in the capital!” 

Scots Magazine, Vol. 42, Saturday 2nd December, 1780. 

Pride in Scottish History.

But towards the end of the eighteenth century the magistrates made some efforts to establish a more efficient system of watching. About 1788 they created a small police force, for which in the following year a sum of £135, 2s. was paid to Richard Marshall, for himself as superintendent and for his officers. This force appears to have been armed, and it no doubt assisted the citizens in their watch and ward, but it was found necessary to introduce among the citizens themselves a more exact system. A notice was accordingly published bearing that, “in consequence of the great extent and populousness of the city,” it was necessary to establish “a night guard and patrol in order to watch and guard the streets.” The town was accordingly divided into four districts, and all the male citizens, above the age of eighteen and under sixty, whose yearly rents amounted to £3 sterling or above, in rotation, to the number of thirty-six every night, were appointed to mount guard, and to continue on patrol during the night – those claiming exemption being obliged to pay two shillings and sixpence for a substitute.1 This arrangement continued to the end of the century. It was not till 1800 that the police force of the city came to be regulated by statutory enactments. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.289-299.

1  2d Dec. 1790.

Glasgow Evening Post, Monday 2nd December 1867, p.2. 


   A mysterious case of sudden death occurred between Saturday night and Sunday, in Sievewright’s Hotel, South St Andrew Street. On Saturday, between five and six o’clock, two gentlemen called at the hotel, and one of them requested to be accommodated with a bed for the night. A bed-room being allotted to him, he said he did not feel well, and along with his friend he retired to rest. Whisky was shortly afterwards ordered, and the servant who took it to the room found the gentleman who ordered the bed sitting on the side of it, and his companion lying undressed under the bed clothes. Later in the evening, the gentleman who had been in bed left the hotel. yesterday morning, his companion who was left in the bed-room, not making his appearance, some apprehension began to be felt by the people of the house, and about one o’clock the door, which was snibbed on the inside, was forced open, when he was found lying in bed dead. From papers got in the pockets of deceased’s clothes, it is supposed that he was a writer in Dalkeith. Information was given to the police, who are investigating the matter. The cause of death is as yet unascertained. – Scotsman

Curious and Interesting Deaths.

The cathedral, St. Regulus Church, the nave of St. Mary’s, and the north wall of the provost’s lodging which stands a few yards to the south of St. Mary’s, and was erected about the year 1500, are all nearly parallel, having the same orientation. The choir of St. Mary’s, however, – alone of all the many structures in its neighbourhood, – points considerably more to the north of east. This is a peculiarity to be noted in early church foundations and it merits the closest investigation. The cell on the north side of Iona Cathedral points more to the north than the cathedral. The same is true of the little cell which stands a few yards due west of the abbey of Inchcolm. And it is only a reference to a very early foundation that will explain the fact that the tower of Dunblane Cathedral points several degrees more to the north than the cathedral with which it has been incorporated.1

– Scots Lore, pp.192-210.

1  At St. Andrews I had the use of a small compass from the Coastguard Station, and ascertained that the choir of the church of St. Mary on the Crag points three degrees more north of east than all the other buildings. In the plan of Dunblane Cathedral, published by the “Builder,” 2nd December, 1893, the tower marks the same difference in orientation.

Back of Glasgow’s lost Firefighters’ Memorial…:

The back of the memorial reads:






Glasgow’s Cathedral and City Necropolis.

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