13th of December – St Lucy’s Day

St Lucy, virgin and martyr, 340. St Jodoc or Josse, confessor, 666. St Aubert, bishop of Cambray and Arras, 669. St Othilia, virgin and abbess, 772. Blessed John Marinoni, confessor, 1562.

Born. – Pope Sixtus V., 1521, Montalto; Henri IV. of France, 1553, Pau; Maximilien de Bethune, Duke of Sully, minister of Henri IV., 1560, Rosny; William Drummond, poet, 1585, Hawthornden
Died. – Emperor Frederick II. of Germany, 1250; Emanuel the Great, king of Portugal, 1521; James V. of Scotland, 1542, Falkland; Conrad Gesner, eminent naturalist, 1565, Zurich; Christian Furchtegott Gellert, writer of fables, 1769, Leipsic; Peter Wargentin, Swedish astronomer, 1783, Stockholm; Charles III. of Spain, 1788.


The Ember-days are periodical fasts originally instituted, it is said, by Pope Calixtus, in the third century, for the purpose of imploring the blessing of Heaven on the produce of the earth; and also preparing the clergy for ordination, in imitation of the apostolic practice recorded in the 13th chapter of Acts. It was not, however, till the Council of Placentia, 1095 A.D., that a uniformity as regards the season of observance was introduced. By a decree of this assembly, it was enacted that the Ember-days should be the first Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, following, respectively, the first Sunday in Lent, or Quadragesima Sunday, Whitsunday, Holyrood Day (14th September), and St Lucy’s Day (13th December). The term is said to be derived from the Saxon emb-ren or imb-ryne, denoting a course or circuit, these days recurring regularly, at stated periods, in the four quarters or seasons of the year. Others, with some plausibility, derive the epithet from the practice of sprinkling dust or embers on the head, in token of humiliation; and also from the circumstance that at such seasons it was only customary to break the fast by partaking of cakes baked on the embers, or ember-bread. The weeks in which these days fall, are termed the Ember-weeks, and in Latin the ember-days are denominated Jejunia quatuor temporum, or ‘the fasts of the four seasons.’


One of the most amusing traits in the character of Sir Walter Scott’s kind-hearted antiquary, the estimable Monkbarns, is his perfect reliance on his own rendering of the letters A. D. L. L., on a stone he believes to be antique, and which letters he amplifies into Agricola dicavit libens lubens; a theory rudely demolished by Edie Ochiltree, who pronounces ‘the sacrificial vessel,’ also on the stone, to be the key to its true significance, Aikin Drum’s lang ladle. Scott had ‘ta’en the antiquarian trade’ (as Burns phrases it) early in life, and commenced his literary career in that particular walk; his early rambles on the line of the great Roman Wall, in the Border counties, would familiarise him with inscriptions; and his acquaintance with antiquarian literature lead him to the knowledge of a few mistakes made in the works of good repute. In depicting the incident above referred to, he might have had in his mind the absurd error of Valancey, who has engraved in his great work on Irish Antiquities, a group of sepulchral stones on the hill of Tara, having upon one an inscription which he reads thus: BELI DIVOSE, ‘To Belus, God of Fire.’ He indulges, then, in a long and learned disquisition on this remarkable and unique inscription; which he has also so carefully engraved, that its real significance may easily be tested. It turned out to be the work of an idler, who lay upon the stone, and cut his name upside down with the date of the year: E. CONID. 1731; and if the reader will turn to the engraving [below], the whole thing becomes clear, and Baal is deprived of his altar.


On this Day in Other Sources.

The present structure [of Dryburgh Abbey] was founded by Hugh de Morville, Lord of Lauderdale, and Constable of Scotland, about 1150. According to the Chronicle of Melros, Beatrix de Beauchamp, wife of De Morville, obtained a charter of confirmation for the new foundation, from David I.; and the cemetery was consecrated on St Martin’s day, 1150, “that no demons might haunt it;” but the community did not come to reside here until the 13th of December, 1152. 

– Scotland Illustrated, pp.140-142.

Peter of Morrone, Abbot of St. Benevento, was elected Pope, by the name Celestine V., one not fit for affairs. He willingly resigned the Papacy, the 13th day of December this same year [1294]; and in his place, the 24th day of the said month, Cardinal [Benedetto] Caetani was elected Pope, by the name of Boniface VIII. 

– Historical Works, pp.77-88.

Perhaps the part of the Chronicle of the Curate of Fortirgall which may prove most useful, is his record of the weather, – of good and bad seasons, and of the consequent fluctuation of the prices of victuals. The first noticed by him is 1554, when there was frost and snow “whiles” before Andersmas (30th November), and continued frost from 13th December, and great snow from Yule day at even, and every day from thenceforth more and more without any thaw till the 17th of January. “It was the greatest snow and storm that was seen in memory of man living that time. Many wild horses and mares, kye, sheep, goats, perished and died for want of food in the mountains, and in all other parts; and though partial thaw came on 17th January, it began then to snow and freeze till the 22nd day of February, on which day men and women might well pass on the ice of Lyon in sundry places, and little tilth till the 26th day of February, and but in lyth (sheltered) places.” 

– Sketches, pp.341-394.

Under date 13th December, 1628, there is a minute bearing that “the provest bailyeis and counsell hes aggreit and condescendit to give yearlie to maister John Robertsoune advocatt, last chosen for them agent for the toun, ten pund of yeirlie fiall, and twa half barrellis hering, as the rest of the tounes principall advocatts gettis, during the tounes will and plesour allenarlie.” And after this there are repeated entries of payments for barrels and half barrels of herrings to the town’s advocates and others. By an entry in the burgh accounts of a later date we learn that the sum paid for “the Advocatts herring” for the year 1666 was 187 lib. 16s. 8d. (£14, 18s.). 

– Old Glasgow, pp.215-237.

The inhabitants of Argyle being thus basely abandoned by their chief, made no attempt to oppose Montrose, who, the more effectually to carry his plan for pillaging and ravaging the country into execution, divided his army into three parties, each under the respective orders of the captain of Clanranald, Macdonald, and himself. For up wards of six weeks, viz. from the thirteenth of December, sixteen hundred and forty-four, till nearly the end of January following, these different bodies traversed the whole country without molestation, burning, wasting, and destroying every thing which came within their reach; villages and cottages, furniture, grain, and effects of every description were made a prey to the devouring element of fire. The cattle which they did not succeed in driving off were either mutilated or slaughtered, and the whole of Argyle as well as the district of Lorn soon became a dreary waste.

– History of the Highlands, pp.342-364.

Several very ample mortifications and donations for pious and charitable purposes have been made by different persons belonging to Aberdeen for the welfare of the community. Robert Gordon, merchant in Aberdeen, by deed of mortification, of date 13th December 1729… founded an hospital for the maintenance and education of indigent boys, being the sons and grandsons of burgesses of guild of Aberdeen, or the sons and grandsons of tradesmen of the said burgh, being freemen or burgesses thereof; and for the purposes of it he assigned his whole estate, personal and real, to the magistrates and the four ministers of Aberdeen, whom he appointed perpetual patrons and governors of the hospital. There are at present 112 boys maintained and educated in this hospital. The branches of education taught, are English, grammar, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, the elements of geometry, navigation, geography, French, and church-music. Boys must not be under 9 years of age when admitted; and must leave at 16, when they are put to proper trades, under the direction of the governors.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.3-11.

Clifford. – How little known are the miseries to which the brave defenders of Britain’s glory are subjected! – and how meagre is their reward, and how poor is their harvest of individual fame! – Our Nelsons and our Wellingtons, to be sure, are as certainly, as they are deservedly, destined to immortality of name. But is it nor most painful to think that so many of our bravest hearts have gallantly fallen, to sleep in undistinguished oblivion? Your scene in the old barn, Serjeant, reminds me of an anecdote which I had from an officer of the Ninety-first Regiment. – It has never yet appeared in print, though it well deserves to be so recorded, as being worthy of that distinguished corps, the Seventy-first Highland Light Infantry, to which it belongs. 

The circumstances took place in 1813, during the Peninsular War. The Seventy-first were at that time stationed with the Fiftieth and the Ninety-second, at St. Pierre, on the main road between Bayonne and St. Jean-pied-de-Port. – This was the key of Lord Hill’s position on the rivers Adour, and the fire of musquetry brought against its defenders on the 13th December, was such as the oldest veterans had never before witnessed. The corps under Lord Hill, indeed, were on that day attacked by Soult’s whole force. But so nobly did those fine regiments perform their duty, that the late Lieutenant-General the Honourable William Stewart, next day gave out an order, which I remember treasuring up in my memory as a masterpiece of soldier-like diction. I think the very words were these:- “The second Division has greatly distinguished itself, and its gallantry in yesterday’s action is fully felt by the Commander of the Forces, and the Allied Army.” 

And well indeed had they merited this highly creditable testimonial of their good behaviour. But the carnage was great, and there were many who, alas! did not survive to participate in the honour conferred by it. Several of the wounded belonging to the respective corps, were huddled together in the lower storey of an old house, that stood upon the very ground on which the thickest part of the contest had taken place. Now it happened, that certain officers from different regiments had taken shelter in a room in the floor above, where they were refreshing themselves, after their fatigue, with such food and other restoratives as they could command, and among them was that officer of the Ninety-first who told me the facts to which he was an ear-witness. 

The conversation of these gentlemen, though mingled now and then with many regrets for lost companions, had a certain temperate joy in it – a joy arising from a conviction that they had behaved like men – and which was tempered by strong feelings of gratitude to a kind Providence, who had preserved them amidst all the perils of the fight. Suddenly their talk was put an end to by the most heart-rending groans and shrieks of agony, that came up from the room below, through the old decayed floor. What mirth or joy there was among them, was altogether banished by the frequency and intensity of the screams, that betokened the mortal sufferings of a dying man. They sat for a time mutely, though deeply sympathizing, with the poor unfortunate from whom they came. At length they distinctly heard another faint, and apparently expiring voice, say, in a tone of rebuke, – “Haud your tongue, James, and bear your fate like a man. We’ll soon be baith at ease. – But, in the mean time, haud your tongue, for there are folk aboon us that may be hearin’ you; and if you have no respect for yoursell, recollect what you owe to the gallant Seventy-first Hillant Light Infantry, to which we baith belong.” 

This appeal had the desired effect. All that could now be heard, in the stillness of the night, was a low murmur. A surgeon, who was of the party, immediately went to administer what relief he might to the wretched sufferers. But in one short hour these heroic men had ceased to exist, and no one can now tell even the name of either of them. 

– Highland Tales, pp.26-32.


   A largely-attended meeting of the Annual Committee of the Convention of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs was held in the City Chambers, Edinburgh, yesterday. Provost Brodie, North Berwick, presiding… The jurisdiction exercised by English courts in Scotland was under consideration, and a deputation was appointed to wait upon the representatives of Government within Scotland with a view to a stop being put to this usurpation of the English courts, which, it was maintained, was contrary to the Treaty of Union, and entailed unnecessary expense upon Scotchmen, in defending themselves in England…”  

– Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday 13th December, 1881. 

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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