20th of December

St Philogonius, bishop of Antioch, confessor, 322. St Paul of Latrus, or Latra, hermit, 956.

Born. – John Wilson Croker, reviewer and miscellaneous writer, 1780, Galway.
Died. – Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, martyred at Rome, 107 A.D.; Bernard de Montfaucon, French antiquary, 1741; Louis the Dauphin, father of Louis XVI., 1765.


On December 20, 1649, ‘some stage-players in St John Street were apprehended by troopers, their clothes taken away, and themselves carried to prison.’ – Whitelocke’s Memorials. 

… When the civil war broke out, one of the first acts of parliament was the issuing, in September 1642, of the following: 

Ordinance of the Lords and Commons concerning Stage-plays.

   Whereas the distressed estate of Ireland, steeped in her own blood, and the distracted estate of England, threatened with a cloud of blood by a civil war, call for all possible means to appease and avert the wrath of God appearing in these judgments; amongst which fasting and prayer, having been often tried to be very effectual, have been lately, and are still, enjoined; and whereas public sports* do not well agree with public calamities, nor public stage-plays with the seasons of humiliation, this being an exercise of sad and pious solemnity, and the other being spectacles of pleasure too commonly expressing lascivious mirth and levity; it is therefore thought fit, and ordered by the Lords and Commons in this Parliament assembled, that while these sad causes and set times of humiliation do continue, public stage-plays shall cease and be forborne. Instead of which are recommended to the people of this land the profitable and seasonable consideration of repentance, reconciliation, and peace with God, which probably will produce outward peace and prosperity, and bring again times of joy and gladness to these nations.’



An Explanation of the Figure.

  1. Represents the Sails wherewith the Air is to be divided, which turn as they are directed.
  2. The Stern to govern the Ship, that She may not run at random.
  3. The Body of the Ship which is formed at both ends Scallopwise; in the concavity of Each is a pair of Bellows, which must be blown when there is no Wind.
  4. Two Wings which keep the Ship upright.
  5. The Globes of Heaven and Earth containing in them Attractive Virtues. They are of Metal, and serve for a Cover to two Loadstones, placed in them upon the Pedestals, to draw the Ship after them, the Body of which is of Thin Iron Plates, covered with Straw Mats, for conveniency of 10 or 11 men besides the Artist.
  6. A cover made of Iron Wire in form of a Net, on which are Fastened a good number of Large Amber Beads, which by a Secret Operation will help to keep the Ship Aloft. And by the Sun’s heat the aforesaid Mats that line the Ship will be drawn towards the Amber Beads.
  7. The Artist who by the help of the Celestial Globe, a Sea Map, and Compass, takes the Height of the Sun, thereby to find out the spot of Land over which they are on the Globe of the Earth.
  8. The Compass to direct them in their Way.
  9. The Pulleys and Ropes that serve to hoist or Furl the Sails.

In connection with this subject, we may allude to a well-known story of an Italian charlatan who visited Scotland in the reign of James IV., and insinuated himself so successfully into the good graces of that monarch, as to be created abbot of Tungland. The following account of his proceedings is thus quaintly given by Bishop Lesley, and quoted by Mr Wilson in his Prehistoric Annals of Scotland. ‘He causet the king believe that he, be multiplyinge and utheris his inventions, wold make fine golde of uther metall, quhilk science he callit the quintassence; quhairupon the king maid greit cost, bot all in vaine. This Abbott tuik in hand to flie with wingis, and to be in Fraunce befoir the saidis ambassadouris; and to that effect he causet mak ane pair of wingis of fedderis, quhilkis beand fessenit apoun him, he flew of the Castell wall of Striveling [Stirling], bot shortlie he fell to the ground and brak his thee-bane. Bot the wyt [blame] thairof he ascryvit to that thair was sum hen fedderis in the wingis, quhilk yarnit and covet the mydding [dunghill] and not the skyis.’ How far this very philosophical mode of accounting for thefailure of his project was successful in maintaining his credit with James we are not informed, but we opine it were but a sorry solace for a broken limb. It is a little curious that, in the year 1777, a similar experiment is recorded to have been made at Paris, on a convict from the galleys. The man was surrounded with whirls of feathers, curiously interlaced, and extending gradually at suitable distances, in a horizontal direction from his feet to his neck. Thus accoutred, he was let down from a height of seventy Paris feet, descended slowly, and fell on his feet uninjured, in the presence of an immense body of spectators. He complained of a feeling like sea-sickness, but experienced no pain otherwise.


The aberrations of the human intellect have, perhaps, never assumed more extraordinary forms than in the history of magic and witchcraft. The belief in demons has existed in all ages of known history, and among the pagan people, it was almost a more important part of the vocation of the priesthood to control the evil spirits than to conduct the worship of the beneficent deities; at all events, it was that ascribed faculty which gave them the greatest influence over their ignorant votaries. The introduction of Christianity did not discourage the belief in demons, but, on the contrary, it was the means of greatly increasing their numbers. Not only were the multiform spirits of the then popular creeds, such as satyrs, wood-nymphs, elves, &c., accepted as demons, but all the false gods of the pagans were placed in the same category, and thus was introduced into medieval magic a host of names of individual demons, taken from all countries, to the effect, necessarily, of creating very confused ideas on a subject which, in the olden time, had been tolerably clear even to the vulgar. When the learned men of the middle ages began to take demonology into their hands, they sought to reduce this confusion into order by arranging and classifying, and they soon produced an elaborate system of orders and ranks, and turned the infernal regions into a regular monarchy, modelled upon the empires of this world, with offices and dignities imitated from the same pattern. It was in the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth century that this system of a demoniacal commonwealth received its full development; and men like Johannes Wierus, who published his Pseudomonarchia Dæmonum in the latter of these two centuries, and the other writers of his class and of that period, were able to give a minute account of all its details. They are amusing enough, and the subject is, in many points of view, very interesting. 

According to these writers, the emperor of the demons was Belzebuth or Belzebub. He is said to have been worshipped by the people of Canaan under the form of a fly, and hence he is said to have founded the Order of the Fly; the only order of knighthood which appears to have existed among the demons. When these writers became acquainted with Hades, a revolution had taken place there, and Satan, who had formerly been monarch, had been dethroned and Belzebub raised to his place. Satan had now placed himself at the head of the opposition party. Among the great princes were: 

  1. Eurynome, prince of death, and grand-cross of the order of the Fly. He was of course taken from the Greek mythology.
  2. Moloch, prince of the country of tears, also grand-cross of the order, and member of the imperial council of state.
  3. Pluto, prince of fire, and superintendent of the infernal punishments.
  4. Leonard, grand-master of the Sabbaths, and inspector-general of magic and sorcery. He was a knight of the order of the Fly, and appeared often as a black man or negro.
  5. Baalberith, ‘master of the alliances,’ and, according to some, secretary-general, and keeper of the archives of hell. The four previous named princes were demons of the first order; Baalberith was only of the second.
  6. Proserpine, archduchess of Hades, and sovereign princess of the evil spirits.

The ministers of state of Belsebuth’s court were: 

  1. Adramelec, grand-chancellor, and grand-cross of the order of the Fly.
  2. Astaroth, grand-treasurer.
  3. Nergal, chief of the secret police.
  4. Baal, general-in-chief of the armies, and grand-cross of the order of the Fly.
  5. Leviathan, grand-admiral, and knight of the Fly.

Belzebuth had his ambassadors also, and their different appointments were, perhaps, intended to convey a little satire on the different countries to which they were sent. They were: 

  1. To France, Belphegor, an unclean demon, who often appeared in the form of a young woman; he was the demon of discoveries and ingenious inventions, and gave riches.
  2. To England, Mammon, the demon of avarice [extreme greed for wealth], and the inventor of mining for metals. [Scotland was, apparently, in no need of a Demon.]
  3. To Turkey, Belial, one of the most vicious of all the demons.
  4. To Russia, Rimmon, who was the chief physician at the court of Belzebuth.
  5. To Spain, Thammuz, who was the inventor of artillery.
  6. To Italy, Hutgin, a familiar demon, who took pleasure in obliging people.
  7. To Switzerland, Martinet, who was especially familiar with magicians, and assisted travellers who had lost their way.

Among other high officers were, Lucifer, who was grand-justiciary and minister of justice; and Alastor, who held the distinguished office of executioner. The officers of the household of the princes were: Verdelet, master of the ceremonies, whose duty it was to convey the witches to the Sabbath; Succor Benoth, chief of the eunuchs, and the demon of jealousy; Chamos, grand-chamberlain, and the demon of flattery – he was knight of the Fly; Melchom, treasurer and payer of the public servants; Nisroch, chief of the kitchen; Behemoth, grand-cupbearer; Dagon, master of the pantry; and Mullin, principal valet-de-chambre. There were also certain ministers or officers of the privy-purse of Belzebuth, such as Kobal, director of the theatres, who was in this world the patron of comedians; Asmodeus, the superintendent of the gambling-houses; Nybbas, the grand-parodist, and who had also the management of dreams and visions; and Antichrist, who was the great juggler and necromancer of the shades. 

With a court so complicated in its arrangements, and numerous in its officers, we might, perhaps, like to know what was the population of Belzebuth’s empire. Wierus has not left us without full information, for he tells us that there are in hell, 6666 legions of demons, each legion composed of 6666 demons, which therefore, makes the whole number amount to 44,435,556. 

Whoever wishes for further information, need only have recourse to Johannes Wierus, and he may obtain as much as he can possibly desire. It must not be forgotten that these statements were at one time fully believed in by men of education and intellect.

*  Sports that Kill?

On this Day in Other Sources.

There stood on the north side of the Castle Hill an ancient church, some vestiges of which were visible in Maitland’s time, in 1753, and which he supposed to have been dedicated to St. Andrew the patron of Scotland, and which he had seen referred to in a deed of gift of twenty merks yearly, Scottish money, to the Trinity altar therein, by Alexander Curor, vicar of Livingstone, 20th December, 1488. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.79-87.

But apart from the restriction on the price of the banquets, it was not so simple a matter to get married then as it is nowadays. There was something more required than a promise to love, honour, and obey. In 1591 the session enacted that “those who are to be married declare the ten commandments, Articles of faith and Lord’s prayer, or else they shall be declared unworthy to be joined in marriage and further censured.”1 And following up this there is an entry in the session records in the same month bearing that a marriage had been actually stopped “till the man learn the Ten Commandments the Lord’s Prayer and Belief.”2

– Old Glasgow, pp.189-215.

1  20th Dec. 1591.
2  26th Dec. 1591.

Not till the beginning of the present century was there any regular police force in Glasgow. At an early period a watch, such as it was, had been instituted, but it does not appear to have been very efficient. The first notice on the subject in the burgh records occurs towards the middle of the seventeenth century, when the council “ordains ane watche to be keepit neightlie heireftir” from six o’clock at night till five in the morning. And in the following year there is an order appointing one of the citizens to keep watch at each port from seven in the morning till ten at night.1

– Old Glasgow, pp.289-299.

1  20th Dec. 1645.

At six in the evening of the 20th December [1681] he was informed that next day at noon he would be conveyed to the city prison; but by seven o’clock he had conceived – like his father – a plan to escape. 

Lady Sophia Lindsay (of Balcarres), wife of his son Charles, had come to bid him a last farewell; on her departure he assumed the disguise and office of her lackey, and came forth from his prison at eight, bearing up her long train. A thick fall of snow and the gloom of the December evening rendered the attempt successful; but at the outer gate the sentinel roughly grasped his arm. In agitation the earl dropped the train of Lady Sophia, who, which singular presence of mind, fairly slapped his face with it, and thereby smearing his features with half-frozen mud, exclaimed, “Thou careless loon!” 

Laughing at this, the soldier permitted them to pass. Lady Sophia entered her coach; the earl sprang on the footboard behind, and was rapidly driven from the fatal gate. Disguising himself completely, he left Edinburgh, and reached Holland, then the focus for all the discontented spirits in Britain. Lady Sophia was committed to the Tolbooth, but was not otherwise punished. After remaining four years in Holland, he returned, and attempted an insurrection in the west against King James, in unison with that of Monmouth in England, but was irretrievably defeated at Muirdykes.   

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.47-66.




   SIR, – The Times and Telegraph may sneer at Sir David Wedderburn and Dr. Begg, but nevertheless it is a fact that of late there has arisen a universal feeling throughout Scotland, and which is daily gaining ground, that home rule is absolutely required to a certain degree. Dr. Begg’s able speech at Edinburgh on the treaty of union between England and Scotland has, I confess, done much to propagate this feeling; and yesterday Mr. Macfie, addressing his constituents at Leith, said, ‘There is at present a cry in Ireland for home rule. I wish we had something of the nature of home rule for Scotland, and I am willing to allow that there is a great deal of public business which would be much better done by a Scottish parliament than by an English one.’  

   The studied neglect of Scotland by the government is now fast bearing fruit; and I am not surprised Mr. Gladstone hesitated to come to Glasgow, where he would have met with a very ‘warm’ reception. All Scotland is up in arms at the bare idea of banishing the Bible from her schools, for every Scotsman, and Englishman too, knows that the secret of their country’s greatness is the Word of God. As for placing the Scottish school board at London, it is a deliberate insult to the civil and religious liberty of Scotland, and no Scotsman would listen to it for a moment. – I am, Sir, yours respectfully,  


   Glasgow, Dec. 1871.” 

– London Evening Standard, Wednesday 20th December, 1871. 

Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.

   During the first session of the new Parliament, though the great question which agitated the national mind was scarcely ever named, there can be no doubt that the discussions which then arose, and which were carried on with a vehemence and acrimony to which the Scottish legislature had hitherto been a stranger, indirectly paved the way to a union between the two kingdoms. In a discussion, in the English Parliament, on the Act of Security, Lord Haversham remarked, ‘There are two matters of all troubles, much discontent and great poverty; and whoever will now look into Scotland will find them both in that kingdom. It is certain the nobility and gentry of Scotland are as learned and as brave as any nation can boast of; and these are generally discontented. And as to the common people, they are very numerous, and very stout, but very poor. And who is the man that can answer what such a multitude, so armed, so disciplined, with such leaders may do – especially since opportunities do so much alter men from themselves!’ An address was presented to the Queen entreating her to order fortifications to be erected at Newcastle and Tynemouth, and the works at Carlisle and Hull to be repaired. She was further requested to embody the militia of the four Northern Counties, and to despatch regular troops to the Border. The great remedy, however, was seen to be in a union, which these alarms thus contributed to hasten. On the 20th of December, 1704, their lordships read a third time, and sent down to the Commons, a bill for the entire nation of the two kingdoms. The consideration of the bill was for a time postponed; and, at length, on the 1st of February, the Commons passed a bill of their own framing, which when sent to the Lords, was immediately agreed to without discussion… 

– Newcastle Chronicle, Saturday 28th August, 1886. 

Treaty of Union Articles, Factions Responsible for the Incorporating Union.

“GLASGOW ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (Dec. 20 [1894]). – Mr. P. Macgregor Chalmers, architect, read a paper on the Mediaeval Church Architecture of Scotland, illustrated by about 100 photographic views so arranged as to show the development of the art. The early phases were found in the crypt of St. Wilfrid’s Church at Hexham, built in the year 674, in the Saxon baluster-work at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth, the Scotic MSS. and the sculpture work of the early crosses, as in the famous one at Ruthwell. These, with others, showed that, following the work of the Roman occupation, the arts flourished in the Saxon period, and at least some colour was lent to the suggestion that the work of the early twelfth century, almost invariably described as of foreign origin, may have been but developed native art. The work executed immediately after the Norman Conquest of England was illustrated principally in Durham and Dunfermline – the one evidently copied from the other. But the most interesting example was Jedburgh Abbey, where the simple character of the early work was seen to develop later into the magnificent specimen of the sculptor’s art at the great west door. The beauty of the moulded work (where the carving is less profuse) to be noticed at the end of the twelfth century was well seen in the nave of Jedburgh. The choir and lower church of Glasgow Cathedral were chosen to illustrate the work of the thirteenth century, and here a parallel to the Chapel of the Four Altars at the east end of the Cathedral was found in the Chapel of the Nine Altars at Durham, designed and executed at the same time. The fourteenth century in Scotland, far from being a time of extreme poverty, was shewn to have been rich in the production of beautiful church work. Many illustrations of this period were shown in the nave of Glasgow Cathedral, in Paisley, Melrose, St. Monan’s, Bothwell, &c. The fifteenth century work, remarkable for the richness of its carving and the beauty of its traceried windows, was exhibited in Lincluden, Melrose, Linlithgow, and the vulgarly ornate Chapel at Roslin, where an interesting parallel to Glasgow Cathedral was noted. The latest illustrations were shown in the rood screen of Glasgow Cathedral and the early sixteenth century work at Paisley Abbey. The series of views closed with the tomb of Archbishop Hamilton, in Paisley Abbey, a tablet of classic form, in which the “new spirit,” having little or nothing to do with the religious Reformation, was seen in the revival of the art of ancient Rome. But the chief feature of the paper was an attempt to revive intelligent effort in the study of the Cathedral in Glasgow. Many views of the building were shown, and it was claimed that an almost entirely new history was possible. The earliest structure was found not only at the west end of the south aisle of the lower church, but in most interesting remains of the same period in the north aisle as well. And the suggestion was offered that the first erection of which there  is any evidence, dating from about the middle of the twelfth century, was only of one storey. Supposed to be quite a unique structure in Scotland – an attempt had been made to find its model in Rome – the Cathedral might be shown to be on exactly the same lines as the whole architectural work of its own period. Even the site of the old High Altar, as it stood in the semi-circular end of the old choir, might be found in the structure still known as the site of the shrine of St. Mungo. In describing the thirteenth century work in the choir and crypt attention was drawn to the very unsatisfactory character of the evidence supporting the opinion now current that the beautiful recumbent effigy at the east end of the crypt is that of the renowned patriot and soldier-bishop Wishart. The thirteenth century tower referred to in documents was found to have been that at the west end of the nave, partially destroyed about the year 1400. The sculptured fragments of its upper storey, still preserved, were clearly work of the time of Bishop Lauder. The nave was completed towards the end of the fourteenth century. To this was added the central tower at the beginning of the fifteenth century, followed by that composite building the chapter-house and sacristy. The stone rood-screen and the vaulting of the lower storey of the unfinished south transept were executed about the year 1500. The copestone to all this steady continuous labour of centuries was laid in the central spire, erected about the middle of the sixteenth century.” 

– Scots Lore, pp.56-60.

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