28th of December – Childermas Day

The Holy Innocents. St Theodorus, abbot of Tabenna, confessor, 367.

Born. – Thomas Henderson, astronomer, 1798, Dundee; Alexander Keith Johnstone, geographer, 1804.
Died. – Pierre Bayle, critic and controversialist, 1706, Rotterdam; Joseph Piton de Tournefort, distinguished botanist, 1708, Paris; Dr John Campbell, miscellaneous writer, 1775, London; John Logan, poet, 1788, London.


The name of John Logan, though almost entirely forgotten in South Britain, is not likely to pass into oblivion in Scotland, as long as the church of that country continues to use in her services those beautiful Scripture paraphrases and hymns, undoubtedly the finest and most poetical of any versified collection of chants for divine worship employed by any denomination of Christians in the United Kingdom. Some of the finest of these, including the singularly solemn and affecting hymn, ‘The hour of my departure’s come,’ are from the pen of Logan. 

The history of this gifted man forms one of those melancholy chapters which the lives of men of genius have but too often furnished. The son of a small farmer near Fala, in Mid-Lothian, he was educated for the Scottish Church in the Edinburgh University, and almost immediately after being licensed as a preacher, was presented to a church in Leith, where for several years he enjoyed great renown as an eloquent and popular preacher. He delivered a course of lectures in Edinburgh with much success on the ‘Philosophy of History,’ published a volume of poems, and had a tragedy called Runnamede acted at the Edinburgh theatre in 1783. The times were now somewhat changed since the days when the production of Home’s tragedy of Douglas had excited a ferment in the Scottish Church, which has become historical. We are informed by Dr Carlyle, who himself had to encounter the violence of the storm which burst forth against Home and the clerical brethren who supported him, that about 1784, so complete a revulsion of feeling had taken place on the subject of theatricals, owing to the predominance gained by the Moderate over the Evangelical party, that when Mrs Siddons made her first appearance in Edinburgh, the General Assembly of the Scottish Church was obliged to adjourn its sittings at an early hour to enable its reverend members to attend the theatre and witness the performance of the great tragic actress. Yet, notwithstanding this altered state of public opinion, Logan did undergo some obloquy and animadversion in consequence of the play above referred to, and the annoyance thereby occasioned, combined with a hereditary tendency to hypochondria, seems to have induced a melancholy and depression of spirits which prompted him to seek relief in the fatal solace of stimulating liquors. The habit rapidly gained strength; and having so far forgotten himself as on one occasion to appear in the pulpit in a state of intoxication, the misguided man was glad to make an arrangement with the ecclesiastical authorities, by which he was allowed to resign his ministerial charge, and retain for his maintenance a portion of its revenues. He then proceeded to London, where he eked out his income by literary labour of various kinds, but did not long survive his transference to the metropolis, dying there on 28th December 1788. Two posthumous volumes of his sermons long enjoyed great popularity. 

Whilst yet a student at Edinburgh College, Logan acted for a time as tutor to a boy who afterwards became Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, famous for his many public-spirited undertakings. The following anecdote of this period of his life exhibits an amusing instance of a tendency to practical joking in the disposition of the future divine and poet. About 1766, the Sinclair family, with whom he resided, made a progress from Edinburgh to its remote Caithness home; and owing to the badness of the roads, it was necessary to employ two carriages, the heaviest of them drawn by six horses. ‘When the cavalcade reached Kinross, the natives gathered round in crowds to gaze upon it, and requested the tutor to inform them who was travelling in such a state. Logan affected a suspicious reluctance to give an answer; but at last took aside some respectable bystander, and, after enjoining secrecy, whispered to him, pointing to the laird: “You observe a portly stout gentleman, with gold lace upon his clothes. That is (but it must not be mentioned to mortal) the great Duke William of Cumberland; he is going north incog. to see the field of Culloden once more.” This news was, of course, soon spread, and brought the whole population to catch a glimpse of the hero.’1


An animated description of a round game at cards, among a party of young people in a Scottish farmhouse, is given in Wilson’s ever-memorable Noctes. It is the Shepherd who is represented speaking in this wise: 

   ‘As for young folks – lads and lasses, like – when the gudeman and his wife are gaen to bed, what’s the harm in a gem at cairds? It’s a chearfu’, noisy, sicht o’ comfort and confusion. Sic luckin’ into anither’s hauns! Sic fause shufflin’! Sic unfair dealin’! Sic winkin’ to tell your pairtner that ye hae the king or the ace! And when that wunna do, sic kickin’ o’ shins and treadin’ on taes aneath the table – aften the wrang anes! Then down wi’ your haun’ o’ cairds in a clash on the boord, because you’ve ane ower few, and the coof maun lose his deal! Then what gigglin’ amang the lasses! What amicable, nay, love-quarrels, between pairtners! Jokin’, and jeestin’, and tauntin’, and toozlin’ – the cawnel blawn out, and the soun’ o’ a thousan’ kisses! – That’s caird-playing in the kintra, Mr North; and where’s the man amang ye that wull daur to say that it’s no a pleasant pastime o’ a winter’s nicht, when the snaw is cumin’ doon the lum, or the speat’s roarin’ amang the mirk mountains.’

1  Memoir of Sir John Sinclair, by his Son. 2 vols. 1837.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The traitor Bothwell,.. , this year, [1591,] besets the palace of Holyroodhouse, to have taken the King, and kill William Shaw, master of his majesty’s horses, but failed of his main enterprise; 8 of his followers were apprehended, and hanged at the Girth Cross [Canongate], against the palace gate, the next day, without any assize; which tumult the King’s majesty, on the 28th of December this same year, with the treachery of Bothwell, he declared in St. Giles’ Church in Edinburgh, to all his subjects present. This tumult was called the 1st [Raid] of the Abbey. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Balindalloch was kept in durance vile for twenty days in a kiln near Thomas Grant’s house, suffering the greatest privations, without fire, light, or bed-clothes, in the dead of winter, and without knowing where he was. He was closely watched night and day by Leonard Leslie, son-in-law of Robert Grant, brother of James Grant, and a strong athletic man, named McGrimmon, who would not allow him to leave the kiln for a moment even to perform the necessities of nature. On Christmas, James Grant, and his party, having gone on some excursion, leaving Leslie and McGrimmon behind them, Balindalloch, worn out by fatigue, and almost perishing from cold and hunger, addressed Leslie in a low tone of voice, lamenting his miserable situation, and imploring him to aid him in effecting his escape, and promising, in the event of success, to reward him handsomely. Leslie, tempted by the offer, acceded to Balindalloch’s request, and made him acquainted with the place of his confinement. It was then arranged that Balindalloch, under the pretence of stretching his arms, should disengage the arm which Leslie held, and that, having so disentangled that arm, he should, by another attempt, get his other arm out of McGrimmon’s grasp. The morning of Sunday, the twenty-eighth day of December, was fixed upon for putting the stratagem into execution. The plan succeeded, and as soon as Balindalloch found his arms at liberty, he suddenly sprung to his feet and made for the door of the kiln. Leslie immediately followed him, pretending to catch him, and as McGrimmon was hard upon his heels, Leslie purposely stumbled in his way and brought McGrimmon down to the ground. This stratagem enabled Balindalloch to gain a-head of his pursuers, and although McGrimmon sounded the alarm and the pursuit was continued by Robert Grant and a party of James Grant’s followers, Balindalloch succeeded in reaching the village of Urquhart in safety, accompanied by Leonard Leslie. 

Sometime after his escape, Balindalloch applied for and obtained a warrant for the apprehension of Thomas Grant, and others, for harbouring James Grant. Thomas Grant, and some of his accomplices, were accordingly seized and sent to Edinburgh, where they were tried and convicted. Grant was hanged, and the others were banished from Scotland for life. 

– History of the Highlands, pp.287-313.

During 1693, there were great alarms about invasion from France, and the forcible restoration of the deposed king; and some considerable severities were consequently practised on disaffected persons. By the death of the queen (December 28, 1694), William was left in the position of sole monarch of these realms. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.342-354.

On the 28th of December, [1697,] the Privy Council was informed of a cargo of two hundred bolls of wheat shipped in order to be transported to France, and, considering that ‘wheat is not yet so low as twelve pounds Scots per boll,’ it was proposed by the Lord Chancellor that it should be stopped; but this the Council thought ‘not convenient.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.355-378.

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