St Sylvester, pope and confessor, 335. St Columba, virgin and martyr, 3d century. St Melania the Younger, 439.
Born. – Hermann Boerhaave, distinguished physician, 1668, Voorhout, near Leyden; Charles Edward Stuart, younger Pretender, 1721, Rome; Dr Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, phrenologist, 1776, Longwich, near Trêves.
Died. – Commodus, Roman emperor, murdered, 192 A.D.; Thomas Erastus, physician, and author of treatise on Excommunication, 1583, Basle; Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, physician and anatomist, 1679; Robert Boyle, natural philosopher, 1691, London; Jean-François Marmontel, tale-writer, 1799.
In some parts of the country, indeed, and more especially in the northern counties, various social merry-makings take place; but for the most part, the great annual holiday-time is already past. Christmas Eve, Christmas-day, and St Stephen’s or Boxing Day have absorbed almost entirely the tendencies and opportunities of the community at large in the direction of joviality and relaxation. Business and the ordinary routine of daily life have again been resumed; or, to apply to [British] habits the words of an old Scottish rhyme still current, but evidently belonging to the old times, anterior to the Reformation, when Christmas was the great popular festival:
‘Yule’s come and Yule’s gane,
And we hae feasted weel;
Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
And Jenny to her wheel.’
Whilst thus the inhabitants of South Britain are settling down again quietly to work after the festivities of the Christmas season, their fellow-subjects in the northern division of the island are only commencing their annual saturnalia, which, till recently, bore, in the license and boisterous merriment which used to prevail, a most unmistakable resemblance to its ancient pagan namesake. The epithet of the draft [mad] Days, applied to the season of the New Year in Scotland, indicates very expressively the uproarious joviality which characterised the period in question. This exuberance of joyousness – which, it must be admitted, sometimes led to great excesses – has now much declined, but New-year’s Eve and New-year’s Day constitute still the great national holiday in Scotland. Under the 1st of January, we have already detailed the various revelries by which the New Year used to be ushered in, in Scotland. It now becomes our province to notice those ceremonies and customs which are appropriate to the last day of the year, or, as it is styled in Scotland, Hogmanay.
The last term has puzzled antiquaries even more than the word Yule,1 already adverted to; and what is of still greater consequence, has never yet received a perfectly satisfactory explanation. Some suppose it to be derived from two Greek words, άγια μηνη (the holy moon or month). Another hypothesis combines the word with another sung along with it in chorus, and asserts ‘Hogmanay, trollolay!’ to be a corruption of ‘Homme est né – Trois Rois lá’‘ (‘A Man is born – Three Kings are there’), an allusion to the birth of our Saviour, and the visit to Bethlehem of the Wise Men, who were known in medieval times as the ‘Three Kings.’ But two additional conjectures seem much more plausible, and the reader may select for himself what he considers the most probable. One of these is, that the term under notice is derived from Hoggu–nott, Hogenat, or Hogg–night, the ancient Scandinavian name for the night preceding the feast of Yule, and so called in reference to the animals slaughtered on the occasion for sacrificial and fesal purposes – the word hogg signifying to kill. The other derivation of Hogmanay is from ‘Au gui menez’‘ (‘To the mistletoe go’), or ‘Au gui l’an neuf‘ (‘To the mistletoe this New Year’), an allusion to the ancient Druidical ceremony of gathering that plant. In the patois of Touraine, in France, the word used is Aguilanneu; in Lower Normandy, and in Guernsey, poor persons and children used to solicit a contribution under the title of Hoguinanno or Oguinano; whilst in Spain the term, Aguinaldo, is employed to denote the presents made at the season of Christmas.
In country places in Scotland, and also in the more retired and primitive towns, it is still customary on the morning of the last day of the year, or Hogmanay, for the children of the poorer class of people to get themselves swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an expected dole of oaten-bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of oat-cake (sometimes, in the case of particular favourites, improved by an addition of cheese), and this is called their hogmanay. In expectation of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes. The children on coming to the door cry, ‘Hogmanay!’ which is in itself a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other exclamations which either are or might be used for the same purpose. One of these is:
Give us of your white bread, and none of your gray.’
Another favourite rhyme is:
‘Get up, goodwife, and shake your feathers,
And dinna think that we are beggars;
For we are bairns come out to play
Get up and gie‘s our hogmanay!’
The following is of a moralising character, though a good deal of truism:
‘Get up, goodwife, and binna sweir,
And deal your bread to them that’s here;
For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
And then ye’ll neither need ale nor bread.’
The most favourite of all, however, is more to the point than any of the foregoing:
‘My feet’s cauld, my shoon’s thin;
Gie’s my cakes, and let me rin!’
It is no unpleasing scene, during the forenoon, to see the children going laden home, each with his large apron bellying out before him, stuffed full of cakes, and perhaps scarcely able to waddle under the load. Such a mass of oaten alms is no inconsiderable addition to the comfort of the poor man’s household, and enables him to enjoy the New-year season as much as his richer neighbours.
In the primitive parish of Deerness, in Orkney, it was customary, in the beginning of the present century, for old and young of the common class of people to assemble in a great band upon the evening of the last day of the year, and commence a round of visits throughout the district. At every house they knocked at the door, and on being admitted, commenced singing, to a tune of its own, a song appropriate to the occasion. The following is what may be termed a restored version of this chant, the imagination having been called on to make up in several of the lines what was deficient in memory. The ‘Queen Mary’ alluded to is evidently the Virgin:
‘This night it is guid New’r E’en’s night,
We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
And we’re come here to crave our right,
And that’s before our Lady.
The very first thing which we do crave,
We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
A bonny white candle we must have,
And that’s before our Lady.
Goodwife, gae to your butter-ark,
And weigh us here ten mark.
Ten mark, ten pund,
Look that ye grip weel to the grund.2
Goodwife, ga to your geelin vat,
And fetch us here a skeel o’ that.
Gang to your awmrie, gin ye please,
And bring frae there a yow-milk cheese.
And syne bring here a sharping-stane,
We’ll sharp our whittles ilka ane.
Ye’ll cut the cheese, and eke the round,
But aye take care ye cutna your thoom.
Gae fill the three-pint cog o’ ale,
The maut maun be aboon the meal.
We houp your ale is stark and stout,
For men to drink the auld year out.
Ye ken the weather’s snaw and sleet,
Stir up the fire to warm our feet.
Our shoon’s made o’ mare’s skin,
Come open the door, and let’s in.’
The inner-door being opened, a tremendous rush was made ben the house. The inmates furnished a long table with all sorts of homely fare, and a hearty feast took place, followed by copious libations of ale, charged with all sorts of good-wishes. The party would then proceed to the next house, where a similar scene would be enacted. How they contrived to take so many suppers in one evening, heaven knows! No slight could be more keenly felt by a Deerness farmer than to have his house passed over unvisited by the New-year singers.
the doings of the guisers or guizards (that is, masquers or mummers) form a conspicuous feature in the New-year proceedings throughout Scotland. The favourite night for this exhibition is Hogmanay, though the evenings of Christmas, New-year’s Day, and Handsel Monday, enjoy likewise a privilege in this respect. Such of the boys as can lay any claim to the possession of a voice have, for weeks before, been poring over the collection of ‘excellent new songs,’ which lies like a bunch of rags in the window-sill; and being now able to screech up ‘Barbara Allan,’ or the ‘Wee cot-house and the wee kail-yardie,’ they determine upon enacting the part of guisers. For is purpose they don old shirts belonging to their fathers, and mount mitre-shaped casques of brown paper, possibly borrowed from the Abbot of Unreason; attached to this is a sheet of the same paper, which, falling down in front, covers and conceals the whole face, except where holes are made to let through the point of the nose, and afford sight to the eyes and breath to the mouth. each vocal guiser is, like a knight of old, attended by a sort of humble squire, who assumes the habiliments of a girl, with an old-woman’s cap and a broomstick, and is styled ‘Bessie.’ Bessie is equal in no respect, except that she shares fairly in the proceeds of the enterprise. She goes before her principal, opens all the doors at which he pleases to exert his singing powers; and busies herself, during the time of the song, in sweeping the floor with her broomstick, or in playing any other antics that she thinks may amuse the indwellers. The common reward of this entertainment is a halfpenny, but many churlish persons fall upon the unfortunate guisers, and beat them out of the house. Let such persons, however, keep a good watch upon their cabbage-gardens next Halloween!
The more important doings of the guisers are of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque drama which they are accustomed to perform on each of the four above-mentioned nights; and which, in various fragments or versions, exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting themselves with the kitchen for an arena; whither, in mansions presided over by the spirit of good-humour, the whole family will resort to witness the spectacle. Sir Walter Scott, who delighted to keep up the old customs, and could condescend to simple things without losing genuine dignity, invariably had a set of guisers to perform this play before his family both at Ashestiel and Abbotsford. the drama in question bears a close resemblance, with sundry modifications and of which we have already given a specimen.3
BURNING OF ‘THE CLAVIE.’
A singular custom, almost unparalleled in any other part of Scotland, takes place on New-year’s Eve (old style) at the village of Burghead, on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, about nine miles from the town of Elgin. It has been observed there from time immemorial, and both its origin, and that of the peculiar appellation by which it is distinguished, form still matter of conjecture and dispute for antiquaries. The following extract from the Banffshire Journal presents a very interesting and comprehensive view of all that can be stated regarding this remarkable ceremonial:
‘Any Hogmanay afternoon, a small group of seamen and coopers, dressed in blue overfrocks, and followed by numbers of noisy youngsters, may be seen rapidly wending their way to the south-western extremity of the village, where it is customary to build the Clavie. One of the men bears on his shoulders a stout Archangel tar-barrel, kindly presented for the occasion by one of the merchants, who has very considerately left a quantity of the resinous fluid in the bottom. Another carries a common herring-cask, while the remainder are laiden with other raw materials, and the tools necessary for the construction of the Clavie. Arrived at the spot, three cheers being given for the success of the undertaking, operations are commenced forthwith. In the first place, the tar-barrel is sawn into two unequal parts; the smaller forms the groundwork of the Clavie, the other is broken up for fuel. A common fir prop. some four feet in length, called the “spoke,” being then procured, a hole is bored through the tub-like machine, that, as we have already said, is to form the basis of the unique structure, and a long nail, made for the purpose, and furnished gratuitously by the village blacksmith, unites the two. Curiously enough, no hammer is allowed to drive this nail, which is “sent home” by a smooth stone. The herring-cask is next demolished, and the staves are soon undergoing a diminution at both extremities, in order to fit them for their proper position. They are nailed, at intervals of about two inches all round, to the lower edge of the Clavie-barrel, while the other ends are firmly fastened to the spoke, an aperture being left sufficiently large to admit the head of a man. Amid tremendous cheering, the finished Clavie is now set up against the wall, which is mounted by two stout young men, who proceed to the business of filling and lighting. A few pieces of the split-up tar-barrel are placed in a pyramidal form in the inside of the Clavie, enclosing a small space for the reception of a burning peat, when everything is ready. The tar, which had been previously removed to another vessel, is now poured over the wood; and the same inflammable substance is freely used, while the barrel is being closely packed with timber and other combustible materials, that rise twelve or thirteen inches above the rim.
‘By this time the shades of evening have begun to descend, and soon the subdued murmur of the crowd breaks forth into one loud, prolonged cheer, as the youth who was despatched for the fiery peat (for custom says no sulphurous lucifer, no patent congreve dare approach within the sacred precincts of the Clavie) arrives with his glowing charge. The master-builder relieving him of his precious trust, places it within the opening already noticed, where, revived by a hot blast from his powerful lungs, it ignites the surrounding wood and tar, which quickly bursts into a flame. During the short time the fire is allowed to gather strength, cheers are given in rapid succession for “The Queen,” “The Laird,” “The Provost,” “The Town,” “The Harbour,” and “The Railway,” and then Clavie-bearer number one, popping his head between the staves, is away with his flaming burden. Formerly, the Clavie was carried in triumph round every vessel in the harbour, and a handful of grain thrown into each, in order to insure success for the coming year; but as this part of the ceremony came to be tedious, it was dropped, and the procession confined to the boundaries of the town. As fast as his heavy load will permit him, the bearer hurries along the well-known route, followed by the shouting Burgheadians, the boiling tar meanwhile trickling down in dark sluggish streams all over his back. Nor is the danger of scalding the only one he who essays to carry the Clavie has to confront, since the least stumble is sufficient to destroy his equilibrium. Indeed, this untoward event, at one time looked on as a dire calamity, foretelling disaster to the place, and certain death to the bearer in the course of next year, not unfrequently occurs. Having reached the junction of two streets, the carrier of the Clavie is relieved; and while the change is being effected, firebrands plucked from the barrel are thrown among the crowd, who eagerly scramble for the tarry treasure, the possession of which was of old deemed a sure safeguard against all unlucky contingencies. Again the multitude bound along; again they halt for a moment as another individual takes his place as bearer – a post for the honour of which there us sometimes no little striving. The circuit of the town being at length completed, the Clavie is borne along the principal street to a small hill near the northern extremity of the promontory called the “Doorie,” on the summit of which a freestone pillar, very much resembling an ancient alter, has been built for its reception, the spoke fitting into a socket in the centre. Being now firmly seated on its throne, fresh fuel is heaped on the Clavie, while, to make the fire burn brighter, a barrel with the ends knocked out is placed on the top. Cheer after cheer rises from the crown below, as the efforts made to increase the blaze are crowned with success.
‘Though formerly allowed to remain on the Doorie the whole night, the Clavie is now removed when it has burned about half an hour. Then comes the most exciting scene of all. The barrel is lifted from the socket, and thrown down on the western slope of the hill, which appears to be all in one mass of flame – a state of matters that does not, however, prevent a rush to the spot in search of embers. Two stout men, instantly seizing the fallen Clavie, attempt to demolish it by dashing it to the ground: which is no sooner accomplished than a final charge is made among the blazing fragments, that are snatched up in total, in spite of all the powers of combustion, in an incredibly short space of time. Up to the present moment, the origin of this peculiar custom is involved in the deepest obscurity. Some would have us to believe that we owe its introduction to the Romans; and that the name Clavie is derived from the Latin word clavus, a nail – witches being frequently put to death in a barrel stuck full of iron spikes; or from clavis, a key – the rite being instituted when Agricola discovered that Ptoroton, i.e., Burghead, afforded the grand military key to the north of Scotland. As well might these wild speculators have remarked that Doorie, which may be spelled Durie, sprang from durus, cruel, on account of the bloody ceremony celebrated on its summit. Another opinion has been boldly advanced by one party, to the effect that the Clavie is Scandinavian in origin, being introduced by the Norwegian Vikings, during the short time they held the promontory in the beginning of the eleventh century, though the theorist advances nothing to prove his assumption, save a quotation from Scott’s Marmion; while, to crown all, we have to listen to a story that bears on its face its own condemnation, invented to confirm the belief that a certain witch, yclept, “Kitty Clavers,” bequeathed her name to the singular rite. Unfortunately, all external evidence being lost, we are compelled to rely entirely on the internal, which we have little hesitation, however, in saying points in an unmistakable manner down through the long vistas of our national history to where the mists of obscurity hang around the Druid worship of our forefathers. It is well known that the elements of fire were often present in Druidical orgies and customs (as witness their cran-tara); while it is universally admitted that the bonfires of May-day and Mid-summer eve, still kept up in different parts of the country, are vestiges of these rites. And why should not the Clavie be so too, seeing that it bears throughout the stamp of a like parentage? The carrying home of the embers, as a protection from the ills of life, as well as other parts of the ceremony, finds a counterpart in the customs of the Druids; and though the time of observance be somewhat different, yet may not the same causes (now unknown ones) that have so greatly modified the Clavie have likewise operated in altering the date, which, after all, occurs at the most solemn part of the Druidical year?’
STRUGGLE FOR A CASK OF WINE.
There are many curious circumstances connected with the ownership of abandoned, lost, or unclaimed property. In such cases the crown generally comes forward as the great claimant, subject of course to such pretensions as other parties may be able to substantiate in the matter. If a man finds or picks up treasure, it becomes a knotty point to determine whether he may keep it. If the owner has thrown it away, the finder may keep it; but if the owner hides it or loses it, without an intention of parting with it, there is often much legal difficulty in deciding whether the crown or any one else acquires a right to it.
And so it is out at sea, and on the British coasts. The laws concerning wrecked property are marked by much minuteness of detail, on account of the great diversity of the articles forming the cargoes of ships, and the relation they bear to the ‘sink or swim’ test. As a general rule, the king or queen is entitled to wrecks or wrecked property, unless and until a prior claimant appears. The main object of this prerogative was, not to grasp at the property for emolument, but to discourage the barbarous custom of wrecking, by which ships and human life were often purposely sacrificed as a means of giving booty to the wreckers who lived on shore. Then, to determine who shall obtain the property if the crown waives its claim, shipwrecked goods are divided into four classes – flotsam, jetsam, ligan, and simple wreck. Flotsamos when the ship is split, and the goods float upon the water between high and low water marks. Jetsam is when the ship is in danger of foundering, and the goods are cast into the sea for the purpose of saving it. Ligan, ligam, or lagan, is when heavy goods are thrown into the sea with a buoy, so that mariners may know where to retake them. Wreck, properly so called, is where goods shipwrecked are cast upon the land. By degrees, as the country became more amenable to law, the sovereign gave up the claim to some of these kinds of wrecked property, not unfrequently vesting them in the lords of adjacent manors. Ligan belongs to the crown if no owner appears to claim it; but if any owner appears, he is entitled to recover the possession; for even if the goods were cast overboard without any cask or buoy, in order to lighten the ship, the owner is not, by this act of necessity, construed to have renounced his property. All the goods called flotsam, jetsam, and ligan become wreck if thrown upon the land, instead of floating, and subject to the laws of wreck. By a very curious old law, if a man, or a dog, or a cat escape ‘quick’ or alive out of a ship, that ship shall not be regarded as wreck; it still continues the property of the same owner as before; the words man, dog, or cat, are interpreted to mean any living animals by which the ownership of the vessel might be ascertained. Lord Mansfield put a very liberal interpretation upon this old statute. A case was brought before him for trial, in which the lord of a manor claimed the goods of a wrecked ship cast on shore, on the ground that no living creature had come alive from the ship to the shore. But Lord Mansfield disallowed this claim. He said: ‘The coming to shore of a dog or a cat alive can be no better proof than if they should come ashore dead. The escaping alive makes no sort of difference. If the owner of the animal were known, the presumption of the goods belonging to the same person would be equally strong, whether the animal were living or not.’
The records of our law and equity courts give some curious information concerning the struggles between the crown and other persons, concerning the right to property thrown ashore. One famous case is known by the title Rex v. Two Casks of Tallow. Another, Rex v. Forty Nine Casks of Brandy, shews the curious manner in which the judgment of the court awarded some casks to the crown and some to the lord of the manor – according as the casks were found floating beyond three miles from the shore, floating within that distance, lying on the wet foreshore, lying on the dry foreshore, or alternately wet and dry.
RINGING OUT THE OLD YEAR: CONCLUSION.
The close of the year brings along with it a mingled feeling of gladness and melancholy – of gladness in the anticipation of brighter days to come with the advent of the New Year, and of melancholy in reflections on the fleeting nature of time, and the gradual approach to the inevitable goal in the race for life. That so interesting an occasion should be distinguished by some observance or ceremony appears but natural, and we accordingly find various customs prevail, some sportive, others serious, and others in which both the mirthful and pensive moods are intermingled.
One of the best known and most general of these customs is, that of sitting up till twelve o’clock on the night of the 31st December, and, then, when the eventful hour has struck, proceeding to the house-door, and unbarring it with great formality to ‘let out the Old, and let in the New Year.’ The evening in question is a favourite occasion for social gatherings in Scotland, the assembled friends this welcoming together the birth of another of Father Time’s ever-increasing, though short-lived progeny. In Philadelphia, in North America, we are informed that the Old Year is there ‘fired out,’ and the New Year ‘fired in,’ by a discharge of every description of firearm – musket, fowling-piece, and pistol. In the island of Guernsey, it used to be the practice of children to dress up a figure in the shape of a man, and after parading it through the parish, to bury it on the sea-shore, or in some retired spot. This ceremony was styled ‘enterrer le vieux bout de l’an.’
1 See p.745 of this volume.
2 In stooping into a deep ark, or chest, there is of course a danger of falling in, unless the feet be kept firm to the ground.
3 See p.740 of this volume.
On this Day in Other Sources.
She remained [in Stirling] a day, and on the 31st of December 1567, she went to Tullibardin, on a visit to Sir William Murray, the comptroller of her household. On the morrow, she returned to Stirling.
– Life of Mary, pp.136-151.
Dec. 31 . – ‘Robert Jack, merchant and burgess of Dundee, was hangit and quarterit for false coin called Hardheads, whilk he had brought out of Flanders.’ – Bir. ‘Fals lyons callit hardheades, plakis, balbeis,1 and other fals money,’ is the description given in another record, literatim.
– Domestic Annals, pp.35-44.
1 Baubees, halfpence, from bas billon, a low piece of money.
Scotland was disquieted, in 1580, by the outcries, which were raised against the King’s favourite Lennox. The jealousy of Elizabeth fastened on him, as a French spy, who was sent to delude the King. She sent Sir Robert Bowes to Edinburgh, for the purpose of removing Lennox, from councils, and the presence of the King: But, the ambassador’s representation was distrusted; and he was desired to show his instructions: Bowes found such a spirit, at Edinburgh, in opposition to Elizabeth’s influence, that he returned to Berwick, without effecting his purpose. The King, on his part, sent Alexander Hume to the court of Elizabeth; to excuse what had passed, and to learn what the imminent dangers were, which Bowes had pressed so strongly. Elizabeth refused to see Hume; but, as she suspected, that her influence was on the wane, in Scotland; she referred the Scotish envoy to Burghley, who gave him a lecture on the advantages, that result from good neighbourhood, and on the many benefits, which would be the effects of subservience to her, whose wisdom bears command. Yet, this lecture did not prevent the impeachment, on the 31st of December 1580, of Morton, Elizabeth’s agent, in Scotland, for the murder of the late King.
– Life of Mary, pp.260-274.
Morton, who alone possessed the personal character that could effectually stand for the English interest and the kirk, had, by his cruel and avaricious conduct, lost the support of all classes, the clergy included. It was even found possible to effect the ruin of this great man. On the last of December, 1580, the adventurer Stuart came into the council-chamber, and, falling on his knees, accused the ex-Regent of being concerned in the murder of his majesty’s father. To the general surprise, he fell without a struggle, and after a few months’ confinement, he perished on the scaffold (June 2, 1581).
– Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.
The newspaper press of Scotland began during the civil wars of the 17th century. A party of Cromwell’s troops which garrisoned the citadel of Leith in 1652, brought with them a printer named Christopher Higgins, to reprint the London paper called the Mercurius Politicus, consisting of from eight to sixteen pages, which he began to issue from his establishment “in Hart’s Close, over against the Tron Church.” The first number appeared on the 26th of October, 1653, and the serial continued till 1660. On the 31st December in that year appeared the “Mercurius Caledonius,* comprising the affairs now in agitation in Scotland, with a survey of foreign intelligence.” It is in eight pages post 8vo., and contains a description of the funeral of Montrose, the departure of the English garrison from the Castle, with the announcement that “the blasphemous Rumper and other anti-monarchical vermin in England must cast about somewhere else than for companions in Scotland.” It lived only three months, and was succeeded by The Kingdom’s Intelligencer – to prevent false news – published by authority.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.282-290.
* We have the 1861 “fac simile” of the 1660-1 ‘Mercurius Caledonius‘, celebrating 200 years of the paper.
The Affairs now in Agitation in
A Survey of Forraign Intelligence.
Conamur Tenues Grandia.
From Monday Decemb. 31. to Tuesday, Jan. 8th. 1661.
From Edinburgh, Decemb. 31.
Our clouds are dissipate, the rays of Royalty, darts from the breasts of Scot‘s-men, not being in the power of the most skilfull Artificers of Treason, to stave off our Allegiance, which was bravely manifested in the reception of His Majesties High Commissioner the Earl of Middleton; (who according to the grander of his State) was welcomed seven miles from the City, by numerous Troops of Nobility, Gentry and Citizens, all in such equipage, as become both Court and Camp…
From London the 31. Decemb.
The bottome and extent of the late Plot is discovered dayly by taking new Prisoners, viz., Unton Crook, Col. Farley, Major Audley, Capt. Edward Jones, Capt. John Smith, Quartermaster Trevour, They are all secured in the Gatehouse: A Declaration found among them against Kingly Government, and in several suspected houses were found a great number of Muskets, Pistolls, and in Capt. Blackwells, diverse Blunder-bushes, with sifficient quantity of Powder and Ball, and many Ensign-staves new shod, and all to ruine their own Country, after so signal mercies from heaven in its restitution…
In such strange company, or associated during a portion of its existence with a number of such curiously named prints, the “Mercurius Caledonius” entered on journalistic life. Its first number, it will be seen, bears date “From Monday Decemb. 31 to Tuesday Jan. 8th. 1661.” The little sheet was published at irregular dates, and of irregular size.
With the state levées of the old Earl of Leven as High Commissioner at Fortune’s tavern the ancient glories of the Stamp Office Close faded away; but an unwonted spectacle was exhibited at the head thereof in 1812 – a public execution.
On the night of the 31st December, 1811, a band of young artisans and idlers, most of them under twenty years of age, but so numerous and so well organised as to set the regular police of the city at defiance, sallied forth, about eleven o’clock, into the streets, then crowded as usual at that festive season, and proceeded with bludgeons to knock down and rob every person of decent appearance who fell in their way – the least symptom on the part of the victims to resist, or protect their property, proving only a provocation to fresh outrages. These desperadoes had full possession of the streets till two in the morning, for the police, who at that period were wretchedly insufficient, were routed and dispersed from the commencement of the murderous riot.
One watchman, who did his duty in a resolute manner, was killed on the spot; a great number of persons were robbed, and a greater number dangerously, some mortally, wounded. When the police recovered from their surprise, assisted by several gentlemen, a number of the rioters were arrested, some with stolen articles in their possession, and the chief ringleaders were soon after discovered and taken into custody.
Four were tried and convicted; and three of these young lads were sentenced to be hanged.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.227-234.
2614. Letter from General Garibaldi to John McAdam, and Translation. Caprera, 31st December, 1860.
– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.
This striking monument reads:
MARION CROSS MACFARLANE CASSELS, O.B.E., THEIR DAUGHTER,
AND WIFE OF J. H. H. CASSELS, DIED 31ST DECEMBER 1986, AGED 79 YEARS.