St Andrew & His Day (Podcast) – Random Scottish History
St Eligius or Eloy, bishop of Noyon, confessor, 659.
Born. – Princess Anna Comnena, historian, 1083, Constantinople; John Keill, mathematician and natural philosopher, 1671, Edinburgh.
Died. – Pope Leo X., 1521; Sir James Ware, antiquary, 1666, Dublin; Alexander I., Emperor of Russia, 1825, Taganrog.
THE YOUNG ROSCIUS.
Precocity of genius or of ability, has always a certain attraction for the world; partly on account of a kindly feeling towards the young, but principally owing to a love of the marvellous, which leads most of us to run after that which is new and wonderful. If the encouragement thus afforded to precocious boys and girls had the effect of strengthening the powers thus early developed, this would be a great point in its favour; but such is certainly not the case. The youthful prodigy generally becomes, if he or she lives, a very prosaic adult. This was illustrated in the instance of The Young Roscius, a boy-actor who made the public almost crazy in the early part of the present century. William Henry West Betty, the boy in question, was born near Shrewsbury in 1791. Almost from a child he evinced a taste for dramatic recitations, which was encouraged by a strong and retentive memory. Having been taken to see Mrs Siddons act, he was so powerfully affected, that he told his father ‘he should certainly die if he was not made a player.’ He gradually got himself introduced to managers and actors; and at eleven years of age, he learned by heart the parts of Rollo, Young Norval, Osman, and others high in popular favour in those days. On the 16th of August 1803, when under twelve years of age, he made his first public appearance at Belfast in the character of Osman; and went through the ordeal without mistake or embarrassment. Soon afterwards he undertook the characters of Young Norval and Romeo. His fame having rapidly spread through Ireland, he soon received an offer from the manager of the Dublin theatre. His success there was prodigious, and the manager endeavoured, but in vain, to secure his services for three years. Addresses were presented to the Young Roscius, as he was now called; and pamphlets were written in advocacy of plans for insuring the happiness and completing the education of one who was to be the bright star of the age. He next played nine nights at the small theatre at Cork, whose receipts, averaging only ten pounds on ordinary nights, amounted to a hundred on each evening of Master Betty’s performance. In May 1804, the manager of the Glasgow theatre invited the youthful genius to Scotland. When, a little after, Betty went to the sister-city of Edinburgh, one newspaper announced that he ‘set the town of Edinburgh in a flame;’ and, at a loss apparently how to account for so brilliant a phenomenon, put forth a theory that the boy’s ‘pleasing movements of perfect and refined nature, had been incorporated with his frame previous to his birth!’ Mr Home went to see the character of Young Norval in his own play of Douglas enacted by the prodigy, and is said to have declared: ‘This is the first time I ever saw the part played according to my ideas of the character. He is a wonderful being!’..
Fortunately for young Betty, his friends took care of his large earnings for him, and made a provision for his future support. He soon retired from the stage, and then became a person of no particular note in the world, displaying no more genius or talent than the average of those about him. When he became a man, he appeared on the stage again, but utterly failed; he would not and could not ‘draw.’ The Young Roscius and Mr Betty were two entirely different persons in the public estimation.
On this Day in Other Sources.
The first of the month of December, this same year, [1560,] dies Francis, second of that name, King of France and of Scotland, at Orleans.
– Historical Works, pp.275-340.
Murray, and his expatriated followers, now lay along the northern borders of the conterminous kingdoms, but chiefly in Newcastle, unseen, by Elizabeth, protected by Cecil, and supported by Bedford; having a good position, for intriguing, in Scotland, and watching occasions, in England. There is reason to believe, that Throckmorton was sent, by Cecil, and Elizabeth, to solicit their pardons, from Mary, according to their usual policy. Sir James Melvill continued to whisper, in her offended ear, very unsalutary advice. At length, on the 1st of December, 1565, summonses were executed against those expatriated nobles, to answer for their treasons, in the Parliament, which was to assemble, in February, then next. The guilty nobles were thrown into despair, by that vigorous measure. Murray, with a meanness, which was unworthy of his ambition, courted Rizzio, the Queen’s private secretary; sent him a diamond; and flattered him, with many promises of future friendship.
– Life of Mary, pp.98-126.
There was commotion in Edinburgh when it was known that armed men had invaded the palace, and the provost and the townspeople hurried thither, but Darnley quieted them by telling them that he and the queen were uninjured. When Ruthven returned to the queen’s apartment he assured her that her favourite was safe. The queen, ignorant of what had really happened, was left in charge of attendants who could be trusted, and Ruthven did not leave Darnley on that Saturday evening until two proclamations were prepared to be issued next day in name of the latter as king. The one was to call a muster of the well-affected inhabitants of Edinburgh to keep ward in the streets, the other was to dismiss the Parliament, which was about to pass a statute of treason against Moray and the exiled lords.1
– A History of Scotland, Chapter XIV.
1 The citation for treason was key to this whole affair, we’re told by Chalmers, in the chapter, From the Arrival of Darnley till the Assassination of Rizzio.
Dec. 1 . – It had become a practice for persons who had revengeful feelings towards their neighbours to obtain petards from the continent, and employ them for the destruction of those against whom they had an ill-will. The king now issued a proclamation against ‘sic detestable and unworthy crimes, without example in any other kingdom,’ whereby ‘na man of whatsomever rank and calling can assure his awn safety and preservation within his awn house and iron yetts.’ He ordered all who have any ‘pittartis’ to surrender them at the next burgh immediately, and forbade any more being brought home by sea, or made or mended within the country. – P. C. R.
– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.
A company of distracted people was this day brought into Edinburgh, under the guardianship of a troop of dragoons. They were commonly known as the Sweet Singers of Borrowstounness, from their noted habit of frequent chanting of psalms. The religious exasperations of the times, the execution of two Bo’ness persons, named Stewart and Potter, on the preceding 1st of December, [1680,] and perhaps in addition to these causes, the terrors diffused by the comet, had now produced in that little town an epidemic mania of a type only too well known. These people felt as if all was wrong in church and state, and professed to deny all kinds of institutions, even the names of the days of the week; nay, the commonest social obligations, as that of working for one’s own bread. They protested against taxes, confessions, and covenants; disowned the king and his government; and called for vengeance on the murderers of the two late martyrs, Stewart and Potter, whose blood they carried on a handkerchief. They ran up and down the town in a furious manner, sometimes uttering prayers which consisted chiefly of curses invoked against individuals, more frequently singing psalms of lamentation (74th, 79th, 80th, 83d, and 137th) for the sins of the land. Such of the females as were married deserted their homes and husbands, and if the husband, in his endeavours to win his wife back to rationality, took hold of any part of her dress, she indignantly washed the place, as to remove an impurity. They followed a gigantic fellow, commonly called Muckle John Gibb, but who passed among them under the name of King Solomon, and at length, ‘leaving their homes and soft warm beds and covered tables,’ six-and-twenty of them went forth from their native town, notwithstanding the entreaties of weeping husbands, fathers, and children, calling on them to stay; ‘some women taking the sucking children in their arms to desert places, to be free of all snares and sins, and communion with all others, and mourn for their own sins, the land’s tyranny and defecations, and there to be safe from the land’s utter ruin and desolation by judgments; some of them going to the Pentland Hills, with a resolution to sit there to see the smoke and utter ruin of the sinful, bloody city of Edinburgh… Immediately after they came to these desert places, they kept a day of fasting and confessing of their sins to one another; yea, some of them confessed sins which the world had not heard of, and so not called to confess them to men.’ – Pat. Walker.
Even the Whig clergymen who had gone to the wilderness rather than own an uncovenanted king, were surprised at the more extreme feelings of the Sweet Singers. Walker tells how he was with the Rev. Mr Cargill at Darmead Muirs, when the Gibbites were ‘lying in the Deer Slunk, in the midst of a great flow moss betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian, about a mile distant.’ Gibb and another man came armed, and held a conference with Mr Cargill in a barn, but it led to no good. After resting a while, the chief of the Sweet Singers rose in haste and went to the muir all night. ‘I well remember,’ says Walker, ‘it was a cold easterly wet fog.’ Cargill was shocked by the state of mind he had found them in. They were afterwards all taken by a troop of dragoons at the Woolhill Craigs, betwixt Lothian and Tweeddale, a very desert place, and carried to Edinburgh, where the men were put into the Canongate Tolbooth, and the women into the Correction-house, where they were soundly scourged. After a little time, these poor people cooled down somewhat, and were one by one set at liberty. Walker says the most of them ultimately returned to their right mind, and that he had some edifying conversations with them.
– Domestic Annals, pp.322-337.
The merchants of Edinburgh, according to Arnot, were erected into a body-corporate by royal charter,.. 1681, under the name of The Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh. By this charter they were empowered to choose a Preses, who is called “The Master,” with twelve assistants, a treasurer, clerk, and officer. The company were further empowered to purchase land, and to make bye-laws for their good government, &c. But a saving clause was inserted of the rights of the different incorporations of the city.
The money payable to the funds of this Company was, upon admission of a member, ten shillings, his yearly quota two shillings, and by a lad entering apprentice with a member, five shillings; but the funds arising from these payments were chiefly designed for the support of their own poor – decayed members and their widows and children.
Eighty-two of these merchants, so called, but who were chiefly “concerned in the business of cloth or clothing alone,” on the 1st of December, 1681, met the Provost, Sir James Fleming, and the magistrates in the High Council House, to hear read the royal charter which had been granted to them by Charles II., forming them into a society for the promotion of commerce and other useful purposes.
That the whole affair was of humble origin is apparent from the smallness of the sum each was to contribute. As their badge, or symbol, the constituent members adopted a Stock of Broom, “a modest shrub,” says Chambers, “but with a great tendency to increase. As such they regarded their society and plan of charity, and ever since ‘the Stock of Broom’ has been the first toast at all the convivial meetings of the company.” It was ruled in their constitution that none who had not entered their company should be permitted to trade as a merchant in the city, and they were empowered to pound all goods exposed to sale in contravention of their monopolising bye-laws.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.373-382.
Dec. 1 . – The Earl of Moray, being pursued at law for a tradesman’s account, which was referred to is oath, craved the Court of Session to appoint a commission to take his oath at Dunnibrissle, on the ground that, if he were obliged to come to Edinburgh for the purpose, he should incur as much expense as the whole amount of the alleged debt. As Dunnibrissle is visible from Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth, this must be looked upon as an eccentrically economical movement on his lordship’s part. The court granted the commission, but ordained his lordship to pay any expense which might be incurred by the debtor, or his representative, in travelling to Dunnibrissle to be present at the oath-taking. – Foun. Dec.
– Domestic Annals, pp.342-354.
XVI. And whereas the want of Schools in proper Places, for the Education of Youth within the Bounds aforesaid, is also a great Cause of the Ignorance and Rudeness of the meaner Sort of People in those Parts: Be it therefore further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That such Persons as his Majesty shall appoint under his Royal Sign Manual, shall, and they are hereby required and impowered, on or before the first Day of December, in the Year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and sixteen, to lay before His Majesty an Account of the proper Places for establishing Schools, and of the necessary Salaries for the Maintenance of them, that all needful Provision may be made for that End.
“The present expence of living, the rates of provisions, furniture, and cloathing, will be better learned from the markets, the boarding-school, the shops of artificers and merchants, than from Fleetwood, Spelman, or any other author; tho’ it is highly probable, were these Gentlemen alive, they would differ from him in his opinion, that things are by no means dearer now than they were a hundred years ago. It is appealed to the inhabitants of Scotland, whether or not the difference betwixt the expence of family-living, boarding, and education of children, be so considerable now, in comparison of what it was some time ago, as makes an augmentation highly reasonable, considering that their livings remain generally the same that they were a hundred years ago? It is submitted to the slightest observer, if a cow, a sheep, a fowl, &c. are not double of what we are certainly informed they were bought for even at the union? If it were true, that corn has been cheaper of late, than any time these hundred years, it is so much the worse for them, as much of their stipend is paid in victual. For it is by no means true, that the price of all other things depends upon the price of corn. For instance, servants wages are always highest, when the victual is cheapest. The augmentations and new creations are so far from balancing the advanced rent and entry-money for a hundred years bygone, that the whole stipends of Scotland will not balance it, speaking only of the muir-grounds, and those where there has been no improvement; yea, I am authorised by some of the oldest masters and tenants in Scotland to advance it as a fact, that from a comparison of the present and former tacks of the muirs and muir-edges, the rent, excepting some parts of the highlands, is more than doubled; and that even very much of the carse and dale ground, where nothing has been expended, is greatly advanced, either in rent or grassum. These truths are so obvious, and universally acknowledged, that the most sanguine opposers will not get them refused. If their livings had been given them in lands, then the improvement of their grounds would balance their growing expence, and cut off any argument for augmentation. – It is now full time for the Ministers of Scotland to address the legislature, when we not only know that the court of session have thrown out their applications, but when we are also told, in a printed paper, that the reason of their doing so is, because they think they have enough.”
– Scots Magazine, 1st December, 1748.
– Treaty of Union Articles, 1700-1750.
A friend had suggested I look out for gravestones with seashells decorating them. He wasn’t sure if they had any particular meaning. I did make a point of asking on the tour but was told they probably really are just for decoration rather than indicating a seafaring link to the occupant.
That of the marker on the right reads:
ALSO OF HER ONLY CHILD
DAUGHTER OF THE ABOVE NAMED
JOHN MCKERRELL, ESQ.
DIED 1ST DECEMBER 1907.