Introduction to Random Scottish History (Podcast) – Random Scottish History
St Urban, pope and martyr, 230 (?). Saints Maximus (vulgarly Meuxe) and Venerand, martyrs in Normandy (5th century?). St Dumhade, abbot of Iona, 717. St Gregory VII., pope (Hildebrand), 1085. St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, 1607.
Born. – Francis Edward Todleben (military engineering), 1818, Mitau, Courland.
Died. – Cardinal D’Amboise, minister of Louis XII., 1510; Dr George Fordyce, medical writer and teacher, 1802, London; Edmond Malone, critical writer, 1812.
FLITTING-DAY IN SCOTLAND.
The 25th1 of May, as the Whitsunday term (old style), is a great day in Scotland, being that on which, for the most part, people change their residences. For some unexplained reason the Scotch ‘remove’ oftener than their southern neighbours. They very generally lease their houses by the year, and are thus at every twelve-month’s end able to shift their place of abode. Whether the restless disposition has arisen from the short leases, or the short leases have been a result of the restless disposition, is immaterial. That the restlessness is a fact, is what we have mainly to deal with.
It haps, accordingly, that at every Candlemas a Scotch family gets an opportunity of considering whether it will, in the language of the country, sit or flit. The landlord or his agent calls to learn the decision on this point; and if ‘flit’ is the resolution, he takes measures by advertising to obtain a new tenant. The two or three days following upon the Purification, therefore, become distinguished by a feathering of the streets with boards projected from the windows, intimating ‘A House to Let.’ Then comes on a most lively excitement for individuals proposing to remove; you see them going about for weeks, inspecting the numerous houses offered to them. Considerations of position, accommodation, and rent, afford scope for endless speculation. The gentleman deliberates about the rent – whether it will suit his means. The lady has her own anxious thoughts about new furniture that may be required, and how far old carpets can be made to suit the new premises. Both have their reflections as to what the Thomsons and the Jacksons will say on hearing that they are going into a house so much handsomer, more ambitiously situated, and dearer than their last. At length the pleasing dream is over – they have taken the house, and the only thing that remains to be done is to ‘flit.’
Intensely longed for, the 25th of May comes at last. The departing tenant knows he must vacate his house before twelve o’clock; consequently, he has to arrange for a quick transportation of his household goods that forenoon. What he is to the new tenant, the tenant of the house he is going to occupy is to him. He dreads – hates – to be pushed; but on the other hand he must push, lest his penates be left shelterless on the street. There is accordingly all that morning a packing up, a sending off, a pushing in – upholstery meeting upholstery in deadly contention; streets encumbered with card-tables and arm-chairs in the most awkward irrelation to their proper circumstances; articles even more sacredly domestic exposed to every idle passerby — a straw-and-ropiness everywhere. In the humbler class of streets, the show of poor old furniture is piteous to look upon, more especially if (as sometimes happens) Jove has chosen to make it a dropping morning. Each leaves his house dishevelled and dirty – marks of torn down brackets and departed pictures on the walls, floors loaded with unaccountable rubbish. But there is no time for cleaning, and in each must plunge, with all his goods and all his family, settle as they may. There is only a rude bivouac for the first twenty-four hours, with meals more confused and savage than the roughest pic-nic. And yet, such is the charm of novelty, that a ‘flitting’ is seldom spoken of as a time or occasion of serious discomfort. Nor are the drawbacks of the new dwelling much insisted on, however obvious. On the contrary, the tendency is to apologize for every less agreeable feature – to view hopefully the effect of a little cleaning here, a coat of size there; to trust that something will make that thorough draft in the lobby tolerable, and compensate for the absence of a sink in the back-kitchen. Jack does not think much of the lowness of the ceiling of the bedroom assigned to him, and Charlotte Louisa has the best hopes of the suitableness of the drawing-room (when the back-bedroom is added to it) for a dancing-party.
A few months generally serve to dispel much of this illusion, and show all the disadvantages of the new mansion in a sufficiently strong light. So when Candlemas next comes round, our tenant has probably become dissatisfied, and anxious for another change. If considerations of prudence stand in the way, the family must be content to stay where they are for another year or two. If able to encounter another change, they will undertake it, only perhaps to find new, though different discomforts, and long for other changes.
1 By an Act of 1881, the Whitsunday term was fixed for 28th May, and the Martinmas term for 28th November.
On this Day in Other Sources.
The lands of Auchtermuchty proper – from which the name of the parish appears to have been derived – belonged originally to the Earls of Fife, and formed part of the estate conveyed, with the earldom, to Robert Stuart, son of Robert II., afterwards Duke of Albany; and which, on the forfeiture of his son, came, with the other estates, to the Crown. James V., during his minority, with consent of the regent, John, Duke of Albany, granted a charter, of date 25th May, 1517, by which he ‘gave, granted, and in feu-farm heritably let, all and haill his foresaid lands of Auchtermuchty, &c., to his tenants, inhabitants of the same, and to every one of them for their own part, according to his new rental of feu and assedation, &c.; as also for the increase of buildings, he made, created, and infefted all and haill, &c., into a free burgh royal, to be called in all time coming the burgh of Auchtermuchty.’
– Scotland Illustrated, pp.73-74.
This stronghold [Dingwall’s Castle] is supposed to have derived its name from Sir John Dingwall, who was Provost of the Trinity College church before the Reformation; and hence the conclusion is, that it was a dependency of that institution. He was one of the first Lords of Session appointed on the 25th May, 1532, at the formation of the College of Justice, and his name is third on the list.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.340-348.
Passing silently across the Border, they came to Carlisle about the middle of the night. A select party of eighty then made an attempt to scale the walls of the castle; but their ladders proving too short, it was found necessary to break in by force through a postern on the west side. Two dozen men having got in, six were left to guard the passage, while the remaining eighteen passed on to Willie’s chamber, broke it up, and released the prisoner. All this was done without encountering any resistance except from a few watchmen, who were easily ‘dung on their backs’ (that is, thrown down). As a signal of their success, the party within the castle sounded their trumpet ‘mightily.’ Hearing this, Buccleuch raised a loud clamour amongst his horsemen on the green. At the same time, the bell of the castle began to sound, a beacon-fire was kindled on the top of the house, the great bell of the cathedral was rung in correspondence, the watch-bell of the Moot-hall joined the throng of sounds, and, to crown all, the drum began to rattle through the streets of the city. ‘The people were perturbit from their nocturnal sleep, then undigestit at that untimeous hour, with some cloudy weather and saft rain, whilk are noisome to the delicate persons of England, whaise bodies are given to quietness, rest, and delicate feeding, and consequently desirous of more sleep and repose in bed.’ Amidst the uproar, ‘the assaulters brought forth their countryman, and convoyit him to the court, where the Lord Scope’s chalmer has a prospect unto, to whom he cried with a loud voice a familiar guid-nicht! and another guid-nicht to his constable Mr Saughell.’ The twenty-four men returned with Kinmont Willie to the main body, and the whole party retired without molestation, and re-entered Scotland with the morning light.
The matter was brought before the king in council (May 25, ) by the English ambassador, who pleaded that Sir Walter Scott should be given up to the queen for punishment. Buccleuch himself, with true heroism, treated the matter calmly and even reasoningly. The simple recovery of the prisoner, he said, ‘maun necessarily be esteimit lawful, gif the taking and deteining of him be unlawful, as without all question it was.’ Of course his own countrymen sympathised with him in a deed so gallant, and performed from such a motive, and the king could not readily act in a contrary strain. Elizabeth never obtained any satisfaction for the taking of Kinmont Willie.* – Spot. Moy. K.K.J. C.K.S. P.C.R. Bir.1
– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.
1 For the ballad of Kinmont Willie and many particulars of the affair, see Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
* Also mentioned in Balfour’s ‘Historical Works;’
“In the mounthe of Appryle, this zeir , the Laird of Buccleuche went to the castell of Carleill, and by a fyne stratageme releassed out of prisson William Kinmont.”
– James, Sixth of that Name (1567-1603), Kinge of Scotland and Therafter of England, France and Irland.
The 25th of May , this year, the custom of all English commodities was [raised] 30 [pence] on the pound, which, with the former, extended to the 8 penny. This same day, there was published a proclamation, inhibiting all his majesty’s [subjects] to take above 10[%] for any money borrowed or lent, or [provisions] according to the same, under the pain of confiscation of the sums lent.
– Historical Works, pp.340-416.
While the magistrates were not slow to enforce justice and repress immorality, they were always ready to encourage the legitimate pastimes of the people. Horse-racing was a very innocent thing in those days compared with what it afterwards became, and there were not only races at Glasgow, but the magistrates encouraged them by giving cups. In the early part of the seventeenth century we find an order in the burgh records which “ordainis the Horss Raiss to be proclamit to the  day of May  and the cours to be maid.”1
– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289.
1 14th May, 1625.
John third Earl of Bute, a statesman and a patron of literature, who procured a pension for Dr. Johnson, and who became so unpopular as a minister through the attacks of Wilkes, was born in the Parliament Close on the 25th of May, 1713.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.174-182.
Nearly opposite Lord Abercorn’s gate, stood a memorable thorn-tree, known as Queen Mary’s tree, perhaps one of the oldest thorn-trees in Scotland, and of the greatest dimensions, being about 9 feet in circumference. It formerly stood within the park, but on widening the carriage-road, it was brought outside, and then several fissures appeared in the trunk, through which the elements of air and water were fast consuming the venerable tree. The road-trustees had these fissures filled up with stone and lime, and had it otherwise protected, but the violence of the gale on the 25th of May, 1840, pulled it up by the roots, laying it along a shattered and withered trunk. It is said that the Duddingston thorn existed so far back as 1107, when it was one of the landmarks of the property on which it grew.
– Scotland Illustrated, pp.42-44.
At the east end of Wester Duddingston, and nearly opposite Lord Abercorn’s gate, stood a memorable thorn-tree, known as Queen Mary’s tree, perhaps one of the oldest thorn-trees in Scotland, and of the greatest dimensions, being about 9 feet in circumference. It formerly stood within the park, but on widening the carriage-road, it was brought outside, and then several fissures appeared in the trunk, through which the elements of air and water were fast consuming the venerable tree. The road-trustees had these fissures filled up with stone and lime, and had it otherwise protected, but the violence of the gale on the 25th of May, 1840, pulled it up by the roots, laying it along a shattered and withered trunk.
– Gazetteer of Scotland, pp.338-339.
The acquisition of the site occupied by the old theatre by the Government for the sum of £5,000 for the erection of a new General Post Office thereon, though the latter had long been most necessary, and the former was far from being an ornament to the city, was a source of some excitement, and of much regret to all old playgoers; and when the night came that the curtain of fate was to close upon it, after a chequered course of ninety years, and a farewell address from the pen of Lord Neaves was to be delivered, the house was filled in every quarter; and to those who remember it the bill of the last performance may not be without interest.
THEATRE ROYAL EDINBURGH.
Sole Lessee, R. H. Wyndham, 95, Princes Street.
Final Closing of this Theatre
On Wednesday, May 25th, 1859.
The Performance will commence with the celebrated
Comedy written by Tom Taylor and Charles Reade, Esqs.,
MASKS AND FACES.
Sir Charles Pomander, by Mr. Wyndham.
Triplet, by Mr. Edmund Glover, Theatre Royal, Glasgow –
Ernest Vane, by Mr. E.D. Lyons – Colley Cibber by
Mr. Foote – Quin, by Mr. Errser Jones – Snarl, by Mr.
Fisher – Call Boy, Mr. R. Saker – Soaper, by Mr. Irving
– Hunsdon, by Mr. Vandenhoff – Colander, by Mr.
James – Burdoch, by Mr. Carroll.
Peg Woffington, by Mrs. Wyndham.
Kitty Clive, by Miss M. Davis – Mrs. Triplet, by Mrs.
E. Jones – Roxalana, by Miss M. Foote – Maid, by
Miss Thompson – Mabel Vane, by Miss Sophia
After which Mr. Wyndham will Deliver
A FAREWELL ADDRESS.
To be followed by the Laughable Farce of
HIS LAST LEGS.
Felix O’Callaghan, a man of genius, by Mr. Wyndham –
Charles, by Mr. Irving – Mr. Rivers, by Mr. Errser
Jones – Dr. Banks, by Mr. Foote – John, by Mr. R.
Saker – Thomas, by Mr. Davis – Mrs. Montague, by
Miss Nicol – Julia, by Miss Jones – Mrs. Bank, by Mrs.
E. Jones – Betty, by Miss S. Davis.
After which the National Drama of
James V., King of Scotland by Mr. G. Melville.
Jock Howieson, by Mr. Fisher – Birkie of that Ilk, by Mr.
Rogerson – Murdoch, by Mr. Wallace – Officer, by Mr.
Banks – Grime, by Mr. Douglas – Tam Maxwell, by Mr.
Davis – Tibbie Howieson, by Miss Nicol – Marion, by
Miss M. Davis, in which character she will sing the
“A Kiss ahint the Door.“
To Conclude with a Moving and Removing Valedictory
Mr. Wyndham, by himself – Mrs. Wyndham, by herself.
Spirit of the Past, Miss Nicol – Spirit of the Future, Miss
THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BY THE ENTIRE COMPANY.
– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.348-352.