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This Month in Scottish History
December


4 December 1214
The death of King William the Lion at Stirling. He received his nickname from later historians due to his adoption of the lion (lyon) rather than the traditional boar for his standard. Born in 1143, the second son of Henry, Scottish Earl of Northumberland, whose title he inherited in 1152, he was forced to surrender it five years later to King Henry II of England (reigned 1154-1189). In 1165, William succeeded his brother, King Malcolm IV ('the Maiden'). In 1174, determined to regain Northumberland, he invaded England but was captured at Alnwick. He was only released after recognizing English overlordship of his kingdom and the supremacy of the English. William was able to overturn the former circumstance by a substantial payment to England's new king, Richard I (reigned 1189-1199), who needed large sums to fund the Third Crusade. The Scottish bishops were successful in their efforts to remove the latter obligation when Pope Celestine III ruled in 1192 that the Scottish church owed obedience only to Rome. Conflict with England continued over the issue of Northumberland until 1209 when King John (reigned 1199-1214) forced William to renounce his claims. During his long reign, William developed an effective central administration that enabled him to defeat rebellions in Galloway and Ross and consolidate his authority throughout Scotland. He chartered many of the major burghs and founded Arbroath Abbey, which was dedicated to St. Thomas Becket and became one of the richest Scottish establishments by the time of his death. He was married to Ermengarde de Beaumont in 1186 and they had four children: his successor, Alexander II, and three daughters who all married Englishmen.

6 December 1768
The first publication of The Encyclopedia Britannica, the oldest and largest English language general encyclopedia, in Edinburgh. Conceived by printers Andrew Bell and Colin MacFarquhar and edited chiefly by the antiquary William Smellie, the entire first edition was completed in 1771 comprising three volumes containing 2,391 pages and 160 copperplates engraved by Bell. It’s primary merit was to facilitate reference by the combination of lengthy and comprehensive treatises with many shorter dictionary like articles on technical terms and other subjects. Numerous revisions and supplements have continued, especially the major revision of the 15th edition in 1985, with the complete set at thirty-two volumes. Britannica became the first internet based encyclopedia when it debuted on the World Wide Web in 1994.

8 December 1542
The birth of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Linlilthgow. The only surviving child of King James V (reigned 1513-1542) and Mary of Guise, the infant Queen was a pawn between pro-English and pro-French factions. When the latter gained ascendancy, the result was the ‘Rough Wooing’ of 1544-1545 when English armies of Henry VIII ravaged the borderlands hoping to force a marriage between Mary and Henry’s son Prince Edward. In 1548, she was safely removed to France and remained there for the next 13 years while the pro-English faction eventually emerged victorious in Scotland. In 1558, she married the French Dauphin, who became King Francis II in 1559 but died a year later. On the accession of her cousin Elizabeth I in England in 1558, Mary became heir presumptive to the English Crown and many Catholics thought she had the better claim. After returning to Scotland in 1561, she recognized the reformed (Protestant) Church while practicing Catholicism in private. In 1565, she married Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, though the marriage turned sour as he and several Protestant lords murdered her Italian favorite, David Riccio, in her presence. Despite this turmoil, she gave birth on 19 June 1566 to the future James VI of Scotland and later James I of England. Darnley was murdered the following year, perhaps with her connivance, and she married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, shortly thereafter. The resulting scandal led to her overthrow and defeat at the battle of Carberry in June and the succession of her infant son. In 1568, she escaped imprisonment, was defeated at the Battle of Langside, and fled to England where Elizabeth kept her confined for many years. The focus of many Catholic plots against Elizabeth, Mary was executed at Fotheringay on 18 February 1587. She was buried at Peterborough but removed to Westminister Abbey in 1612 by her son who had succeeded the childless Elizabeth in 1603.

9 December 1165
The death of King Malcolm IV at Jedburgh after a brief reign of 12 years. The eldest son of Henry, Scottish Earl of Northumberland, and a grandson of the great King David I, he proved to be a rather unfortunate and ineffective ruler. He was known as 'The Maiden' perhaps because of his gentle disposition and celibacy, although he may simply have been viewed as too youthful and effeminate. In any event, his reign was riven with chaos and war. He was able to defeat a rebellion in Galloway and was fortunate to survive a mainland incursion from the great Somerled the 'Norseslayer,' Lord of the Isles, who advanced up the Clyde to Renfrew in 1164 but died shortly thereafter. Malcolm was not so fortunate in dealing with the King of Norway, who sacked Aberdeen, or King Henry II of England, who forced Malcolm in 1157 to return the northern English counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Northumberland which David I had worked so hard to acquire. Malcolm was only about twenty-four when he died and was succeeded by his more forceful brother William the Lion.

10 December 1824
The birth of George MacDonald, clergyman and writer, at Huntly, Aberdeenshire. The son of a farmer, he graduated with a Science degree from King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1845. He soon moved to London, where he studied theology at Highbury Technical College, 1848-1850, and served briefly, 1850-1855, as a Congregational minister before starting a career as a writer. He produced many diverse works: allegorical romances such as Phantases: A Faery Romance for Men and Women (1858), historical novels like St. George and St. Michael’s Wind (1871), Scottish based stories such as Malcolm (1868), and, above all, children’s fairy tales like At the Back of the North Wind (1871) and The Princess and Curdie (1888). His reputation was made primarily by his work on fantasy and fairy tales, which greatly influenced noted twentieth century writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He served from 1859 as a Lecturer at Bedford College, London, and in 1877 was awarded a Civil List Pension. In later life, ill health forced him to drier climates and he died in Bordigherra, Italy in 1905.

12 December 1574
The birth of Anne of Denmark, wife of King James the Sixth and First, and thus Queen of Scotland (from 1589) and England (from 1603) until her death in 1619. It is said that she did not walk until age 9 but seems to have made up for this in later life as she was quite fond of dancing and expensive clothing. Her husband, James, was an odd man who combined a strong intellect with slovenly habits and tended to prefer the company of clever young men to his wife or other women. Strangely enough, they appear to have had a relatively stable marriage and produced seven children though three died very young and eldest son Henry at age 18. Daughter Elizabeth married against Anne wishes the Elector Palatine (in Germany) and became the grandmother of the future King George I, the first of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain. The only surviving son was the future Charles I who would be executed by Cromwell in 1649 after plunging the kingdoms into years of civil war. It is said that when Charles was young and dreadfully ill his obstinate refusal to take his medicine prompted his mother to exclaim that "he would live to plague three kingdoms with his willfulness." She was more prophetic than she knew.

14 December 1730
The birth of James Bruce, the first modern explorer of Africa, near Larbert in Stirlingshire. He studied law at Edinburgh University and became interested in Moorish Spain during a European tour. After the death of his father in 1760, he became Laird of Kinnaird House and revenues from coal mining on his lands provided the financial resources for travel and adventure. He served as Consul General in Algiers, 1762-1765, where his quarrelsome personality alienated both local and British associates. However, during this time he learned Arabic and traveled among the Berbers in North Africa and to the Aegean and Levant as well. From 1768 to 1772, he had the adventures on which his fame rests. He traveled up the Nile River in Egypt, to the Red Sea port of Massawa in Eritrea, the Ethiopian imperial capital of Gondar, and the Sudanese kingdom of Sennar. During this sojourn, he observed the flow of the Blue Nile from its source in Lake Tana and gathered important details of native history and culture. He returned to Britain in 1774 and became a member of the Royal Society, retired to Kinnaird in 1776 where he married Mary Dundas, and published his well-received magnum opus Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in 1790. In April 1794, while working on a second edition, he died after falling down a flight of stairs.

16 December 1332
The Battle of Annan in Dumfriesshire fought between Bruce loyalists and Balliol supporters. A son of King John Balliol, who was deposed by Edward Longshanks in 1296, Edward Balliol spent many years in France before being recalled to England in 1324. Despite the 1328 peace Treaty of Edinburgh, the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329 and succession of his young son David II was a grand opportunity for both Balliol and the English to make trouble in Scotland. In 1322, Balliol sailed from the Humber with an English-backed force of about 1,500 ‘disinherited’ men, so-called because their lands had been confiscated by the Bruce Monarchy, and landed at Kinghorn in Fife in early August. At the Battle of Dupplin Moor, they used superior position and tactics to rout a larger force commanded by the Guardian, Donald, Earl of Mar, who fell with some 3,000 of his men. Six weeks later Edward Balliol was crowned at Scone. In December, Sir Archibald Douglas, ‘the Tyneman,’ became the latest Guardian for David II and wasted no time. He gathered an army of about 1,000 men, which included Robert the Steward (later Robert II) and John Randolph, and made a surprise attack on Balliol. The dawn assault killed about 100 of Balliol’s men and forced him to flee by horseback to Carlisle in England. He managed to retain English support and accompanied several of their later and largely inconclusive invasions of Scotland. Finally, in 1356, Edward III dismissed him with a pension and he retired to Picardy in France where he died in 1364.

20 December 1805
The birth of Thomas Graham, the father of colloid chemistry, in Glasgow. Though his father wanted him to be a clergyman, he studied Science at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities. He began teaching at Mechanics Institute in 1824, becoming Professor in 1830. His early interest was in the study of gases and, in 1831, he established a law in his name that stated that the solubility of a gas is dependent on the pressure on that gas. He also studied phosphoric acids and was able to delineate the difference between meta-, ortho-, and pyrophosphates. In 1837, he became Professor of Chemistry at the University of London and began publishing texts for students called Elements of Chemistry. In 1841, he founded and was first President of the Chemical Society. In his later years, he studied the diffusion rates of chemicals through membrane by the process of Osmosis. He named substances that passed easily 'crystalloids' and those that did not 'colloids.' By purifying colloids he invented the process of Dialysis. In 1866, he began studying metals and was the first to advocate that ethanol be poisoned to prevent its consumption. He died in London in 1869. He was remarkable in his time for first conducting careful research, then conscientiously forming his theories, and finally publishing his results and conclusions.

21 December 1988
The destruction of a Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The 747 commercial airliner was en route from London's Heathrow Airport to JFK in New York when it blew up in mid-air and fell to the ground near the Scottish Borders. All 259 passengers and crew were killed with a total of eleven local people on the ground when the plane crashed. A major police investigation was mounted immediately and continued for a year involving not only the local force from Dumfries and Galloway, but law enforcement officers from around the world, including the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was concluded that a bomb caused the crash and suspicions focused on state sponsored terrorism from Libya, Iran, or Syria. In 1991, two Libyans were charged but their government refused extradition. In 1992, the United Nations Security Council imposed economic sanctions against Libya who appealed to the World Court at the Hague. In 1998, a compromise was worked out with the suspects surrendered in 1999 to be tried before a panel of three Scottish judges at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. The trial, 2000-2001, involved allegations of the largest mass murder in Scottish legal history and was the first occasion that a Scottish criminal court sat abroad. It was also the first time that charges of such seriousness were heard without a jury. The Scottish judges acquitted one of the accused, a Libyan Arab Airlines official, while the second, an intelligence agent, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, pending an appeal.

25 December 1950
The Stone of Scone, otherwise known as the Stone of Destiny, taken from Westminster Abbey by four Nationalist students: Kay Matheson, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, and Alan Stuart. This block of Sandstone has been revered for centuries as a holy relic and had been used from at least the 9th century as part of the enthronement ceremony of Dalriadic, Scottish, English, and British sovereigns. The legend is that it was used by Jacob as his pillow in biblical times and then transported through Egypt, Sicily, Spain, and Ireland before coming to Scotland and finally residing at Scone in Pershire. Edward Longshanks stole it in 1296 when he invaded and deposed John Balliol and placed under the Coronation Throne at London’s Westminster Abbey. The Christmas Day 1950 removal prompted a massive manhunt but the Stone was only recovered in April 1951 after being symbolically placed at Arbroath Abbey, the site of the famous 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, which asserted Scottish independence from England. The Stone was used for the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II and surprisingly returned to Scotland in 1996. To this day, much speculation abounds as to whether the stone stolen by Longshanks in 1296, lifted by the students in 1950, recovered by authorities in 1951, and returned to Scotland in 1996 are one and the same.

28 December 1879
The Tay Bridge disaster occurred in which 75 people were killed when the structure collapsed under the train they were riding on during a storm. Approved by Parliament in 1870 and opened in 1878, the single-track railway bridge, crossing the Tay estuary from Wormit in Fife into the city of Dundee, was almost two miles long and 88 feet. The designer, Thomas Bouch, had just been knighted when the accident occurred. The subsequent inquiry, whose findings were published in July 1880, found that Bouch had not made sufficient allowance for wind pressure on the viaduct and the contractor, who was not properly supervised, had used imperfect metal castings. Bouch, who was widely blamed for the tragedy, was dismissed from the Forth Bridge Project and died of ill health brought on by his ordeal shortly thereafter. In July 1887, a second, two-track railway bridge operated by the North British Railway was opened a few yards west of the site of the first bridge.

31 December, Every Year
Hogmany, an important day in the Scottish calendar to 'clear out the old' and get ready for the 'new'. Every home in Scotland is cleaned thoroughly, the larder filled, the beds changed, and the people put on their best clothes to bring in the New Year. Traditionally, church bells would ring in the New Year at exactly midnight. They would be joined in Glasgow and other ship building areas with the great sound of all the ships horns going off. Traditionally, the families stayed in their own homes to 'Ring in the New' and then friends would go out and 'First Foot' each other. A ‘First Foot’ carries a 'dram of whiskey', a piece of shortbread and a lump of coal to be given to the host along with wishes for a "Guid New Year'. The gifts symbolize plenty of drink, plenty to eat, and heat from the fire throughout the year. Once all the first footing has been carried out parties take over with drinking, singing, and playing of bag pipes Many also attend Church for a 'Watch Night Service' where they pray for a Guid New Year for everyone. There are many songs associated with New Year but the most important one is Auld Lang Syne, which symbolizes remembrance of friends and promises made and to be kept and just generally wishing each other well. Scots also sing a song called 'A Guid New Year' which is a song that translates into a Good New Year to one and all.

31 December 1720
The birth of Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir Stuart, otherwise known to history as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' or 'the Young Pretender', in Rome. A grandson of the exiled Roman Catholic King James II and VII (reigned 1685-1688) and son of James Edward, ‘the Old Pretender,’ Charles was raised as a Catholic and trained for war. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), he landed with a small Entourage on the West Coast of Scotland in July 1745 and raised the Highlands in revolt. He entered Edinburgh on 17 September with about 2,400 men and, four days later, he routed Sir John Cope's army at Prestonpans. In November, he invaded England with about 5,500 men and marched toward London. He made it as far as Derby before his officers, discouraged by lack of French and English support and frightened by the prospect of facing 30,000 government troops, forced him to retreat into Scotland. Despite a victory at Falkirk, much of his army melted away, and on 16 April 1746, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, finished off the rest of it at Culloden Moor, near Inverness. For the next five months, Charles avoided pursuing British soldiers with considerable help from loyal supporters, Flora Macdonald in particular, and finally escaped by ship to France. In Europe thereafter, Charles tried to rally support but his increasingly drunken behavior alienated his friends. After settling in Italy in 1766, the major Roman Catholic powers repudiated his title to the British throne and he died there in 1788. Romanticized through song and legend, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' has become an enduring national hero of Scotland.

By William John Shepherd

Note On Sources:
Some dates are based upon concise chronologies published by Ronald McDonald Douglas in his Scottish Lore and Folklore (1982) and John Wilson McCoy in the pages of The Highlander magazine in 1997. Additional dates and information have been gleaned from my varied readings in Scottish history. These sources include but are not limited to the following: Brown, P. Hume. A Short History of Scotland (1908, 1961); Donaldson, Gordon and Morpeth, Robert. A Dictionary of Scottish History (1996); Fisher, Andrew. A Traveller's History of Scotland (1990); Gerber, Pat. Stone of Destiny (1997); Gordon, Ian Fellowes. Famous Scots.(1988); Keay, John and Julia (eds.). Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (1994); Mackie, J.D. A History of Scotland (1964, 1991); MacLean, Sir Fitzroy. A Concise History of Scotland (1970, 1988); Prebble, John. The Lion in the North (1971, 1973); Sadler, John. Scottish Battles (1998); Smout, T.C. A History of the Scottish People, 1560-1830 (1969, 1998); Traquair, Peter. Freedom's Sword: Scotland's Wars of Independence (1998); Warner, Philip. Famous Scottish Battles (1975, 1996), and the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.


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