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This Month in Scottish History
February


2 February 1645
Battle of Inverlochy, the third of the great victories of James Graham, Fifth Earl and First Marquis of Montrose, who championed the king's cause in Scotland by force of arms as an extension of the English Civil War. This followed his Christmas raid on the stronghold of the King's Covenanting Campbell enemies at Inverarry and an extended march back to the Great Glen.  There at Kilchumen (Fort Augustus), Montrose learned that Archibald, Eighth Earl and First Marquis of Argyll, had assembled a force of 3,000 men at Inverlochy (near Fort William). In an epic countermarch,
Montrose's army passed through the mountains to a spot above Inverlochy Castle, from where they came and set upon the Covenanters. Alasdair MacDonald and Manus O'Cahan, commanding the Irish division, were stationed on the flanks of the army while the center was divided into three lines. The Irish charged first, defeating the Lowland infantry, followed by the center, which broke the Covenanters' ranks and captured the castle. An injured Argyll watched from the decks of a galley as about 1,300 of his men were slaughtered as they attempted to flee the field. Among the slain was Campbell of
Auchinbreck who was beheaded by Alasdair MacDonald.

5 February 1723
The Birth of John Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the American Declaration of Independence, at Yester, near Edinburgh. A son of the Reverend James Witherspoon and Anne Walker, he was educated at the University of Edinburgh, taking a master of arts in 1739 and a divinity degree in 1743. He was ordained at Beith, Ayrshire in 1745 and three years later married Elizabeth Montgomery, with whom he had ten children. In 1757, he became pastor at Paisley and a leader of the conservative Popular Party against the moderates in the Scottish Presbyterian Kirk. In 1768, he went to America to serve as President of the College of New Jersey  (Princeton). The able administrator soon became a community leader as well. In 1776, he was chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress and arrived in time to argue in favor of the Declaration of Independence and, indeed, to become to only clergyman to sign it. He served in Congress until 1782, sitting on many committees, including the very important board of war and the committee on secret correspondence or foreign affairs. He spent 1782 to 1794 attempting to rebuild the college and also served in the New Jersey State Legislature in 1783 and 1789 and the ratifying convention in 1787. He also worked from 1785 to 1789 to organize the American Presbyterian Church on national lines. Following the death of his first wife, he married the considerably younger Ann Dill in 1791, with whom he had two daughters, and died on his farm on 15 November 1794. He was buried in the President's Lot at Princeton.

7 February 1603
Clan Battle at Glen Fruin between the Colquhouns and the MacGregors. The Colquhouns were a small clan favored by the Stuart monarchy for their loyalty to the Crown.  After several were killed on their lands near Loch Lomond by raiding MacGregors, they received royal permission to dispense retribution. In a pre-emptive strike, the MacGregor Chief, Alasdair, advanced to Glen Fruin with about three hundred MacGregor clansman, as well as some allied Camerons and MacDonalds, and decimated a hastily assembled force of Colquhouns and Buchanans.  For King James VI, who despised Highlanders, this was the last straw, especially after some sixty Colquhoun widows accosted him at Stirling carrying their husbands' bloody shirts and crying for revenge. The King ordered that the "detestable race" of MacGregors be "extirpated and rooted out."  They became outlaws that could be killed with impunity. It became a capital offense for more than four of them to assemble together. Their name was abolished and any that bore it were required to take another, often a mother's maiden name. Clergy were forbidden to baptize MacGregor children and women who failed to take another name could be branded on the face and deported. Surviving children were sent to Ireland or the Lowlands and rewards were offered for MacGregor heads. Alasdair MacGregor avoided capture for over a year but surrendered on promise of safe conduct to England.  He was taken safely across the border to Berwick, then returned to Edinburgh and hanged with eleven of his kinsmen.  The clan was hunted down and dozens executed.  They caused little trouble for the next hundred years until their most famous member, Rob Roy, known legally as Rob Campbell, became a legendary cattle thief and rebel.

7 February 1883
Birth of mathematician and science fiction writer, Eric Temple Bell, in Aberdeen. A son of James Bell and Helen Jane Lindsay-Lyall, he was educated at the University of London then emigrated to the United States in 1902. He earned an A.B from Stanford in 1904, the worked as a mule skinner and a surveyor. He then returned to academia, earning another A.B., from the University of Washington in 1908 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1912. He served as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Washington from 1912 to 1926 then at the California Institute of Technology from 1927 to 1953. He also served as a member of the National Academy of Science, Vice President of the American Mathematical Society, Vice President of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and President of the Mathematical Association of America. He published nearly 300 articles and edited several professional journals. Two books, Algebraic Arithmetic and The Development of Mathematics became standards in the field. His real fame, however, was as a writer of science fiction under the pseudonym of John Taine. He was especially prominent in the 1920s and 1930s writing novels as well as pieces for pulp magazines. He combined good science with good storytelling. The major themes overall were theoretical inquiry, grand adventure, and technological disaster. Among his most notable works were Seeds of Life and G.O.G. 666 dealing with genetic manipulation, The Purple Sapphire and The Greatest Adventure concerning lost civilizations, and The Time Stream exploring the dynamics of time travel. He married Jessie Lillian Brown in 1910 and died on 21 December 1960 in Watsonville, California.

8 February 1587
The execution of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, England. Mary, who had been Queen of Scots since her birth year of 1542, and briefly Queen of France as well, was a focal point of the religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in both Scotland and England. A practicing Roman Catholic who was bad at selecting husbands, Mary was a rival and potential replacement to her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth I of England. Mary's apparent conspiracy with her third husband, Bothwell, to murder her second husband, Darnley, resulted in a total loss of public support in Scotland and her abdication in favor of her infant son, James VI, in 1567. Her only refuge was in England where Elizabeth kept her imprisoned for 19 years. Elizabeth was in an awkward position, not wanting to restore her Catholic rival yet not wanting to sanction the removal of a legitimate sovereign. The unfortunate Mary became the center of numerous Catholic plots against Elizabeth, which eventually forced the latter to act, however reluctant she was to shed the blood of a royal cousin. In July 1586, details of the Babington plot were discovered, with a letter from Mary agreeing to the assassination of Elizabeth. Following her trial, Mary was formally condemned in October. Parliament petitioned for her execution and, after some delay and indecision, Elizabeth signed the warrant. The Council, acting on its own because the Queen still hesitated, sent the warrant to Fotheringhay Castle where  sentence was carried out. Elizabeth made a display of public displeasure and sent the bearer of the warrant to the Tower. Realistically, however, she knew the action was necessary as it removed the center of Catholic plotting and greatly diminished the threat of a popular rising on behalf of the Catholic cause. A delicious irony that Mary would have enjoyed is the fact that it was her son, James VI, who succeeded the childless Elizabeth on the English throne, and it is Mary's descendants, not Elizabeth's, who unified Scotland and England and have held the British throne to this day.

10 February 1306
This day witnessed the most famous sacrilegious act in Scottish history. Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, rival claimants to the Scottish throne, vacant since 1296, arranged to meet at the Greyfriar's Church at Dumfries to seek some kind of accommodation.  What ensued was a heated argument which ended when, in front of the high altar, Bruce struck Comyn down with his knife and left the Church. His men then entered and dispatched the wounded man as he lay there. Facing murder charges and excommunication, Bruce decided on a bold course to seize the throne and defend his
rights, and himself, against his enemies, both Scottish and English.  He was able to mobilize widespread support, especially in the south west of Scotland, and managed to seize several castles from the English. Bruce had himself crowned King of Scots in March of 1306 and would eventually triumph but only after decades of war and destruction.  In defending his rights, he was also able to secure a precarious independence for Scotland from England.

13 February 1692
The infamous massacre at Glencoe, where over three dozen MacDonalds, suspected as being Jacobite supporters and late in swearing allegiance to King William, were brutally killed by soldiers commanded by Captain Robert Campbell of Glen Lyon.  This situation developed in the aftermath of the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 that toppled the Roman Catholic King James II of England and VII of Scotland. His daughter, Mary II, and her husband, the Dutch William of Orange, replaced James and were welcomed throughout England and the Scottish Lowlands but not in most of Ireland or the Scottish Highlands. In these two areas, military action in support of the new government was necessary.  In fact, the Highlanders under John Graham of Claverhouse, the 'Bonny Dundee' or ‘Bloody Clavers,' depending on one's preference, won a great victory over government forces at Killiecrankie in 1689. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to follow this up, primarily due to the death of their leader in that battle.  By 1691, the Highlands had largely been subdued and the clans ordered to swear fealty to William by New Year's Day 1692.  Alastair MacIan, Chief of the MacDonald Sept of Glencoe, was six days late when he swore fealty on 6 January 1692. John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair and William's Secretary of State, decided to make an example of him and suppressed news of the oath. The crime was a particularly notorious affront to traditional notions of Highland hospitality as the Campbell force had been stationed with the MacDonalds for two weeks in relative friendship before taking their drastic action.  Although the King was implicated and Stair eventually resigned, the Highlands had been effectively subdued. Glen Lyon, who was an uncle to the famous outlaw Rob Roy, was no stranger to treachery, in 1680 he had perpetrated a murderous slaughter against drunken Sinclair clansmen commanded by George Sinclair of  Keiss.

14 February 1858
Birth of explorer Joseph Thomson at Penpont, Dumfries. Working in a stone quarry as a youth, he became fascinated with Geology and graduated with honors in Geology and Natural Science from the University of Edinburgh in 1877. Two years later, he joined a Royal Geographical Society expedition to East Africa under Keith Johnston. When the latter died suddenly, Thomson took command and pushed on into the African interior. He reached Lake Nyasa in Malawi on 20 September 1879, the first Europeans to arrive there overland. He continued on to Lake Tanganyika, traveled through the Congo, and returned to the coast and Zanzibar in July 1880. The following year, he undertook a smaller excursion, traveling the Rovuma River, and then returned to Scotland. In 1883, he led another Royal Geographical Society expedition, this to penetrate the Masai territory and explore the area of Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. He crossed a 14,000 high mountain range, survived hostile encounters with the Masai, endured sickness, and reached Lake Victoria in December 1883. Returning to London in 1884, he received a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society and wrote a best-selling book about his experiences. In 1885, he went up the Niger River to negotiate with Native leaders to forestall German colonization attempts, and spent the next three years recuperating from poor health. In 1888, he climbed some of the highest peaks in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and in 1890-1891 worked for Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company in present day Malawi and Zambia to place them under British protection. He became seriously ill with lung problems and spent some time recovering in Capetown but died soon after returning to England, on 2 August 1895, at the age of 37.

20 February 1874
Birth of opera singer Mary Garden in Aberdeen. The daughter of Robert Davidson Garden, an engineer, and Mary Joss, her father established himself in the United States and sent for his family when Garden was six years old. The family lived in New York, Massachusetts, and Chicago where her regular schooling was sporadic. She began taking voice lessons when she was sixteen and studied violin and piano earlier and had sung before groups as a child. In 1900, she began her singing career in Paris where she had romantic liaisons with composer Claude Debussy, conductor Andre Messenger, and director Albert Carre.  She was later engaged to Harold McCormick, head of International Harvester and manager of the Chicago Opera House, but she never married. After 1907, she began to perform at the Manhattan Opera House in New York and won fame in the role of Melisande in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. She worked for MGM in Hollywood in the 1930s and then returned to Paris. She was forced to flee the German invasion of France in 1940 and returned to her native Aberdeen and Scotland became her primary home in later years. From 1949 to 1954, she traveled in the United States to lecture in forty cities and to audition singers for the National Arts Foundation. She published an autobiography, Mary Garden's Story in 1951 in which she said her private life was empty compared with the lives she lived through her operatic roles. She was often called a singing actress and was noted for defying convention. She died in Aberdeen on January 3, 1967.

27 February 1545
The Battle of Ancrum Moor. The Scottish lords captured at the disastrous Battle of the Solway Moss in 1542 agreed to King Henry VIII of England's demand for the marriage of their infant Queen Mary to his son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales. Not surprisingly, Mary's mother, the French born Mary of Guise, refused and convinced the Scottish Parliament, with assistance from Cardinal David Beaton, to repudiate the treaty and make alliance with France instead. Henry's reaction was predictable and destructive as he ordered his armies to "put all to the sword." Thus began the 'Rough Wooing' campaign in which numerous Scottish cities and monasteries were destroyed with many people slaughtered. Early in 1545, an English force of some 3,000 German and Spanish mercenaries, 1,500 English borderers, and 700 renegade Scots, commanded by Sir Ralph Eure, advanced upon Jedburgh. Near the city, at Ancrum Moor, a Scottish army of about 3,000, commanded by the Earls of Arran and Angus as well as Lesley of Rothes and Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, opposed them. Faking a retreat, they flanked and routed the English force with a brutal charge of pike and lance. Joined by both the renegades and the local peasantry, the Scots killed Eure and revenged themselves upon the fugitives. According to tradition, the bravest of the Scottish warriors was a woman named Lilliard. A stone erected on the spot of the battle is inscribed thus:

'Fair Maiden Lilliard lies under this stane (stone),
 Little was her stature, but great was her fame;
 Upon the English loons she laid many thumps,
 And when her legs were cuttit off, she focht (fought) upon her stumps!'

28 February 1638
Signing of the National Covenant in the Greyfriar's Churchyard, Edinburgh. Initiated by Scottish churchmen, it rejected attempts by King Charles I to force Scotland to adopt English church governance and liturgical practice, especially the Book of Common Prayer. The Covenant included the King's Confession of 1581, statements by Scottish Church leader Alexander Henderson, and an oath. It was signed by over 30,000 Scotsmen and reaffirmed the Reformed faith and Presbyterian discipline. It also proclaimed loyalty to the king.  After the signing, the Scottish Assembly abolished episcopacy and in the Bishops' Wars of 1639 and 1640 fought successfully to preserve religious liberty. The financial problems resulting from the conflicts led to the English Civil War. In September 1643, in the Solemn League and Covenant, the Scots pledged military aid to the English Parliament against the king on the condition that the Anglican Church would be reformed. The Covenanter army intervened in the English Civil War, fighting bravely at Marston Moor in 1644,  and received Charles I's surrender in 1646. However, it became clear that Parliament had no intention of honoring their agreement with the Scots. When Charles agreed to the Solemn League and Covenant in 1647, Scots went over to him. They also fought for Charles II, who signed the covenant in June 1650, but were defeated in both
campaigns by Oliver Cromwell. They chaffed under Cromwell's rule but it was the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 that brought the Covenanters' period of martyrdom. Presbyterian legal restrictions were removed, episcopacy was restored, and covenants declared as unlawful. Years of persecution ensued and three rebellions were brutally defeated.  Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, a religious settlement re-established the Presbyterian Church in Scotland but did not renew the covenants.

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); Gordon, Ian Fellowes. Famous Scots. London: Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers, 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).


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