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This Month in Scottish History
January


1 January 1854
The birth of classical scholar and anthropologist, Sir James George Frazer, in Glasgow. Educated in classical studies at Glasgow and Cambridge universities, he became a fellow at the latter in 1879. His interests were expanded by Sir Edward Tylor's Primitive Culture and he blended Tylor's comparative method with his own to study ancient customs by examining modern people living on the primitive level. However, this work has been criticized that it took customs out of their cultural context to compare with those that were only superficially similar. Frazer was also interested in comparative religion, especially in totemism. He did not do fieldwork but rather spent considerable time doing library research in obtaining ethnographic information from the accounts of travelers, missionaries, and officials. His great work, written in grand Victorian style and published in 1890, was The Golden Bough, a study of magic and religion that popularized anthropology. His basic argument was that there is an evolutionary process in which magic leads to religion that then leads to science. Magic uses erroneous assumptions to try to control nature, religion seeks to control nature by propitiating the gods, and finally, science uses experimental and objective techniques. Critics admit the validity of his distinction between magic and religion, but counter the idea of an evolutionary stage with the observation that religious sentiments have been noted among primitive people. His later works include Totemism and Exogamy (1910), Folklore in the Old Testament (1923), and Man, God and Immortality (1927).  He was knighted in 1914, awarded the British Order of Merit in 1925, and died in Cambridge on May 7, 1941.

3 January 1888
The birth of playwright James Bridie, pseudonym for Osborne Henry Mavor, in Glasgow, to Henry Mavor and Janet Osborne. He showed an interest in literature from a young age but was educated as a physician. He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, where he headed the Glasgow University Magazine and wrote student dramas, and received his medical degree in 1913. He had a successful medical career, working for the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, teaching at Anderson College, and serving as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps in both world wars. His enduring fame though is as a playwright and he is credited with spurring the revival of the Scottish Theater in the 20th century. His dozens of plays, written 1928-1951, were celebrated for their satire and moral soul searching. Among the most notable were The Switchback in 1929 and A Sleeping Clergyman in 1933. He founded the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre in 1943 and the Glasgow College of Drama in 1950. He was a member of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons and the Royal Society of Literature. He married Rona Bremner in 1923 and had two sons. He died of vascular disease on 29 January 1951 in Edinburgh.

7 January 1451
The founding of Glasgow University, forty years after the creation of St. Andrew's University, that enabled Scotland, like England, to boast of two universities. King James II, reigned 1437-1460, persuaded Pope Nicholas V to grant a bull authorizing Bishop Turnbull of Glasgow to set up a university partially modeled on the University of Bologna. Turnbull was a graduate of St. Andrew's and created a curriculum based upon that of Paris and a constitution from the smaller French University of the Loire that had the local Bishop as Chancellor. Glasgow University originally operated from the Glasgow Cathedral and moved in the seventeenth century to a building on High Street known as the 'Old College' and referred to by contemporaries as 'the chief ornament of the city.' It played a notable part in the Scottish Enlightenment by association with notables such as Adam Smith and James Watt in fostering the type of inquiry that helped produce the Industrial Revolution. The university, which has continued in the grand European tradition, moved in 1870 to its present site in the former suburb of Gilmorehill where it celebrated its 550th anniversary in 2001.

8 January 1107
The death of King Edgar, fourth son of Malcolm Canmore (reigned 1057-1093) and Saint Margaret, after a short and obscure reign. Following his father's death, as his uncle, Donald Bane (reigned 1093-1097), and elder brothers fought for the throne, he and his younger siblings took shelter with William II (Rufus) in England. Four years later, with the support of William Rufus and supposedly inspired by visions of Saint Cuthbert, Edgar deposed and imprisoned his uncle, as well as his brother Edmund, and became king at age 23. Shortly thereafter, King Magnus Barelegs of Norway arrived with a large fleet and forced Edgar to cede several of the western isles, including Kintyre. It was observed that his father, Malcolm, would have fought Magnus but Edgar really was not a fighter. In fact, he was nicknamed Edgar the Peaceable. A virtual vassal of William II and Henry I of England, one of his sisters was married to the latter though he himself died unmarried and the kingdom passed peacefully to his next brother, Alexander I. The king with the Saxon name was buried at Dunfermline with his parents.

14 January, Every Year
The Feast Day of Saint Kentigern, first Bishop of Glasgow (some sources say 13 January).  Kentigern, which means 'head chief,' was also known as Mungo, which means 'dear one.'  He was born about A.D. 518 and died 603.  It is thought he was a son of Thenew or Enoch, a daughter of the King of Lothian, and born at Culross, in Fife, where he was taught in a monastery by Saint Serf. He began his missionary work on the banks of the Clyde and was consecrated a bishop in 540.  He labored in this district for many years, living an austere life in a cell and making many converts by his example and preaching.  A large community grew up around him and became known as 'Clasgu' ('dear family') and ultimately grew into the city of Glasgow. Kentigern also preached around Hoddom in Galloway, in the kingdom of Strathclyde in Cumbria, and Clwyd in North Wales. In the last place, where he is known as Cynderyn, he founded the monastery of Llanelwy, now Saint Asaph. He eventually returned to Glasgow where he is supposed to have met with Saint Columba. It is also said that he is buried on the spot where the cathedral dedicated to his honor now stands.

17 January 1746
The Battle of Falkirk fought between nearly 8,000 Jacobite rebels led by 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and Lord George Murray and about 7,000 British government troops commanded by General Henry Hawley. Retreating from their abortive invasion of England, the Jacobite army had crossed back into Scotland in December 1745 where it received reinforcements and undertook to lay siege to Stirling Castle. Hawley's relieving force had marched from Newcastle and reached the vicinity of Callendar House southeast of Falkirk by 16 January 1746. The next day, the two forces blundered into each other and a sharp fight ensued in mud and mist. The Highlanders, divided into two wings and including MacDonalds and Camerons, held the high ground and quickly decimated the rather disorganized and panic stricken government soldiers. Government forces suffered about 300 to 400 killed and 200 taken prisoners while Jacobite losses were under 100. Hawley returned to Linlithgow and the Jacobites returned to the siege of Stirling. Shortly thereafter, with news of the approach of another government force under William, Duke of Cumberland, the Jacobites lifted the siege and retreated north, to the their eventual destruction by Cumberland at Culloden in April 1746.

17 January 1761
The birth of geologist and chemist Sir James Hall at Dunglass, East Lothian. From an affluent background, he succeeded to his father's baronetcy in 1776 and was educated at Christ's College at Cambridge and Edinburgh University. When attending university, he was not much interested in chemistry until he traveled extensively throughout Italy examining volcanoes. After returning to Scotland, he began studying chemistry and geology as well after meeting James Hutton and reading his Theory of the Earth. Hutton argued that geological formation occur due to the Earth's internal heat, which clashed with the prevailing theory that all rocks were formed by water. He founded experimental geology by artificially producing various rock types in the laboratory. In 1798, Hall started conducting geological experiments that eventually proved many of Hutton's theories and convinced the scientific community to accept them. This was especially true for demonstrating that igneous rocks from Scotland were produced by intense heat. His further experiments reinforced many Vulcanists' ideas, including attempts to find out how rocks become deformed by the application of pressure. Today, Hall is considered to be the founder of experimental geology and geochemistry. He later served as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and died in that city on 23 June 1832.

19 January 1736
The birth of engineer and inventor, James Watt, at Greenock, a son of a shipwright and merchant. As a boy, he worked in his father's store, where he had his own tools, and was apprenticed to a London mathematical instrument maker. He became skilled at producing navigational and surveying instruments and was established in Glasgow by 1759 as an instrument maker for the university. He became a friend of Joseph Black, a trailblazer in both chemistry and the study of heat. Watt began his own studies on the steam engine, and using the Newcomen model, he produced a much more efficient one utilizing a separate condenser to avoid large heat losses. This invention, patented in 1769, became a universal power source and a critical part of the early Industrial Revolution. Early on, Black had lent money and John Roebuck of the Carron Ironworks in Stirlingshire was his partner. By 1773, Roebuck's financial collapse led Watt to a partnership with Matthew Bolton of Birmingham, England. In the 1780s, Watt worked to refine his steam engine, particularly for mine-pumping and factory power, and invented the practice, still in use, of measuring power on the value of horse power, equal to 33,000 pound lifted one foot high per minute. His other inventions include the letterpress copybook, chlorine bleach, and iron cement. He was a member of the Royal Society of London and the French Academy. In 1794, both Watt and Bolton turned the business over to their sons. Watt maintained a private workshop until his death at Heathsfield, England, on 25 August 1819. He was buried at Handsworth Church in Warwickshire and commemorated by a statue in Westminster Abbey.

21 January 1721
The birth of British General, James Murray, in Ballencrief, the fifth son of Alexander, Lord Elibank. He was appointed a second lieutenant in Wynyard's Marines in 1740 and subsequently served in the West Indies, Flanders, and Brittany. He participated in the Rochfort expedition of 1757 and, under James Wolfe the following year, commanded a brigade during the successful siege of Louisboug, Cape Breton Island. In 1759, he was in charge of the left wing of Wolfe's army that defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham near old Quebec. Following Wolfe's death in that battle, Murray assumed command of the surviving 4,000 British troops and spent a hard winter in Quebec. In the spring of 1760, he resisted a besieging French force that was eventually forced to retire when a British naval squadron arrived. He then marched on Montreal where the French surrendered in September. A month later, he was appointed military governor and, with the signing of peace between Britain and France in 1763, he became the first civil governor of Quebec. He later served as governor of the island of Minorca off Spain where he was besieged by thousands of French and Spanish troops in 1781-1782. He had to surrender in the end but was acquitted at his court-martial of all but minor charges. He became a full General in 1783 and served briefly as governor of Hull in Yorkshire. He died at his residence, Beauport House, Sussex, on 18 June 1794.

25 January 1759
The birth of Scotland's greatest poet, Robert Burns, in Alloway, to William Burness and Agnes Broun. He followed his father as a tenant farmer, and despite his poverty, was well read. At fifteen, he wrote his first poem, My Handsome Nell, about the subjects that were to dominate his life, Scotch and women. He became more interested in the romantic nature of poetry than the hard work of ploughing and planned to emigrate from Scotland. However, his first collection, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was published to great critical success and helped induce him to remain. Unfortunately, fame did not bring wealth and he was forced to work as an exciseman to make a living. He continued to write, contributing songs to James Johnston's Scots' Musical Museum and George Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. His early death at age thirty-seven on 21 July 1796 was a great shock. Shortly thereafter, friends started a ritual Burns' Supper in tribute which is now held by Scots and Scottish descendants worldwide. The basic format has remained unchanged and begins when the chairman invites the guests to stand to receive the Haggis as a piper leads the chef carrying the Haggis to the top table. Someone then recites Burns' famous poem, To A Haggis, and then cuts it open. This is followed by a toast to the Haggis with a glass of Whisky. The menu typically includes Cock-a-leekie soup, Champit Tatties, Bashed Neeps, Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle), and Coffee. Someone then gives the Immortal Memory speech and there is also an address to the women, both to thank those that prepared the food and to the lasses in Burns' life. The evening continues with songs and poems, especially Tam O' Shanter and Holy Willie's Prayer, and ends with everyone joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

28 January 1582
The birth of Scottish satirist and Latin poet, John Barclay, at Pont-a-Mousson in France. His Argenis, a long poem of romantic adventure published in 1621, was a major influence in the development of Romantic writing in the seventeenth century. He received his early education from the Jesuits and moved with his father, William Barclay, to London in 1603. He was a cosmopolitan man who married a Frenchwoman and traveled often between Paris and London. He remained in London from about 1606 to 1616 as a minor court official, then settled in Rome. His Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon, published from 1603 to 1607, was a biting satire on the Jesuits, the medical profession, and contemporary scholarship, education, and literature. It was patterned on the style of the Roman satirist Gaius Petronius Arbiter, with a mixture of prose and verse. Filled with villains and unsavory characters, it was influential in the later development of the picaresque novel. His publication of his father's work, De Potestate Papae (1609), which denied the temporal jurisdiction of the pope, resulted in  prolonged controversy while his Icon Animorum (1614) was a description of the character and manners of European nations that mentioned Scotland with special affection. At the invitation of  Paul V, he went to Rome in 1616 where he was welcomed by Bellarmine and pensioned by the pope. Perhaps to prove his Catholic loyalty he published his Paraenesis ad Sectarios the following year. Barclay's most celebrated work, the aforementioned Argenis, was a wonderful example of  modern Latin verse. Its political implications were so pronounced that many editions were supplied with an index to the characters and names. Its fame in Europe endured as it was reprinted many times during the seventeenth century, and literary figures such as William Cowper, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Richard Crashaw, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were familiar with it. Barclay died in Rome, Italy, on 15 August 1621. He was admired by contemporaries for his honesty, courtesy, and sense of irony.

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.(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); Warner, Philip. Famous Scottish Battles (1975, 1996).


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