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This Month in Scottish History
May


1 May 1707
The Act of Union between England and Scotland went into effect and the Scottish Parliament was suspended until 1999. There had been a union of the respective crowns since 1603 but plans for a more formal legislative and political union had fallen into abeyance. The later seventeenth century brought almost endless wars with France and this made an Anglo-Scottish union both strategically and economically desirable. England's appreciation of its strategic interests as well as the nuisance value of the Scottish Parliament moved it to offer concessions to Scotland and financial inducements (some say bribes) to Scottish parliamentarians to accept a union. After several years of famine as well as the financial debacle of the failed colonization scheme in Darien (Panama), Scotland’s ability, if not will, to refuse such a union waned. Henceforth, Scotland would send 45 members to the House of Commons and 16 peers to the House of Lords in London. Scotland also received equality of trade (in theory) with England, including vital access to the markets of England's colonies, and a grant of a money ‘equivalent’ of the share of England’s national debt that Scotland would assume. Scotland also accepted the Hanoverian Succession, agreed to a common system of coinage, but retained its own system of law and national church.

4 May 1800
The birth of John McLeod Campbell of Rowe, philosopher and religious reformer, at Kilninver in Ayrshire. He studied at Glasgow University before entering the Church of Scotland and was appointed to the Rowe Parish near Helensburgh in 1825. He was troubled by the lack of assurance among his flock because of the Calvinist doctrine of Predestination that God loves only the elect. He believed that this was unchristian and against what John Calvin had actually argued. Campbell began to preach that salvation was guaranteed for all believers and this resulted in his deposition by the General Assembly of the Scottish Church in 1831. He declined to form his own sect and went out as an evangelist to the Highlands for a few years before acquiring an independent congregation in Glasgow. He endured there for nearly thirty years running an open mission in the East End. His writings include Christ is the Bread of Life (1851), Thoughts on Revelation (1862), On the Nature of Atonement (1868) and Reminiscences and Reflections (1873). He greatly influenced liberal thinkers throughout Britain and in 1868 was awarded an honorary doctorate by his old university. He died 27 February 1876 at Rosneath and is commemorated by a window in Rosneath Church.

5 May 1646
The surrender of King Charles I, his Royalist (Cavalier) armies defeated in the English Civil War, to a Scottish army, largely composed of Covenanters, camped outside Newark and commanded by Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven. The Covenanters were those Scots who had signed an historical document (covenant) in 1638 stating their opposition to Rome, and Roman practices and rights as practiced by the Episcopal Church, and affirming their support for the Protestant faith. By surrendering to these men, Charles probably thought that they would be more willing than the English to support his efforts to reverse the military and political situation in England. He was sadly mistaken. When he refused to sign the Covenant they handed him over to Parliament in return for a partial payment of money owed them for their efforts on behalf of Parliamentary party in the recent struggle and a promise that Charles would not be harmed. This proved to be a bad bargain as the remaining money was not paid, Charles was executed in 1649, and Scotland thereafter defeated and occupied by English Parliamentary forces under Cromwell.

9 May 1860
The birth of Sir James Matthew Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, at Kirriemuir in Angus, a son of weaver David Barrie and Margaret Ogilvy. Educated at Edinburgh University, he worked as a journalist for a Nottingham newspaper before moving to London in 1885. He became a prolific writer of articles, novels, and plays. Works such as Auld Licht Idylls (1889) and A Window in Thrums (1889) are fictional sketches of Scottish life that helped establish him as a founder of the sentimental 'kailyard' school, now out of favor. His most famous effort, originally titled A Play, was inspired by time spent with his neighbor’s sons and their friends, and performed as a Christmas production in 1904 as Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. It was both a popular and critical success. He received many honors in his lifetime. He was made a baronet in 1913 and was granted the Order of Merit for his service during World War I. He served as Rector of St. Andrews University from 1919 to 1922, Chancellor of Edinburgh University from 1930 to 1937, and President of the Society of Authors from 1928 to 1937. He was married to actress Mary Ansell in 1894. They had no children and were divorced in 1909. Barrie died on 19 June 1937 and was buried next to his mother and brother David in Kirriemuir.

10 May 1941
In one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the Second World War, Nazi German Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess flew a special long range aircraft from Augsburg to Scotland and parachuted out, landing south of Glasgow. He informed his surprised British captors that he was an emissary of Adolf Hitler with peace proposals demanding a free hand for Germany in Europe and return of Germany’s former colonies in return for Germany's promise to respect the integrity of the British Empire. There is some indication that Hess hoped to restore his sagging influence with a spectacular coup in ending war between Britain and Germany. However, the British were not interested and Hitler apparently had not approved nor was even aware of "this escapade," as Winston Churchill termed it. Hitler subsequently passed a death sentence on Hess but made no effort to enforce it and even referred to Hess as a loyal but misguided old comrade. Hess was comfortably imprisoned for the duration of the war and was among those Nazi leaders sentenced for crimes against humanity at Nuremberg in 1946. He spent the rest of his life at Spandau Prison in Berlin, until his death on 17 August 1987. Many still question what actually occurred on Hess' journey and conspiracy theories abound.

13 May 1568
The Battle of Langside occurred and Mary’s final bid to regain the Scots throne was defeated. Forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, Mary, the former Queen of Scots, was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle by her half-brother James Stewart, the Earl of Moray and Regent for the young king. James was a leader of the Protestant 'Lords of the Congregation' who promoted the Reformation in Scotland. Mary, however, escaped from confinement with the help of young William Douglas, and mustered about 6,000 Royalist supporters near Glasgow. Opposing this force where some 3,000 to 4,000 men loyal to James and led by Kirkaldy of Grange. Mary's followers consisted largely of Hamiltons and Campbells of Argyle and when the order was given to charge the former did so but the latter held back. At this crucial moment, Kirkaldy's pikemen routed the Hamiltons while the Campbells fled back to the Highlands. Mary unsuccessfully attempted to rally her troops from horseback but was forced to flee south, to England, captivity, and eventual execution. James' army suffered few casualties while the Hamiltons lost about 100 killed and 300 taken prisoner. Since the Campbell Chief was a brother in law to James, the suspicion was that his failure to attack was merely another example of the treachery of the Scottish nobility.

14 May 1688
King James VII and II ordered his Declaration of Indulgence, first promulgated the year before, to be read aloud in the churches. This declaration ostensibly granted toleration to both Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, permitting people of both faiths to serve God in their own ways so long as they did not promote disloyalty. Many suspected the actual intention was to promote the growth of Catholicism until the right time came to reverse the Indulgence and then eliminate both the Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Seven bishops refused to read the declaration and were charged with seditious libel, imprisoned, and tried. The Indulgence did not extend to the more extreme Protestants and the last of their ministers, James Renwick, was captured and executed in 1688. The Indulgence, however, produced results that James did not foresee. He overlooked the vehement reaction of Protestant opposition to any toleration of Catholics, thereby heightening the motivation of his enemies to move against him. The declaration also enabled many Presbyterian ministers to return to their parishes where their influence was to play a major role in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 that drove out James and Roman Catholicism in both Scotland and England and replaced them with his Protestant son in law and daughter, William and Mary.

15 May 1567
The Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, married her third husband, the Protestant James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, Lord Shetland (through his Sinclair mother), Admiral of Scotland. Though she gave birth in June 1566 to a son, the later James VI of Scotland and James I of England, she was increasingly disaffected from her second husband, Darnley. Masking her true feelings, she made an outward show of reconciliation with Darnley while growing closer to Bothwell. In February 1567, Darnley was bizarrely murdered when the house he was living in, Kirk O'Field, was blown up and his body was found on the grounds. Evidence, including the controversial Casket Letters, pointed to both Mary and Bothwell. Suspicions grew as Mary did little to investigate the murder, allowed herself to be abducted by Bothwell, and then married him. The marriage was widely condemned and opposition to Bothwell became a rallying point of Mary’s foes. There was a total collapse of public support and civil war ensued. Mary was captured and forced to abdicate in favor of her son a few months later. After being imprisoned for several months, she escaped and raised an army that was crushed at the Battle of Langside on 13 May 1568. Both Mary and Bothwell were forced to flee the country and suffer imprisonment and eventual death, she in England in 1587 and he in Norway in 1578.

18 May 1843
The "Great Disruption" split the Presbyterian Kirk (Church) of Scotland as over 450 ministers, about a third of the number, signed the Act of Separation and Deed of Dermission and formed the Free Church of Scotland. Their leader was Thomas Chalmers, Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh and champion of the Evangelical Party in the Church of Scotland. This group was focused on the issue of lay patronage as to whether ministers would be selected by the congregation or the patrons, usually landed gentry, supported by the civil authorities. This factional dispute resulted in the Disruption of 1843 when the dissenting ministers walked out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in protest against the government's refusal to grant spiritual independence to the Church. The Free Church of Scotland was quickly able to gain enough support to organize its own churches, schools, and missions. Chalmers became Moderator of the new Church and was subsequently Principal of their New College for training in the ministry. A gradual process of return to the Church of Scotland began after the Patronage Act was repealed in 1874 though a small sect remained which became known as the "Wee Frees."

19 May 1795
The death of author and biographer James Boswell in London. The eldest son of Alexander Boswell, Lord of Auchinleck, and Euphemia Erskine, he was born 29 October 1740 in Edinburgh and attended the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, graduating from the latter in 1759. The following year, he ran away to London but his father soon fetched him home where he studied law. In 1762, he convinced his father to support him while he returned to London. He began a journal in which he wrote everything down, especially memorable conversations. He met both Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson, becoming friends with the latter. Boswell then went to study law in Holland and toured Switzerland, Italy, and Corsica. Returning to Edinburgh, he practiced law from 1766 though he made several more trips to London. In 1768, he published the first of the works based on his journal, An Account of Corsica, the Journal of a Tour to That Island, and Memoirs of Pascal Paoli. The following year, he married Margaret Montgomery. In 1773, he toured the Hebrides with Dr. Johnson. After his father’s death in 1782, he succeeded to Auchinleck and unsuccessfully pursued a political career. Following Johnson’s death in 1784, he decided to write a biography and publish his journal of their Hebridean tour. His Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, published in 1785, was a great success but also provoked charges of personal fatuity as critics since then have been unable to understand how he could chronicle his own weaknesses with an historian’s objectivity. Moving to London in 1788, his wife's death on 4 June 1789 was a severe loss and his precarious finances, requiring the support and education of their five children, clouded to his efforts to complete the biography. Nevertheless, The Life of Samuel Johnson was published in two volumes on 16 May 1791 to immediate critical success and is still considered a biographical masterpiece of the English language. Boswell saw the second edition of the Life published in July 1793 and was overseeing the third when his sudden death occurred.

21 May 1650
The execution of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, at Edinburgh. One of the great military leaders in Scottish history, he arrived in Scotland without an army as the Lieutenant-General of King Charles I. He was, however, able to enlist many Highlanders, who were opposed to the Campbells rather than with the Presbyterian Covenanters, and about 1,000 Roman Catholic Irish led by Alasdair MacDonald. With this small army, he combined discipline and guerrilla tactics to win a series of amazing victories. At Tippermuir, on 1 September 1644, he defeated about 7,000 Covenanters and captured the city of Perth and, twelve days later, sacked Aberdeen. Unlike his opponents, Montrose did not go into winter quarters and raided the Campbell lands and then defeated the pursuing Campbells at the Battle of Inverlochy in February 1645. Later that year, he captured the city of Dundee, won a victory at Auldearn, and defeated William Baillie, hero of Marston Moor, first at Alford and again at Kilsyth. Unfortunately, Montrose's successes could not save the King. On 14 June 1645, at the Battle of Naseby in England, Charles' army was defeated by Cromwell in the first great victory of the New Model Army. Montrose lost his grip on Scotland as his army had never been large and the Highlanders began to go home while the Irish appeared to be more concerned with plunder than with the king's cause. Unable to raise a new army in the Scottish Lowlands, Montrose’s small force of about 600 men was destroyed at Philliphaugh, near Selkirk, on 13 September 1645, by the calvary of David Leslie. Montrose's supporters led him from the field while both his army and their camp followers were finished off by the Covenanters. Montrose escaped to the continent but returned after the execution of Charles I to support the young Charles II in 1650. He was betrayed by MacLeod of Assynt for 25,000 pounds, captured at Carbisdale on 27 April 1650, and executed shortly thereafter. He faced death with dignity and impressed those who had come to jeer him.

23 May 1718
The birth of obstetrician and educator William Hunter at Long Calderwood, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire. He studied for the Church at Glasgow University for five years before changing in 1737 to study medicine in Edinburgh under William Cullen. He moved to London in 1741 to continue training, first with James Douglas who encouraged him in anatomy and then with William Smellie who focused on obstetrics. In 1746, Hunter began teaching on topics such as surgery or anatomy and engaged in obstetrical practice. While in France in the 1740s, he noticed that medical students were provided with cadavers for dissection so he subsequently introduced this practice to Britain. His high standards of teaching and medical practice did much to remove obstetrics from the hands of midwives and establish it as a medical discipline. In recognition of his achievements he was awarded a medical degree by the University of Glasgow in 1750. He was appointed Physician Extraordinary to Queen Charlotte in 1764 and Professor of Anatomy at the new Royal Academy in 1768. Also in 1768, he opened a museum to improve teaching of medicine, surgery, and anatomy through illustration. It contained both natural history and medical specimens as well as a library of rare books. He founded a School of Anatomy in 1771 and died 30 March 1783, leaving his school to nephew Matthew Baillie and his museum to Glasgow University. He wrote three books, the most important being his 1774 The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, Exhibited in Figures. William’s brother John Hunter (1728-1793) was also a renowned surgeon and is considered the founder of pathological anatomy.

24 May 1153
The death of David I, one of the more able Scottish kings. He was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV, a boy of eleven, and known to history as 'The Maiden' because as he retained his childish looks into adulthood. His reign was plagued with strife and chaos as he was beset by numerous enemies. The King of Norway sacked Aberdeen, rebellions broke out in Moray and Galloway, and Somerled, Lord of the Isles and self styled "King of Argyll," sailed up the Clyde and burned Glasgow. The greatest enemy though was King Henry II of England. David I had seized and ruled the three northern English counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland. This occupation was a constant grievance to the English so Henry II threatened war with Malcolm, and given his other pressing difficulties, he mildly gave his acquiescence to the return of these provinces to the English. This seminal event in Malcolm's reign, not to mention Scottish history, has often prompted speculation as to how different the subsequent development of Scotland and England might have been had the counties remained a permanent accession to the former to the detriment of the growth and expansion of the latter.

25 May 1713
The birth of John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute, British Prime Minister and mentor to the young King George III, in Edinburgh. Though better educated than most English aristocrats, he was worse off financially as his Scottish estates were poor. His marriage in 1736 to a daughter of Edward Worley Montagu did not enrich his pocketbook. A Scottish peer from 1738, he arrived in London in 1745 and, despite his poverty, soon became friends with Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Princess Augusta. After the accession of Frederick's son George III in 1760, Bute was appointed in short succession as Privy Councillor, Secretary of State, and, in effect, Prime Minister as First Lord of the Treasury. He held this last position for only one year, 1762-1763, but negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years War, known in America as the French and Indian War. As a Scot and a royal favorite, he was very unpopular. This was not helped by the imposition of a hated cider tax and the controversial elevation of Henry Fox to the peerage. The strain of office was too great for him and he resigned in April 1763 though he remained influential with the King for many years and was a patron of Dr. Samuel Johnson. He retired in 1780 from Parliament and spent his last years studying literature and science. He died on 10 March 10 1792 and was buried on the island of Bute.

29 May 1546
The murder of Cardinal David Beaton, Chancellor for the young Mary, Queen of Scots, at St. Andrews Castle. He was thrown from a window as revenge by supporters of popular reformer, George Wishart, who Beaton had ordered burned at the stake on 1 March 1546. The only Cardinal in Scottish history, he became Archbishop of St. Andrews in 1539 and Papal Legate in Scotland in 1544. A trusted advisor to King James V (reigned 1513-1542), he promoted the French alliance and helped arrange the king’s successive marriages to French noblewomen. After James's death, he was briefly imprisoned by the pro-English party though he emerged in 1543 as virtual ruler of Scotland and began persecuting Protestants. A controversial figure to this day, some consider him a Scottish patriot for stopping a proposed marriage of Queen Mary to the future King Edward VI of England. This frustrated the plans of King Henry VIII and resulted in yet another Anglo-Scottish war, this one with the quaint name of ‘The Rough Wooing.’ A devout Roman Catholic who ordered the execution of several Protestants, including Wishart, he lived openly with his common law wife and children.

By William John Shepherd

Note on Sources: Several of the 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 are 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); Fisher Andrew. A Traveller’s History of Scotland (1990); 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); and Smout, T.C. A History of the Scottish People, 1560-1830 (1969, 1998).


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