Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

This Month in Scottish History

2 June 1581
The execution of James Douglas, Fourth Earl of Morton, ostensibly for the murder, fourteen years before, of Lord Darnley, second husband to Mary, Queen of Scots, and father of James VI. Morton, who was born about 1516, was a supporter of the English alliance and one of the original Lords of the Congregation supporting the Reformation in Scotland. Although an instigator of the murder of Mary's Italian favorite, David Riccio (Rizzio), Morton was very careful during the events of Darnley's death and commanded the army which defeated Mary and Bothwell at Carberry Hill in 1567, resulting in her deposition in favor of her infant son. Morton became Regent for the young king in 1572 and, although he was a poor financial manager, imposed some degree of order and political stability by ruling Scotland's barons with an iron hand. The inevitable opposition, which eventually brought him down, centered around the Earls of Atholl and Argyll as well as Esme Stuart, cousin to Darnley and favorite of the king.

3 June 1726
The birth of James Hutton, the father of modern Geology, in Edinburgh.. Educated in chemistry and medicine at Edinburgh University and the University of Leyden, he first practiced farming in both England and Scotland before dedicating his life to geological efforts. Together with his friend and partner, landscape artist John Clerk, they undertook many field trips to study rock formations. Hutton's 1788 Theory Of The Earth, widely rejected by academic elites, challenged existing geological theories, including one that all rocks formed under water, and argued that there was a rock cycle in which old rocks were destroyed by weathering and new ones formed from their sediment. After his death in 1797, his theory was greatly enhanced by John Playfair's 1802 Illustrations Of Huttonian Theory and subsequently of great impact on 19th century thought.

4 June 1717
The capture of Robert Roy MacGregor, notorious 'Highland Rogue' and sometime Jacobite rebel, by soldiers of John Murray, Duke of Atholl. Where the Marquis of Montrose had failed to run Rob down, Atholl intended to not only succeed and win the nearly 3,500 pounds sterling reward but also assure the new ruling Hanoverian regime of his hitherto suspect loyalty. Having been granted safe conduct to discuss his possible submission, the unsuspecting Rob had agreed to a meeting but was summarily imprisoned when neither threats nor bribery could make him falsely accuse Atholl's nemesis, John Campbell, Duke of Argyll, as a Jacobite and traitor. Knowing of Rob's daring escape after having once been captured by Montrose, Atholl ordered his men to keep Rob tied up and under close supervision.

6 June 1717
Following his capture two days before, Rob Roy was incarcerated in the Perthshire prison of Logierait while his captor, the Duke of Atholl, returned to his residence of Huntingtower to write several triumphant letters to various notables, including Montrose who had failed so notably in his earlier conflict with the Highland Rogue. News of Rob's imprisonment, as well as rumors of rescue attempts by his MacGregor clansmen, caused great alarm in Edinburgh so mounted soldiers were ordered to proceed immediately to bring the famous prisoner back to the capitol city. Unfortunately for them, they did not move fast enough. The same day as his capture, Rob began to flatter his guards with his wit and musical ability, so much so that he was permitted to receive large amounts of whiskey which he did not neglect to share widely. He also received a visitor, one of his clansmen who arrived to take a written message to Rob's family. Apparently, nobody noticed that this man's horse was not the usual small highland pony but a light cavalry horse. Rob was given permission to write a note in the doorway of the jail to utilize the better light. As he handed his missive to his clansman, the latter tossed the reins to him and Rob jumped into the saddle and galloped down the road home to Loch Tay and freedom.

7 June 1811
The birth of James Young Simpson, a founder of modern gynecology and pioneer of the use of anesthetics, at Bathgate. Educated at Edinburgh University, he became a physician in 1832 and Professor of Midwifery in 1835. Searching for ways to ease the pain of childbirth, he was the first to use ether and chloroform as anesthetics in obstetric practice. Initially opposed by the medical profession, his advocacy of the use of anesthetics in childbirth was largely silenced after his appointment as one of Queen Victoria's Physicians in Scotland in 1847 and his delivery under anesthetics of her son Prince Leopold in 1853. He also developed a special forceps and wrote on both medical and literary topics. In 1866 he became the first person to be made a baronet for his services to medicine. He died in 1870 and, declining the honor of burial in London=s Westminster Abbey, his family laid him to rest near Edinburgh at Canonmills.

7 June 1329
Death of King Robert the Bruce at his manor of Cardross. (See entry for 11 July for more on The Bruce).

9 June, Every Year
The Feast Day of Saint Columba, sixth century Irish missionary traditionally associated with the conversion of Scotland to Christianity. Columba, also known as Colum or Columcille, was born 7 December about A.D. 521 to Fedhlimidh and Eithne of the Ui Neill clan in Gartanin, Tyrconnell, now County Donegal, Ireland. He studied under Saint Finnian at the monastery of Moville and was ordained a deacon. After studying with the bard Gemman, he was ordained a priest about 551 by Bishop Etchen of Clonard and went on to found the noted monasteries Daire Calgaich in Derry and Dairmagh in Durrow. Tradition states that about this time Columba copied Saint Finnian's psalter without permission, prompting the Saint to appeal to High King Dermott for judgement. The ruling was in Finnianís favor but Columba refused to hand over the copy. Dermott forced the issue but was defeated by Columba's family and clan at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561. As penance, Saint Molasi ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die. In 563, Columba and twelve followers arrived at the island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides where they built a church and a monastery as a first step in the conversion of pagan Scotland to Christianity. It would become a highly venerated site, serving as the mother house of the nascent Scottish Church with its abbots, including Columba, as ecclesiastical head. Columba gave formal benediction and inauguration to Aidan MacGabrain of Dunadd as King of the Scots of Dalriada. He accompanied Aidan to Ireland about 575 and was a leading player in the council that determined the position of the ruler of Dalriada in relation to the High King of Ireland. Columba's later life was spent mostly at Iona, where he died on 9 June 597. He and his successors are rightly regarded as religious pioneers in Britain. There are three surviving Latin hymns attributed to Columba.

11 June 1488
The murder of King James III while fleeing the battlefield of Sauchieburn near Bannockburn where his forces had been defeated by rebellious nobles led by the Homes and Hepburn families and including his teenage son, who assumed the throne as James IV. The father had fallen from his speeding horse and had asked to see a priest. Shortly thereafter several armed men arrived and one who presented himself as a priest stabbed the king to death while pretending to administer the last rights. James III's reign, which began when he was just eight years old upon his father's death at the Siege of Roxburgh in 1460, was notable for the acquisition of the Orkney and Shetland islands as dowry for his marriage to Margaret of Norway in 1469 and for the final cession of Berwick to the English in 1482. Overall, his reign was plagued with familial strife, rebellious nobles, and English intervention.

11 June 1696
The birth of James Keith, Jacobite exile and Field Marshal of Prussian forces under Frederick the Great, in Aberdeen. The Keiths were a notable family whose lands bordered those of the Sinclairs and Gunns in the extreme northeast of Scotland. They held the position of Hereditary Marischals of Scotland, which made them commanders of the King's horse. After the 1688 Protestant 'Revolution' they remained loyal to the exiled Stuarts, joining the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 and thereby losing their lands and becoming exiles. After service in the Russian army, James Keith became a friend of Frederick the Great and commanded Prussian forces in several battles of the Seven Years War. Among these were Lobositz in 1756, Prague and Rossback in 1757, and Hochkirk in 1758 where he fell mortally wounded at the head of his troops.

12 June 1747
In the aftermath of the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-1746, the British parliament revoked all heritable jurisdictions that clan chieftains as well as lowland barons, despite the 1707 Act of Union, had retained over their followers. This was a key element of the British government's actions to integrate Scotland, especially the Scottish Highlands, more fully into the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Although thousands of pounds were paid in compensation, this decisive blow to the Scottish ruling class, both highland clan chiefs and lowland barons, stripped them of most of their ancient rights to impose justice (pit and gallows) in their lands and to maintain private armies of clansmen and retainers. This further repression to the sense of Scottish nationhood resulted in much greater political stability and military security for the Hanoverian state.

13 June 1799
The emancipation of the Scottish coal miners, commonly referred to as colliers or coal hewers, by act of the British Parliament, which supplemented the Act of 1775. The institution of servitude in Scotland for coal workers was somewhat unique in the British Isles and the result of both estate custom and a series of legislative acts by the Scottish Parliament in the 17th century, especially the Act of 1606. These actions were taken to reduce desertion and ensure a constant supply of labor for an otherwise brutalizing occupation. By the late 18th century, this system produced a caste of workers who labored under a stigma of slavery yet generally received high wages and the ability to control their own output and hours worked. Clouded in the rhetoric of reform growing out of the Scottish Enlightenment, the new and expanding coal companies, fueled by the prodigious growths and demands of the Industrial Revolution, secured passage of these acts to eliminate serfdom in order to expand the size and production of the labor force.

16 June Every Year
The Feast Day of Saint Margaret, wife of King Malcolm Canmore (1057-1193). Born in Hungary about 1046, she was the daughter of Edward the Exile of the line of Saxon kings forced to flee England after the Viking conquest in 1016. The family later returned but their claims to the kingship were rejected in 1066 as first Harold Godwinson and then William the Bastard (Conqueror) of Normandy seized the throne. Fleeing to Scotland, they found sanctuary and Margaret a husband. Through her great influence over Malcolm, she introduced the language and customs of the English court, which was continued by their sons who were kings of Scots afterwards: Edgar (1097-1107), Alexander I (1107-1124), and David I (1124-1153). Noted for her piety and charity, she promoted the diocesan organization of the Roman Church, including the territorial primacy of St. Andrew's, and continental monasticism, especially the Benedictine Order who founded the Abbey at Dunfermline where she is buried. She died in 1093, just four days after her husband and son, Edward, were killed by the English in Northumberland at the Battle of Alnwick. She is commemorated by St. Margaret=s Chapel in Edinburgh and South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth in West Lothian. She was canonized in 1250.

18 June 1639
The Pacification of Dunse ends the First Bishops' War. This war had started in reaction against the attempts of King Charles I to impose 'High Church' innovations on the Presbyterian Kirk (Church) of Scotland. The Scots particularly rejected the imposition of bishops and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Charles raised forces in the north of England to crush this dissent but they were quickly defeated by a superior Scottish force consisting of many veterans who had served in the Swedish army during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in Germany. The 'pacification' was short lived and in the Second Bishops' War, which broke out soon after, the king would not do much better.

19 June 1306
The Battle of Methven, near Perth, fought between Scottish royal forces under King Robert the Bruce and the English commanded by Aymer de Valence. Scotland's second interregnum, 1296-1306, which had been imposed by the brutal conquest of King Edward I of England (also known as 'Longshanks' because of his great height and 'Hammer of the Scots' for obvious reasons), came to a sudden end when Robert the Bruce had himself crowned King of Scots at Scone on 25 March 1306. This followed Bruce' murder of chief rival, John Comyn at Greyfriars Abbey, and the seizure of several castles in the southwest from the English. Unfortunately, though Edward was ailing, he dispatched one of his best generals, Aymer de Valence, to destroy Bruce. He was instructed to show no mercy and 'burn and slay and raise dragon.' The pro-Bruce Scottish Bishops, Lamberton and Wishart, were quickly seized and Bruce's army was surprised and routed. Bruce barely escaped with his life and fled with a few followers to the Scottish Highlands.

20 June 1723
The birth of historian and philosopher Adam Ferguson at Logierait, Perthshire. Educated at the University of St. Andrews, he was a Gaelic speaker who was ordained in 1745 as Deputy Chaplain to the soon to be famous Black Watch Regiment. Later that year, at the Battle of Fontenoy, he lead an attack with broadsword in hand. In 1754, he left the army and gave up the clerical profession in 1757 to succeed his friend David Hume as Keeper of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. He became Professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1759 and Professor of mental and moral philosophy there in 1764. His major written works include The Morality of Stage Plays Seriously Considered (1757), Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), Institutes of Moral Philosophy (1769), The History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic (1783), Principles of Moral and Political Science (1792), and the article on history for the second edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1780). Of special note was his Remarks (1776), which proposed peace terms for Americans fighting in the American Revolution. In 1778, he traveled to Philadelphia with a British commission sent to negotiate with American leaders. Prematurely aged by a stroke in 1780, he retired from teaching in 1785, and traveled Europe before spending his later years in retirement at St. Andrews. He died there on 22 February 1816 and Sir Walter Scott wrote his epitaph. He is remembered as a father of modern Sociology for his emphasis on social interactions.

23 June 1314
The opening of the Battle of Bannockburn. Following defeat at Methven in 1306, Robert the Bruce's fortunes revived with a victory over Aymer de Valence at Loudon Hill in 1307. This roused old Edward Longshanks, the elderly Hammer of the Scots, to march from England with a new army but he died near the Scottish border. His son and successor, Edward II, did not return in force to Scotland for many years as he was increasingly beset with rebellious nobles who were weary of the heavy taxation for the wars of his father. During this time, Bruce seized the opportunity to defeat those Scots, particularly the MacDougals and the Comyns, who resisted his seizure of the Scottish throne. He and his followers, especially his brother Edward and James 'the Black' Douglas, and clans such as the Campbells and the Frasers, recaptured castles and other strongholds such as Perth and Dumfries in 1313 and Roxburgh and Edinburgh in early 1314. Stirling Castle, the most important remaining English stronghold, was besieged in 1313 by Edward Bruce who agreed to terms for one year's truce which would end with either relief by the English army or surrender to the Scots. This committed the Scots to a major battle with the English army as Edward II could not refuse this provocation nor the chance to destroy the numerically inferior Scottish army. Sources disagree though it appears that the English arrived with some 20,000 men, one of the largest armies they had ever brought to Scotland, and were confronted by about 6,000 Scots. Scottish morale was high as the English were tired from a long march and were led by a soldier of no great reputation.. The opening skirmishes on 23 June 1314 did not favor the English as several attacks faltered and one of their knights, Henry de Bohun, who challenged Bruce to single combat, was slain with a single blow from the great king's battle axe in full view of the rival forces.

24 June 1314
The Battle of Bannockburn culminated on its second day as Bruce's spear men repulsed repeated assaults of the English knights while the English archers, who were so effective at Falkirk, were dispersed by a well timed attack of the Scottish horse led by Sir Robert Keith. This was followed by a determined advance of the Scottish spear men which drove the English back in upon themselves where they could not effectively wield their swords. English losses were severe, with many drowning in the Bannockburn, which gave its name to the battle, and included their baggage train and the earls of Gloucester and Hereford, the latter of which was later exchanged for Bruce's wife Elizabeth, daughter Marjory, sister Mary, and Bishop Robert Wishart. The incompetent Edward was spirited away by his men and what followed were fourteen years of strife as he would not surrender while Bruce lacked the resources to hit the true centers of English power far to the south. Bruce's mobile raiders, mounted on small ponies and living off the land, ravaged England's northern counties imposing terror and extorting blackmail. It was only after the murder of Edward II by his queen, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, in 1327, that peace was possible. The Treaty of Edinburgh, signed in 1328, ended decades of war and recognized not only Bruce's accession to the Scottish throne but Scotland's pre-war boundaries as well. Most importantly, England recognized that Scotland was an independent nation.

30 June 1685
The execution of Archibald Campbell, Ninth Earl of Argyll, for treason at Edinburgh. Unlike his father, a supporter of Cromwell executed for treason in 1661, he was a dedicated royalist and veteran of the battles against Cromwell at Dunbar in 1650 and Worcester in 1651. Condemned to death in 1681 for treason in refusing to sign the Test Act, he escaped in disguise to Holland. Upon the death of Charles II and succession of his openly Roman Catholic brother James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England), Argyll invaded Scotland simultaneously as Charles= illegitimate son and Protestant champion, the Duke of Monmouth, invaded England. Both enterprises failed and Argyll was captured on 18 June 1685.

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); 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); Murray, William H. Rob Roy: His Life And Times (1982); 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), and the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

See other months in History here!


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus