April in Scottish History

April 1st

  • On this day in 1820, the proclamation which sparked the Radical War was distributed around Glasgow. The uprising was led by weavers and commanded a lot of support throughout the west of Scotland. However, the Radicals had been infiltrated by Government agents and the rising was soon quelled, with the ringleaders executed.
  • The 1 April 1926 saw the birth of Sir William, Mr. Justice MacPherson of Cluny, the noted Scottish jurist. He is the 27th Chief of Clan Macpherson and a respected High Court judge. He achieved national attention as the author of the landmark report on the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry in 1999.

April 2nd

  • On 2 April 1593, the College of New Aberdeen was founded. The college was founded by the Earl Marischal of Scotland, George Keith of Inverugie, and became known as Marischal College. The site of the College was formerly occupied by a Franciscan Priory which was disestablished during the Reformation of 1560. Marischal College was the second university in Aberdeen, following the foundation of King’s College in 1495 by Bishop William Elphinstone. The two universities were united in 1860 as the University of Aberdeen.
  • Today also saw the birth, in 1688 of John Smibbert, the Scottish-born American painter and architect who was noted for his portraits of American colonials. Jack Buchanan, the film actor, producer and singer, was born this day in 1890. His films include “Monte Carlo”, “The Band Wagon” and “Yes, Mr.Brown”

April 3rd

  • On 3 April 1603 King James VI travelled to London to take up the English throne. James moved his court to Whitehall Palace in London, where they settled around the palace in an area which became known as ‘Scotland Yard’. On his way to London he knighted 300 people, and in the space of four months in England had knighted more people than Queen Elizabeth had in her entire reign. James returned to Scotland only once, in 1617, and he liked to boast that he now ruled his northern kingdom with a stroke of his pen.
  • On this day in 1926 Andrew Keir, the Scottish film, TV and theatre actor, was born. Keir specialised in playing bluff, sometimes taciturn figures of authority. Keir’s films include “Quatermass and the Pit”, where he played Professor Quatermass, “The Maggie”, “Cleopatra”, “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” and “Rob Roy”.

April 4th

  • On April 4, 1406 King Robert III died, he once described himself as “the worst of kings and the most miserable of men.” The eldest son of King Robert II and grand-son of Robert the Bruce, he was crippled following a riding accident in 1388. Robert succeeded his father to the throne in 1390, but was not really suited to being monarch, with his ambitious brother, the Duke of Albany, in reality running the kingdom. Robert’s eldest son, the Duke of Rothesay, was imprisoned at Falkland by Albany, where he starved to death. Robert sent his younger son, who would become King James I, to safety in France, but the news that James had been captured by the English killed Robert. Robert is buried in Paisley Abbey where, in the 19th century, Queen Victoria paid for the construction of a memorial to him.
  • Today in 1617 John Napier, the mathematician, died. Napier was educated at St Andrews University, entering in 1563 at the tender age of 13, although the likelihood is that he completed a degree somewhere in Europe, probably at the University of Paris. Napier was a fervent Protestant in a time of religious trouble, and he considered his most important work a religious tract entitled “The Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John”, which he wrote in 1593. John Napier Napier regarded mathematics only as a hobby to be fitted in between his theological works. He is best known today for his invention of logarithms, but he also made further advences in the field of mathematics, including the introduction of decimal notation for fractions.
  • On 4th April 1661 Alexander Leslie, the Earl of Leven, died. Leslie commanded the Scottish forces which fought against Charles I in the English Civil War. The King surrendered to Leslie at Newark in May 1646, but when Cromwell executed Charles he changed sides to support the new king, Charles II. Leslie later defended Scotland against the invasion of Oliver Cromwell.

April 5th

  • On 5th April 1820 government forces defeated Radical weavers at the Battle of Bonnymuir. The Radicals had marched from Glasgow and were heading towards the Carron Iron Works in Falkirk. However, their ranks had been infiltrated by government agents and they were in fact being guided to an ambush outside the village of Bonnybridge. During the battle a Lieutenant of the 10th Hussars received a wound to the hand and a sergeant was severely wounded, four Radicals were wounded and a haul of five muskets, two pistols, eighteen pikes and about 100 rounds of ball cartridges were taken. Hardie and Baird, the leaders of the Radicals were hanged at Stirling, with Hardie declaring ‘I die a martyr to the cause of truth and liberty’.

April 6th

  • On this day in 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was drawn up by the monks of Arbroath Abbey. The declaration was a letter, in Latin, from the Scottish nobles to Pope John XXII, affirming their determination to maintain Scotland’s independence. The document is also seen as the first example of a contractual monarchy, with the nobility asserting the right to dethrone King Robert I should he submit to England. The Declaration of Arbroath is widely regarded as being the inspiration behind the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.
  • On 6 April 1773 James Mill, the Scottish philosopher and historian was born. Mill was the chief associate of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, a school of radical philosophy. He was also author of ‘Elements of Political Economy’, thought to be the first English book on economics and father of the philosopher, John Stuart Mill.

April 7th

  • On 7 April 1934, the Scottish National Party was founded. The SNP was created out of the merger of a number of parties; the ‘National Party of Scotland’, formed in 1928 from an amalgamation of a number of small parties following the rejection of a Home Rule bill, and the ‘Scottish Party’, a breakaway section of the Cathcart Conservative Association. The party enjoyed its first success in 1945, when Robert MacIntyre was elected to represent Motherwell.
  • On this day in 1968, Jim Clark, the Scottish Formula One motor racing driver was killed while racing at the Hockenhaeim circuit, West Germany. Although born in Fife, Clark is most commonly associated with the Borders, where he grew up. Clark won 25 of his 72 Grand Prix, and would undoubtedly have won more had he driven more reliable cars.

April 8th

  • On 8 April 1783 John Loudon, the Scottish architect, landscape gardener and journalist was born. Loudon had a profound influence on the aspiring middle classes through his books on architecture and gardening. Co-author with his wife, Jane Webb, of ‘The Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion’, and author of ‘An Encylopaedia of Gardening’, ‘British Trees and Shrubs’, ‘Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture’, he also founded ‘Gardener’s Magazine’. His designs can be seen at Scone Palace and Castle Kennedy, near Stranraer.
  • On this day in 1820 Radical prisoners were taken from Paisley to Greenock jail under escort. The citizens of Greenock fought their escort, the Port Glasgow Militia, until they reached the jail. Still coming under attack, the Militia opened fire on the stone-throwing crowd. Eight were killed, including an eight year old boy, and ten wounded, before the militia retreated from Greenock. In the evening, the angry Greenockians stormed the jail and freed the prisoners.

April 9th

  • On 9th April 1817, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson was born in Balfron, Stirlingshire. Thomson was the seventeenth child of over twenty offspring. His style of using classical architectural features led to his nickname of ‘Greek’, but he used many other styles in his architecture, including Indian and Egyptian influences. Some of his most well known works include, the Caledonia Rd Church, Holmwood House and the United Presbyterian Church in St Vincent St.
  • On 9th April 1747 Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, the leading Scottish Jacobite rebel was beheaded on Tower Green, London. Lovat has the unwanted notoriety of being the last man to be publicly beheaded in Britain.

April 10th

  • On 10th April 1840, Alexander Nasmyth, the Scottish painter, died. Nasmyth, born in Edinburgh, was noted for his portraits and landscapes. He studied under Allan Ramsay the younger, and spent many years painting in Italy. Although he is most well known today for his most famous work, the portrait of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, his real passion lay in landscape painting. Poignantly, his last painting, completed only weeks before his death, was entitled ‘Going Home’ and featured an old labourer winding his way home at the end of the day.
  • On this day in 1512, King James V was born at Linlithgow Palace. He was the only surviving son of James IV and Margaret Tudor and inherited the throne at the age of 18 months. Between 1526 and 1528, he was held prisoner by his step-father, Archibald Douglas. Once he escaped James set about asserting control of the country, and was unswerving in his hatred of the Red Douglas clan and their English allies. His second marriage was to the French Mary of Guise, who was to bear him a daughter, the future Mary, Queen of Scots. King James V However, James cannot have been too confident in his heir as he uttered the famous quote, ‘It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass’, at her birth, believing that a female heir spelled the end of the Stuart dynasty.

April 11th

  • On 11 April 1839 John Galt, the Scottish novelist, died. Much of Galt’s work revolves around the North Ayrshire and Inverclyde areas of Scotland where he was born and lived, although some of his later works include novels set in Canada and the United States, among the first novels to be located there, and a pair of ironic political novels, entitled ‘The Member’ and ‘The Radical’. Apart from his work as a novelist, Galt was also a friend of Lord Byron and wrote the first biography of the tragic poet.
  • On this day in 1999 Scotland won the final Five Nations Championship. Scotland became champions by default when Wales beat England 32-31 at Wembley. If England had won the last game of the championship they would have been the champions. Both teams had won the same number of games, but Scotland won the title on points scored. The last time they won the championship was in 1990. The following season, Five nations became Six when Italy joined the competition.

April 12th

  • On this day in 1945 the SNP won their first electoral victory. Dr Robert D. MacIntyre won the Motherwell and Wishaw by-election in a straight fight with Labour by a majority of 617 votes. MacIntyre lost the seat at the general election, but carried on contesting elections throughout central Scotland, and later became Provost of Stirling.
  • George Robertson, the Scottish Labour politician, was born on this day in 1946. After serving as MP for the Hamilton South constituency, he became Secretary of State for Defence between 1997-99. After the end of this tenure he rose to become Secretary-General of NATO, also receiving a life-peerage in 1999, becoming Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.

April 13th

  • On 13th April 1951 the ‘Stone of Destiny‘ was returned to Westminster Abbey. The Stone, removed from Scone by Edward I and taken to Westminster Abbey, was removed from its resting place of over 700 years on Christmas Day 1950 and smuggled north of the border. After a few months of hide and seek with the authorities, the conspirators left the Stone in Arbroath Abbey to be discovered. The Stone finally returned permanently to Scotland in 1996, where it now sits in Edinburgh Castle.
  • On 13 April 1827, Hugh Clapperton, the Scottish explorer, died. Clapperton was the first European explorer of northern Nigeria. He explored the region with two fellow Scots, Dixon Denham and Walter Oudney, after crossing into the region from the Sahara desert. He returned to Britain to tell of his discoveries, but died in Africa on a subsequent journey, trying to trace the source of the Niger river.

April 14th

  • On 14 April 2001, Jim Baxter, the noted Scottish footballer, died. ‘Slim Jim’ Baxter was regarded as one of the finest wing-halves in Europe in the early 1960s, making 254 appearances for Glasgow Rangers, and scoring 24 goals. He won 34 caps for his country, and represented the Rest of the World in a 1963 match to celebrate the centenary of the Football Association.
  • On 14 April 1578, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, died at Dragsholm Castle in Denmark. He had been a prisoner since 1567 and is thought to have gone mad. Bothwell, a wild adventurer, was almost certainly behind the murder of Henry, Lord Darnley, Mary’s second husband. After Mary lost the Scottish throne, Bothwell fled to Denmark where he was treated with the respect due to the consort of foreign monarch. However, once it became clear that Mary’s cause was doomed, Bothwell was imprisoned. His body is preserved in Faarevejle Church.
  • On this day in 1999, Scottish broadcaster, Eileen Mitchell, died. Mitchell was the woman whose voice was known to millions through the phrase, “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin”. She presented BBC Radio’s daily children’s series, ‘Listen with Mother’, and also sang many of the nursery rhymes in the programme on which she appeared for about 15 years. When the programme spawned BBC TV’s “Watch With Mother”, she supplied one of the voices in ‘The Woodentops’.

April 15th

  • On this day in 1865, children’s poet Walter Wingate was born in Dalry, Ayrshire. Wingate was the son of David Wingate, a noted local poet in Ayrshire, known as the ‘Collier Poet’. Walter was also a noted watercolour artist in his lifetime, but is best remembered today for his volume of children’s poetry which was published in 1919. His poems such as ‘Sair Finger’ are much loved for their gentle humour.
  • On April 15 1877, Sir David Ross, the Scottish moral philosopher and eminent Aristotleian scholar, was born. Ross is noted for his definitive study of Aristotle, published in 1923. His ‘The Right and the Good’, written in 1930, is regarded as the pinnacle of ethical intuitionism, which was the dominant moral theory in British philosophy for much of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Ross went on to spend many years as Chairman of the council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

April 16th

  • On 16 April 1746, the Jacobite army was defeated by Hanoverian forces in the Battle of Culloden. The defeat marked the end of the last Stewart attempt to regain, by force, the throne forfeited by James VII. Bonnie Prince Charlie refused the advice of his most able general, Lord George Murray, over the positioning of the Jacobite forces, letting himself be persuaded into placing his troops on an open moor, which gave all advantages to the Hanoverians. Charles compounded this error by choosing this moment to take personal charge of his force for the first time. In less than an hour the government force, outnumbering the Jacobites two to one and with a vast advantage in artillery, defeated them for the first and last time.
  • On this day in 1728, Joseph Black, the Scottish physicist and chemist, was born. Black was actually born in Bordeaux, where his father was a wine merchant, but is closely associated with Glasgow University, where he worked. Black was the discoverer of “fixed air”, which we now know as carbon dioxide. He also formulated the concept of latent heat.

April 17th

  • On 17 April 1932, Sir Patrick Geddes, the Scottish biologist and social scientist, died.Geddes is regarded as the founding father of town planning. Although he was trained as a biologist, he applied biological knowledge to striving to create an ideal environment for human existence. The author of ‘City Development’ and ‘Cities in Evolution’, Geddes was greatly troubled by the plight of refugees of the war between Armenians and the Ottoman Empire in 1896. His response was to travel to Cyprus, helping the displaced people to resettle there in small agricultural and industrial units.
  • On 17 April 1892, Alexander Mackenzie, the Scottish-born Canadian statesman, died. Mackenzie was the first Liberal Prime Minister of Canada, serving from 1873-78. After the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867, a move that Mackenzie supported, he was elected to the first House of Commons and became leader of the Liberal opposition. When Sir John Macdonald’s Conservative government collapsed in 1873, the Liberals took over; but the party was not strong enough to support him, and Prime Minister Mackenzie couldn’t succeed in handling the economic problems that Canada faced. In 1878, the Liberals were voted out of power. Two years later, he resigned the leadership of the party but held his parliamentary seat until his death.

April 18th

  • On this day in 1914, Harbourne Stephen, the Scottish World War II fighter pilot, was born. Stephen was a Battle of Britain fighter ace who went on to forge a career for himself as a newspaper executive. On his way to a tally of 23 registered kills (though it was almost certainly higher) he shot down five enemy aircraft in a single day in August 1940. That December he became the first airman to be awarded a DSO in the field. Returning after the war to the field of newspapers, in which he had been a junior before he was called up in 1939, Stephen worked successively for the Beaverbrook press and for ‘Thomson Newspapers’ before becoming managing director of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ in 1963.
  • On 18 April 1937, Sir Edward “Teddy” Taylor, the Scottish Conservative politician, was born. MP for Rochford and Southend since 1997, Taylor is a noted Euro-sceptic, who resigned from his government post in 1971, protesting against Britain joining the EEC.

April 19th

  • On this day in 1905, Jim Mollison, the pioneering Scottish aviator, was born. Mollison held many individual records for distance, endurance, and speed flying, and jointly set several others with his wife, the aviatrix Amy Johnson. In 1932, he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from East to West. In the same year, his wife broke his record for the fastest flight from London to Cape Town.
  • On 19 April 1824, Lord Byron, the Scottish aristocrat and Romantic poet, died in Greece. Byron inherited the title of 6th Baron Byron in 1798. He grew up in Aberdeen and attended Aberdeen Grammar School, and always considered himself a Scot. He met his death fighting for Greek independence, although he never actually faced the enemy, instead falling victim to fever at Missolonghi.

April 20th

  • On 20th April, 1934, the first public meeting of the Scottish National Party was held. The meeting was held in the Central Hall, Tollcross, Edinburgh with Compton Mackenzie, the Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and W. Oliver Brown, prospective Nationalist candidate for East Renfrewshire, as guest speakers. The Scottish National Party was formed by the amalgamation of The National Party of Scotland and The Scottish Party.
  • On 20th April 1918, Mora Dickson, Scottish author, painter and campaigner, was born. In 1958, Mora and her husband, Alec, had the idea for the Voluntary Service Overseas, or VSO, scheme, in response to the ending of National Service. They ran it from their London home until 1962, when a dispute led to Alec’s replacement as director. This prompted them to set up the Community Service Volunteers, or CSV, a volunteer programme focussing on Britain. In contrast to the highly selective VSO, CSV’s philosophy was to take all comers. They were reunited with VSO in the 1990s, and Mora was elected an honorary vice-president.

April 21st

  • Today in 1838, John Muir, the Scottish-born American naturalist, was born. Muir was responsible for the creation of Yosemite and Sequoia national parks in California. The 550-acre Muir Woods National Monument is named after him.
  • On the 21st April, 1940, George Barnes, the Scottish Socialist statesman, died. One of the founders of the Labour Party, he served in Lloyd George’s wartime coalition government, but resigned from the Labour Party rather than obey the party line in 1918. Barnes represented Britain at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, and was primarily responsible for the establishment of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as an agency of the League of Nations.

April 22nd

  • On this day in 1908, Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, Scottish politician and Liberal Prime Minister from 1905-08, died. His cabinet included David Lloyd George and Henry Herbert Asquith, both of whom later became Prime Ministers. Sir Henry resigned prematurely due to poor health and died just days later.
  • Today in 1812 James Ramsey, marquess of Dalhousie, Scottish statesman and Governor General of India from 1847-56, was born. His policy of conquests and annexations virtually created the map of modern India. He is also credited with establishing the sub-continent’s centralised form of government, and its western-style infrastructure, such as roads, railways, telegraph and the postal systems. However, his policies were so disruptive that they are now blamed for causing the Indian Mutiny of 1857, just after his viceroyality ended.

April 23rd

  • Today in 2001, Jan Sundberg, an explorer specialising in unusual species, arrived at Loch Ness in a bid to trap the legendary monster. The Swede planned to install a massive creel to catch Nessie, a move which led to Scottish Natural Heritage drawing up a voluntary code preventing environmental damage caused by monster hunters. Although recorded sightings of Nessie stretch back to the days of St Columba, the public obsession with Nessie really began with a sighting in 1933 by the late Donaldina Mackay. Since then the loch has been inundated with monster hunters, and many thousands have claimed to have spotted him in the waters of the loch.

April 24th

  • On 24th April, 1633, Sir John Hepburn raised a regiment of 1200 men which ultimately became the Royal Scots. A warrant from the Privy Council ordered Hepburn to raise the regiment to fight in the French service. The recruits came mainly from Scottish mercenaries of Gustavus Aldolphus in the Thirty Years’ War.
  • Today in 1882, Air Chief Marshal Hugh, Lord Dowding, was born. Chief of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, Dowding was opposed to Government proposals to send most of the fighter command to France in May 1940. He was instrumental in keeping RAF squadrons in Britain where, in September 1940, they defeated the Luftwaffe.

April 25th

  • On this day in 1946, the Royal Navy’s last battleship, HMS Vanguard, was accepted for trials by the navy. The ship was built at John Brown’s in Clydebank. It was originally intended to be part of the Far Eastern Fleet fighting the Japanese but was not completed until after the war, and so became the only British battleship never to fire her guns in anger.
  • Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1710 of James Ferguson, the Scottish astronomer. Ferguson pioneered the popularisation of astronomy as a science through his internationally best-selling work, “Astronomy Explained on Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles”.

April 26th

  • The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid was born on this day in 1710. Reid founded the Scottish school of “common sense philosophy” in reaction against David Hume’s teachings of sceptical empiricism. His most noted work, titled ‘An Enquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense’, was published in 1764. It considered “common sense” in linguistic, metaphysical and mundane contexts, and blended philosophy and science. Hume’s response to Reid’s critique was a recommendation that Reid avoid “Scottishisms” and improve his English.
  • Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1898, of John Grierson, the Scottish film director and producer. Grierson was a pioneer of documentary filmmaking, and founder of the British documentary film movement in 1926. He is credited with being the first person to use the word ‘documentary’, from the French ‘documentaire’, which was used to describe travelogues, in an article he wrote about Robert Flaherty’s film, “Moana”. In 1933, Grierson began working for the GPO’s film unit, during which time he produced two of the most famous films in British documentary history: “Song of Ceylon” and “Night Mail”. In 1939, he left for Canada, where he set up the National Film Board of Canada.

April 27th

  • James Bruce, the Scottish explorer, died on this day in 1794. Bruce became the first European to discover Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, in 1770. His experiences were described in the classic “Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile”, published in 1790.
  • On this day in 1296, the Scottish army was routed in the Battle of Dunbar by Edward I, King of England. Hostilities started when the King of the Scots, John Balliol, renounced his allegiance to the English Crown. The battle became known as the “Dunbar Drave”.

April 28th

  • The poet, William Soutar, author of “The Diaries of a Dying Man”, was born in Perth on this day in 1898. After changing from studying medicine to literature, Soutar’s first volume of poetry, “Gleanings of an Undergraduate”, was published in 1923, within a year of his graduation from Edinburgh University. Soutar suffered from a gradual immobilising illness, ankylosing spondilitis, and from November 1930 he was permanently confined to bed. He spent his bed-bound days composing poetry, escaping through his imagination, and holding court to his many visitors and fellow writers, dressed in jacket and bow tie. Soutar died from tuberculosis in October 1943, at the age of 45. The house where he lived and composed his poetry, the ‘Soutar Hoose’ in Perth, is now home to a writer in residence.
  • Sir Alexander MacKenzie, the Scottish composer and conductor, died in 1935. Mackenzie conducted the British premieres of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, and Borodin’s Second Symphony. His noted choral works included the cantata, ‘The Bride’, the opera, ‘Colomba’, and the oratorio, ‘The Rose of Sharon’.

April 29th

  • Lonnie Donegan, the Scottish skiffle singer, composer and guitarist, was born on this day in 1931. Considered by some to be Britain’s first pop superstar, James Anthony Donegan burst onto the scene in the mid-1950s with a distinctive, lively sound called “skiffle”, which was based loosely on American folk music. His first big hit, “Rock Island Line”, achieved the then rare distinction of soaring up the US hit parade, and he was rarely out of the charts from then until ‘The Beatles’ era . Donegan’s hits included “Does Your Chewing Lose Its Flavour”, “My Old Man’s A Dustman”, “Cumberland Gap” and “Puttin’ On The Style”.
  • The Scottish mathematician, physicist and author John Arbuthnot was born on this day in 1667. A friend of Johnathan Swift and Alexander Pope, Arbuthnot popularised the character of John Bull as the proto-typical Englishman, following the publication of the ‘History of John Bull’, although he may not have invented the character.

April 30th

  • On this day in 1873, David Livingstone, the renowned Scottish missionary and explorer, died. Born in Blantyre, Livingstone was famed for his exploration of central and southern Africa. He was the first European to see Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The mysterious whereabouts of Livingstone in Africa became the subject of the famous search by Henry Morton Stanley.
  • James Montgomery, the Scottish poet and hymnwriter, died on the 30th April 1854. He was the author of many well-known hymns, including ‘Lift Up Your Heads Ye Gates of Brass’, ‘Hail to the Lord’s Anointed’ and ‘Angels From the Realms of Glory’. Montgomery’s poems include ‘The World’ and ‘The Wanderer of Switzerland’.

And so ends April in Scottish History