February in Scottish History
- On 1 February 1919, tanks and soldiers patrolled the streets of Glasgow after “Bloody Friday” when 20,000 strikers gathered in George Square. By the time the strike ended in early February, up to 10,000 troops had been sent to the city. No Scots troops were deployed, as the government feared they would join the workers if a revolutionary situation had developed in Glasgow. The strike had been called to demand a 40-hour week. After it ended, strikers in the shipbuilding industry negotiated a 47-hour week settlement.
- On this day in 1918, the author Muriel Spark was born. She is most well known as the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, written in 1961, a touching and funny portrait of an individual and eccentric Edinburgh teacher during the inter-war period, and the effect she has on her pupils.
- On 2 February 1645 a Royalist army led by James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose, routed the Earl of Argyll’s Covenating forces in the Battle of Inverlochy. The events of the battle were recorded by the MacDonald Bard of Keppoch. Much of the blame for the Covenanters’ defeat has been attributed to the disputes between the two commanders, the Marquess of Argyll and General Baillie. Both men thought themselves the senior officer, and carried a deep personal enmity for one another.
- The 2nd February 1998 saw the death of Dr Robert McIntyre, who became the SNP’s first Westminster MP by winning the Motherwell by-election in April 1945. The SNP’s success was short-lived however, as Labour retook the seat in the General Election three months later.
- On February 2 1987 novelist Alastair MacLean died. His books “The Guns of Navarone”, “Ice Station Zebra” and “Where Eagles Dare” were all made into successful films.
- On 3rd February 1660 General Monck’s regiment entered London, having marched from Coldstream in the borders. The regiment kept order during the period of the restoration of Charles II. The regiment escaped being disbanded as a reward for their service during this time. It continued as a standing regiment of the British Army, becoming known as the Coldstream Guards.
- The 3rd February 1900 saw General Hector MacDonald lead the Highland Light Infantry in the battle of Koedoesberg Drift during the Boer War. Although the battle was viewed as a victory for the British, the Boer leader, De Wet was allowed to escape and regroup his forces.
- On the 4th February 1818 Sir Walter Scott supervised the rediscovery of the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels, in Edinburgh Castle. The jewels consist of a sword, crown and sceptre. The three items were first used together during the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots and last used for the coronation of Charles II in 1651. During the Second World War, they were hidden in different parts of Edinburgh Castle in case of German invasion.
- Today in 1685 King Charles II died and James VII was crowned. James’s Catholicism created a revival of the religious conflicts that had plagued the previous century, and led to his being deposed in 1688. His sympathisers left in the country became known as Jacobites, after Jacobus, the Latin for James.
- On this day in 1881 the writer and historian Thomas Carlyle died in London. Carlyle was a great student of the German “Sturm und Drang” school of romantic literature and was convinced that nations needed a strong leader. His best known work, On Heroes and Hero Worship, is deeply concerned with this idea. Carlyle’s influence waned in the 20th Century, as his ideas were often seen as foreshadowing the totalitarianism prevalent at the time. In fact, it is reputed that, during the last months of the Second World War, Joseph Goebbels read Carlyle’s history of Frederick II of Prussia to Hitler.
- John Boyd Dunlop, who patented the first practical pneumatic tyre, was born in Ayrshire on February 5 1846. He worked as a veterinary surgeon in Edinburgh for almost a decade before moving to Ireland. He found the rough roads and the solid wheels an uncomfortable way of travelling. Having experimented with his son’s tricycle, he came up with a design based on an inflated rubber tube and patented it the following year. This was not the first time someone had tried this. Another Scot, Robert Thomson had patented the idea in 1845. He established what would become the Dunlop Rubber Company but had to fight and win a legal battle with Thomson. Dunlop retired to Dublin and died there in 1921.
- Today in 1665, Queen Anne, last of the Stuart monarchs, was born. Anne had seventeen children during her life but not one survived to succeed her. In 1707, she presided over the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England into the parliament of Great Britain, which first sat on 1 May 1707.
- On 7 February 1716, the Old Pretender’s Jacobite army disbanded at Aberdeen, ending the 1715 uprising. James, the Old Pretender, had set sail for France three days earlier. The revolt had been badly led by the Earl of Mar and was doomed to failure after the inconclusive result of the Battle of Sherriffmuir. Thirty years later his son, Charles, would try again to recapture the throne for the Stuarts.
- This day in 1603 saw the Battle of Glenfruin when the MacGregors slaughtered a number of Colquhouns. The victors did not enjoy their triumph for long however, as government reprisals saw the origins of the banning of the MacGregor name. On the 3rd of April 1603, only two days before James VI left Scotland for England to take possession of the English throne, an Act of Privy Council was passed, by which the name of Gregor or MacGregor was forever abolished.
- On this day in 1587 Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle. Mary had been imprisoned in England for the best part of twenty years, and had taken to depserate measures to regain her crown. A plot was discovered in 1586 which would involve a Catholic revolt and the assassination of Elizabeth. This sealed Mary’s fate. At the time of her death, Mary was 44 and had outlived three husbands.
- On the 8th February 1429 a contingent of a thousand Scots, commanded by the brothers John and William Stuart, headed to the relief of the beleagured French garrison at Orleans. The expedition ended in disaster when the force was defeated by the English at Rouvray Saint Denis and both Stuarts were killed.
- Today in 2002 saw the death of John Noble, co-founder of Loch Fyne Oysters and Loch Fyne Restaurants. In 1978, he was looking for a way to help support his estate of Ardkinglas, on the shores of Loch Fyne, which he had inherited along with considerable debts. When Andrew Lane, a marine farmer, suggested the idea of growing oysters in the unpolluted waters of Loch Fyne, he jumped at the idea. The venture grew from a few hundred seed oysters to the millions that are laid down today. In 1980, Noble and Lane set up an oyster bar at the head of Loch Fyne. It began as an umbrella and a trestle table and then transferred to a cowshed. Soon the venture became a restaurant, and then evolved into a chain of oyster bars.
- Today in 1739 saw the publication of the first edition of the Scots Magazine. The magazine was originally founded as a current affairs journal, and was often the first source of news for many Scots. It was deeply Hanoverian in its sympathies at the time and was highly regarded for its coverage of world affairs.
- On 10 February 1567 Henry, Lord Darnley, estranged husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered in Kirk O’ Field. Darnley’s death was almost certainly at the hands of the Earl of Bothwell, whose subsequent marriage to Mary led to a state of civil war in Scotland. Bothwell ended his days insane and imprisoned in Malmo.
- Today in 1306, Comyn, a leading claiment to the vacant Scottish throne, was murdered by his arch-rival, Robert the Bruce, whilst in a Dumfries church. Bruce quickly travelled to Scone where, on 25 March, he was crowned King . Later, Bruce was forced to seek papal absolution for committing murder on sacred ground. Years later, when he contracted leprosy many considered this divine retribution for Comyn’s murder.
- On February 10 1868 David Brewster, scientist and inventor of the kaleidoscope died. He originally intended the kaleidoscope as a scientific tool but it soon started a craze as a toy, as did his next invention, the 3-D stereoscope. It is little known that Brewster was also a licensed Church of Scotland minister. Also on a scientific note, today marks the death in 1912 of Lord Lister, the pioneer of surgery and antiseptic at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
- On this day in 1659 William Carstares, the radical Scottish Presbyterian cleric was born. Carstares was exiled because of his involvement in the “Rye House Plot” to overthrow King Charles II. He became chaplain to William of Orange, and after the Glorious Revolution in 1688, he headed the Church of Scotland during the reigns of William and Mary, and later Queen Anne. Carstares was instrumental in securing Scottish support for the Act of Unification between England and Scotland.
- On February 11 1895 the coldest temperature ever in Scotland was recorded. The temperature recorded was -27.2C and the shivering place was Braemar.
- Today in 1624 George Heriot, goldsmith to King James VI and founder of Heriot’s School, died. The school was originally founded as Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh. He is thought to be the inspiration for the character, Georgie Heriot, in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Fortunes of Nigel.
- Today in 1846 Rev Henry Duncan, founder of the world-wide savings bank movement, died near Ruthwell. Launched in a derelict cottage in 1810, the savings bank movement spread to 109 organisations in 92 countries. A man of varied talents, Duncan also became the first person in the country to identify fossil footprints and he was also responsible for the restoration of the medieval Ruthwell Cross.
- On This Day in 1692, a Royalist force, under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, carried out the Massacre of Glencoe. The massacre of 38 MacDonalds was carried out on direct orders from Dalrymple of Stair, orders which were counter-signed twice by King William. Scotland was shocked when news of the massacre reached the general public. Dalrymple lost his position but no action was taken against William and Dalrymple soon returned to favour. The massacre undoubtedly helped the Jacobites gain more support, particularly in the Highlands.
- 13 February 1728 saw the birth of John Hunter, the Scottish physician and anatomist. Surgeon-General to King George III, he is regarded as the founder of pathological anatomy in Britain and is also often considered a pioneer of scientific surgery. Hunter was the teacher of Edward Jenner, the inventor of vaccination.
- Today in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone, patent no. 174461. Two hours after it was lodged, his rival, Elisha Gray, applied for a similar patent. Bell’s was granted. Over 600 law suits followed before the Supreme Court decision ruled in Bell’s favour in 1893. Within a year the first telephone exchange was built in Connecticut and within the decade more than 150,000 people in the US alone owned telephones. At this point Bell was not yet thirty. In his later life, Bell experimented with sheep, convinced that sheep with extra nipples would give birth to more lambs.
- On February 14 1565, Mary Queen of Scots met Lord Darnley for the first time. They were married in July 1565. Darnley did not prove to be the husband that Mary had hoped for however, and his participation in the murder of Mary’s secretary, Rizzio, made their differences irreconcilable .
- On February 15 1848 the Caledonian Railway company opened. The Caledonian Railway ran trains from London to Glasgow and was in fierce competition with the Edinburgh based North British Railway. Caledonian trains were painted a distinctive colour of blue, later called Caledonian blue, and carried the Royal Arms of Scotland on the trains. Later it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish group.
- On February 15 1986 Scotland scored their biggest ever win against England in a rugby international. They won the game by 33-6 at Murrayfield, with Gavin Hastings scoring 21 points in the match.
- Today in 1746 Government forces under Lord Louden attempted to capture Prince Charles Edward Stewart at Moy Hall. The plan was unsuccessful as the Hanoverians were surprised and routed by a handful of Jacobites. The only death in the Rout of Moy was Duncan Bam MacCrimmon, Hereditory Piper to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, who took the Hanoverian side in the ’45.
- Scots poet and novelist George Mann MacBeth died on this day in 1992. He is best known for his futuristic thriller the Testament of Spencer, set in a united Ireland.
- On this day in 1796 poet, James MacPherson, died. He was the author of The Works of Ossian, Fingal and Temora, who gained international fame through his translations of early Gaelic poems. However, although they caused a sensation in Britain and Europe, where they were credited with influencing the European Romantic movement, he was also charged with composing the works himself. This accusation gave rise to the so-called ‘Ossian controversy’. The true story behind the poems has never been resolved.
- On February 17 1688 James Renwick, the last Covenanter martyr, was executed. He had been declared a rebel after renouncing his allegiance to Charles II in 1680 and declaring him a tyrant and usurper. He was ruthlessly pursued all over Scotland until finally he was caught and hanged.
- On this day in 1954 the writer Ian Banks was born in Dunfermline, Fife. His first novel, The Wasp Factory, established him as one of the most distinctive voices in Scottish literature. His 1996 novel, The Crow Road, spawned a very successful television adaptation. Banks is also a highly regarded science fiction writer under the name Iain M. Banks.
- 19 February 1972 saw the death of John Grierson, the film director and producer. He was a pioneer of documentary film making, and founder of the British documentary film movement. In 1926, he is credited with being the first person to use the word ‘documentary’, in an article he wrote about Robert Flaherty’s film, “Moana”, adapting it from the French word, ‘documentaire’, which was used to describe travelogues. In 1928, he founded the Empire Marketing Board, the first British film company devoted to documentaries. In 1933, he began working for the GPO’s film unit, during which time he produced two of British cinema’s most famous documentary films: “Song of Ceylon” and “Night Mail”. In 1939, he left Britain for Canada, setting up the National Film Board of Canada. Grierson later produced the Oscar winning film “Seawards the Great Ships”.
- Today in 1314, James Douglas retook Roxburgh Castle and razed it to the ground. The Black Douglas, as he was known, and sixty men gained access to the castle by climbing the castle walls using hooked scaling ladders.
- King James I was murdered in Perth, by a group led by Sir Robert Graham, today in 1437. Had it not been for his love of tennis James would have escaped his assassins. Fleeing his killers, he hid in the drain under his tennis court, however this offered no means of escape for the monarch, as he had only recently ordered it to be blocked after losing balls in it.
- On 20 February 1472 Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland. The islands were provided as security for the dowry of Princess Margaret, the prospective wife of James III of Scotland and daughter of King Christian of Norway and Denmark.
- On this day in 1945 Eric Liddell, winner of the 400 metres at the 1924 Olympics, died. Liddell was born to missionary parents in China and became a noted sportsman while studying at Edinburgh University. He was not only a top sprinter but a noted rugby player as well, representing Scotland on seven occasions. Liddell is most well known for his refusal to run in the heats of the 100 metres, his favoured distance, at the Paris Olympics, as they were being held on a Sunday, then going on to win in the 400 metres. After his retiral from athletics Liddell returned to the Far East as a missionary and died in a Japanese internment camp in China.
- Today in 1842 the first intercity railway between Glasgow and Edinburgh was opened by Queen Victoria. The Scottish rail system was linked to the English network in 1848.
- Today in 1371, King David II died at Edinburgh Castle. David was the son of Robert I, and succeeded as King of Scots in 1329. He was soon faced with problems from his southern neighbour’s new king Edward III. He invaded England in 1346, but suffered a humiliating defeat at Neville’s Cross and was held as a prisoner by the English for eleven years. His unhappy reign was further compounded by his dying childless.
- Today in 1816, Dr.Adam Ferguson, the Scottish historian and philosopher died. A member of the so-called “common sense” school of philosophy he was the author of Principles of Moral and Political Science and History of the Roman Empire.
- Today in 664 St Boisel, second prior of Melrose Abbey, died. He followed St Aidan as prior and was succeeded by St Cuthbert. The modern village of St Boswells is named after him.
- On this day in 1310 the Declaration of the Clergy and People in favour of King Robert I, was issued from the Church of the Friary Minor in Dundee. This was a significant step in giving legitimacy to Bruce’s campaign against the English and also his claim to the Scottish crown.
- On February 24 1923, the world famous steam train, the Flying Scotsman, went into service with LNER. It was the first train to run non-stop between London and Edinburgh, and also the first steam train to reach the speed of 100mph.
- On February 24 1940, footballer Denis Law was born. He enjoyed a long career, mainly with Manchester United, and was a fixture in the Scotland side throughout the 60s. He managed to score 30 times in only 55 international appearances, a total matched only by Kenny Dalglish.
- On this date in 1888 a conference advocated the adoption of leaving certificates in Scottish schools. The conference was held in Edinburgh and attended by officials of the Scottish Education Dept and Secondary School Rectors, although representatives of universities declined the invitation to attend. The first Leaving Certificate exam was sat by pupils on Monday 18 June 1888 and the certificate remained a fixture of Scottish education until 1962.
- Today in 1935, Robert Watson-Watt demonstrated radar for the first time. Watson-Watt was first approached by the Air Ministry regarding the possibility of building a “death ray”. The chain of radar stations subsequently built along the coast of England, known as Chain Home, were to go on to play an important part in winning the Battle of Britain.
- On February 26 1950 the entertainer and song writer, Sir Harry Lauder, died. Lauder went from being a pit boy in Lanarkshire to being one of the most successful entertainers in the world, touring the Unites States twenty three times and becoming the first performer to entertain front line troops during the First World War. Lauder’s last stage performance was in 1947, at a concert in the Gorbals celebrating the 25th anniversary of a local Rover Scout Group.
- On this day in 1735, John Arbuthnot, Scottish mathematician, physicist and author died. He was a close friend of Johnathan Swift and Alexander Pope. His work, History of John Bull, popularised Bull as the proto-typical Englishman, although he probably did not invent the character. Arbuthnot was also co-founder, along with Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay and Thomas Parnell, of the satirical Scriblerus Club, founded “to ridicule false learning and bad teaching”.
- Today in 1545 the Battle of Ancrum Moor took place, where the Scots, led by the Earl of Douglas, managed to defeat a much larger English force. A local legend has it that a Lady Lilliard took part in the battle in a bid to avenge the death of her lover, who was killed by English troops. According to the story she fought well until dying of her wounds, and her memory is marked by the Lilliard Stone on the battlefield.
- On February 27 1560 the Second Treaty of Berwick was signed. The treaty provided English financial and military aid to the Protestant Lords of Scotland as they fought to rid the country of Mary of Guise and her French forces.
- Today in 1638, the Second Covenant was signed in Greyfriars Churchyard. The Covenant was signed and inaugurated by Scottish Protestant churchmen in Edinburgh. The document was a direct response to Charles I’s attempts to introduce a Book of Common Prayer across the whole of Britain, as presbyterians were incensed that the General Assembly had not been consulted. Copies of the document were sent to churches around the country and soon over 300,000 Scots had signed the Covenant.
- Today in 1873, Rev. Thomas Guthrie, founder of the Ragged Schools, died. A leading figure in the Disruption of 1843, Guthrie became a leading light in the early Free Church, becoming Moderator in 1862. With the support of the Edinburgh Review, Guthrie raised enough money to found a Ragged School and his 1847 book, A Plea for Ragged Schools, or Prevention is Better Than Cure, paved the way for the setting up of Government funded Industrial Schools. Perhaps Guthrie’s most fitting epitaph are the words of a little girl from one of his schools: “He was all the father I ever knew.”
- On 29 February 1528, Patrick Hamilton was burned at St Andrews for the crime of heresy. Hamilton is regarded as the first Protestant martyr in Scotland. After studying in Europe, where he came into contact with the ideas of Martin Luther, Hamilton began to preach Protestant ideas in Scotland, leading to his arrest. Hamilton was sentenced to be burned at the stake but, horrifically, his inexperienced executioners underestimated how much kindling would be needed, and the fire petered out with Hamilton badly burned but alive. In all it took six hours for the flames to consume Hamilton.
- Today in 1904, the famous Glasgow theatre, the Pavilion, celebrated its opening performance. The theatre played host to many of the greatest stars of the music hall era and remains a pantomime and variety favourite today. Glasgow comic Tommy Morgan asked for his ashes to be scattered on the Pavilion’s roof, and the theatre is said to be haunted by his ghost.
And so ends February in Scottish History