March in Scottish History

March 1st

  • On this day in 1546, George Wishart was burnt at the stake as a heretic by Cardinal Beaton. Born c1513, Wishart was a close friend and mentor of John Knox, and was the first to translate the Helvetic Confession into English. On the day of his execution, the captain of the guard gave Wishart bags of gunpowder to hide in his clothing in order to ease his suffering on the pyre. The executioner fell prostrate before him, asking forgiveness, which Wishart granted. Cardinal Beaton famously watched the execution from his window, turning many Scots against him, and on 29 May, a Protestant gang, enraged by the execution of Wishart, broke into the Cardinal’s residence and murdered him.
  • On March 1 1910, David Niven, the Scottish film actor and author, was born. His films include ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, ‘The Guns of Navarone’ and ‘The Pink Panther’. He is also well known as the author of the bestselling autobiography, ‘The Moon’s a Balloon’.

March 2nd

  • On March 2 1316, Robert II, the first monarch of the House of Stewart, was born at Renfrew. He was the son of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce, and Walter, High Steward of Scotland. Robert acted as regent three times during the reign of his uncle, David II, and acceded to the throne in 1371. He died in 1390 and was succeeded by his son Robert III.
  • On this day in 1873, Robert Buchanan, the Scottish philosopher, poet and playwright, died. Buchanan was Professor of Logic at Glasgow University for more than 40 years. He is also known as the author of ‘Tragic Dramas from Scottish History’.

March 3rd

  • On 3 March 1792, Robert Adam, the Scottish architect, furniture and interior designer, died. Born in Kirkcaldy, Adam is regarded as one of Europe’s great architects. Inspired by the Roman ruins he had studied whilst on a tour of France and Italy, Adam became one of the leading lights of the neo-classical movement. One of his many masterworks is Culzean Castle in Ayrshire.
  • The 3 March 1847 saw the birth of Alexander Graham Bell in Edinburgh. As well as inventing the telephone, Bell was passionate in his work with the deaf, setting up the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf. He was also keen to spread knowledge of geography to the masses and became president of the National Geographic Society.

March 4th

  • Today in 1756, the artist Sir Henry Raeburn was born in Edinburgh. Raeburn painted many notables, including Sir Walter Scott and David Hume, but he is most well-known today for his portrait of The Reverend Robert Walker skating, painted in 1784, which hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
  • Today in 1951 saw the birth of Kenny Dalglish, probably Scotland’s greatest ever footballer. Dalglish started his career at Celtic before moving to Liverpool, scoring the winning goal in the 1978 European Cup Final for them. He managed to amass a record 102 Scotland caps, scoring 30 goals to equal Denis Law’s record.

March 5th

  • On this day in 1790, Flora MacDonald, the Jacobite heroine, died. Flora is famous for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from Scotland after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden, disguising him as her maid, Betty Burke. She died in Kingsburgh, Skye, in the same bed in which Bonnie Prince Charlie had slept during his escape. Her funeral was said to have been attended by over three thouasnd mourners, and three hundred gallons of whisky were drunk at it.
  • 5th March 1953 saw The Maid of the Loch, the last Loch Lomond paddle steamer, lowered into the water. She was a replacement for the elderly Princess May and Prince Edward, and she remains the largest vessel to have sailed Britain’s inland waterways. Built by the Glasgow firm of A & J Inglis, she was dismantled and taken by rail to Balloch where she was reassembled.

March 6th

  • On 6 March 1923, Scotland’s first radio broadcast took place. The broadcast took place from Rex House, 202 Bath Street in Glasgow. The BBC’s founder, Lord Reith of Stonehaven, opened the station. Orchestra, pipe band, choir, solo singers, actors and speech makers were all squeezed into a small attic for the first broadcast. By the summer of 1924, stations had opened in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and, by the eve of the Second World War, over 90% of the Scottish population were served by BBC transmitters.
  • On 6 March 608, St Balfred, the hermit monk of the Bass Rock, died. The Bass Rock was later to become the Scottish version of Alcatraz, with Covenanters imprisoned there throughout the Killing Times of the Seventeenth Century. The island has a more peaceful vocation today as a bird sanctuary.

March 7th

  • On 7 March 1744, the world’s first golf club was founded in Edinburgh.The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers held their first meeting on Leith Links and petitioned the Edinburgh Council to provide a silver club for competition. John Rattray was the first winner. He joined the Jacobites after the Battle of Prestonpans and became Bonnie Prince Charlie’s personal surgeon. He escaped beheading after the uprising thanks to the intercession of his golfing friend, Lord President Forbes.
  • On this day in 1924, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, the renowned sculptor and artist, was born in Leith. Paolozzi’s early work is regarded as crucial to the development of the Pop-Art movement. His later work is heavily influenced by the philosophy of Wittgenstein.

March 8th

  • On this day in 1824, John Elder, the Scottish marine engineer and shipbuilder, was born. Elder invented the marine compound steam engine which enabled ships to cut fuel consumption and made longer voyages possible without the need to refuel. Elder was also a noted philanthropist who cared deeply for his workforce, establishing and contributing to an accident fund at the shipyard. At his death, he was working on a scheme to found a school for his workers’ children.
  • On 8 March 1899, Eric Linklater, the novelist and playright, was born. Although born in Wales, Linklater always considered himself an Orcadian, and commanded the Orkney garrison during the Second World War. Perhaps his greatest work is ‘Magnus Merriman,’ a political satire based on his own unsuccesful campaign as a National Party of Scotland candidate.

March 9th

  • On 9 March 1649, James Hamilton, the 1st duke of Hamilton and Scottish Royalist soldier, died. His weak and vacillating leadership of the Royalist cause in Scotland did great damage to Charles I in his northern kingdom. Captured by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Preston in 1648, he was executed after trying to escape captivity.
  • On this day in 1907, John Alexander Dowie, the Scottish-born religious leader, died. Dowie, a highly controversial but charismatic faith healer, founded the Christian Catholic Church at Zion, Illinois, where around 5,000 followers created a unique community and followed his teaching. This included a belief in the power of prayer to heal disease. Zion existed without any doctors or pharmacists. Smoking, drinking and the eating of pork were banned. The self-proclaimed apostle “Elijah the Restorer” was expelled from the Church in 1905 after he had become increasingly eccentric, and the community fell into financial ruin.

March 10th

  • On 10 March 560, St Kessog, the Irish missionary in the Lennox area and southern Perthshire, was killed. Kessog was Scotland’s patron saint before Andrew, and his name was used as a battle cry by the Scots. Son of the king of Cashel in Ireland, St Kessog is said to have worked miracles, even as a child. He left Ireland and became a missionary bishop in Scotland. Using Monks’ Island in Loch Lomond as his headquarters, he evangelized the surrounding area until he was martyred, supposedly at Bandry, where a heap of stones was known as St Kessog’s Cairn.
  • On 10 March 1998, Alberto Morrocco, the Scottish painter noted for his murals and portraits in oil and watercolours, died. Morrocco’s most famous work is probably that of the Queen Mother, painted while she was Chancellor of Dundee University. In 1993, he was awarded the OBE for his services to art in Scotland.

March 11th

  • On 11 March 1911, Sir Fitzroy MacLean, the Scottish soldier, diplomat, politician and author was born. A founder member of the SAS and reportedly the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s character, James Bond, he is probably best known for his exploits during the Second World War. In 1943, Churchill chose MacLean to parachute into German-occupied Yugoslavia as his personal representative to the partisans of Tito, who became leader of Yugoslavia after the war. MacLean was instrumental in gaining Allied support for the Communist partisans instead of their rivals, the right-wing Chetniks.
  • 11 March 1932 saw the birth of Binkie Stuart, the child film actress, in Kilmarnock. Born Elizabeth Alison Fraser, she was hailed as Britain’s answer to Shirley Temple and enjoyed huge fame as a child star. However, her career was over by the tender age of 7, brought to an abrupt halt by the onset of the Second World War. An attempted comeback as a serious actress in her twenties failed and Stuart retired from showbusiness, working as an assistant in an electrical shop.

March 12th

  • On the 12th of March 1852, the last salmon was caught in the River Kelvin. The salmon population in the river had been in decline due to the rise of industrial pollution in the area. However, in February 1999, after £43.95 million of investment, salmon again spawned in the river and anglers were allowed back.

March 13th

  • John Barbour, the early Scottish poet, died on this day in 1395.One of the first poets to use the vernacular in Scots poetry, he was also a pioneering historian. His epic masterwork is ‘The Bruce’, one of the great national poems of Scotland. Barbour served as Archdeacon of Aberdeen, and ‘The Bruce’ is highly commended for it’s historical accuracy when compared to other similar works such as Blind Harry’s ‘Wallace’.
  • On 13 March 1873, the Scottish Football Association was formed. The impetus for forming the organisation came from a meeting after the first international match against England. Attending the meeting were representatives from all of Scotland’s leading clubs: Clydesdale, Vale of Leven, Dumbreck, Third Lanark Rifle Volunteer Reserves, Eastern, Granville and Rovers. The meeting was chaired by Queen’s Park.

March 14th

  • On 14 March 1952, the first TV programme to be broadcast in Scotland showed the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society performing the Duke of Edinburgh Reel. The broadcast was celebrating the opening of Kirk o’ Shotts station in Lanarkshire and came from Studio 1 in Edinburgh’s Broadcasting House. The announcers for the evening were Mary Malcolm and Alastair MacIntyre.
  • Today in 1900 saw the birth of Scottish lawyer, Dame Margaret Kidd. Not only was Kidd Scotland’s first woman advocate, but she was also the first woman King’s Counsel in Britain and the first woman to plead before the House of Lords. She was appointed Britain’s first woman KC on 20 December 1948.

March 15th

  • The morning of March 15 1941 saw the end of two nights of heavy German bombing of Clydebank. The Clydebank Blitz, as it became known, destroyed a third of the buildings of Clydebank, leaving 35,000 people homeless. A thousand German bombers were used in the raid and the devastation of the town was so complete that only eight buildings remained entirely unscathed after the bombing. To further compound Clydebank’s misery, only two enemy planes were shot down.

March 16th

  • On 16 March 1914, Sir John Murray, the noted Scottish oceanographer, died. Murray pioneered the science of oceanography. He was one of the naturalists on the ‘HMS Challenger’ expedition of 1872-76, and edited the expedition’s reports. He invented a device for sounding and registering the sea’s temperature at great depths, and also completed the first biological survey of the lochs of Scotland.
  • On 16 March 1995, Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, the Chief of Clan Fraser, died. Fraser, a WWII hero, played a key role in the development of the commandos and was actively involved in both the Dieppe Raid, 1942, and D-Day landings, 1944.

March 17th

  • March 17 1780 saw the birth of Rev Thomas Chalmers in Anstruther. Chalmers was the leader of the dissenting ministers in the Great Disruption of 1843. In all, 470 ministers walked out of the General Assembly over the matter of who had the right to pick a minister for a parish. Chalmers then became the first Moderator of the new Free Church of Scotland, expending much energy on ensuring the new church had a solid base on which to build.
  • March 17, 1715 saw the death of Gilbert Burnet, the Scottish cleric, theologian and historian. A close confidant of Queen Mary II, he played an important part in the ‘Glorious Revolution’of 1688 by persuading the Queen to surrender all political powers into the hands of her Dutch husband, King William III. He was also author of ‘History of His Own Time’ which has been described as the “only history of England and Wales under the later Stuarts to have been written by anybody so highly placed both to observe and influence the events he narrated”.

March 18th

  • On 18 March 1286, Alexander III, King of Scots, set off on the journey that led to him being killed accidentally at Kinghorn, Fife. The last of the MacAlpine dynasty and the Celtic line of Scottish Kings, his reign was known as “The Golden Age”. His successor, Margaret, known as the ‘Maid of Norway’, died on her way home from Norway to claim the throne. Margaret’s premature death precipitated the disastrous involvement of Edward I of England in Scotland’s affairs.
  • Today in 1689, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers were raised in Edinburgh by David Leslie, 3rd Earl of Leven. The regiment was popular from the start and it was reported that 800 men were recruited within the space of 2 hours. The regiment first saw action at the Battle of Killiecrankie on July 27th of that year and, although the Jacobite rebels forced the Government army to retreat, Leven’s new Regiment acquitted itself well, and was granted the privilege of recruiting by beat of drum within the City of Edinburgh without the prior permission of the Lord Provost.

March 19th

  • On this day in 1813, Dr.David Livingstone, the famous Scottish missionary and explorer, was born. Livingstone, from Blantyre, became well-known for his exploration of central and southern Africa. He was the first European to see the Victoria Falls in present-day Zimbabwe. The whereabouts of Livingstone became the subject of the famous search by American journalist Henry Morton Stanley.
  • 19 March 1721 saw the birth of Tobias Smollett, the novelist and playwright. Smollett is most famous for his picaresque works such as ‘The Adventures of Roderick Random’ and ‘The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle’. He was also a noted satirist and as famous for his tendency to fall out with collaborators as for his written work.

March 20th

  • On 20 March 1936, Robert CunninghameGraham, the Scottish nationalist politician and author, died. The first President of the National Party of Scotland, and first Chairman of the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party. George Bernard Shaw reputedly used Graham as a model for characters in his plays, ‘Arms and the Man’ and ‘Captain Brassbound’s Conversion’. Graham was also a noted traveller, particularly of Central and South America, and wrote extensively of his travels there.
  • 20 March 1934 saw the birth of Mario Conti, the Scottish Roman Catholic cleric. Conti rose to become Bishop of Aberdeen in 1977. After the death of Cardinal Winning, he was installed as the Archbishop of Glasgow, becoming the religious leader of Scotland’s Catholic community.

March 21st

  • On this day in 1729, John Law, the Scottish economist, died. In his best known work, ‘Money and Trade Considered with a Proposal for Supplying the Nation With Money’, he argued that increased money supply resulted in an expanding, healthy economy. Rejected in Britain, he moved to France where the government, deep in debt, adopted his plans to develop its vast territories in North America with disastrous results. The resulting financial disaster became known as the “Mississippi bubble” and had such an enormous impact on France that it would be 80 years before France would again introduce paper money into its economy.
  • On 21 March 1925, Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh opened, becoming the home of Scottish rugby. Scotland marked the occasion by beating England 14-11 and winning their first Grand Slam. Unfortunately, the Scottish rugby team have only managed to repeat this success twice more, in 1984 and 1990.

March 22nd

  • On this day 1875, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson died in Glasgow. Thomson is considered one of Scotland’s greatest architects, and his impact on the look of Victorian Glasgow was enormous. In fact, many buildings in the city cannot even be definitively identified as his, as his style was so routinely copied. Holmwood House in Cathcart is regarded as one of his greatest works and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
  • On 22 March 1421, Scottish and French troops under the Earl of Buchan defeated English forces at Bauge in Anjou, France. The battle was a stunning victory for the Franco-Scottish forces who totally outmanouevred the English, under the Duke of Clarence. The English commander was killed by the Scottish knight, Sir Alexander Buchanan.

March 23rd

  • On 23 March 1923, Roddy McMillan, the Scottish stage and TV actor, was born. His credits include the TV series, ‘The View From Daniel Pike’, and the play, ‘The Revellers’. However, he will be most fondly remembered for his portrayal of Para Handy, the captain of the Vital Spark in the much loved television series of the 1960s.
  • On this day in 1848, the Free Church of Scotland settlement at New Edinburgh, New Zealand was founded under Rev Thomas Burns, a nephew of the poet Robert Burns. The settlement later became Dunedin, one of the largest towns in the country, and one which still retains a distinctive Scottish character.

March 24th

  • On 24 March 1603, King James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King James I of England. James acceded to the English throne on the death of Queen Elizabeth I. His accession, and the union of the crowns, marked the start of the Stuart dynasty in England. However, although James liked to refer to himself as a beast with one head and two bodies, neither the Scots or the English showed much inclination for further union, each retaining a seperate parliament, legal code and church.
  • On this day in 1936, an estimated one million people watched the Queen Mary leave the Clyde for the first time. However, the sailing did not quite go to plan: despite extensive dredging having taken place, the liner ran aground twice on the way to Gourock where she was fitted with lifeboats.

March 25th

  • On this day in 1306, Robert the Bruce, Earl of Annandale, was crowned King of Scots at Scone. Bruce was crowned in the presence of four bishops, five earls and the people of the land by the Countess of Buchan, performing the hereditary duties of her brother, the Earl of Fife, who was imprisoned at the time. Bruce was forced into hiding soon after his coronation, however, and the Countess of Buchan was imprisoned in a cage on the walls of Berwick castle.
  • March 25 was celebrated as the traditional date of the Scottish New Year until 1599. In that year, Scotland converted to the modern Gregorian Calendar. England did not adopt the new calendar until the Calendar Act of 1751 was passed, a full 152 years after Scotland.

March 26th

  • On 26 March 1797, James Hutton, the Scottish chemist and geologist, died. Hutton is regarded as a pioneer of modern geology. At the time of his research people still widely accepted The Bible’s account that the world was only about 6,000 years old. Geologists believed that rock layers had been laid down during the Biblical floods. Hutton refused to accept that one single event was responsible for the formation of the world as we know it. In his work, ‘Theory of the Earth’ (1795), he posited that the Earth’s crust had been created through a continuous, gradual process called “uniformitarianism”.

March 27th

  • On this day in 1923, Sir James Dewar, the inventor of the vacuum flask, died. Dewar’s discovery was a by-product of his lifetime’s work on cryogenics. However, the flask was not manufactured for commercial or domestic use until 1904 when two German glass blowers formed Thermos GmbH. Dewar also discovered superconductivity and, with Sir Frederick Abel, invented the explosive, cordite.
  • On 27 March 1625, King James VI died. He was nearly 59 years old when he died and had been monarch for all but one of these years. After James acceded to the English throne, he relocated his court to London where he earned the reputation of being “the wisest fool in Christendom.”

March 28th

  • On March 28 1642, the Scots Guards Regiment was formed. The regiment was formed when King Charles I issued a commission to the Marquess of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell, authorizing him to raise in Scotland a regiment of 1,500 men, forming what was to become the King’s ‘Lyfe Guard of Foot’ and ultimately the Scots Guards. The 2nd battalion of the Scots Guards fought the decisive action at Mount Tumbledown, during the Falklands War, which broke the resistance of the Argentinian forces.
  • On this day in 1661, the first Scottish newspaper, Mercurius Caledonius, ceased publication after a run of only nine issues. It had started on a brighter note, promising extensive coverage of “the Affairs now in Agitation in Scotland, with a Survey of Foreign Intelligence.”

March 29th

  • On 29 March 2002, Longannet, Scotland’s last deep coal mine, closed, ending centuries of mining tradition. The Fife mine was put into liquidation after being flooded on the 23rd, when a dam separating old workings from new seams under the river Forth collapsed. The water poured into the five-mile mineshafts, 600m (1,870ft) below ground, in less than ten minutes. After examination by engineers, it was decided that it would be too expensive to rescue the pit, even though there was an estimated 40 million tons of coal still to be extracted. 500 men were expected to lose their jobs as a result of the closure.
  • On 29 March 1822, Ewan MacLachlan, the noted Gaelic poet and scholar, died. Born in Lochaber in 1775, MacLachlan became the librarian at King’s College, Aberdeen, and achieved renown as the translator of Homer into Gaelic.

March 30th

  • On this day in 1296, Edward I of England sacked the Scottish town of Berwick. The English army destroyed the town and decimated the population of around 15,000. This act was retaliation for the widespread carnage perpetrated in the north of England, and what Edward considered to be the treacherous stab in the back of the Scottish-French alliance. Berwick was rebuilt by Northumbrians, and the Scottish-English border forever after remained north of this town.
  • On 30 March 1783, William Hunter, the eminent physician and obstetrician, died. Hunter made several important studies of the pregnant human uterus. His work, ‘The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, Established in Figures,’ is considered an anatomical classic. His collection of books and manuscripts form the Hunterian Collection at Glasgow University.

March 31st

  • On this day in 1635, General Patrick Gordon was born. Gordon led a remarkable life. Upon leaving Scotland, he entered the Russian army as a major and soon rose to become a close advisor to Russian Tsar, Peter the Great. Gordon rose to the rank of General-in-Chief and was made an admiral of the Russian navy. It is even said that Peter entrusted Gordon take charge of his empire while he visited Western Europe. The two became such close friends that Tsar Peter kept vigil at Gordon’s deathbed.
  • On 31 March 1938, Sir David Steel, Scottish Liberal statesman, was born. Steel, a Borders MP, rose to become leader of the Liberal Party during the period of it’s alliance with the SDP. As the pre-eminent elder statesman of Scottish politics, he was the ideal choice to become the first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

And so ends March in Scottish History