May in Scottish History
- On this day in 1707, the Act of Union between Scotland and England came into force. Scottish church bells played the tune “Why am I so Sad on my Wedding Day?” – the Union was brought about in spite of opposition by the majority of Scots. The image is of James Ogilvy, 1st Earl Seafield, on occasions M.P. for Banffshire and Lord Chancellor of Scotland. He promoted The Act of Union of 1707, but moved the repeal of the Act in 1713. Bribery was prevalent, with £20.49,000 sterling being despatched to Scotland for the payment of spies and agent provocateurs.
- Today in 1690, the last organised Jacobite forces are beaten by government troops at Cromdale, near Grantown on Spey. The battle of the Haughs of Cromdale completely eliminated any Jacobite threat to William in Scotland, and enabled him to concentrate his forces in Ireland for another decisive victory over James at the Battle of the Boyne two months later.
- Today in 1779, John Galt, Scottish novelist, was born. As well as writing the first biography of his acquaintance, Lord Byron, Galt’s main achievement lies in his thirteen innovative and entertaining novels. A group of them, which Galt called Tales of the West, is set mainly in the Scotland of his youth, and they give a complete picture of Scottish life from about 1760 to 1820. Galt spoke of the Scottish people as “Possessing the whole range of the English language as well as their own, by which they enjoy an uncommonly rich vocabulary”, and indeed he used the Scots tongue for dialogue and sometimes narrative.
- On this day in 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots, escaped from Loch Leven castle and revoked her abdication. She soon gathered an army and moved towards Dumbarton castle.
- On this day in 1679, Archbishop James Sharp, Primate of Scotland, was attacked and killed. The murder happened while he was travelling through Fife to St Andrews. The attackers were probably waiting for the Sheriff of Fife, but were happy to kill instead the man leading the forces suppressing the Covenant in Scotland. It sparked a wider uprising, leading to what is known as the “Killing Time”.
- Today in 1860, John Haldane, Scottish physician and physiologist, was born. Noted for his work on respiration, it was Haldane who demonstrated the role of carbon dioxide, and the change in temperature of the human body at extreme pressures. Author of ‘Causes of Death in Colliery Explosions,’ he was also father of the great population geneticist, JBS Haldane.
- May 4th 1799 saw the storming of Seringapatam, leading to the defeat of Sultan Tippoo of Mysore, India. Sir David Baird (1757-1829) was born in East Lothian. Serving as a captain in India, Baird was wounded and captured at the Battle of Polilur in 1780, where a British force of 4,000 was defeated and almost totally destroyed. He was taken to Seringapatam and imprisoned for four years in awful conditions. Once free, Baird avenged himself in the 4th Mysore War: Major-General Baird, as he had become, commanded the victorious British assault on Seringapatam. In fact he was given this role because of his treatment there, to the annoyance and exclusion of Arthur Wellesley, future Duke of Wellington.
- On 5th May 1938, King George VI officially opened the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park played host to over 13 million people who came to visit the Empire Exhibition, a celebration of the achievements of the British Empire. It cost £11.49 million to mount and was a monument to the art deco style.
- On 5 May 1646 King Charles Stewart surrendered to Scottish Covenanters besieging Newark on Trent. The Scottish forces took him to Newcastle to bargain with him. The English Parliamentary army threatened to take the King from the Scots by force.
- Today in 1999 saw the election of the first Scottish Parliament since 1707. Elections were held for the Scottish Parliament and the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament – MSPs – took their seats on 12 May 1999. State of the parties: Labour 56; Scottish National Party 35; Conservatives 18; Liberal Democrats 16; Greens 1; Scottish Socialist Party 1; Independent 1.
- Today in 1870 Sir James Simpson, Scottish physician, died. A pioneer of obstetrics, gynaecology, and childbirth anaesthetics, he was the first British physician to use chloroform and ether as anaesthetics during childbirth. He provoked much controversy at the time because many believed the pain of childbirth had been decreed by God as the curse of Eve. His victory was assured when, as personal surgeon to Queen Victoria, he used anaesthetic during the delivery of her seventh child.
- On 7 May 1711 David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and author, was born. Hume is one of the most significant figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, and is still considered among the greatest philosophers of all time. He wrote about human nature and politics, and introduced social history. He is the author of such seminal works as ‘A Treatise of Human Nature’ (1739-40) and ‘An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’ (1748).
- On 7 May 1542 the Earl of Hertford invaded Scotland in an attempt to force the marriage of Edward, son of Henry VIII, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Known as “The Rough Wooing”, it led to the burning and distruction of Border towns and abbeys, and of Edinburgh.
- Today in 1947 John Reid, Scottish Labour politician, was born. Elected MP for Hamilton North and Bellshill in 1997, Reid was Scottish Secretary from 1999 to 2001, and Northern Ireland Secretary from 2001 to 2002 . He was the first Roman Catholic to hold the post. He has held the post of Labour Party Chairman since 2002.
- On 8 May 1945, V.E.(Victory in Europe) day marked the end of World War II in Europe. The Allies overran Germany from the west during April 1945 as Russian forces advanced from the east. On April 25, American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River. Five days later, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. At 2:41 a.m. on May 7, General Jodl signed for the unconditional surrender of German forces on all fronts, which was to take effect on May 8 at 11:01 p.m. Over 50,000 Scottish servicemen lost their lives during the conflict.
- Today in 1918 John MacLean, Glasgow schoolmaster, labour leader and first Soviet Consul in Britain, was tried in the Edinburgh High Court for sedition. MacLean dedicated his life to the cause of the working class. A controversial figure, his Marxist views were seen as extreme even by some of the Left. His opposition to the war led to his arrest on a number of occasions, losing him his teaching job, and culminating with a sentence of 5 years for sedition in 1918. However, a combination of the signing of the Armistice and weekly marches by supporters in Glasgow saw him released in December 1918, having served eight months. He was granted a royal pardon by the King, which he refused, on the grounds that it was the workers of Glasgow, rather than the King, who had secured his release. In November 1923, already in poor health from the rigours of prison, he contracted pneumonia and died, aged only 44.
- On 9 May 1645, the Marquis of Montrose and his Royalists camped at Auldearn near Nairn, en route to attack Inverness. The Covenanters, reinforced by troops withdrawn from England because of the threat from Montrose, gathered at Inverness before marching overnight in an attempt to surprise Montrose at Aldearn. The Royalists won a fierce fight, killing 2000 Covenanters for the loss of 200 of their own men.
- Today in 1946 Donovan, Scottish pop and folk singer-songwriter, was born. Born Donovan Leitch, his hits include “Mellow Yellow”, “Sunshine Superman” and “Jennifer Juniper”. Upon his emergence during the mid-’60s, Donovan was anointed “Britain’s answer to Bob Dylan,” a largely unfounded comparison which compromised the Scottish folk-pop troubadour’s own unique vision. Where the thrust of Dylan’s music remains its bleak introspection and bitter realism, Donovan fully embraced the wide-eyed optimism of the flower-power movement, and his recordings perfectly capture the peace-and-love idealism of their time.
- Today in 1949 Norman Baillie-Stewart, Scottish soldier and Nazi collaborator, was arrested. He was known as “the officer in the Tower” – as a lieutenant in the Seaforth Highlighers, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1933-37 for passing secrets to Germany. In 1938 he emigrated to Austria and then to Germany. He took part in daily broadcasts from Berlin with William Joyce aka Lord Haw Haw. In May 1945, he was arrested by the Americans in Austria and sentenced to five years imprisonment for aiding the enemy. Baillie-Stewart claimed he had taken German citizenship in 1938, but no record of this could be found.
- Today in 1941 Rudolf Hess crash-landed in Scotland after his bizarre solo flight from Nazi Germany. Hitler’s most trusted official and friend, he crash-landed a stolen plane at Eaglesham in an inexplicable effort to negotiate an end to the war. Hitler labelled him insane, and many agreed, but this did not keep him from judgment at Nuremberg for war crimes. He was sentenced to life, eventually becoming the sole prisoner at Spandau.
- On this day in 1685 Covenanter martyrs, Margaret Lachlane, or McLachlan, and Margaret Wilson, refused to take an oath of loyalty to Charles II that acknowledged his authority on everything, including religious matters. They were tied to stakes in the Solway near Wigtown where they drowned as the tide rose. A reprieve had been sent from Edinburgh but never reached Wigtown. Martyrs’ Monument The replica stake sits on machair about 100 yards from the parish church, where the women’s graves are clearly marked. The water’s edge is now a fair distance away from the site of the drownings, as gradual silting of the river has caused the water level to drop.
- On 12 May 1994, Labour leader, John Smith, died. The death stunned the nation. His funeral was held in Edinburgh a few days later and he was buried on the ancient holy island of Iona off the coast of Argyll. Politicians of all parties mourned in what was seen as a significant loss to the whole country, and people of all classes grieved for a man who came to be known as a lost leader. John Smith was widely respected for his honesty and integrity. In an age when trust in politicians was diminishing, he was seen as a plain man, sincere in his humanity. He was also one of the shrewdest and most able politicians the twentieth century had seen. A popular, convivial, figure too, he has been much missed in the years that followed.
- On 12 May 1999 the Scottish Parliament reconvened with Dr Winifred M Ewing MSP as acting Presiding Officer. Her first words to the Parliament were – “The Scottish Parliament which adjourned on the 25th of March in the year 1707 is hereby reconvened.”
- On this day in 1568 at the Battle of Langside, Mary, Queen of Scots, was finally defeated in her attempt to regain the throne from her son, James VI, and his supporters. Mary fled to England and was imprisoned until her execution in 1587. The 18m (58 feet) tall Langside Battlefield Memorial (1887-8, Alexander Skirving) marks the site of Glasgow`s most important military encounter.
- On 13 May 1685 James Kirk was executed near Dumfries as a Covenanter refusing to swear the oath, one of the last of the wave of deaths of the “Killing Times”.
- On this day in 1752 Colin Campbell, the Red Fox, was killed in the Appin Murder at Ballachulish. Colin Campbell, landowner and government official, also known as The Red Fox, left his estate at Glenure with a group of soldiers, riding north through Appin to collect taxes. It has been claimed that his mission included the eviction of members of the Jacobite Stewarts, to be replaced by members of the government-loyal Campbell Clan. At Ballachuilish, a cairn marks the spot where Campbell was shot dead with a musket. Though the hapless James Stewart was hanged as a scapegoat for the crime, the true identity of the murderer remained a mystery for 250 years. However, in 2001 a descendant of the Stewarts of Appin, 89-year-old Anda Penman, identified young Donald Stewart of Ballachulish as the real killer, having allegedly kept a secret that was passed on by word of mouth through generations of her family.
- Today in 1754 golf was formalised at St Andrews with the foundation of the St Andrews Society of Golfers. Twenty-two ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen’ contributed to a silver club to be played for annually over the Links of St Andrews. The first winner was Baillie William Landale, a St Andrews merchant, who became Captain for the year. The competition was initially open to all golfers, as had been that of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1744, whose rules the St Andrews golfers used almost without change. Thus began the foremost club in both Scottish golf history and world golf in general.
- On this day in 1903 Sir William MacTaggart, Scottish painter, was born. Best known for his landscapes, MacTaggart served as President of the Royal Scottish Academy between 1959-69. He carried on the family’s artistic tradition as he was the grandson of the landscape painter, William MacTaggart.
- Today in 2001 Bobby Murdoch, Scottish footballer, died. Murdoch was a key figure in Celtic’s European Cup-winning side of 1967, dubbed the “Lisbon Lions”. They were the first British club to win the trophy. His other honours with Celtic included 8 league medals, 4 Scottish Cup winners’ medals and 5 League Cup winners’ medals. He played for Scotland internationally and also played and coached at English club Middlesbrough.
- On this day in 1805 Sir Alexander Burnes, Scottish explorer and public official, was born. A noted explorer of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and southern Russia, he was author of ‘Map of Central Asia’ and ‘Travels into Bokhara.’ As an army officer in India, he studied Asian languages, and in 1832 he left Lahore in Afghan dress and travelled by way of Peshawar and Kabul across the Hindu Kush to Balkh; and from there, by Bukhara, Asterabad, and Tehran, to Bushire. In 1839 he was appointed political resident at Kabul, where he was assassinated two years later.
- Today in 1935 Hector Munro Macdonald, Scottish mathematician, died. Macdonald worked on electric waves and solved difficult problems regarding diffraction of these waves by summing series of Bessel functions. He corrected his 1903 solution to the problem of a perfectly conducting sphere embedded in an infinite homogeneous dielectric in 1904 after a subtle error was pointed out by Poincaré.
- On 17 May 1870 David Octavius Hill, pioneering Scottish photographer, died. Born in 1802, Hill is often credited with being the first person to use photography as an aid to painting. Together with Robert Adamson he produced more than 1,500 photo-portraits of Scotland’s great and good. A founding member of the Royal Scottish Academy, he served as its Secretary for nearly 50 years.
- On this day in 1810 Robert Tannahill drowned himself in a Paisley canal. A compassionate poet, he explored themes of love, friendship and empathy, and often used his surroundings as inspiration, taking long walks in the country around his home. The folly of war affected him deeply, and he often wrote about soldiers. He was prone to bouts of melancholy – when his 1810 manuscript was rejected by an Edinburgh publisher, he “consigned to the flames” as many of his writings as he could. His body was found in a side tunnel of the Candren Burn.
- Today in 1960 Spanish football side, Real Madrid, won the European Cup for the fifth time, defeating Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Undoubtedly one of the greatest football matches ever seen in Scotland, the ecstatic crowd of 130,000 witnessed a spectacular display of footballing finesse. Hampden’s gate receipts of £55.95,000 logged a then British record, and the estimated 70m television viewers around Europe were at that time by far the largest audience for a live BBC outside broadcast. The European Cup had been in existence only five years – and with this legendary performance, Real won the trophy, incredibly, for the fifth consecutive time.
- On this day in 1843 the Free Church of Scotland was founded by dissenting members of the Church of Scotland. The new Church became a powerful force in Scotland during the 19th Century, but was reunited with the Church of Scotland in 1929 after the main cause of dissention, the right to appoint ministers to parishes, was removed. The Free Church still exists in a minor form in the Highlands and Islands, organised by those who opposed the reunification.
- On this day in 1795 James Boswell, diarist and biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson, died. James Boswell’s name is rarely heard separately from that of Dr Samuel Johnson whose biography he wrote, and with whom he travelled through the west of Scotland in a journey famously recorded in his published journal. It was only in the mid-twentieth century, when many of his writings were re-discovered and published in full, that the extent of Boswell’s talent came to be appreciated. As a perceptive and witty recorder of the social life of the later part of the eighteenth century, he had few rivals.
- On 20 May 685 the battle of Nechtansmere, in present-day Angus, was fought. The battle was a decisive victory for the Picts, under their king Brude MacBile, over Ecgfirth, King of Northumbria, an Angle kingdom. This battle reversed the Northumbrian gains of the past century and the Angles were forced back beyond the Forth.
- On this day in 1685 the Earl of Argyll sailed from Holland to Campbeltown with 300 men in an attempted uprising. After its failure he was executed. The rebellion was designed to place Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, on the throne. The failure of this revolt led to a close bond between the Stewart monarchy and the enemies of the Campbells in the Highlands, which was to become more apparent in the subsequent Jacobite uprisings.
- On 21 May 1650 James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, the chief Royalist military commander in Scotland, died. Graham had originally been one of the nobles to draw up the National Covenant in 1638, however he became concerned about the opposite extreme, a Protestant oligarchy led by Archibald Campbell, the 8th Earl of Argyll, who imprisoned Graham in 1640. Graham therefore sided with the King against the Covenanting Army under Argyll, which was allied to the English army under Oliver Cromwell. Graham showed himself to be a remarkable tactician, winning six successive battles at Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn, Alford and Kilsyth, before being defeated by David Leslie at Philiphaugh. He escaped to continental Europe. Shocked at the execution of Charles I, he returned to avenge the old King and support the young King Charles II, but his small force was defeated at Carbisdale. He was betrayed by MacLeod of Assynt, captured, hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. He was reburied in St. Giles Kirk some eleven years after this terrible execution and his grave was marked in 1888 with a monument by Robert Rowand Anderson.
- Today in 1859 saw the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Edinburgh.
- Conan Doyle invented the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, and is said to have based the relationship between Holmes and his sidekick, Dr Watson, on Plato’s Socrates and his disciples, Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and James Boswell’s conversations with Dr Samuel Johnson. In later life Conan Doyle became a vocal supporter of spiritualism, writing many books on the subject.
- On this day in 1915, 227 people are killed and 246 more are injured in a rail crash at Quintinshill, near Gretna Green. The accident happened when a troop train carrying almost 500 soldiers of the Royal Scots en route to Gallipoli crashed into a stationary goods train. The express train from London subsequently ran straight into the wreckage. The Royal Scots suffered the vast majority of casualties, with 215 killed, as fire ripped through the wooden train, helped by the gas lamps used for lighting. The crash accounted for 42 per cent of the battalion’s casualties for the entire war and it remains Britain’s worst rail disaster.
- On 22nd May, 1968 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted in favour of women ministers. After many years of discussion the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted by a large majority to admit women to the ministry. Later in the year, four women were accepted as candidates for the ministry by the Presbyteries of Edinburgh, Irvine, and Kilmarnock.
- On this day in 1701 Captain William Kidd, the notorious Scottish pirate, died. Born, probably in Dundee, around the year 1645, Kidd became one of the best known pirates of his age. Commissioned by King William III to attack pirates in the Indian Ocean, but secretly allowed to attack French merchantmen, Kidd was disowned by the establishment at his trial. Kidd was hanged on Execution Dock, in London’s docklands on the banks of The Thames. Kidd became a legendary figure, largely because nobody ever discovered what had happened to the rest of his treasure – if there really was any more to be found. Its value multiplied as time went by and treasure hunters have searched for his loot from the Americas to the South China Sea, but so far in vain.
- On 23 May 1718 William Hunter, the Scottish 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, and Hunter is considered the founder of the modern science of gynaecology. On his death he bequeathed his large collection of manuscripts to Glasgow University, which formed the original collection of the Hunterian Museum.
- On this day in 1926 Stanley Baxter, the comedy actor and impersonator, was born. Baxter began his showbusiness career in the forces, entertaining troops in Malaya, along with the likes of Kenneth Williams and director John Schlesinger. On his return to Scotland he worked at the Citizen’s Theatre before moving on to a hugely successful career in television. Perhaps Baxter’s crowning moment was his series of sketches parodying the Glasgow dialect, Parliamo Glasgow. Baxter was also well known for his impersonations and was the first to impersonate the Queen on air.
- On 24th May 1972, Glasgow Rangers became the first Scottish side to win the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, when they defeated Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona. The goalscorers were Colin Stein and Willie Johnston with a brace. However, the victory was marred as jubilant Rangers fans invaded the pitch, leading to violent clashes with the Spanish police.
- On 25 May 1967, Celtic become the first British football club to win the European Cup. The Glasgow side, managed by Jock Stein, picked up the trophy by defeating Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon. After falling behind to a first half penalty, Celtic fought back through goals from Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers. The winning team was made up of eleven Scots, all born within a thirty mile radius of Glasgow.
- The 25th May 1847 saw the birth of John Alexander Dowie, the Scots-born religious leader. 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 in the healing of disease: Zion existed without any doctors or pharmacists. Smoking, drinking and the eating of pork were banned. Dowie, 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. He died a year later.
- On 26 May 1652 Dunnottar Castle, the last Royalist stronghold in eastern Scotland, surrenders. Dunnottar Castle had been under siege for eight months by Cromwell’s forces. Although the castle fell, the defenders managed to smuggle out the Crown Jewels of Scotland to nearby Kinneff Church. This date has a further significance for the Honours of Scotland, for on 26 May 1819 the Crown Jewels were put on display in Edinburgh Castle after they had been rediscovered from their 1707 burial place.
- Today in 1909, Sir Matt Busby, the footballer and club manager, was born in Bellshill. Famous for his life-long association with Manchester United, Busby actually spent his playing career with two of their arch rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City. Tragedy struck the young team he had moulded in 1958 when their plane, returning from a European fixture, crashed in Munich and eight players lost their lives. Busby, himself badly injured, rebuilt the club and they went on to win the European Cup in 1968.
- On 27 May 1661 Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll, the leading Covenanter aristocrat, died. Campbell remains the only Marquis of Argyll and enjoyed a chequered career. Campbell was created Marquis in 1641 by King Charles I, however he could not be regarded as the king’s strongest supporter, having backed the Covenanters and having his own ambitions of acquiring the crown for himself. He supported Oliver Cromwell throughout the early part of the civil war, losing the Battle of Inverlochy to Montrose. Ostensibly Cromwell’s man in Scotland, he switched sides again, crowning Charles II at Scone. However, after the Royalist defeat at Worcester he went back to Cromwell’s side. Charles did not forget this, and, after his restoration, Campbell was executed in Edinburgh and his titles were forfeited.
- On this day in 1862 Elizabeth Haldane, the Scottish social reformer and author, was born in Edinburgh. She was born into a notable family, her relatives including Robert and James Haldane, the noted evangelists, and her brothers, physiologist, John Scott Haldane, and politician, Richard Burdon Haldane, Viscount Haldane of Cloan. After working in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh she served on various regulatory and advisory boards related to nursing. Haldane was also keenly interested in the improvement of housing conditions, founding an organisation to redevelop some of Edinburgh’s worst slums. She was a noted author and translator, writing a Life of Descartes and editing his philosophical works. She translated Hegel, and wrote on both George Eliot and Mrs Gaskell. In 1920, Haldane was appointed the first female Justice of the Peace in Scotland.
- James Renwick, the Covenanting minister, issued his declaration on May 28, 1685. Renwick became the leader of the Cameronian faction after the death of Richard Cameron, declaring that the king and his supporters were ‘enemies to God and the covenanted work of reformation’. After several years of preaching in conventicles and being pursued across southern and central Scotland, Renwick was eventually caught by government forces, becoming the last Covenanting martyr.
- On 28 May 1926 Sir James Cantlie, the Scottish physician, died. Cantlie achieved prominence as the founding President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine. He spent a large part of his career in Hong Kong, carrying out many investigations into leprosy, and dealing with an outbreak of plague in the colony. While in Hong Kong one of his pupils at the College of Medecine for Chinese was the future leader of China, Sun Yat Sen.
- On this day in 1546 Cardinal Beaton, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, was murdered. Beaton was murdered in St Andrews Castle by a band of Protestant Reformers, including two Protestant nobles, Leslie, and Kirkcaldy of the Grange. Beaton was a staunch supporter of the French involvement in Scotland and was seen as the main persecutor of proponents of Protestantism. Beaton’s murderers held the castle for a year until French troops stormed the ramparts. One of the Protestants taken prisoner in the castle was a young John Knox.
- The 29th May 1630 saw the birth of Charles II, although it would be 30 years to the day before he was able to take up his throne. Nineteen years later this date also saw the Covenanters ride into Rutherglen to extinguish the fires celebrating Charles’ Restoration. After issuing the Declaration of Rutherglen, the Covenanters rode out for Drumclog.
- On this day in 1847, Thomas Chalmers, the Presbyterian cleric, theologian and social reformer, died. Chalmers was a popular figure within the Kirk and held a keen interest in improving social welfare. As well as serving as Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, he also became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1832. However, he was vehemently opposed to the system of patronage and led the dissenting ministers during the Disruption of 1843, with Chalmers becoming the first Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.
- On 31 May 1596 John Leslie, the Scottish Roman Catholic cleric, died. Leslie was one of the main advisors to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was her accredited representative at Queen Elizabeth’s court in England. He was forced to flee abroad when his involvement in the ‘Ridolfi Plot’ to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and place Mary on the throne of England was exposed.
- On 31 May 1700 Alexander Cruden, the noted Scottish Biblical scholar, was born in Aberdeen. Cruden achieved prominence as the author of ‘A Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures’, based on the King James VI version of The Bible. Suffering throughout his life from bouts of mental illness, Cruden styled himself the ‘Corrector of the People’, believing himself heaven-sent to transform the morals of his age.
And so ends May in Scottish History