January 1st

  • On this day in 1963, The Beatles opened a 5-day tour of Scotland to promote their first single Love Me Do.
  • The first date was cancelled due to bad weather and the tour finally got underway on the 3rd, with a concert at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom, Elgin.
  • On 1st January 1651 the coronation of Charles II took place at Scone. This was to be the last occasion a monarch was crowned in Scotland. However, Charles was not restored to the throne until after the death of Cromwell in 1660.

January 2nd

  • Thomas Muir of Huntershill, the Glasgow-born Advocate, was arrested for sedition on the 2nd January 1793. He was released after a few days and went to France. On his return to Scotland, Muir was tried and sentenced to 14 years transportation. Muir was the founder of the Scottish Friends of the People. Muir and the other leaders of this group transported to Australia, are known as the Scottish Martyrs.
  • The Ibrox Stadium disaster happened today in 1971, when 66 supporters were killed on stairway 13. The disaster led to the rebuilding of Ibrox Park as an all seater stadium.

January 3rd

  • O H Mavor, known as James Bridie, the physician and prolific playwright, was born in Glasgow on this date in 1888. Mavor is perhaps most famous now for the play “The Anatomist”, based on the life of Dr. Robert Knox, the Edinburgh surgeon supplied with bodies for dissection by the notorious Burke and Hare.
  • Today also sees the anniversary of the death of poet Edwin Muir in 1959. He was highly critical of Hugh MacDiarmid, and contended that while Scotland was torn between Lallans and English, she would never manage to produce great literature.

January 4th

  • This date in 1951 saw the death of George Cathcart. Cathcart was a doctor from Edinburgh who instigated the annual series of concerts now known as the Proms. Cathcart appointed his great friend Sir Henry Wood as conductor, and was responsible for funding the concerts in the years following their conception.
  • This date in 1951 saw the death of George Cathcart. Cathcart was a doctor from Edinburgh who instigated the annual series of concerts now known as the Proms. Cathcart appointed his great friend Sir Henry Wood as conductor, and was responsible for funding the concerts in the years following their conception.

January 5th

  • On the 5 January 1993 the Liberian registered oil tanker Braer hit rocks off the Shetland Islands. She was carrying almost 90,000 tons of crude oil and the resultant disaster caused huge amounts of damage to the local environment.
  • Today in 1952 saw the death of Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India from 1936-43, the longest period that one man held the post. He is credited with furthering the cause of Indian independence through the adoption of a federal form of government. Linlithgow was responsible for suppressing opposition to Britain during WWII, and for organising India’s opposition to Japan.

January 6th

  • On this day in 1981, the Scottish author AJ Cronin died in Switzerland. He is fondly remembered as the creator of the hugely popular Dr. Finlay series of books, which were to become a long running TV series.
  • 6 January 1540 is the date of the first performance of Sir David Lyndsay’s masterpiece, “Ane Satyre o’ the Thrie Estaites” at Linlithgow Palace. The son of a Fife laird, Lyndsay was an attendant to the infant James V and later acted as a diplomat for James to the courts of Europe. Lyndsay drew on his experiences at the royal court to write his most famous play. The ‘three estates’ mentioned in the title are the clergy, the nobility and the burgesses (or craftsmen), and their faults are exposed by John the Common-Weill (commonwealth). The play, like so much of Lindsay’s work, is directed against the pride and greed prevalent in Scottish society, and the social ills which hamper the common good of the nation.

January 7th

  • On this day in 1451 a Papal Bull from Pope Nicolas IV enabled the foundation of Glasgow University. The university had been requested by King James II and championed by Bishop William Turnbull. The building was modelled on the University of Bologna and became Scotland’s second university, forty years after the founding of St Andrews.
  • Today in 1758 saw the death of poet Allan Ramsay snr. While not regarded as a great poet, Ramsay’s “return to nature” style had a deep influence on both Robert Burns and Walter Scott. Author of the play, “The Gentle Shepherd”, Ramsay also founded Britain’s first travelling library.

January 8th

  • Today in 1746 the burgh of Stirling surrendered to the Jacobite army. Significantly however, the castle remained in Hanoverian hands despite a Jacobite siege which caused many casualties on both sides. Hanoverian forces under General Hawley marched from Edinburgh to break the siege, and met the Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk.
  • Today in 1107 also saw the coronation of King Alexander I. Alexander had no children to succeed him, so his brother David became king. David had had plenty of practice in administration, as he had controlled much of Scotland’s southern territories during Alexander’s reign.

January 9th

  • The 9th January 2000 saw the death of author Nigel Tranter. A prolific author, Tranter published more than 130 novels and biographies during his 60-year-long career, nearly all concerning famous Scots and their place in the country’s history. They include the Robert the Bruce trilogy: ‘The Steps to the Empty Throne’, ‘The Path of the Hero King’ and ‘The Price of the King’s Peace’.
  • Randolph Bing was born on January 9 1902. He was the co-founder of the Edinburgh Festival and the festival’s first director between 1947-49.

January 10th

  • 10 January 1945 saw the birth of pop star Rod Stewart. His hits include “Maggie May”, “Do Ya think I’m Sexy” and “Sailing”. Well known for his support of the Scottish national football team, Stewart almost became a professional footballer himself serving as an apprentice with Brentford.
  • Thomas, Lord Erskine was born today in 1750. During his lifetime he became Britain’s foremost advocate, through his defence of people accused of treason and corruption. His defence of Thomas Paine, accused of high treason for his work, ‘The Rights of Man’, cost him his position as Attorney General to the Prince of Wales. Later, Erskine totally alienated George IV by defending Queen Caroline against the king’s attempt to deprive her of her rights and title.

January 11th

  • January 11 1999, the novelist and politician Naomi Mitchison died. A prolific and popular writer, she is probably best known for her historical novels. These include ‘The Conquered’, ‘The Corn King and the Spring Queen’ and ‘The Bull Calves’. She was created a Life Peer in 1964. Mitchison’s uncle was RB Haldane, the Liberal and Labour Lord Chancellor. Her father was the physiologist and philosopher JS Haldane, and her brother was JBS Haldane, the pioneering geneticist.
  • On January 11 1940, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association was set up. This independently funded service was responsible for blood and blood products in Scotland. The National Blood Transfusion Service in England and Wales was not set up until the 26 September 1946.

January 12th

  • John Buchan, author of ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ died today in 1940. Born in Perth in 1875, the son of a Free Church minister, Buchan went on to become Governor General of Canada from 1935 until his death.
  • On January 12 1659 a sensation in Edinburgh was caused by the appearance of a frisky camel.

January 13th

  • Born in Legbrannock, Lanarkshire, he was the country’s first Labour MP, winning the West Ham constituency in the 1892 election. Although Hardie lost his seat in 1895, he regained a parliamentary position by winning Merthyr Tydfil in 1900. He served as Labour Party leader until 1910 when he was replaced by fellow Scot, George Barnes.
  • On January 13 1915, Mary Slessor, missionary in West Africa and known to many as “Ma”, died in Calabar. Born the daughter of a shoemaker in Aberdeen, Slessor left her work in a Dundee jute mill to become a missionary. Her strong will and fierce defence of women’s and children’s rights led to many changes within West African society. She became an immensely popular and respected figure with the indigenous population in West Africa.

January 14th

  • On January 14 1872 the famous dog Greyfriars Bobby died. The faithful Skye terrier had stayed by his master’s grave for 14 years, following his death. The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, now a well known Edinburgh landmark, was unveiled in November 1873.
  • Today in 1979 saw the birth of Scotland’s first test-tube baby. Grace Montgomery from Glasgow gave birth to Alastair, the country’s first ‘test tube’ baby. The embryo was created by Mr.Patrick Steptoe, the gynaecologist who was also responsible for the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, who was born on 25 July 1978 in England.

January 15th

  • Today in 1990 Strathclyde Region Council applied for 250,000 summary warrants against rate payers refusing to pay “Poll Tax”. The tax was introduced in Scotland in April 1989 but was withdrawn soon after its introduction in England and Wales and subsequent nationwide opposition.
  • January 15 1973, Neil M Gunn, author of “The Silver Darlings” and many other books and short stories, died. Gunn keenly identified with MacDiarmid’s attempts at a Scots literary renaissance and was involved with the new Scottish National Party in the 1930s.

January 16th

  • Today in 1707 the Treaty of Union of Scottish and Westminster Parliaments was ratified. The treaty was passed in the Scottish Parliament by 110 votes to 67, although it was less than popular in the country. Crowds in the streets outside the building burnt copies of the treaty, and some threw stones at the Parliament windows. Meanwhile, in Glasgow, a mob opposed to the treaty held sway in the city for over a month.
  • Today in 1746 a retreating Jacobite army defeated Hanoverian forces at the Battle of Falkirk. The Jacobite army, led by Lord George Murray, defeated Government forces under General Hawley. This was the last Jacobite victory. Hawley blamed his troops for the defeat and executed about 60 men for cowardice.

January 17th

  • Today in 1795 Duddingston Curling Society became the first curling club in the world to be formally organised. Membership of the club cost three guineas and it soon attracted the country’s top curlers. Members who did not wear the club’s badge while on the ice were subject to a fine. The club laid out the rules of the sport in 1803 including fines for ‘uttering oaths and introducing a political subject into conversation’.
  • January 17 1761 marks the birth of Sir James Hall, the Scottish geologist. He is known as the “father of experimental geology” due to his laboratory experiments, designed to show how the rocks on the Earth’s surface were formed by intense heat from the planet’s core.

January 18th

  • 18 January 1782 marks the death of Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal Society, 1772-1778, and physician to King George III. A sanitary pioneer, he is sometimes called the “father of modern military medicine”. In his 1752 paper, ‘Observations on Diseases of the Army’, he emphasised the need to adopt a clean medical environment for the treatment of wounded soldiers. The work is now regarded as a medical classic. His 1753 paper to the Society on septic and antiseptic substances also proved to be a pioneering work. Pringle also coined the term, ‘influenza’.
  • Today in 1976 witnessed the launch of the Scottish Labour Party. The inaugural meeting of the breakaway party was held in Glasgow. It was formed as a result of the dissatisfaction several Labour MPs felt with their party over its stance on devolution for Scotland.

January 19th

  • Today in 1736 marks the birth of James Watt, mathematical instrument maker. Watt developed the steam engine, invented the condensor and the copying machine. His condensor made steam power the driving force of the nineteenth century and he is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Today in 1644 a Scottish army under command of the Earl of Leven crossed the river Tweed into England. It remained in England for three years, playing an important part in the Civil War fighting for the Parliamentarians. The Scots fought at the Battle of Marston Moor and were heavily involved in the siege of Newark.

January 20th

  • Today in 1937 the Scottish boxer, Benny Lynch, was crowned world flyweight champion. Recognised as probably the greatest boxer Scotland has produced, Lynch enjoyed a meteroic rise to the top of the sport. However, his fall from grace was equally spectacular. He retired after numerous problems with weight, and the rest of his life was blighted by alcoholism which eventually caused his death in 1946.
  • Today in 1805 the chemist Thomas Graham, was born. Graham is famous for discovering the diffusion rate of gasses, which is known as ‘Graham’s Law’. He is also called the “father of colloid chemistry”, and was the author of ‘Elements of Chemistry’.

January 21st

  • On January 21 1290 Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, was founded by Devorguilla, mother of John Balliol. The abbey was founded in memory of her husband, whose heart was buried with her at Sweetheart Abbey. She also established friaries at Dundee, Dumfries and Wigtown, and endowed a school for the poor in Oxford, which later became Balliol College.
  • Today in 1613 the cleric George Gillespie was born. A leader of the Church of Scotland, Gillespie negotiated with the Church of England for the freedom of the Scottish Church to diverge from Anglican doctrine and worship. Gillespie died in December 1648.

January 22nd

  • January 22 1777 saw the birth of Joseph Hume, Scottish politician and social reformer. A leading advocate of free trade, he was responsible for the repeal of laws that banned the export of machinery, and the emigration of skilled workmen. He campaigned for the legalisation of trade unions, Catholic emancipation, the admission of non-confirmists to university, and the ending of draconian punishments in the armed forces.

January 23rd

  • On January 23 1570 James Stewart, the Regent Moray on the abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered in Linlithgow. The assassination by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh triggered civil war.
  • Today in 2000 William Hamilton, the Scottish Labour politician, died. He was MP for Fife West, 1950-74, and Fife Central, 1974-87. He became a controversial public figure due to his outspoken advocacy of Scottish independence and his dislike of the Royal Family.

January 24th

  • Today in 1890 saw the first train cross the Forth Rail Bridge. The structure was built by Sir William Arrol and cost £2.99 million. An earlier design by Sir Thomas Bouch had been abandoned after his Tay Bridge collapsed in a storm in 1879.
  • January 24, 76AD, is the probable date of birth of Publius Aelius Hadrianus, who built Hadrian’s Wall to cut off Scotland from the rest of Britain.The wall was built in 122AD and stood as the northern frontier of the Roman Empire for over two hundred years.

January 25th

  • On 25 January 1759 poet Robert Burns was born. Scotland’s National Bard entered the world in a clay biggan at Alloway. Although born into a poor family, Burns’s father enrolled him at a local school and the poet’s love of language was born.
  • Today in 1915, Ewan MacColl, Scottish folk singer-songwriter and playwright was born. During the 1960s he was famous for his protest songs about various social and political issues, including the atomic bomb, Vietnam War, and apartheid. He composed and wrote the lyrics for Roberta Flack’s best known hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.

January 26th

  • On January 26 1861 the one o’clock gun was fired for the first time from Edinburgh Castle. The gun was commissioned to act as an audible signal of the time during bad weather. The gun was connected to an electric clock in the Royal Observatory on Calton Hill by an electric cable over 4,000 feet long.
  • January 26 1878, Kirkpatrick McMillan, inventor of the bicycle, died. The thought of patenting his invention or trying to make any money out of it never crossed MacMillan’s mind, but others saw its potential, and soon copies began to appear. However, Macmillan was quite unconcerned with the fuss his invention had prompted, preferring to enjoy the quiet country life he was used to.

January 27th

  • On this day in 1926 the first public demonstration of TV was made by John Logie Baird. In 1927 his television was demonstrated over 438 miles of telephone line between London and Glasgow, and he formed the Baird Television Development Company, Ltd. In 1928 Baird achieved the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York, and the first transmission to a ship in the mid-Atlantic. He also gave the first demonstration of both colour and stereoscopic television.
  • On January 27 1783 the Glasgow Herald newspaper was first published. It is the longest continuously published daily newspaper in Britain. It began its life as the ‘Glasgow Advertiser’ in January 1783, changing briefly to the ‘Herald and Advertiser and Commercial Chronicle’ in 1803, before becoming the ‘Glasgow Herald’ on 26th August 1804.

January 28th

  • On January 28 1829, William Burke, murderer and body snatcher of “Burke and Hare” fame, was executed. Hare escaped the gallows by turning King’s evidence against his former partner.
  • Today in 1580 King James VI signed the Confession of Faith. “The King’s or Negative Confession” was later incorporated into the National Covenant of 1638.

January 29th

  • Today in 1928 Earl Haig, the Commander in Chief of British forces 1915-18 and founder of the British Legion, died. One of the leading military commanders of World War One, Haig was Commander in Chief of the British forces for most of the war. He was the architect of the controversial and bloody strategy of attrition which resulted in huge losses of men and little material gain.
  • January 29 1848 saw the first adoption of GMT by Scotland. The subject has been the source of controversy ever since.

January 30th

  • On January 30 1649 King Charles I was executed. His execution caused a change of sides by most of the Scots who had previously supported the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War as, for all his faults, Charles was still a Scottish Stuart king.
  • Today in 1999 Mick McGahey, Scottish mining trade unionist died. He was Vice-President of the NUM during the 1970-80s, the country’s most powerful and influential trade union. McGahey was the rightful heir of Joe Gormley as President, but he was unable to take up the succession through the introduction of a rule that no-one over 55 could be a candidate for the national, full-time office.

January 31st

  • Today in 1788 Prince Charles Edward Stewart, “The Young Pretender”, died in Rome. After leading the ’45 rebellion Stuart slid into a life of obscurity. He ended his days as an alcoholic in Rome, known as the Duke of Albany, with a failed marriage behind him, and his dreams of a Stuart restoration unfulfilled.
  • On January 31 1918, the Battle of the Isle of May occurred – 100 men died in a series of collisions in the Firth of Forth, involving submarines and surface ships. The exercise was so secret that not even Royal Navy minesweepers patrolling the sea just a couple of miles away were aware of it. On a misty night, with all navigation aids switched off, it was not surprising that disaster resulted. Among several fatal collisions two K-class submarines were sunk. The K-4 was rammed by the K-6 and sank with all on board. The K-17 was hit by HMS Fearless and, although her 56 crew managed to escape, only eight survived in the chaos which followed. Surface vessels soon arrived on the scene, passing over the area so fast that many of the men swimming in the water were sucked under and drowned.

And so ends January in Scottish History