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Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

By Adam Lyal, June 11, 2015 - 11:27pm
Christoper Lee at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013 (credit: Avda / Wikimedia Commons)

News reaches us today of the death of Christopher Lee, a true giant of the horror genre, and one to whom my wardrobe-mistress owes a considerable debt.

On This Day... 21 May 1650: A Farewell to Arms. And Legs.

By Alexander Clapperton, May 21, 2015 - 9:12pm
The Arms of Montrose (and his sword)

It was on this day in 1650 that James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, known as "the Great Montrose", was hanged and ritually dismembered for treason at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. Despite being one of the King's most loyal supporters, his refusal to compromise his principles had led to his repeatedly falling in and out of favour with those in power; both before and after his death.

Around This Time... April 1573: You've come to the Lang place.

By Alexander Clapperton, April 14, 2015 - 4:40pm
A contemporary engraving, showing the positions of the forces besieging Edinburgh, with lots of little men shooting to make it more exciting.

In a departure from our regular On This Day strand, we present a new companion series: Around This Time, wherein we look back at events that happened at approximately this time of year, but are not associated with any particular date. You get a lot of that sort of thing in April: throughout Scotland's turbulent history, it's never been a month for momentous days.

Fancy being a ghost? Apply today!

By Adam Lyal, March 16, 2015 - 2:48pm
The Foule Clenger Wants YOU to be scary

They say old ghosts never die; they just fade away. Actually it's more a case of their ectoplasmic bodies wearing a bit thin and threadbare, at which point it's time for me to wistfully throw them over the hedge at the bottom of the garden, and begin the process of replacing them.

Yes, we're hiring again! Anyone who has had the "pleasure" of meeting one of our famous Jumper-Ooters up a dark Old Town alleyway in the dead of night will know that they are a singular breed: fearsome, implacable... and a bit silly at times.

Could this be you?

On This Day... 22 February 1452: From Douglas to Dug-Least

By Alexander Clapperton, February 22, 2015 - 11:14pm
King James II, seen here about to cut a fool for fronting.

In the evening of this date, King James II resolved his differences with William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, by stabbing him a couple of dozen times and throwing him out of a window. It may be understating matters to say that the two had many long-standing grudges against one another.

Ooh! You gonna call, ghost-bug stars?

By Web Monster, February 10, 2015 - 3:44pm
Trainee webmonster, The Mad Monk of the Cowgate, hard at work

It's now just over four months since our great big revamp of this very website, and the ghosts have just about gotten the hang of using it by now. Our much-expanded collection of goodies are flying off the virtual shelves, and our Byzantine Booking System is leading more brave souls than ever down the dark path that leads to a Witchery Tour.

On This Day... 27 January 1591: Dr. Fian, the Women!

By Alexander Clapperton, January 27, 2015 - 2:02pm
Illustration of the case from the contemporary pamphlet, Newes from Scotland - declaring the damnable life and death of Dr. John Fian

Doctor John Fian, alias John Cunningham, is "worriett" [strangled and then burned] on the Castlehill for witchcraft. He was alleged to have been the leader of a coven of witches based in North Berwick who had conspired to take the life of King James VI and his new bride, Princess Anne of Denmark by raising terrible storms in the North Sea during the royal newlyweds' return voyage.

On This Day... 4 January 1587: Spring-cleaning the Gallows

By Alexander Clapperton, January 4, 2015 - 8:29pm
The Gallows (from Bewick's "History of British Birds", 1804)

From the Burgh Records of January 1587, we learn that Edinburgh Town Council starts the new year pragmatically (as do we all) with a bit of a tidy-up, and so:

"Ordanis James Ros, thesaurer, to caus red the rowme of the awld gallows; baynes, deid corssis and all."

["Orders James Ross, treasurer, to have cleared the space around the old gallows; bones, dead corpses and all."]

On This Day... 20 December 1681: The Elusive Earl of Argyll

By Alexander Clapperton, December 20, 2014 - 1:47pm
Archibald Campbell, the 9th Earl of Argyll

On this date in 1681 Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, made an implausibly brazen escape from Edinburgh Castle, where he was being held awaiting death for treason against King Charles II.

On This Day... 10 December 1595: Give It a Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen

By Alexander Clapperton, December 10, 2014 - 4:14pm
Portrait of James VI in 1595, looking suitably austere.

At this time of year, as we all start to bemoan the crowds out Christmas shopping (easily avoided by shopping online, by the way), we should perhaps reflect on how much better we have it than our ancestors did. Back on this day in 1595, Scotland was in the grip of severe famine, and starving people were flocking to the cities for shelter. Ever the man of action, King James VI wrote to his Parliament, commanding them to enact and enforce new laws in order to feed the people: