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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
In the early hours of this morning in 1861, an entire tenement block on the Royal Mile collapsed, killing almost half of its residents. This event is recalled today as the Heave Awa' Disaster, after the words of one of the few survivors, twelve-year-old Joseph McIvor.
Over the course of this evening in 1824, Edinburgh’s most destructive accidental fire reached its climax. It had broken out at around 10pm the previous evening in the workshop of engraver James Kirkwood at the top of Assembly Close, where a pot of linseed oil had been overheated, spilled and set fire to a stack of paper. By morning, the fire had spread most of the way along the close it began in, and by its peak it had spread as far down the Royal Mile as Tron Square, reached uphill to Parliament Square, and extended down Fishmarket Close as far as the Cowgate.