The Raid of Ruthven was a political conspiracy where several Presbyterian nobles, led by William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie, abducted the young King James VI of Scotland. They wanted to reform the government of Scotland and limit the influence of French and pro-catholic policy, and to prevent or at least manage the return of Mary, Queen of Scots from England. Their very short lived rule was known as the Gowrie Regime.

In July 1582 the nobles who were discontent with the current governing leaders made a pact to support each other in getting rid of the Catholic influences around the young King. Their main opponents were the French Esme Stewart, and James Stewart who shared control of the government.

While the young King was hunting near the castle of Ruthven, in Perthshire on 22nd August 1582 he was invited by the Earl of Gowrie to stay in his Castle for an evening. He felt instantly threatened once in the castle, by the number of other nobles there; many of them strangers to him, including the Master of Glamis, Earl of Mar and Pittenweem, Lord Lindsay, and the Constable of Dundee among others. He had no idea however, 1000 men, well-armed, were dispersed throughout the neighbourhood. When King James tried to leave the next day, he was blocked from leaving, and his aides thrown out of the castle. He had been kidnapped – finding himself a prisoner he threatened and tried to talk his way out, and finally burst into tears; he was only 15 years old after all.

Now, this wasn’t exactly an exceptional thing to do as in the previous centuries, under the other five James’ reigns factions in the nobility were often warring, and the sovereign was often a prisoner in the hands of some powerful combination led by one or more of the influential nobility, and when he was freed from the domination of one faction it was only to fall into the snares of their rivals.

The King was held and controlled by the Ruthven Lords for almost a year, moved around a number of houses. Although they treated him well and with respect, they limited his movements and who he could speak to. The Earl of Gowrie was the head of this government, who forced their two main opponents the two Stewart’s into exile, and favoured an ultra-Protestant regime. Queen Elizabeth was pleased with these events, and, in September 1582, sent £1000 (a huge sum of money in those days) as wages for the King’s guard.

In response to all of this, opponents of the Ruthven Regime including the Earls of Huntly, Argyll, Crawford, Montrose and others wrote a letter to the town of Edinburgh telling them that their ‘auld enemies’ the English had funded an army to take away their King, and when they arrived in their town the people should take arms against them. No one in Edinburgh seemed to take up this suggestion.

After almost a year in captivity, the King managed to speak to some of the opponents of the Gowrie Regime, and they made plans to have armed men waiting at St Andrews where the King could escape. He managed to sneak away from his guards, and meet up with these opponents in St Andrews Castle. Finally having escaped, although it was common for there to be punishment after such a thing including banishment or arrests for treason, James was far more forgiving to his captors. They were pardoned, as long as they would ‘show themselves penitent, crave pardon in due time and not provoke him by any further unlawful actions’.

The Earl of Gowrie however, found that no matter how humbly he professed his sorrow for his, very significant, part in the capture of the King, he could not regain his favour with the King. He wrote to his past conspirators the Master of Glamis who had fled to Ireland, and the Earl of Mar who had left to England, trying to get them to return and make another attempt to seize and control the King.

This was a new conspiracy, of which the Earl of Gowrie was now the leader. He obtained permission to travel to France from King James, and headed to Dundee under the excuse of needing to find a ship to take him there. But he lurked about in Dundee for far longer than he should, and was gaining suspicion. Even 5 months after Glamis and Mar had left, he was still lingering in Dundee, saying he would be leaving ‘any day now’ for France. His permission to go to France ended in March 1584, and he was told if he was found after that date he would be punished as a rebel.

Gowrie had no intention of leaving Dundee, he was busy there preparing for his new conspiracy. James got word however that Gowrie was corresponding with Glamis and Mar. The plan was that Glamis and Mar would return to Scotland, and take control of Stirling Castle, while Gowrie and the Earl of Angus along with some of the other nobles were to send a force to the King.

Mar and Glamis made it back to Scotland, but just two days before they were due to take Stirling Castle, the Royal Guard stormed the house of William Drummond, a burgess of Dundee, where Gowrie was staying. Gowrie put up a fight but as the soldiers were assisted by people of the town of Dundee, he had no choice but to be taken in. Mar and Glamis had no idea this had happened and attacked Stirling on the 18th of April 1584, taking control of the town. But this all fell apart in a few days, as word spread Gowrie had been arrested, the expected money and support from other nobles failed to materialise, and James had raised his own army who marched to Stirling. It was impossible for Glamis and Mar to continue, and so they fled to England.

Gowrie, having been arrested, was not so fortunate. Put onto trial in Stirling, many of those nobles who had opposed him were more than happy to give evidence of his treasonable behaviour. He was sentenced to be executed, and after a long speech on the scaffold where he maintained that all his actions were for the benefit of the King, calmly laid his head on the block and it was severed in one stroke. His servants, sewed his head to his body and buried him whole.

Sources:

Wikipedia

The Scottish Wars

First History of Dundee

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The Rough Wooing was a very tumultuous time in Dundee’s history, during which almost the entire town was destroyed.  In 1543 England was feeling trapped and surrounded by Catholic powers. Scotland was still part of the ‘auld alliance’ with France and Catholicism still reigned here, so the English worried about the potential for invasion from France via Scotland.

The Treaty of Greenwich laid out a plan for peace between England and Scotland, including a marriage between the then infant Mary, Queen of Scots, and Edward, Henry VIII’s son. The Regent Arran, acting on behalf of Mary, initially agreed to the treaty. But after meeting with Cardinal Beaton and upon pressure from Scots who didn’t want the marriage or alliance to go ahead, rejected the treaty and all of its terms. This caused the fury of Henry VIII to be aimed squarely at Scotland. Five days later, war was declared in Edinburgh.

The war began with an attack on Edinburgh on 3 May 1544, led by the Earl of Hertford. Hertford had instructions to burn Edinburgh and issue Henry’s proclamation which laid the blame on Cardinal Beaton’s “sinister enticement” of Regent Arran. Henry’s instructions for the invasion force were to;

“Put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon (them) for their falsehood and disloyalty.”

This was the last big conflict between Scotland and England, and with the two countries at war Dundee suffered greatly. While the name for the conflict might be a little whimsical, there was an awful lot of rough, and not very much wooing going on. The name ‘Rough Wooing’ was first introduced many years later, the war itself was too bloody and savage a for such a name at the time. Historian William Ferguson points out the juxtaposition of the name with the violence of the conflict:

“English policy was simply to pulverise Scotland, to beat her either into acquiescence or out of existence, and Hertford’s campaigns resemble nothing so much as Nazi total warfare, “blitzkrieg”, reign of terror, extermination of all resisters, the encouragement of collaborators, and so on.

There was also a great deal of propaganda during the war, as the idea of an alliance with England had some wavering support – some didn’t like the French interference with Scottish affairs, and others wanted to use the alliance to further reformation of religion towards Protestantism. To this end, George Wishart was sent from England along with a group returning from negotiations, as he had been a preacher in Montrose and was to return and continue spreading the protestant faith.

Just after the war began, in 1544, Dundee was ravaged by plague, and it swept through the town with a fatal severity. So many of the townspeople died that the next year when a call was put out across Scotland to gather an army to defend against Henry VIII’s forces, no one from Dundee was able to join. While Dundee was under the blanket of plague, in its darkest hour, George Wishart preached to the Dundonians afflicted with plague, banished from the town and left to die outside the gates. He was loved by the people, and it is his influence that is said to have caused the change in religion in the city which led to the destruction of the old monasteries of the Friars.

Henry VIII had also asked Hertford to destroy St Andrews, the home of Cardinal Beaton, but the distance proved too far with so many of their resources in the war further south. Henry was too distracted with his troubles with France, so any attacks north of Edinburgh were shelved for now.

After a victory at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, the Scots were included in a treaty which had also brought the end to the Italian War of 1542-6. This brought peace between Scotland and England for 18 months. However, in 1546 Fife Lairds had murdered Cardinal Beaton at St Andrews Castle, and held up at the castle hoping for support from the English Military. After the death of Henry VIII, Hertford, now Protector Somerset wanted to continue the war and it was to be even bloodier than before, still determined to force the marriage between Edward and Mary. He fought and won at the Battle of Pinkie, crushing the Scots, gaining control of the whole of southern Scotland.

It wasn’t until 1547 that the war came to Dundee. The English fleet sailed up the Tay, led by Andrew Dudley. Instead of attacking Broughty Castle with force, they only fired a few parting shots as the castle had already been given up by the traitor Lord Gray. The English then garrisoned the castle, then a place of great strength in a commanding position to defend against invaders.

The Regent Arran and then the Earl of Argyll tried to capture the castle on 22 November 1547 and then in January 1548, without success. But again treason was to be Dundee’s downfall, when Argyll made a truce with the English it gave them the opportunity to reinforce their garrison by sea. He then ‘retired’, having received a bribe of one thousand crowns of money from Lord Gray, given to him by the enemy. This left Dundee in a very vulnerable position.

An account of the invasion of the town is given by a French gentleman who took part in the attack. He says that the English, after being strengthened:

“seized upon a little hill distant from Broughty nine hundred paces, and here they built a very fine fortress, and spared no cost to render it admirable, and to furnish it with men and ammunition of all sorts.” From this position, “they sent betwixt sixteen and seventeen hundred lances, both foot and horse, to Dundee, which they entered without opposition: For although this last is one of the most beautiful, rich, and populous towns in the kingdom, and though ’twere easy to render it impregnable, yet, as the Scots have ever been careless to fortify their country, those in Dundee had no other defence than the walls of their private houses.”

Although an army was raised at Edinburgh to march north to surprise the English and take back the town, news of this reached the English, who then abandoned all of the fortifications they were building in the town, and during eight days looted all the could from the town and its houses, set the town on fire, and then retreated to Broughty Castle. When the Scots army got to Dundee they found nobody around, just a few peasants left to try and put out the fires, the town razed to the ground.

Dundee lay in ruin for a long time after the rough wooing, the destruction left behind decimated the whole area – St Mary’s Church, the tolbooth, steeple, alms house and many other common places were completely ruined, along with the history of the town in its most ancient texts and records, which burned along with the tolbooth. Because the English could aid Broughty Castle by sea, they managed to hold possession of the castle for another 2 years. Finally, in February 1550 a fleet of French and Scots ships and armies managed to siege and retake the Castle.

During this time, the young Mary was taken to safety and betrothed to the Dauphin in France in August 1548. This made it clear, even to the English, that any marriage between Mary and Edward was not going to happen. Internal strife in England caused the Downfall of Somerset, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His successor, Warwick, was more concerned with his own position than continuing the war with Scotland. The Treat of Norham in 1551 formally ended the war, and the English Military withdrew from Scotland. After the war ended many Scots were accused of assurance or collaboration as a crime; 192 citizens of Dundee were acquitted in 1553 and the whole town of Dumfries received a pardon.

But, for a time at least, there was peace. Dundee did eventually rebuild and up until the mid 17th century was one of the most prosperous burghs of Scotland, second only to Edinburgh. They had certainly learned their lesson about defending the town, and a wall surrounding the town was complete by 1592. While this made the job of invaders more difficult, it was certainly not the last time war would reign down on Dundee’s streets.

References:

The History of Old Dundee, Maxwell – p 26-27

Rough Wooing: James V Trilogy 3, Tranter

 

Wikipedia page on Rough Wooing

The site of the city churches, St Mary’s and The Steeple, which sit surrounded by the Overgate shopping centre, has been the home to a church since the very beginnings of Dundee as a town. When the Earl of Huntingdon landed here in 1190 he founded the ‘kirk in the field’ dedicated to St Mary, after his time in the crusades. More on this exiting backstory later… for now we have been looking at the incidents throughout the history of the Church when it was ravaged by fire which happened several times over the years. It is a testament of the dedication of the town to the Church that it was rebuilt, restored and extended every time.

The first destruction of the church came at the hands of Edward I when Dundee was attacked and the church was torched in 1303 during the Wars of Independence, the Scottish side led by William Wallace. All the town records had been taken there for safety before the invading army arrived, but all were either taken off by Edward’s men or destroyed in the fire.

It took until the early 15th century before work had begun to rebuild the church, but on such a large stone building work was slow. With a bit of new investment the work was completed and a final square tower completed the new building in 1480, which is the only part of the building which still stands today known to us as ‘The Old Steeple’.

This new church had a short life, as in 1547 the English army had captured Dundee and used the church for stables. Whether caused by an accident or on purpose, the church was set on fire and the nave was destroyed along with the transepts. Only the tower and the choir were saved from the raging inferno while the nave remained a charred, roofless wreck until 1789.

The roofless, fire damaged parts of the church were removed and the choir was built upon and then established as the first reformed church in Dundee, and called St Mary’s Kirk. Later in the 16th century the Town rebuilt the south transept which accommodated a second church known as the South Kirk. For a while in the late 16th century the choir area was used as a jail, and part of it was also used as a library.

In 1651, General Monck laid siege to Dundee, but although he set a fire to smoke out General Lumsden from the Steeple Tower, the church mercifully remained unharmed. The chaos surrounding the church during this siege left its mark, with remains uncovered periodically around the site, likely victims of Moncks massacre. On the south wall there is a dent in the base wall which is said to have been caused by a cannon shot fired by Moncks army when they laid siege to the tower.

The north transept was rebuilt and this third church was known as the North or Cross church, with finally a fourth church rebuilt in the nave which was St Clement’s or Steeple Kirk. From 1789 to 1841 the site was the home of four separate churches under one roof, each with their own ministers but sharing one tower and bells.

In early 1841 a fire broke out in the heating system of the East Kirk, again destroying the fine buildings, although this time by accident. The tower survived, along with the nave. The destruction of this fire was immense, with the fine gothic arches and pillars destroyed, the exterior walls shattered by the heat. The Chapter house adjoining the church was also destroyed, along with a library containing over 1800 volumes including ancient works in Greek and Latin, many dating from pre-reformation clergy.

The North or Cross Church moved to another place of worship and the fire-damaged buildings of the East and south Churches were rebuilt and opened again in 1844. Two of the three remaining churches, the Steeple Church and St Paul’s and St David’s (The south church) amalgamated and the premises of the South Church now form a community centre, dedicated to the Dundee-born missionary Mary Slessor. Thankfully the churches have remained fire free for many years now.

 

If you’ve seen any really old maps of Dundee, you might notice that there’s no mention of the Overgate as we know it, or indeed, the Nethergate.  Known back then as Argyllsgait (Argyllgait) and Flukergait respectively, it wasn’t until the latter part of the 1500’s that the new names came into play, not long after the time period set on our map.  Originally no more than a few wooden houses, Argyllgait slowly grew over the centuries, slowly spreading towards the lower Flukergait and beyond.

Such was the attraction of Argyllgait, that the Mercat Cross was uprooted from its position in the Seagate and moved in the mid 1400’s to a new position where High Street met Argyllgait.  Trade and commerce swiftly followed, making it a hive of activity.  Many rich and wealthy people began moving to Argyllgait, making it a very desirable place to live.  The Seagate ceased to be the main centre of trade whilst still retaining its unique character and vantage point near the river.  The Mercat Cross remained there until the late 1700’s.

The naming of Argyllgait is claimed to be either down to the occupants of the area at that time, who came to stay in Dundee from the Highlands, or from a wealthy family – the Campbell’s of Argyll – who were alleged to have resided in the area.  By the turn of the 16th century, Argyllgait was almost beyond what we can imagine by looking at the area today.  A very good place to live, it boasted not only the majestic City Churches, but an array of well-built, stone houses, in which dwelled the rich and the noble.

However, as its popularity rose, those who sought to steer clear of the ‘common’ folk soon began to move to larger estates on the outskirts of the town.  The houses at Argyllgait had lovely gardens, so it wasn’t like people were living on top of one another at that point, but the allure of the outskirts of town, with even larger expanses of land were too appealing to the rich, and they soon abandoned their homes in the heart of the town.  Losing the nobility didn’t do anything to dent the character of the Overgate, as it soon became known.  In fact, if anything, the heart of the town only beat harder.

As more and more working class people moved into the Overgate, they set up shops, stalls and workshops in the free space around the buildings.  Some even built their own housing on the land, and by the 17th century, the era of Argyllgait was well and truly over; nothing more than a passing memory making way for the ever-expanding Overgate.  Many notable people from Dundee’s history, both famous and infamous have lived in the Overgate, such as Grissell Jaffray, David Balfour, the Duke of Monmouth and Mary Brooksbank, to name but only a few.  It’s also fair safe to assume that, considering its longevity, anyone notable throughout Dundee’s entire history will have stood on these grounds somewhere, from royalty and robbers to warriors and murderers.

When the Earl of Huntingdon landed upon Dundee’s shores following a storm in 1190, he had the Church of St Mary built over a period of many years as thanks for his safe landing. Throughout the ages, endless attacks by English armies forced us to fortify our walls and solidify our defences, to the point where we held the majority of the wealth of the Earls and nobility of Scotland within our confines.  Unfortunately, this ended tragically for us during the siege of 1st September 1651, when Monck’s troops stormed the town after Governor Robert Lumsden repeatedly refused the city’s surrender.

The word “gait” means to walk, or, more specifically, the pattern of movement of the limbs during locomotion.  We learned on Lost Dundee that the word “gate” is derivative from the Norse word ‘gata’ meaning road or street.  As Overgate was the higher of the two thoroughfares running alongside Dundee’s City Churches, thus it was named.  Flukergait, being the lower of the two, was renamed Nethergate.  Our Lady Warkstairs was a timber-fronted building, reported to have been built sometime in the 15th century and connected to the Church of St Mary, perhaps as an almshouse.  It was situated where Primark sits now, looking down Crichton Street. At the time of the building’s construction, however, this street would not have been there.

On the other side of Primark, which faces towards the corner of Reform Street sat the Duke of Monmouth’s house – a substantial building, constructed around the same time as Our Lady Warkstairs.  This property was famous for a few reasons.  This was the house in which General Monck set up his Headquarters whilst in Dundee during the siege of 1651 which we touched upon earlier.  During this period, the Duke’s daughter was born in the home; Anna, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth.  It was also used as the Town House for a while, earning it the nickname “The New Tolbooth”.  Its stature, position in the centre, and a handy wee turret made it a very attractive property indeed – and it certainly saw more than its fair share of action.

Whereas nowadays, the Overgate area is fairly open and easy to navigate, it was not always this way.  Streets and pends ran all up and down this area, like a warren of narrow paths, crammed with overpopulated housing.  With the boom of the textile industry in the 19th century, the population of Dundee also grew considerable, with many of them living in and around this area.  So dense was the population, that it was reported there were around 400 people per acre in the Overgate, compared to a city average of 36.  Thorter Row, Tally Street, Barrack Street, Lindsay Street, Tay Street, Long Wynd, Church Lane, Mid Kirk Style are only a few of the myriad pends and streets which formed part of the Overgate’s impressive portfolio, including closes such as St Salvador’s Close, Argyll Close, Mint Close, Methodist Close and the legendary Beefcan Close (not it’s official name).

Whilst this added a whole lot of hustle and bustle to the area, it also meant that they were never short of a drama in the Overgate.  Described as a bit of a circus, the area was literally heaving with people, shops, pubs, flea-markets, entertainers and religious preachers.  Fights would often break out – and not just between the men – and alcohol, gambling and women of ill repute were never far out of reach.  Despite its reputation swiftly gaining notoriety, the Overgate was the only place to go to be guaranteed a good time; so much so that the area has been coined in many a local phrase and song.

With some of what was claimed to be the worst housing in Dundee, the Overgate also had five properties which were used as common sleeping places for the homeless, where (mostly drunk) people slept in hospital-style beds in a dormitory fashion, sleeping on their possessions to avoid robbery.  Outside toilets were used by dozens of people, and conditions were far from sanitary.  Having so many people crammed into such a small space made it very easy for diseases to spread.  In 1832 and in 1849, Cholera struck Dundee.  Cholera is spread mainly by water and food products that have been contaminated with human faeces containing the disease.  In 1845, piped water first became available in Dundee.  Shortly after, the 1848 Public Health Act was the first step in the right direction to improving what was said to be squalid conditions.

 

In 1910, plans were developed to completely change the way the Overgate looked, in an attempt to reinvigorate it and clean up its image both in terms of image and reputation.  Unfortunately, both World Wars put a halt to regeneration attempts and funding until the 1960’s, when a concrete monolith was erected in place of the dilapidated housing.  It wasn’t the nicest looking thing in the world, but it was beginning to change the way people looked at the Overgate and the surrounding area.  During the demolition, everything was destroyed with exception of St Mary’s Tower and the City Churches.

Overgate2

Despite its best intentions, and boasting a hotel as well as a decent range of shops, the Overgate began to lose favour to the new Wellgate Centre, which was constructed in the late 1970’s.  Fortunes turned for the Overgate as shopkeepers could not afford the rents and moved out, damaging its reputation once again.  As the years progressed, the Overgate became a ghost of its former lively self until the question of redevelopment became a talking point.  By the late 1990’s, work was underway to change the face and the reputation of the Overgate.  A multi-level shopping mall was built, housing many well-known retailers, and brought positive attention (and, more importantly, revenue) back into the area.

Whilst many things have changed over the centuries with regards to what we now know as the Overgate, what has never changed is the resilience of the city – no matter what happens, we always bounce back fighting.  Whilst we don’t profess to know what will happen to the Overgate of the future, we’re pretty certain that she won’t be going anywhere any time soon!  The next time you’re wandering about the Overgate, just have a wee think of all the things that have happened there over the history of the town…and all the dead bodies that lie right under your feet!

Images courtesy of City Archives, Wikimedia and Lost Dundee.

George Wishart was born in 1513 and became one of the earliest Scottish religious reformers.  Wishart is widely recognised as a martyr for his Protestant beliefs and was burned at the stake because of them in St Andrews on the orders of Cardinal David Beaton under accusations of heresy in 1546.  George Wishart is best known in Dundee as the Protestant Reformation preacher who refused to stop preaching during a time of plague, when the town had closed its gates to prevent more infected from breaching the walls.  Part of the original wall of the city still exists in the form of an arch named the Wishart Arch. Born to James Wishart and Elizabeth Learmont, he had a short but influential life, teaching as well as preaching in many different locations, including Europe and challenging the practices of the Christian Church at that time.  During one of his preaching sessions, an assassination attempt was made against him.  Cardinal Beaton was a powerful man, enraged by Wishart’s efforts to further the process of reform, and employed a priest to stab Wishart to death during one of his sermons.  Thankfully for Wishart, he managed to not only disarm the priest, but also stopped the angry crowds from exacting their revenge on the would-be murderer.

Cardinal Beaton, whilst powerful, was not a man without sin himself, having allegedly fathered up to 20 children in addition to a sexual relationship with Marian Ogilvie.  For Wishart and his sympathisers, Cardinal Beaton was the epitome of everything that was corrupt about the Church.  Another attempt was made on Wishart’s life, but was again thwarted, much to Beaton’s fury.  John Knox had become not only an avid supporter of Wishart, but also his bodyguard, confidante and tutor.  Knox is believed to have followed Wishart everywhere with a large sword by his side, ready to defend his mentor to the death.  The Cardinal was determined to wreak revenge on Wishart, eventually arresting him in 1546 with the help of Lord Bothwell.  He was taken immediately to Elphinstone Castle, before being transferred to Edinburgh Castle.  He finally arrived back at St Andrew’s Castle, under the orders of Cardinal Beaton, and was held in the dungeon prison pending trial.  Accused of being an English spy and a heretic, Wishart was prosecuted by the Public Accuser of Heretics, John Lauder, who just happened to be Cardinal Beaton’s secretary.  Regardless of Wishart’s responses to the accusations, he was found guilty and was sentenced to execution by burning at the stake.

On the morning of 1st March 1546, the day of his execution, it is reported that the keeper of St Andrews castle ate breakfast with Wishart and smuggled him gunpowder to put into his clothes so that he did not have to endure his fate by fire for too long.  Upon meeting his executioner, it is said that the man begged Wishart for forgiveness.  Wishart agreed to forgive the man for carrying out the sentence exacted upon him by the evil Cardinal, and the executioner fell to his knees with gratitude. George Wishart was hung by the neck and burned soon after, in what turned out to be a brutally gruesome display of torture.  Whilst the gunpowder given to him by the keeper of the castle did explode, it did not have the intended effect of killing him outright, but instead, endured him further agony.  Cardinal Beaton watched the horrific spectacle from a window of the castle, revelling in Wishart’s incredible suffering.  Wishart finally succumbed to the agonising torment and died as his hanging body continued to burn.tour-banner-ad

The response to Wishart’s trial and execution was as swift as it was brutal.  Less than three months after Wishart’s death, on the morning of 29th May 1546, a group of supporters entered St Andrews castle.  Under the guise of labourers, they made their way to the Cardinal’s bedroom, killing anyone they encountered on their way.  Cardinal Beaton was stabbed to death in his bedroom, mere minutes after Marion Ogilvie had left the castle.  Upon his death, the group further defiled his corpse by stripping and mutilating it. To serve as a further warning, the Cardinal’s naked, bloody body was hung from the castle window, where it was displayed in a macabre saltire position for all to see. St Andrews Castle became a popular gathering place for Protestants from all over Scotland, including Wishart’s protégé, Knox.  The Castle was defended from the forces of Mary of Guise for a year or so until its surrender in July 1547.  When the castle was recaptured, the remains of Cardinal Beaton were found pickled in a barrel in the dungeon.

Legend would have it that the ghost of Wishart haunts the archway, and that sounds can be heard, as though a sermon is being taught.  It is believed that George Wishart stood atop the Wishart Arch to preach to the infected on the outside of the town gates, but historians have shown that this particular wall was not erected during the time of Wishart, so it could not have been this wall he preached from and must have been another structure, since lost to time.

 

“Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, ethnic persecution and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation, imprisonment, internment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution. Even so, not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate.”

The 16th century was a time of religious upheaval caused, in part, by the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. As the shockwave of religious division extended across Europe, fear spread that the Day of Judgement had arrived. Catholics viewed the rift as a sign that the antichrist was increasing his presence in the world, while Protestants saw the corruption of the Catholic church as proof that the devil had infiltrated the land.

Rising concerns about the influence of magic and the devil were due the revolution of print, which saw an influx of texts from all over the world, such as the Malleus Maleficarum, urging people to take action in the battle with witches and magic.  No one was safe from an accusation of witchcraft, even clergymen. However, women bore the brunt of the accusations – particularly elderly spinsters, widows, and those living alone. In fact, 80% of those tried in Britain were women.  Begging, a standard method of survival, lay at the root of many witchcraft allegations, and beggars were often blamed for misfortunes that occurred after they were refused help. More often than not, accusations of witchcraft resulted from neighbourly disagreements, inextricably bound to a deep-rooted fear of malevolent magic and the devil.

Stories of continental witch trials spread, and, as the new witchcraft laws filtered down through society, some took it upon themselves to lead the witch hunts, gathering evidence before trial as self-proclaimed ‘witchfinder generals’. The most notorious of these in England was a Puritan called Matthew Hopkins who launched an unprecedented campaign of terror against suspected English witches during the 1640s.  These led to some 300 trials and the deaths of around 100 people in eastern England. Hopkins was by no means the only witch detector, but his reputation spread far and wide and he had a profound impact on those around him. One source from the time commented: “It is strange to tell what superstitious opinions, affections, relations, are generally risen amongst us, since the Witchfinders came into the Country.”

Although the use of torture to extract a confession was illegal in England, Ireland and Wales, it was permitted in Scotland, and less ‘formal’ types of torture were often used by men such as Hopkins at a local level, often presided over by a magistrate or local constable. One such method was sleep deprivation, whereby the accused would be forced to walk back and forth until exhausted and then denied rest. In Scotland, thumb screws and leg crushers were also used.  Another type of trial was ‘swimming’ the accused to prove their guilt. The victim’s right thumb would be tied to their left big toe and they would be thrown into a nearby pond or river. If they sank, they were innocent; if they floated, they had been rejected by the water as a servant of the devil, in a type of reverse baptism.

Scotland, which has traditionally been regarded as more zealous in its persecution of witches than its southern counterparts, and tried 2,500 people, with an execution rate of around 70%.  By the late 17th century – thanks to a combination of judicial scepticism, low prosecution rates and the costs of pursuing a case through the courts – the number of accusations of witchcraft had plummeted. Many people turned instead to ‘cunning folk’ (‘wise’ men and women who practised ‘good’ witchcraft) and healers to combat the malevolent forces they believed to be at large. Witchcraft was finally decriminalised in Britain in 1736 – though people were still being accused of it as late as the 19th century.

Here is a brief timeline we found at www.womenshistory.about.com showing persecution around the world towards witches and witchcraft in general.

Witchcraft persecution timeline

B.C.E. The Hebrew Scriptures addressed witchcraft, including Exodus 22:17 and various verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
about 200 – 500 C.E. The Talmud described forms of punishments and execution for witchcraft
about 910 The Canon Episcopi was recorded by Regino of Prümm describing folk beliefs in Francia, just before the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. This text influenced later canon law. It condemned maleficium (bad-doing) and sorilegium (fortune-telling), but argued that most stories of these were fantasy, and also argued that those who believed they magically flew were suffering from delusions.
about 1140 Mater Gratian’s compilation of canon law, including the Canon Episcopi (see “about 910” above), also included writings from Hrabanus Maurus and excerpts from Augustine.
1154 John of Salisbury wrote of his skepticism about the reality of witches riding in the night.
1230s An Inquisition against heresy was established by the Roman Catholic Church.
1258 Pope Alexander IV accepted that sorcery and communication with demons was a kind of heresy. This opened the possibility of the Inquisition, concerned with heresy, being involved with witchcraft investigations.
late 13th century In his Summa Theologiae, and in other writings, Thomas Aquinas briefly addressed sorcery and magic. He assumed that consulting demons included making a pact with them, which was by definition, apostasy. He accepted that demons could assume the shapes of actual people; the demons’ acts are thus mistaken for those actual people’s.
1306 – 15 The Church moved to eliminate the Knights Templar. Among the charges were heresy, witchcraft and devil-worship.
316 – 1334 Pope John XII issued several bulls identifying sorcery with heresy and pacts with the devil.
1317 In France, a bishop was executed for using witchcraft in an attempt to kill Pope John XXII. This was one of several assassination plots around that time against the Pope or a King.
1340s Black Death swept through Europe, adding to the willingness of people to see conspiracies against Christendom.
about 1450 Errores Gazaziorum, a papal bull, identified witchcraft and heresy with the Cathars.
1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued Summis desiderantes affectibus, authorizing two German monks to investigate accusations of witchcraft as heresy, threatening those who interfered with their work.
1486 The Malleus Maleficarum was published.
1500-1560 Many historians point to this period as one in which witchcraft trials — and Protestantism — were rising
1532 Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, by Emperor Charles V, and affecting the whole Holy Roman Empire, declared that harmful witchcraft should be punished by death by fire; witchcraft that resulted in no harm was to be “punished otherwise.”
1542 English law made witchcraft a secular crime with the Witchcraft Act.
1552 Ivan IV of Russia issued the Decree of 1552, declaring witch trials were to be civil matters rather than church matters.
1560s and 1570s A wave of witch hunts were launched in southern Germany.
1563 Publication of De Praestiglis Daemonum by Johann Weyer, a physician to the Duke of Cleves. It argued that much of what was thought to be witchcraft was not supernatural at all, but just natural trickery.The second English Witchcraft Act was passed.
1580 – 1650 Many historians consider this the period with the largest number of witchcraft cases, with the period of 1610 – 1630 being a peak within this period.
1580s One of the periods of frequent witchcraft trials in England.
1584 Discoverie of Witchcraft was published by Reginald Scot of Kent, expressing skepticism of witchcraft claims.
1604 Act of James I expanded punishable offenses related to witchcraft.
1612 The Pendle witch trials in Lancashire, England, accused twelve witches. The charges included the murder of ten by witchcraft. Ten were found guilty and executed, one died in prison and one was found not guilty.
1618 A handbook for English judges on pursuing witches was published.
1634 Loudun witch trials in France. Ursuline nuns reported being possessed, victims of Father Urbain Grandier, who was convicted of sorcery. He was convicted despite refusing to confess even under torture. After Father Grandier was executed, the possessions continued until 1637.
1640s One of the periods of frequent witchcraft trials in England.
1660 Another wave of witch trials in northern Germany.
1682 King Louis XIV of France prohibited further witchcraft trials in that country.
1692 Salem witch trials
1717 The last English trial for witchcraft was held; the defendant was acquitted.
1736 The English Witchcraft Act was repealed, formally ending witch hunts and trials.
1755 Austria ended witchcraft trials.
1768 Hungary ended witchcraft trials.
1829 Histoire de l’Inquisition en Franceby Etienne Leon de Lamothe-Langon was published, a forgery claiming massive witchcraft executions in the 14th century. The evidence was, essentially, fiction.
1833 A Tennessee man was prosecuted for witchcraft.
1839 Matilda Joslyn Gage published Women, Church and State which included the figure of nine million executed as witches.
1862 French writer Jules Michelet advocated a return to goddess worship, and saw women’s “natural” inclination to witchcraft as positive. He depicted witch hunts as Catholic persecutions.
1921 Margaret Murray’s The Witch Cult in Western Europe was published, her account of the witch trials. She argued that witches represented a pre-Christian “old religion.” Among her arguments: the Plantagenet kings were protectors of the witches, and Joan of Arc was a pagan priestess.
1954 Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today, about witchcraft as a surviving pre-Christian pagan religion.
20th century Anthropologists look at the beliefs in different cultures on witchcraft, witches and sorcery.
1970s Modern women’s movement looks at the witchcraft persecutions using a feminist lens.
December 2011 Amina Bint Abdul Halim Nassar was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for practicing witchcraft.

In 16th century Scotland, a series of riots began to unfold along the East coast. Believed to have started in Fife, the riots quickly escalated and involved hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of angry protestors. Shipping ports were raided by weapon-wielding locals who assaulted crew members and destroyed grain-exporting ships. Granary deposits, warehouses and stores were broken into and their contents stolen as dozens of men, women and children fought for their ill-gotten supplies. The reasons behind the riots were not so much about the cost of grain, but more to do with the perceived shortage of it, as we continued to export it in massive quantities, often leaving very little for those at home.

The fact that the riots around this time featured in predominantly Jacobean-supported towns and burghs lends itself to the opinion that perhaps the riots were not so much about the fear of food shortages, and perhaps had more to do with the idea that people were opposed to trading our supplies with those who did not support the Jacobite cause. Whilst there is no evidence to directly support this, it is a widely-believed theory, and one which casts a different light on the proceedings at that time.

Anyone standing in the way of the rioters were beaten, and, in some extreme cases, killed. In Dundee, alarmed traders and officials called upon armed forces to attempt to quell the rabble after extensive damage was caused to ships, storehouses and shops. In their efforts to gain the upper hand, troops fired upon the rioters, causing at least one reported death. The Riot Act had been formed, declaring that any group of twelve or more people, deemed to be unlawfully assembled, were required to disperse or face punitive action.

Meal riots were not uncommon, and were not restricted to Scotland, hence the introduction of the Act in 1714. However, the proclamation of the Act itself was not without peril, as it required local officials to read aloud the conditions of the Act to the rioters, giving them one hour to disband or face punishment of death. The problems with the implementation of Act were many: in the first instance, it was difficult to find officials who were brave enough in the smaller districts to stand and read the Act to the rioters. Secondly, trying to shout over a screaming, rioting rabble of people was sometimes impossible. Thirdly, the part of the Act which was to be read was sometimes never read in full, allowing for those convicted to appeal their case and return to their communities without charge. Adding to this, and probably the most frustrating aspect for those trying to police the riots was that it was very difficult to round up every single suspected rioter, meaning that many walked away without apprehension or charge.

Attempts were made, however, to make “examples” of some of the apprehended rioters, and those unfortunate enough to be sentenced were “transported” out of the country for years at a time. In more extreme cases, some were never allowed to return. It must be noted that capital sentencing was never actually carried out, despite repeated threats of the death sentence. Thomas Gilkie, an influential Dundee rioter, along with others from surrounding areas found himself stripped of his burgess-ships and was banned from trading within his locality.

The wording that had to be read out to the assembled gathering was as follows:

“Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the Act made in the first year of King George the First for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies.

God Save the King!”

What made matters worse was that, if, for any reason, the paper on which the Act was written was stolen or damaged during the reading, it was deemed that the Act was never read, and the rioting continued.
To this day many jurisdictions that have inherited the tradition of English common law and Scots law still employ statutes that require police or other executive agents to deliver an oral warning, much like the Riot Act, before an unlawful public assembly may be forcibly dispersed.

Because the authorities were required to read the proclamation that referred to the Riot Act before they could enforce it, the expression “to read the Riot Act” entered into common language as a phrase meaning “to reprimand severely”, with the added sense of a stern warning. The phrase remains in common use in the English language.

On 4th December, 1816, there was yet another meal riot in Dundee, described at the time by Sheriff Duff as “one of the greatest in modern times”. For four days, a mob raged through the town, robbing and pillaging as they went, causing untold damage to people and property.

The Howff is an iconic landmark in Dundee’s city centre, a calm oasis and a peaceful resting spot to sit in the shade of the well kept trees and shrubs. But as well as housing the graves and crypts of Dundee’s great and the good, the land itself also has a dark history.  The land on which the Howff lies was once part of the sprawling Greyfriars Monastery which was laid to ruin during the invasion of Scotland in 1547 when the town of Dundee was stormed by the English under the rule of Henry VIII. During the subsequent Scottish Reformation, the monastery remained in ruins, confiscated by the Crown along with other religious buildings. In 1564 Mary, Queen of Scots granted the land to Dundee for use as a burial ground. At this time, Dundee’s existing graveyards were overcrowded and unsanitary, so Mary, Queen of Scots on the 15th April 1567 granted a charter to the town for the use of the grounds of the Greyfriars monastery, as their new burial ground.  This ground became known as the Howff – ‘howff’ meaning meeting place as it was used for meetings by the Dundee Incorporated Trades.

On many of the gravestones you can still see the engravings of symbols and icons related to the trade of the deceased. The graves and tombs of the Howff and those that lay within tell tales of the dark history of Dundee, such as the tomb of Alexander Duncan of Lundie. He was the Provost from 1681 to 1685 and in 1689, in the absence of the current provost, took command when Claverhouse attacked Dundee. He was also the great-grandfather of Admiral Viscount Duncan, who defeated the Dutch in the famous battle of Camperdown in 1797. It is well-documented that the families of many who died could not afford tombstones, so the dead were laid in unmarked graves, leaving the land as a grassy expanse, which not only made for a great meeting place, but also allowed people to air out laundry and graze their animals.

One of the residents of the Howff, Dr David Kinloch, was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition in Spain while travelling Europe. Luckily he cured the inquisitor general of an ailment and was rewarded with freedom, and returned to Dundee. Other well-known folk buried here include James Chalmers, best remembered as the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp, and James Keiller’s mother (James Keiller was the founder of James Keiller and Sons, and his family are credited as the inventors of marmalade). Several other well known Dundee families have their ancestors buried here including Lyells, Forresters, Muirs and Guthries.

Due to overcrowding, a “new” Howff was built a short walk away from the original site, but was subsequently built over and replaced by Bell Street car park and Abertay library. At the back of the library, it is possible to see a few of the headstones incorporated into the wall. It’s definitely worth thinking about the next time you park your car there or visit the library!

The records of some 80,000 burials at the Howff over 300 years show there were also many infants laid to rest at the Howff. Many of them died from diseases practically unknown today with many of the records showing ‘teething’ as the cause of death. Babies often died during teething periods due to fever, or increased rates of infection while teething due to the practice of cutting the gums open to allow teeth to grow through. Many of the deaths were also caused by diseases such as whooping cough, small pox or measles which are now prevented by vaccines. Water in the head was often recorded as cause of infant death, which is an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities of the brain.

Reading the lists, generously provided online by Friends of Dundee City Archives at www.fdca.org.uk makes for very grim reading but in our opinion, is really worth a visit for a really in-depth insight into not only the volume of people buried there, but the variety of ways in which the deceased met their demise.

Several causes of death highlight the tragedies that struck some families. Several entries tell of very young children dying because of their clothes catching fire, which would have been a more common accident in the 18th and 19th century due to the use of fires and candles in a time before electricity. One 27 month old infant was killed by a cart passing over them. These tragic accidents must have devastated families who had likely already lost family or friends to the many diseases that plagued our town in those times, such as the sad tale of William Crookshanks, buried in 1835 at age 3 after falling into a well and drowning or the poor, unnamed son of Thomas Davidson Henderson, who perished after only half a day.

We will leave you on a slightly less morbid note, as there are some buried in the Howff who reached a ripe old age for the times in which they lived. Isabella Abbot was buried in 1850 having died of old age at 93, her last address being listed as Lochee. John Adam, a weaver originally from Kirriemuir also died of old age at the grand age of 90. Even with people dying of consumption, scarlet fever, cholera and dropsy, some hardy critters managed to escape the line of fire and were able to live out long lives, albeit in harsh times.

Disease and plagues have rocked world history, causing untold damage and claiming countless lives. Although still prevalent in the world today, modern advances in medicine and detection have made life a lot easier for those living today. However, before the intervention of current medicinal practices, disease and plagues wiped out populations, mutated and disfigured victims and spread epidemically. Efforts to quell the outbreaks included confined seclusion, laws passed on harbouring travellers or vagrants, and even those uninfected fleeing the area in panic! Unfortunately, it was usually only the wealthy who could afford to flee, leaving behind the poor to remain with the infected victims.

The Second Pandemic of the Plague culminated in the highest level of deaths worldwide from the 14th century to the 19th century – approximately 25% of the world’s population perished at the hands of the killer disease. In the UK, the first cases were noted in England but quickly spread throughout the country. Scotland called it “the foul death of England” and believed it to be God’s wrath upon them. With up to a third of the English population dead or dying, Scotland made a daring move to attack whilst defences were at an unprecedented low in the 13th century. Upon defeat, the remaining Scotsmen swiftly fled home with a few unwanted visitors in tow. The disease went on to decimate the Scots population at the end of the 1340’s. Known as Bubonic Plague, the Great Plague and, simply, the Plague, this infection initially caused lumps or tumours in the groin, neck or armpits of various ranging sizes. Symptoms progressed, with lumps spreading, becoming larger and displaying livid and/or black spotting (hence the over-arching name “Black Death”). Within days of infections, sufferers would run high fevers, vomiting and passing blood, before finally dying an agonising death. The infected usually died within 2 to 7 days of initial infection, causing huge problems for towns and cities with no available space to dispose of the infected corpses. Bubonic plague is a disease that is carried by fleas living on rodents, such as rats. As sailors moved from port to port, taking many uninvited rodent guests with them, the risk of disease increased. Unwittingly, these rats would then leave the ship at various ports around the world, infecting other rodents by passing on disease-ridden fleas.

In 1585, plague appeared in Edinburgh, apparently brought there by a woman who had been visiting Perth. As it spread, special orders were quickly issued for the sanitisation of Edinburgh, including the removal of the coining-house to Dundee. Soon after this, the plague hit Dundee. Victims of the plague in Dundee were buried in the Roodyards burial ground in, often covered in lime salt to try and keep the disease from escaping the bodies. In times such as these, hygiene was not thought of in the way it is today. Everything was dirty, from the people, to their houses and the streets beyond. Sanitisation was not something of a priority, which did not help in curbing disease as it swept through the country. Royal orders on the matter included ceasing trading with any affected towns, cities or villages, very tight quarantine controls at ports, animals removed from the public area altogether, limitations on public houses and also a ban on gatherings of people. Any house known to have infected living in it or having died in it were prohibited from having furniture removed, for fear of spreading the disease further, and shops were restricted in the type of products they could sell. “Unwholesome” meats and perishables were banned from sale, which caused problems for those who were so poor they relied on these cheap (and often stale) food products to feed themselves and their families.

If that wasn’t bad enough, worse still was pneumonic plague, spread by the initial bubonic infection which attacked the lungs and was spread to other people through coughing and sneezing. Coughing, fever, headache, chest pain and blood in the mucus or saliva were the main symptoms of pneumonic plague. Septicaemic plague occurred when the bacteria entered the blood. In these cases, there was little hope of survival. Treatments and prevention at the time did not help. Sometimes, patients were bled with leeches. People thought impure air caused the disease and could be cleansed by smoke and heat. Children were encouraged to smoke to ward off bad air. Sniffing a sponge soaked in vinegar was also an option.

disease2

As we mentioned before, cleanliness was not a high priority and sanitation improvements were not implemented until the mid-1800’s. As with any densely populated city or town, Dundee was a dirty, smelly and overcrowded place to live. Diseases such as cholera were rife due to the high volume of animal and human excrement, rubbish and discarded animal carcasses. Outdoor toilets were shared by dozens, if not hundreds of people who were crammed into tenement blocks, and conditions were far from sanitary. Drinking water and bathing water were contaminated with faeces and crawling with bacteria, but, with no other means of obtaining water, many were forced to drink and bathe from infected pools. . It was not a common practice to boil water in the 19th century, nor was bathing popular. Dirty water and unclean bodies were major factors in the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Milk and other dairy products were a common breeding ground for scarlet fever and diphtheria. Dairies and shopkeepers diluted milk with (infected) water to yield greater profits. Beer was even adulterated with narcotic substances such as strychnine to counter the effect of over dilution with water of the original.

Cholera is a bacterial infection caused by drinking water contaminated with the bacteria, or by the consumption of food that has been in contact with the tainted water. Sickness and diarrhoea were the main contributing factors to death from cholera, as, more often than not, sanitary rehydration and salt replacement were not options. As the victim’s blood pressure plummeted, they would succumb to shock and died thereafter. A significant number of graves in the Howff house victims of the cholera epidemic. Thankfully, due to significant improvements in sanitation and proper water hygiene, cholera has been eradicated in most of the world. The rapid growth in Scotland’s urban population in the 19th century brought with it unprecedented social problems, of which ill-health was one. However, although ill-health was recognised as a major social problem, our knowledge of death rates and the causes of death in the first half of the 19th century is patchy. It was not until 1855 that the civil registration of births and deaths was introduced. Even after this date many deaths went uncertified, or the causes were wrongly entered on the death certificate. Still-born babies went unregistered and had no burial ceremony. In places with few doctors the cause of death was badly recorded. The diseases causing the most deaths were cholera, tuberculosis, typhus, whooping cough, measles and smallpox.

With more than two million people killed by tuberculosis (TB) every year, and perhaps a third of the world’s population infected, the World Health Organisation has declared the epidemic of the disease a global emergency. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection of the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body, and is spread by droplets in the coughs or sneezes of a person with the disease. Tuberculosis was known as ‘consumption’ in the 19th century and was a major cause of death in Scotland at that time. The disease is still common where there is overcrowding, malnourishment and poor health care. It was during the 19th century that tuberculosis was dubbed “The White Plague”. It was seen as a ‘romantic disease’. Suffering from tuberculosis was thought to bestow upon the sufferer heightened sensitivity. The slow progress of the disease allowed for a “good death” as sufferers could arrange their affairs. The disease began to represent spiritual purity and temporal wealth, leading many young, upper-class women to purposefully pale their skin to achieve the consumptive appearance. British poet Lord Byron wrote, “I should like to die from consumption,” helping to popularize the disease as the disease of artists.

The Antonine Plague, also known as the Plague of Galen, was probably smallpox or measles. The disease killed as many as one-third of the population in some areas, and decimated the Roman army. Measles is an endemic disease, meaning it has been continually present in a community, and many people develop resistance. In populations not exposed to measles, exposure to the new disease can be devastating. In roughly the last 150 years, measles has been estimated to have killed about 200 million people worldwide. Measles also claimed a lot of young lives, the evidence of which is still present within the Howff. The graves of many mark the final resting place of children who succumbed to the infant-killing disease. In addition to children with an unfavourable nutritional status, young children living in large families are also much more prone to being infected with measles than are children living in families with one or two siblings. Nowadays, when the total population of most western European countries is rapidly shrinking due to the limitation of family size, and at a time when most European and European-American parents have their children immunized against all common infectious diseases, measles has become rare in the West. Thankfully, when measles do make an appearance in our lives, it’s usually no more than a minor setback, quickly and easily eradicated. As with everything, there are always exceptions to the rule, and still, to this day, many people in underdeveloped countries die from this disease.

 

The history of smallpox holds a unique place in medicine. One of the deadliest diseases known to humans, it is also the only disease to have been eradicated by vaccination. Symptoms of a typical smallpox infection began with a fever and lethargy about two weeks after exposure to the Variola Major virus. Headache, sore throat, and vomiting were common as well. In a few days, a raised rash appeared on the face and body, and sores formed inside the mouth, throat, and nose. Fluid-filled pustules would develop and expand, in some cases joining together and covering large areas of skin. In about the third week of illness, scabs formed and separated from the skin. About 30% of cases ended in death, typically in the second week of infection. Most survivors had some degree of permanent scarring, which could be extensive. Other deformities could result, such as loss of lip, nose, and ear tissue. Blindness could occur as a result of corneal scarring. Survivors of smallpox outbreaks were protected from subsequent infection by a process called variolation. This involved inhalation of the dried crusts from smallpox lesions or inoculation of the pus from a lesion into a scratch on the skin. These were potentially hazardous procedures, yet deemed acceptable at the time as smallpox caused such severe mortality and morbidity. The practise was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1798 upon noting that a person who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox. Vaccination still occurs today, where necessary, but is not used en-masse due to it’s known adverse effects and the risk of death.

Whooping Cough was (and still is) known as “The Kink” in Scotland.  Known medically as ‘pertussis’, it is a bacterial illness caused by the Bordetella Pertussis. It can be a severe illness resulting in prolonged coughing spells that can last for many weeks but rarely causes death. It can affect anyone, but is most dangerous in children under the age of 12 months because they are not able to cough away the phlegm that threatens to choke them.  Such extreme coughing spells can make it difficult for a person to eat, drink, and breathe – people may lose weight and become dehydrated. In infants, it can cause pneumonia and in rare and severe cases, lead to brain damage, seizures and mental retardation.  From the 17th century and up to the early 19th century, pertussis was considered a killer disease, especially within infancy.  A physician was often helpless and ignorant in dealing with children because, unlike adults, they could not contribute to his diagnosis by articulate complaints.”    Before the Bordetella Pertussis vaccine became available, the illness was a leading cause of death in infants, and nearly all children developed whooping cough. The vaccine itself cannot solely be credited with the decline in pertussis deaths, however, as this was also when public sanitation systems were implemented, clean drinking water became available, better distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables and also the focus on personal hygiene was stressed.  During the 1970’s, amid claims that the vaccine was not safe, there was a decline in the number of people willing to have their children immunised.  As a result, this led to two further epidemics. Each epidemic affected an estimated 400,000 children. Immunisation rates then went up again and most children are now immunised. Whooping cough is now uncommon in UK children but remains a major cause of illness in children in countries with poor rates of immunisation.

Typhus is a series of acute infectious diseases that appear with a sudden onset of headache, chills, fever, and general pains, proceed on the third to fifth day with a rash and toxemia (toxic substances in the blood), and terminate after two to three weeks. Typhus (actually not one illness but a group of closely related diseases) is caused by different species of rickettsia bacteria that are transmitted to humans by lice, fleas, mites, or ticks. The insects are carried person to person or are brought to people by rodents, cattle, and other animals. The most important form of typhus has been epidemic typhus (borne by lice).   The lice will initially feed on an infected human, drinking in the infectious blood before jumping to another host body.  The disease is transmitted to an uninfected human who scratches the louse bite (which itches) and inadvertently rubs infected faeces into the wound left by the blood-sucking joyrider.  Rats carry the disease, and the disease is also found in the faeces of cats, skunks and raccoons.  Whilst prompt antibiotic treatment will cure nearly all patients, left untreated, the mortality rate is as high as 60%.  Effective use of pesticides and the destruction or de-sanitisation of clothing and personal items such as bedding and towels is essential.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious viral infection that can lead to paralysis, breathing problems, or even death.  The virus usually enters the environment in the faeces of someone who is infected. In areas with poor sanitation, the virus easily spreads through the faecal-oral route, via contaminated water or food. In addition, direct contact with a person infected with the virus can cause polio.   Polio, in its most debilitating forms, displays symptoms such as paralysis and death. However, most people with polio don’t actually display any symptoms or become noticeably sick. When symptoms do appear, there are differences depending on the type of polio.  Non-paralytic polio leads to flu-like symptoms that last for a few days or weeks, such as fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, fatigue, back and neck pain, arm and leg stiffness, muscle tenderness, muscle spasms, and meningitis.  Paralytic polio will often begin with symptoms similar to non-paralytic polio, but will progress to more serious symptoms such as a loss of muscle reflexes, severe muscle pain and spasms, and loose or floppy limbs that is often worse on one side of the body.  “Poliomyelitis struck Dundee in 1947 with 43 cases and 4 deaths – this outbreak received considerable press coverage, although curiously less notice was taken of an outbreak of infantile gastroenteritis which killed 42 of 160 babies admitted to hospital. Polio struck again in 1950 with 157 cases and 9 deaths. Salk’s vaccine appeared in 1955, although an early faulty batch which caused 260 cases of polio and 10 deaths led to a degree of public apprehension as can be seen from newspaper reports of the time.  A further outbreak of polio occurred in Dundee in 1962, mainly in the Fintry area, with 40 cases and one death. However, a mass vaccination campaign in the city with 118,000 doses of the new Sabin oral vaccine brought the outbreak to an abrupt end.” (www.dundee.ac.uk).

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Mains Castle, in Caird Park, Dundee, was built on land which at one time belonged to the Stewarts, then passed to the Douglas Earls of Angus in the 14th century. Later, in the 16th century, it became the property of the Grahams and a castle was built by a David Graham; there is a date of 1562 over a doorway. At one time the castle was known as Mains of Fintry after the Grahams castle of that name in Stirlingshire. It originally had a courtyard, surrounded by buildings but most of these have been demolished. The unusually high stair turret is a 17th century addition – and may have been built to give views over hills to the south. The castle is located in Dundee’s Caird Park to the north of the city overlooking the Dichty valley. On the opposite side of the burn is located the mausoleum of the Graham family and the Mains’ cemetery, which was formerly the site of the district’s kirk.

The fate of Sir David Graham, the builder of Mains Castle, was a strange one. Throughout the alternations of the religious professions of the Scottish nobility during the reign of Mary, the Grahams of Fintry remained steadfastly attached to the Romish Church. They thus retained the friendship of many of the northern nobles who still adhered to the old religion, and were frequently engaged in the conspiracies which foreign ecclesiastics encouraged for its establishment in Scotland. But after the Reformation faith had gained a footing in Scotland—largely because of bribes of the confiscated Church lands—this tampering with superior forces brought retribution upon them. The story of the conspiracy known to history as “The Spanish Blanks” also lends a little interest to Mains Castle. If you are interested in whether or not there are any ghosts at Mains Castle, check out this link to read a paranormal investigation into the castle by Ghost Finders Scotland.

Photo by Mark Andrew Turner, courtesy of Lost Dundee