Wednesday, 1 March 2017

That 'Bluidy Mackenzie' made some good decisions!

It's Wednesday and it's March 1st!

I was looking for a topic to write for my blog post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog today and wasn't inspired by what I started with. In my indecision, I googled what happened in history on March 1st with a specific focus on Scottish history. Here's what I came up with...that I was much happier to work on. 

This is almost a reblog of my Wranglers post but I want the content to be accessible to me on this, my own blog, as well. 

Internet research sites.

I’m regularly accessing sources of historical information from various internet sites as I write my historical adventures. Often a simple question will have me digressing for hours as I latch onto something only vaguely related to my initial inquiry, but which in its own right is engrossing.

Over the last number of years, I’ve found it increasingly easier to access useful information from highly respected sites because that information has been gradually released for public use. Just days ago, I picked up a prompt from an author colleague that more visual information had been released via The National Library of Scotland, specifically photographs of my birth city of Glasgow which were taken during the 1860s.

Though the photos indicate the absolute squalor that existed in the slums of Glasgow, they’ll be very useful for one of my writing projects that I temporarily shelved some months ago in favour of my most current writing. Viewing the portfolio of photographs made me appreciate how much information they contain and which I can access free of charge.

I’ve been to many public buildings in Edinburgh but not to the National Library of Scotland. It’s possible to get a reader’s ticket for entry to some of their ‘lending’ rooms but that’s only practical if you live around our capital city. However, I have been using the online sources for years now and love how useful it can be. What I’ve never thought about before is how long the library has been functioning and who started it.

National Library of Scotland

Skip back with me to March 1st 1682. 

According to one historical events site it was the day that the library started though not called ‘National’ at that time. 

Sir George Mackenzie was the current Lord Advocate, a member of the Scottish Parliament. He was also a member of the Privy Council of Scotland which meant advising the monarch, an extremely exalted position to hold.

He was reputed to be a learned man with literal tendencies. He wrote several books and essays—legal and political and antiquarian. 

Sir George Mackenzie
As Dean of the Faculty of Advocates he was the founder of The Library of the Faculty of Advocates in 1682.

By 1689 the building was formally inaugurated and the collection of works grew and grew. 

In 1710, The Copyright Act meant the Library had the legal right to claim a copy of every book written in Britain

The collection continued and eventually outgrew its original building. 

In 1925 the collection became the National Library of Scotland, formalised by an Act of the UK Parliament. Since then the collection has been housed and re-housed in different places and we are now fortunate that much of it is available to the public online.

That’s all commendable but where does the ‘Bluidy’ Mackenzie bit come from. As well as being a man of letters, Mackenzie was also in a position of power during many of the Scottish Witch trials that I’ve blogged about earlier. He was also responsible for persecution of many of the Covenanters, sending large numbers to a nasty death, their tortured bodies buried near the Covenanter’s Prison.

Sir George Mackenzie is also buried close by in Greyfriars Kirkyard and it’s no real surprise that thousands of tourists flock past his 'Black Mausoleum' as they enter into a ‘Graveyard Tour of Edinburgh’. There’s a heavy chain kept in place by a stout padlock across the door which is said is there -  not to keep the dead in, but to keep the living out!

I took a Graveyard Tour some years ago and it can be a creepy experience. 

This post will tell you a whole lot more about adventures in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Meanwhile, I’m off to do more research.


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