Lammas corn fields
Landscape with Corn Fields, Jacob Savery (II), 1602–30 Rijksmuseum

Lammas, August 1st, was a term or quarter day, on which legal transactions took place, and farm hands were hired for the haymaking. In Old Scots it is often written Lammes, also Lambes, Lambas, lambas-tide, leading sometimes to confusion with the lamb brought to church for the ancient feast of St Peter ad Vincula, or Petermas, also August 1st. But the word derives from Old English hlaf, meaning loaf, and the festival to which it gave its name was a consecration of the first loaf of bread from the early harvest of the grain. In Scotland, barley ripens later than the English wheat, and on the first of August, even in the Julian calendar, it might still be green. But the promise would remain. ‘It is long to Lammas’, is a kind of joke, said ‘when we forget to lay down Bread at the Table, as if we had done it designedly, because it will be long e’er new Bread come’.[1] In the ‘old days’, ‘if a farmer had neglected his work and his haymaking was still unfinished on August 13 (old style) he was called in reproach a Latter Lammas man’.[2] Latter Lammas, in the proverb, is the day that never comes; the day of reckoning too: since Lammas was a term day for the settling of accounts, latter Lammas may be judgment day.

The Fairs of St Andrews

Andro Hart’s almanac of 1619 includes in it a list of the ‘principall Fayres of Scotland’. In St Andrews at this time annual fairs took place in the week after Easter[3] (‘whiles in March and whiles in April’); on Trinity Monday[4] (‘whiles in May and whiles in June’); at Lammas on the first of August; and at Michaelmas, the feast of St Michael, September 29th.[5]

The town is not mentioned here among the burghs holding fairs on November 30th, St Andrew’s Day itself. Perhaps it was taken as a given. It is likely that the fairs, especially those assigned to saints’ or holy days, went back long before their formal recognition in the royal charters, and before their first appearance in such records as exist. The oldest fairs took place on sacred days, and the space they occupied was also sanctified. In the superstitious days before the Reformation, the spilling of blood at a fair was a sacrilegious stain, and a date or location might be changed as a result.

In his appendix to the minutes for the Royal Commission for Market Rights and Tolls in 1888, Sir James Marwick refers to the charter by the Archbishop of St Andrews of 1614 authorizing two weekly markets, on Mondays and Saturdays, and five annual fairs: August 1st; St Michael’s day; St Andrew’s Day; the ‘sengie fair beginning on the ninth day after the feast of Pentecost and enduring for fifteen days’; and a fifth, unnamed but specified in the King’s charter of 1620 [when the town became a free royal burgh], as taking place on ‘Trinity Day’. [6]

In 1621, the town was granted an additional weekly market on Wednesdays. By 1845, three weekly markets – for grain on Mondays, and butter, poultry, eggs and vegetables on Wednesdays and Saturdays – remained, while the annual fairs were reduced to three: ‘On the second Thursday of April, old style, on the first of August, old style, and on the thirtieth of November’.[7] The fair in April was the ghost of the old ‘senzie’ fair, named for the senzie or synod house of the cathedral, in the cloisters of which it was held. [In the middle of this word is the old letter Ȝ [yogh], often represented with a cursive z in early modern printing, and by z in the modern surnames Menzies and Dalziel, pronounced roughly ‘Ming-iz’ and ‘dee-El’ in Scotland, and varying in context from a ‘y’ to an ‘ng’ sound – as in ‘Yule’ and ‘singer’. It is the letter at the start of the old Scots word for Yule. Phonetically, it is represented [j] (and is a voiced palatal approximant). Orthographically it may appear as ‘z’, ‘y’ or ‘g’.]

The senzie fair, originally the largest of the fairs, was ratified by James VI in 1581 as ‘beginnand upon the Mononday after pasche Mononday, yeirlie, and continuand to the space of xv days nixt thereafter, within the said citie and cloister of the abbay, situate within the same in all tymes bigane, past memorie of man’[8]. Here, according to George Martine in his Reliquiae Divi Andreae, ‘resorted merchants from most of the then trading kingdomes in Europe, trade in this kingdome being then in its infancie. The place over the merchants stalls was covered, to defend them and their goods’.[9]

The second fair, on Lammas day in August, was in 1845 a hiring day for farm hands, while the third, on St Andrew’s Day, was by that time ‘but thinly attended’.[10] It gave place shortly after to a fair at Martinmas, traditionally the time for the slaughter of the herd.

By 1888, when the commission made its report, the Wednesday and Saturday markets had been discontinued, leaving Monday as the general market day. The annual fairs took place on the second Monday of April, the second Tuesday in August, and the first Monday following the tenth of November. The first date is an nod to the old senzie fair; the second one, in August, is the Lammas fair, shifting from its place in the ‘old style’ Julian calendar, to accommodate the shift in the agricultural year. Both Lammas and the new mid-November fair, around the time of Martinmas, were tailored to the need for men to work the land.

Of the ancient markets, only Lammas has survived, in its reconstructed stand on the second Tuesday of the month of August. It now lasts for five days, beginning on the Friday of the week before, with what as children we used to call the ‘shows’, a funfair spilling out over Market Street and South Street, and the lanes between, in the very heart and centre of the town. It concludes with a market of traditional traders, setting up their stalls at the west end of the South Street, supplemented latterly by food stalls on the Market Street, of the artisan and continental kind. There are motions put each year, by the local merchants and residents of South Street, to move it from its place to the outskirts of the town. Residents complain of the use of the machinery to operate the rides, and its risks to the structure of a street of national heritage.  Merchants complain of restricted access to their shops and businesses, and the loss of customers caused by a funfair just outside their doors. Everyone complains about the litter and the noise.

No doubt they always did. At the time of a fair, in the ancient burghs, normal restrictions to trading were lifted, and the local merchants were faced with competition they did not have to contend with at other times. The influx of the chapmen and pedlars, and of foreign ships massing in the harbours, may not have been welcomed by all. For the duration of the fair, certain burgh laws and rights were suspended, old debts and grievances could not be pursued, and special courts were convened to deal with disputes at the fair itself. These were known in England as ‘pie-powder’ courts, from Norman French and Latin, translating literally to Scots as ‘dustifute’. The allusion is to the itinerant merchant, who, in theory at least, should not be disadvantaged in the process of the law by his status as a stranger in the land.[11] The fifth Hew Cullan book, Queen & Country, opens with a pedlar who falls foul of such a court. His story was suggested by a real-life incident at St Andrews on the 14th of April 1591, which came to the attention of the Privy Council when the perpetrator failed to make amends for what appears to have been an early racial hate crime.  Robert Jackson, burgess from Dundee, had approached the servant of a London merchant at the senzie fair:

and inquired  ‘giff he wes ane Englishman’. Complainer having admitted ‘that swa he wes’, the said Jaksoun not onlie injurit him maist maliciouslie be strykeing up of his chin with his hand and hurting thairby of his toung and mouth, bot als utterit verie mony disdainefull and contumelious speichis aganis the said complainer and his cuntrey.[12]

Jackson later drew a dagger, and a pistol, on his victim, ‘ “minding to have schote the said complenair through the body thairwith” – which he would have done had he not been prevented by those present’.[13] Tempers at fairs were easily frayed.

Detail from Feest van het St. Sebastiannsgilde/Feast of St Sebastian. Pieter van der Borcht (1), 1545-1608. Rijksmuseum



All the Fun of the Fair

A bit of singing and dancing

There are two songs mentioned in the story: the ballad singer’s song against the Pope in the kirk yard, and ‘Quhy sowld not Allane honorit be?’ which makes Elspet think of Michael at the harbour inn. The first is from ‘Ane Compendious Book’, an ‘augmentation of the Gude and Godly Ballatis’, an attempt by the Kirk to extend its reform to the sort of singing it was powerless to wipe out. They kept the old tunes (the devil has the best ones, after all) but changed the lyrics from ‘profane’ to ‘godly songs’, avoiding ‘sin and harlotry’. Here is the title page from the 1600 edition:


The song I had in mind begins:
The Paip, that pagane full of pryde
He hes us blindit lang
For quhair the blind the blind does gyde
Na wonder baith ga wrang;
Like Prince and Kinge, he led the Regne
Of all Iniquitie
 Hey trix, tryme go trix, under the grene wod tre.

It’s the jaunty refrain, fresh from the lover’s lute, which gives this one the edge, I think.[14]

The second song, ‘Quhy sowld not Allane honorit be’ [Why not Allan honoured be] is a riddle, in the John Barleycorn tradition, of the resilient resurrection of ‘Allan-A-Maut’ [15] or alcohol, personified. Allan is discovered in a faint by his ‘foster father’, the farmer of the barley field. He is savagely attacked. His head is broken open and he is bound in a ‘cradle of tree’. But Allan conquers all. Those who come close to him fall backward on the floor. He marks the faces of the clerks with a ‘blude-red’ nose, and takes all the money from the singer’s purse. For all that, he is benign, courteous, and good, ‘and serves us of our daily food, and that with liberalitie’. Therefore why should Allan not be honoured, after all?

The poem was among those collected by George Bannatyne in 1568 for his manuscript anthology, the discovery of which by the poet Allan Ramsey in the early eighteenth century sparked a number of anthologies of older Scottish verse. In the story, it was chosen for the inn as a drinking song, as the one about the Pope was chosen for the kirk. But to Elspet it evokes the harvest of the grain.

Quhy sowld not Allane honorit be?
Quhen he wes yung and cled in grene
Haifand his air abowt his Ene
Baith men an wemem did him mene [harm]
Quhen he grew on yon hilis he [high]
Quhy sowld not Allane honorit be?

Though Michael is said to have corn-coloured hair, unripened barley is a pale shade of green.

Dansende boeren/Dancing peasants, Hans Bol, ca.1550-1593. Rijksmuseum https:/


A Thousand Things of Note

Thomas Lupton’s best-selling book of ‘A thousand notable things’,[16] which Henry Balfour bought to impress his girlfriend, was first published in 1579. The book is a miscellany of fantastic tales, tips and remedies – like this one, for haemorrhoids, which might have been of help to Lord Sempill at Whitsuntide:

A Most approued medicine for the Emrods or Pyles. Take two or three brycks, and burne them redde hotte, and put them in some pan vnder a close stoole, and sprinckle them with vineger, & let the party grieued syt vpon the sayd stoole, that the fume therof may ascend vpward to his fundament. Doo thus three or fowre times if neede be: and certainly it wyll helpe it [17]

Or this, for invisible ink:

WRyte what you wyl, on fayre whyte paper, with the iuyce of a redde Onion, well myxed and tempered with the whyte of an Egge, which being drie: wyll appeare as though it were onely playne paper [18]

Though the work is organised into ten separate ‘books’, there is no discernible strategy to set the things apart, and no clear distinction made between those meant to entertain, and those which are presented as scientific fact, though occasionally Lupton will reinforce a claim with ‘this is true’, or ‘proved’, which pleading casts a shadow of some doubt on all the rest.

The book is an example of the same sort of reduction of the scientific to the basely popular that turns up in the almanacs. It is difficult for us to make a clear distinction, when to our modern minds few of Lupton’s claims are credible in terms of what we take for science, though they may chance by accident to fall on natural truths. But even at the time the distinction could be blurred. This is nicely illustrated by the printer Andro Hart, who used the same vignette he chose to illustrate the almanac of 1619 – the hands of the astrologers reaching for the stars, with scientific instruments – to decorate the title page of the published theses from St Andrews University (Latin lists of themes disputed by the students in their final examinations on Aristotle’s logic, ethics, ‘physics’ and astronomy). In measure of degree, the ‘science’ represented in the two publications could not have been further apart.[19]

Uitvinding van het kompas/Invention of the compass. Jan Collaert (II) after Jan van der Straet, c.1589-93. Rijksmuseum https:/


Now you see it, now you don’t: magic fast and loose

At fairs were entertainers, ‘counterfeit Egyptians’ and itinerant performers, who would not be tolerated on a normal day. An act of Parliament in 1579 for the further ‘punishment of strong and idle beggars’[20] counts among the group ‘such as make themselves fools and are bards’. And in case of doubt ‘that it may be known what manner of persons are meant to be strong and idle beggars and vagabonds’ the grouping is spelt out:

all idle persons going about in any country of this realm using subtle, crafty and unlawful plays, such as magic fast and loose, and such others, the idle people calling themselves Egyptians, or any other that feign themselves to have knowledge of prophecy, charming or other abused sciences, whereby they persuade the people that they can tell…deaths and fortunes and such other fantastical imaginations…and all minstrels, songsters and tale-tellers not avowed in special service by some of the lords of parliament or great barons or by the heads of burghs and cities for their common minstrels

The penalties are cruel: the transgressor will be scourged and branded through the ear, unless an honest person will house him for a year, and keep him in his service there, effectively a slave. And if he has been scourged and branded for his crime, and offends again, he shall ‘suffer the pains of death as a thief’.[21]

So the juglar Clem, coming to the fair, must take care that his does not offend the magistrates, and that he does not outstay the welcome he finds there. He must also ensure that his tricks, though they must convince, are not so convincing that he is mistaken for a witch. His chosen life is a difficult one.

He is helped, and hindered in his craft, in that several of his secrets have already been laid bare in English printed books. Some, like the one with the bat, are mentioned in Lupton’s ‘notable things’. His tricks with the apple and the rings are in Thomas Hill’s translation of Naturall and artificiall conclusions…for the commodity of sundry artificers[22], and others are exposed in Reginald Scott’s Discoverie of Witchcraft,[23] which, if worst comes to the worst, might furnish a defence, unlikely to be well received by the Scottish king. He is lucky in the meantime that few among his audience can read, or have ready access to those kinds of books. For us, they give a glimpse of how he plies his trade, and as the years go on, the magic books proliferate, with titles such as Hocus Pocus Junior[24], and The art of Jugling. This latter, from 1612, while pretending that its purpose is the opposite,[25]  offers its instruction in professional terms:

Notes and observations to be marked of such as desire to practise Legerdemaine.

Remember that a jugler must set a good face upon that matter he goeth about, for a good grace and carriage is very requisite to make the art more authentical

Your feates and trickes then must be nimbly, cleanly, and swiftly done…so as the eyes of the beholders may not discerne or perceaue the trick, for if you be a bungler, you both shame your selfe, and make the Art you goe about to be perceaued and knowne, and so bring it into discredit

The card tricks and coin tricks all these books describe are still performed today, and the various props – strings of coloured scarves and assorted blades, cunningly retractable – would not look out of place on a modern stage. Less likely to convince a more sophisticated audience are illusions like the ‘John the Baptist’ trick, which was much in vogue in the sixteenth century. The most exact description of it is the one by Scott:

To cut off ones Head, and to lay it in a Platter, &c, which the Jugglers call the decollation of John Baptist.

TO shew a most notable execution by this Art, you must cause a board, a cloth, and a platter to be purposely made, and in each of them holes fit for a bodies neck. The board must be made of two planks, the longer and broader the better: there must be left within half a yard of the end of each plank half a hole; so as both the planks being thrust together, there may remain two holes, like to the holes in a pair of Stocks; there must be made likewise a hole in the Tablecloth or Carpet. A Platter also must be set directly over or upon one of them, having a hole in the middle thereof, of the like quantity, and also a piece cut out of the same, so big as his neck, through which his head may be conveyed into the midst of the platter; and then sitting or kneeling under the board, let the head only remain upon the board in the same. Then (to make the sight more dreadful) put a little Brimstone into a Chasing-dish of coals, setting it before the head of the boy, who must gasp two or three times, so as the smoke enter a little into his nostrils and mouth (which is not unwholesome) and the head presently will appear stark dead, if the boy set his countenance accordingly; and if a little blood be sprinkled on his face, the sight will be the stranger.

This is commonly practised with a boy instructed for that purpose, who being familiar and conversant with the company, may be known as well by his face, as by his Apparel. In the other end of the Table, where the like hole is made, another boy of the bigness of the known boy must be placed, having upon him his usual Apparel; he must lean or lie upon the board, and must put his head under the board through the said hole, so as his body shall seem to lie on the one end of the board, and his head shall lie in a platter on the other end.

There are other things which might be performed in this action, the more to astonish the beholders… as to put about his neck a little dough kneaded with Bullocks blood, which being cold will appear like dead flesh; and being pricked with a sharp round hollow quill, will bleed, and seem very strange, &c.[26]

Despite these elaborate preparations, Scott recommendsNot to suffer the company to stay too long in the place’. Which would seem to be sound advice for Clem.

John the Baptist trick
Illustration of the ‘decollation of John Baptist’, from Reginald Scott, The Discoverie of Witchcraft. From a limited edition reprint of Scott’s 1584 edition, ed Brinsley Nicolson. London, 1885.

The End of the World

Towards the end of 1588, after the defeat of the Armada by the elements, James VI of Scotland published a short ‘sermon’ or meditation on the Book of Revelation[27]. This had come into the hands, according to its introduction, of ‘M. Patrik Gallow, Minister of P.’[28] who felt it should be published at this time as ‘a testimony of his highness’ most unfeigned love towards true religion, by many nations at that time joined under the lead of the Spanish mightily invaded,’[29] to assert the role of the king, appointed by God as the defender of the faith as well as of his people, ‘openly declaring by pen, and avowing in deed’ in that defence ‘in that most perilous time when the foresaid enemies joined together did rage and bend their force against it.’[30]

Never was the time more ripe for the reminder, or the reassurance. The king’s meditation of the Revelation comes at the close of a year in which the fear of the Apocalypse reached fever pitch, and became embodied in the Spanish fleet. ‘That winter,’ James Melville recalled,

the king was occupied in commenting of the Apocalypse, and in setting out of sermons thereupon of the Papists and Spaniards…For a long time the news of a Spanish army and navy had been trumpeted abroad; and about the Lammas tide of 1588, this island had found a fearful effect thereof, to the utter destruction both of Kirk and government, if God had not wonderfully watched over the same, and mightily fought and defeated that army by his soldiers, the Elements, which he made all four most fiercely to afflict them till almost utter consumption. Terrible was the fear, piercing were the preachings, earnest, zealous and fervent were the prayers, resounding were the sighs and sobs and abounding were the tears at that fast and General Assembly kept at Edinburgh, when the news was credibly told, sometimes of their landing at Dunbar, sometimes at St Andrews and in Tay [31]

The early Protestant church had placed particular emphasis upon the Book of Revelation, the second coming and the antichrist – now encapsulated in the Spanish threat. The world was meant to last for six thousand years. By Martin Luther’s[32] calculations, the 16th century fell into the last millennium; the wickedness of man had hurried its decline, and now the world was hurtling headlong to the precipice. Luther was not certain when the day would come. But he knew it would. The almanacs were counting down, and the end was nigh.[33]

By 1577, when Thomas Rogers published his apocalyptic translation of ‘Of the ende of this world, the seconde commyng of Christ a comfortable and necessary discourse, for these miserable and daungerous dayes’ the position had clarified. The book was popular, reprinted several times, and into 1589. Yet there was little comfort to be had. Not only was it written in the holy Scripture ‘that the age of this world shall not be more then sixe thousand yeres: & that the sixt thousand (in which we now liue, whose tyme is more than halfe past) because of intollerable wickednesse, and shamelesse securitie of men, shall not be fully finished’[34], but it was written also in the stars, to be read by the astronomers, in ‘certain singular signs’[35]. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, in 1583, manifest ‘by many fierce & boysterous windes’[36] was thought to herald the beginning of an end, which if not there and then, was sure to be complete by 1588. The heavens were rent apart, with recurrent eclipses of both the moon and the sun, which coinciding with the scriptures and the ancient prophecies marked the end of time.

‘I would to God, the shadowe of the earth, and earthly things, did not take away the cleare light of the Sunne from us, and cause an horrible Eclypse in us,’[37] the astrologer John Harvey wailed in 1583. By 1588, he had capitulated, believing the astrologers may have exaggerated, or the mathematicians may have been mistaken in their calculations. In that year, he published ‘A discoursiue probleme concerning prophesies how far they are to be valued, or credited, according to the surest rules, and directions in diuinitie, philosophie, astrologie, and other learning: deuised especially in abatement of the terrible threatenings, and menaces, peremptorily denounced against the kingdoms, and states of the world, this present famous yeere, 1588, supposed the great wonderfull, and fatall yeere of our age’.[38]

The failure of the world to end in 1583 had exposed the astrologers to a degree of ridicule. But the Spanish threat in 1588, the terminus ad quem, whipped up the wind again. In that year, too, there were two further lunar eclipses, one of which may have turned the sky blood red, and a partial eclipse of the sun. Like Giles Locke in the story, Harvey set out to disprove the prophecies of doom. And like Giles, he was so intent on disarming the apocalypse, he failed to predict the coming of the storms which flung its horsemen headlong from the Spanish fleet.

Astronomer by Candlelight Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 1613–1675) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Lore of the land

‘The young goose to the old can say, see thee last at Lammas day’[39]

Perhaps, as Frances says, there will be a goose. Lammas is a time for the parting of the ways, as the harvest is begun and the season starts to change. The goose will be fattened up for Michaelmas, when it will prove the crowning glory of the ploughman’s feast. The young goose is put to graze in the stubble fields, unaware this fortune means its life will end, and enjoys its fill.

Geese could be eaten both young and old:

there are two periods at which the goose is fatten’d for market: first, when it is very young. It is distinguished at these times by different names, the green goose, and the stubble goose

The right age for taking up the gosling to fatten it for a green goose, is at five weeks

For fattening the stubble goose…Taking them up soon after the harvest season is a favourable time; because in running in the stubble fields they will have got into tolerable flesh.[40]

Green goose should be served in a sorrel sauce, and stubble goose with vinegar and mustard.[41]

According to Giles Locke, the goose is by nature a melancholic bird, the melancholy manifest in its exceeding watchfulness, moody disposition, and blackness of flesh, making it hard to digest. Yet

taken whilst they are young, green feathered, and well fatted with wholesome meat, and eaten with sorrel sauce to correct their malignity… no doubt their flesh is as nourishing as it is pleasant and sweet. But of all other young stubble goose feeding itself fat in wheaten fields, is the best of all; being neither of too moist nor too dry a flesh.[42]

The older goose he will not touch at all, unless it comes with garlic, exercise and drink.


In the meantime, for the month of August, there are two ‘evil’ days noted in the almanacs, the 19th and the 20th. ‘Not so evil’ are the 1st (though the characters in the Lammas story may have disagreed), the 29th and 30th. Still, ‘it hurteth not to abstain from pottage, and all hot meats, and drinks of spicerie’.[43] Such foods are not meat for the summer months.

At Kenly Green, the cherry trees have finished bearing fruit, and Meg collects the stones. The neighbours are astonished that she grows them here, from cuttings which were brought from Balmerino Abbey, grafted onto apple trees. Giles believes the fruits are very hard and sour, but that is no bad thing, for before a meal, they mollify the stomach, and prepare digestion, while eaten after it, they soothe a burning heat. The sour ones are more wholesome than the sweet.

There are, at this time, a great many herbs and flowers to be cut, in both the physick and the kitchen gardens, which are in the process of a harvest of their own. In this month Meg collects most of the seeds she uses in her medicines, and the still house is filling up with seed cups and leaves, left in the sun to be dried. The apricots and plums are almost ready too, for bottling or for making into marmalades for Yule.

The fruit and the beehives must be kept from wasps, and garlic cloves are used to put them off the scent. Which goes to show, says Hew, that sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, after all. Soothing for the stings, Meg says, are bruised leaves of mint.


[1] James Kelly, The Scottish Proverbs, Collected, Explained and made Intelligible to the English, London, 1818 [1721] p.185.

[2] Richard Jeffries, Round about a Great Estate, London, 1881, p.154.

[3] This was the senzie fair, which Andro Hart calls ‘seneyie’, a nice approximation to the sound [Though ‘ah seen ye at the fair’ comes irresistibly to mind].

[4] Trinity Monday is the day after the feast of the Holy Trinity, the first Sunday after Whitsunday. It was also sometimes used in error to mean the Monday following Whitsunday. ‘whiles’ = ‘sometimes’.

[5] Leonard Digges, A generall prognostication for ever. Andro Hart, Edinburgh 1619.

[6] Sir James Marwick, Appendix to the Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls. Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commissioners on market rights and tolls since 6th July 1888 [1890-91]. Vol. VII, p.662.

[7] Quoted by Marwick from the New Statistical Account. See note 8 below.

[8] Ratification of the Senzie Fair of St Andrews by James VI, 1581.   Quoted in C. J. Lyons, The History of St Andrews, Episcopal, Monastic, Academic and Civil, Vol. 2, Edinburgh, 1843, p.371. Lyons notes that it would appear that in 1581 ‘the cloister was in a sufficiently entire state to admit of the annual fair being held in it’ though he doubts that the market lasted for as long as fifteen days. The almanac of 1619 suggests that the ‘seneyie fair’ lasted for a week. By 1843, ‘the same fair is held in the open street, and reduced to a single day’. Lyons, p.372. There is a fictional reflection of the senzie fair in the second Hew Cullan book, Fate & Fortune. Hew, as a child, mistakes it for the ‘sinners’’ fair.

[9] George Martine, Reliquiae Divi Andreae, St Andrews, 1797.

[10] New Statistical Account of Scotland Vol IX Fife–Kinross. Edinburgh, 1845, p.495

[11] Sir John Skene, Regiam Majestatem The auld lawes and constitutions of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1609, ch. 134.   ‘Ane stranger merchand..vaigand fra ane place to ane other… is called pied-puldreux, or dustifute’. Such strangers were protected by the burgh laws when they came to fairs.

[12] Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, 1st Series, Vol. IV p.625

[13] Ibid.

[14] Title page reprinted in, and verse quoted from, A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs, Commonly known as the Gude and Godlie Ballatis, reprinted from the edition of 1567, ed. A. F. Mitchell. Edinburgh and London, 1897. Prelim title pages; p.204.

[15] Title given in Robert Jamieson, Popular Ballads and songs, vol II. Edinburgh, 1806. From the Bannatyne MS, now in the National Library of Scotland.

[16] Thomas Lupton, A thousand notable things, of sundry sortes Wherof some are wonderfull, some straunge, some pleasant, diuers necessary, a great sort profitable and many very precious…  Imprinted at London By John Charlewood, for Hughe Spooner, dwelling in Lumbard Streete at the signe of the Cradle. 1579.

[17]Number (67) in the ‘eyght book’ of ‘notable things’. On p.209.

[18] Number (89) in the same book. The page numbers here go from 212, 213, to 212, 514, 216, 217. The recipe for invisible ink straddles the mis-numbered pages 212–514 [i.e. 214–215], which seems strangely apt.

[19] The vignette appears on the title page of Digges’ Prognostications of 1619 (printed presumably at the end of 1618), and in the 1618 edition of St Andrews University Theses aliqvot logicae, ethicae, physicae, sphaericae: in publicam disputationem exhibendae: quas generosi adolescentes Collegii Leonardini alumni cum laurea magisteriali hac vice emittendi favente numini conabuntur propugnare, ad diem Kal. August. 1618. The copy referred to is now in Worcester College library, University of Oxford.

 The astrological device is a familiar variant of the ones appearing commonly in almanacs. Other emblems were available to Hart, and were used by him for other issues of the theses. Popular were crowns, and a female head, perhaps of the goddess Minerva. The astrological device was used again by Andrew Hart’s heirs for the theses from the University of Edinburgh in the late 1620s and early 1630s, and for the University of St Andrews in 1632, where it was printed (though I don’t imagine with sinister intent) upside down. Theses aliquot logicae ethicae, physicae, metaphysicae, astronomicae, geometricae: quas, adolescentes ex celeberrimo Lycaeo Leonardino cum Laurea hac vice emittendi, Deo auspice, & propitio, in Scholis Marianis Academicae Andreanae die calendas Augusti, anno salutis humanae 1632. pro virili propugnabunt. / Praeside Iacobo Mercero. In the National Library of Scotland.

Information on the locations of all of the surviving early modern theses, and all existing works by the printer Andrew Hart and his heirs, can be found by searching the English Short Title Catalogue at The British Library [online at].  Copies of some (but by no means all of the theses) can be viewed online through the Chadwyck-Healey database of Early English Books Online [ ] which can be accessed through a subscribing library, such as the NLS, free to use for residents of Scotland.

[20] Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, James VI. 20 October 1579, Parliamentary Register legislation. ‘For punishment of the strang and ydle beggaris and releif of the pure and impotent, cap. 7.’ Translation from University of St Andrews, RPS

This is an amendment to the ‘lovable’ acts of earlier parliaments, which had sentenced ‘idle beggars’ to imprisonment in irons at their own expense, cropping of the ears and eventual banishment, and repeat offenders to be hanged.

[21] Hew falls foul of this law in Edinburgh in Fate & Fortune, where he is rescued from it by Richard Cunningham. Included in the category, as Colin Snell finds out [in the Martinmas story] are ‘vagabond scholars of the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen not licenced by the rector and dean of faculty of the university to ask alms’. This was not, as it may seem, preferential treatment of the capital: Edinburgh had no university till 1583.

[22]A Briefe and pleasaunt treatise, entituled: Naturall and artificiall conclusions: written first by sundrie schollers of the Vniuersitie of Padua in Italie, at the instant request of one Bartholmew a Tuscane: and now Englished by Thomas Hyll Londoner, as well for the commodity of sundry artificers, as for the matters of pleasure, to recreate wittes at vacant tymes. London, 1584.

[23]Reginald Scott, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584. See Whitsunday.

[24] Hocus Pocus Junior, The anatomie of legerdemain or, the art of iugling set forth in his proper colours, fully, plainely, and exactly, so that an ignorant person may thereby learne the full perfection of the same, after a little practise. Anon. London, 1634.

[25] Samuel Rid, The art of iugling or legerdemaine Wherein is deciphered, all the conueyances of legerdemaine and iugling, how they are effected, & wherin they chiefly consist. Cautions to beware of cheating at cardes and dice. The detection of the beggerly art of alcumistry. &, the foppery of foolish cousoning charmes. All tending to mirth and recreation, especially for those that desire to haue the insight and priuate practise thereof. London 1612. The disclaimers in the title of what reads as a manual of professional interest, and the anonymity of ‘Hocus Pocus Junior’ (still unidentified) point to an element of risk.

[26]Discoverie of Witchcraft, p.349–50.

[27] Ane fruitfull meditatioun contening ane plane and facill expositioun of ye 7.8.9 and 10 versis of the 20 chap. of the Reuelatioun in forme of ane sermone. Set doun be ye maist christiane King and synceir professour, and cheif defender of the treuth, Iames the 6 King of Scottis. 1588

[28] ‘To the Christiane reider’. The reverend Patrick Galloway, minister of Perth, later became chaplain to the king. See Yule, Lore of the land.

[29] ‘ane  testimonie of his hienes maist vnfeinyeit loue toward trew religioun, be many nationes at that tyme ioyned vnder the conduict of the Spainyard michtelie inuadit’

[30] ‘and oppinlie declaring be pen, and awowing in deid the defence thairof in that maist perillous tyme quhen the foirsaid enemeis ioyned togidder did rage and bend thair force against it’

[31]The Diary of Mr James Melvill, 1556–1601. Edinburgh, 1829. [1588] p.174. Modernized here.

[32] ‘The predictions of the apocalypse are accomplished already… the world cannot stand long, perhaps a hundred years at the outside.’ The Table Talk of Martin Luther, translated and edited by William Hazlitt, p.325. London 1857.

[33] So Walter Gray’s almanac for 1588 begins with a list of numbers: from ‘The creation of the worlde – 5500’.

[34] Thomas Rogers, translation, Of the ende of this world, the seconde commyng of Christ a comfortable and necessary discourse, for these miserable and daungerous dayes. [Geveren: untraced original] 1577.

[35] Of the ende of this world.

[36] Richard Harvey, An astrological discourse vpon the great and notable coniunction of the two superiour planets, Saturne & Iupiter, which shall happen the 28 day of April, 1583. With a briefe declaration of the effectes, which the late eclipse of the sunne 1582. is yet heerafter to woorke. / Written newly by Richard Harvey: partely, to supplie that is wanting in common prognostications: and partely by praediction of mischiefes ensuing, either to breed some endeuour of preuention by foresight, so farre as lyeth in vs: or at leastwise, to arme vs with pacience beforehande.

[37] John Harvey, An astrologicall addition, or supplement to be annexed to the late discourse vpon the great coniunction of Saturne, and Iupiter 1583. John was the brother of Richard (above) and Gabriel Harvey.

[38] John Harvey, A discoursiue probleme concerning prophesies how far they are to be valued, or credited, according to the surest rules, and directions in diuinitie, philosophie, astrologie, and other learning: deuised especially in abatement of the terrible threatenings, and menaces, peremptorily denounced against the kingdoms, and states of the world, this present famous yeere, 1588, supposed the great wonderfull, and fatall yeere of our age. 1588.

[39]16th century Scottish proverb, no.1460 in James Carmichaell’s collection. [The James Carmichaell Collection of Proverbs in Scots, from the original manuscript, ed. M. L. Anderson. Edinburgh, 1957.]

[40] Thomas Hale, A compleat book of Husbandry, 1758.

[41] A book of cookrye Very necessary for all such as delight therin. Gathered by A.W. 1591

[42] Healths improvement: or, Rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food…Written by that ever famous Thomas Muffett, Doctor in Physick. 1655.

[43] Digges, 1555.