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Fraser's Scottish Annual
A Relic of St Margaret of Scotland


No country in the world has a greater reverence for books than Scotland, except China. Nor is there any country where the name of Margaret is held in such high esteem. The meaning of the name is precious and a fitting symbol of sweet and jewelled recollections. For Margaret in the original Greek means a pearl, the sign of rare purity and costly beauty. When the Anglo-Saxon merchants first heard the word, their minds translated it into their own idiom and it was familiarized in the form meregreot or sea-stone. So one has heard the Scotch pebble or agate derived from the town of Peebles, and so many a one has connected the "right good-willie waught" of the poet Burns with the proper name Will. The latter is a case of mistaken attachment, for the ic belongs to the waught not to the goodwill and represents not the fond diminutive termination, but the Anglo-Saxon prefex ge. The late Sir Daniel Wilson, from whom the writer heard this explanation, made a very beautiful use of the meaning of Margaret in the Latin epitaph that is to be seen on the Celtic Cross which marks the last resting place of his wife in St. James' cemetery, Toronto. The epitaph is in Latin and reads: Carissimae Margaritae margaritae uxorum. To my dearest Margaret, the pearl of wives. The stone, the sentiment, the very use of the Latin language, with its suggestion of Buchanan and the Roman Law, all are strongly characteristic of Scotland.

Yet, though Margaret is the favorite name in Scotia, it was first made popular there by an English princess, the sister of Edgar Atheling, the last heir of the Royal Saxon line of Alfred. After the Norman conquest, this prince with his two sisters Margaret and Christina took refuge at the court of Malcolm Canmore (Caenmnohr, or great head), an epitaph more flattering nine hundred years ago than it is to-day. The saintly Margaret seems immediately to have won the heart of the Scottish monarch, and although like her kinsman, St. Edward the Confessor, averse to matrimony herself, she appears to have found it prudent to accept the monarch's suit. The marriage which ensued had no little influence on the subsequent course of Scottish history. As the latest historian of Scotland, her most charming and versatile writer, puts it in his own effective style.

With all her virtues Margaret was what in Scotland we call "very English "—that is very "correct," and punctilious. Her interference in the ecclesiastical affairs of the country went so far that we read of her "holding Councils to decide between the Celtic and the English Church fashions" in which the King himself acted as interpreter.

One of the changes thus brought about is perhaps the most typical feature of Scotch life as it appears to the foreigner in the Scottish capital and as it has been reproduced in this greater Scotland of ours across the Atlantic. The observance of the Sabbath was already peculiarly sabbatical, even so long ago. The early usage was in accordance with the ancient Hebrew canon of the law by which the seventh day of the week was kept free from labor. On Sunday, however, they worked. So that while the Scot still keeps the Sabbath (as well as everything else he can lay his hands on, in the playful words of the late Principal Grant) the day on which he celebrates it since Queen Margaret's time has been changed. This is but one of many new, customs introduced by Malcohn's pious and punctilious queen. The general effect of these innovations was to increase the English influence in the Northern Kingdom just at the time when, by the Norman conquest, that native influence was being diminished in the southern part of Great Britain. This again, had a twofold result. First in Scotland, from the accession of Margaret's son Eadgar, "no Celt in both lines has sat on the Scottish throne." Next in England, Margaret's daughter Eadgyth or Matilda became the queen of Henry I., the son of the Conqueror, and thus restored the royal and saintly line of Alfred to its place on the English throne. Hence we may see how interesting both to English and to Scotch readers the life of Saint Margaret should be.

Like the great Alfred she was a lover of books. Her husband, illiterate himself, was yet in entire sympathy with this fondness for fine manuscripts, and we read of his kissing the favorite books of his learned wife. The famous Gothic MS. of TJlphilas, was bound in silver. King Malcolm had the manuscripts of Margaret bound in gold and embossed with precious stones. It may well inspire the bibliomaniac with envy of the opportunities of a Carnegie or a Rockefeller, when one hears that a specimen of this rare collection of bibliopegic marvels is still on view at a value that only multi-millionaires could consider.

When one learns further that this unique specimen—this copy of the Gospels of the sainted Queen Margaret, with its beautiful penmanship, its artistic illuminations and its costly binding, was picked up at a sale for the paltry sum of six pounds sterling and is now ticketed as worth three hundred thousand pounds ($1,500,000), one feels appalled at the possibilities of sudden wealth to the book-collector.

What gave the book this high worth? It is not only a magnificent illustration of the art of the illuminator, a beautiful specimen of bookbinder's craft and a relic of the sainted Margaret herself, but it possesses an even rarer title to the wonder of the gazer. Like the wife of Bath in Chaucer, Queen Margaret "had passed many a straune stream." On one occasion, when thus crossing a river she let this copy of the gospels fall into the water whence it was recovered without stain. This was at once proclaimed a miracle, not the only one by which the queen's piety was rewarded.

Mr. Andrew Lang suggests as the real cause of this immunity from injury the excellence of St. Columba's writing materials, for to that pious Irish missionary, we owe "so dear a wondered" book. Another copy of the gospels written by the same saintly scribe is preserved under the care of the chief of the O'Donnells in a silver shrine at Dublin. This latter book is the famous "Catrach" or "Battler," so called, because it was the occasion not a miracle but of the battle of Culdremhne. That however, is another story. The truth of these legends is attested by contemporary writers, and if any one doubts as to Queen Margaret's book, let him go to Oxford, and there in the Bodleian library, he will find it exhibited to the gaze of the wondering visitor, with the astounding note attached: Valued at £300,000.

Perhaps another explanation may be offered. When we remember how many Americans visit Oxford, and how naive is their delight inthe gardens and lawns of those mediaeval cloisters, we may easily imagine some playful Don in mere wantonness buttering their hay, so to speak, by affording, in the extraordinary value affixed to this miraculous book, another outlet for new expressions of wonder and delight, in which to all that rapture in the presence of the antique and strange, so characteristic of our American cousins, is added the forcible appeal to that other national motive, the worship of the Almighty Dollar.

POLITE WIT IN GLASGOW.—In a Glasgow theatre a young fellow was rather annoyed because his view of the stage was obstructed by the hat of a young lady who was sitting in front of him. Wishing to get a glimpse of the performance, he plucked up courage, and in a nervous voice exclaimed—

"Look here, miss, A' want tae look as weel as you."

"Oh, dae ye," she retorted, without looking round. "Then I doot ye'll hae tae change yer face."
AN old clergyman who had a tailor for his beadle was one day riding home from a neighboring parish, where he had been assisting in the celebration of the Sacrament. "John," said he, "how comes it, think you, that my young brother there should have so many members, when I, though preaching the same sermons I ever preached, am losing my hearers daily?" "Ah, sir," answered the beadle, "it is just the same wi 'you, as wi' mysel'. I sew just as weelas ever I did, and yet that puir elf, Sandy Sneddon, has ta'en my business 'maist clean awa'. It's no the sewing that's wrang, sir; it's the new cut that does it—it's just the new cut."
THE MAIN THING.—An Englishman went for a holiday to a small village in Scotland where there were famous echoes. Being rather sceptical as to whether they were really echoes or not, he got a man to take him round to some of the best places. He spoke in such a tone of command that the man was annoyed, and, determined to take the stranger down, he took him to a hill just near the ale-house door, and said—

"Shout as loud as you can, "Two pots of beer.'"

Not noticing who he was, the gentleman did so, and then remarked—

"I don't hear any echo." "Neither do I," said the guide: but here's the man with the beer." The gentleman paid.

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