Were it not for a Scottish private eye, the outcome of the American Civil War – and subsequent world history – might have been very different indeed. His intimate knowledge of the American railway system made him the perfect bodyguard for newly elected president Abraham Lincoln, who had to travel through territory that was aligned with forces that opposed him. Pinkerton’s smart manoeuvring saved the life of the president elect, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

February was a notable month in Scottish literary circles. Author Muriel Spark, whose novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is considered a classic, was born in the month, and adventure writers John Buchan and Alistair MacLean, died. As a forerunner of Ian Fleming, Buchan wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps, introducing the world to spy Richard Hannay, who would go on to appear in a further six books. MacLean was perhaps even more successful, becoming one of the best-selling authors of all time, with more than 150 million copies of his books in print.

February was likewise the month in which the world lost author Rosamund Pilcher, and when Iain Banks published his first novel, The Wasp Factory.

In scientific circles, the man who identified acid rain and gave it the name by which we now know it, was born, and the doctor who invented the hypodermic syringe in Edinburgh died. Dolly the sheep, who was the first cloned mammal, and was already seven years old when she was born, also died, but will be remembered for years to come.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed in February, one day before the anniversary of the death of her husband, which had itself contributed to her demise. The first king of Scotland died at Cinnbelachoir, James I was assassinated, and the crown jewels of Scotland were found in a dusty old box after a search led by author Sir Walter Scott.


Also in February…

Bell Rock lighthouse is lit for the first time 1st
Author Muriel Spark is born
Author Alistair MacLean dies in West Germany 2nd
Inventor of self-adhesive postage stamps is born 3rd
Scotland’s lost crown jewels are found 4th
Lee Jeans workers go on strike 5th
Historian and writer Thomas Carlyle dies
American servicemen drown on liner torpedoed off Islay
Novelist Rosamunde Pilcher dies in Longforgan 6th
Lewis Grassic Gibbon, author of Scotland’s favourite novel, dies 7th
The ‘richest commoner in Scotland’ is born
Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed 8th
Conspirators assemble to murder Lord Darnley 9th
The University of Aberdeen is founded 10th
Scottish novelist John Buchan dies in Canada 11th
Philanthropist George Heriot dies 12th
The Massacre of Glencoe 13th
The first king of Scotland dies at Cinnbelachoir
Engineer and bridge builder William Arrol is born
Dolly the cloned sheep dies 14th
The father of acid rain is born 15th
Scotland appoints its first modern Makar 16th
Iain Banks’ first novel is published
Covenanter James Renwick is executed 17th
Historian William Fraser is born 18th
HMS Goldfinch is wrecked off Orkney 19th
Prime minister Gordon Brown is born 20th
Orkney and Shetland become part of Scotland
King James I of Scotland is assassinated 21st
Scottish detective Allan Pinkerton saves Abraham Lincoln’s life 22nd
Sir Walter Scott’s first Malachai Malagrowther letter appears in print
Bible John’s first victim discovered 23rd
Edinburgh Napier University is founded
Caledonian Sleeper carries its first passengers 24th
BBC Scotland is launched
Scottish inventor’s cinematic inspiration changes entertainment forever 25th
Hypodermic syringe inventor dies in Edinburgh 26th
Nature writing pioneer Nan Shepherd dies in Aberdeen 27th
Singer Olive Rae makes her London debut
Adoption of the National Covenant leads to war 28th
Scottish women’s right to propose codified in law 29th