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Municipal and Social History, pp.215-237.

[Old Glasgow Contents]

To return to the corporation. The manner in which the magistrates conducted the affairs of the city in early times was in all probability much the same as prevailed in other burghs. So far as can be judged from the records they appear to have acted, on the whole, with intelligence and discretion, and with a considerable amount of public spirit. Some notices of their proceedings, and of the manner in which they conducted municipal affairs, cannot fail to be interesting.

When left with perfect freedom of action we find them, as a rule, acting equitably and with prudence; but they lived in unsettled times, and had sometimes to bend to circumstances. On one occasion they were obliged, against their own judgment, to issue an order to eject from his holding a valued servant, “John Hamiltoune their tenant in Provand,” on account of his “keeping of conventickles” – the reason recorded being “that the secreit counsell is insensed against the toune for suffering him to doe the samyne,” and that his removal had become necessary “for preventing, therfor, the danger the toune may sustein.”1 In the same way they had to submit to the disgraceful order of the privy council which required “the wyfes and families of all vtted ministers” to be expelled from the city.2 In 1645 they showed a want of discretion when, on the victory of Montrose at Kilsyth, the magistrates then in office gave expression to their sympathies with what they thought to be the winning side by inviting the marquis to Glasgow and entertaining him sumptuously. But they speedily paid the penalty of their indiscretion, for in the following month, Leslie having gained the battle of Philiphaugh, his first act was to lay Glasgow under a heavy contribution, which he jeeringly told the magistrates was to pay the interest of the money they had expended in entertaining Montrose. And this was not the only penalty they had to suffer, for when the magistrates came to be elected immediately afterwards the Committee of Estates of parliament interfered and insisted on the exclusion from office of all those who had been “actours in the capitulatioune with James Grahame.”3 They had no doubt a difficult part to play, but at the Revolution the favours conferred on the city showed how much the government of William and Mary was satisfied that the bulk of the inhabitants had been true to the Protestant cause, and that the authorities, on the whole, had been careful of the maintenance of order in very trying times.

In the administration of justice the magistrates appear to have shown considerable vigour, and if the constitutional liberty of the subject was sometimes invaded – as undoubtedly it occasionally was – the error was generally on the side of equity, and the act one of poetical justice. Some of the punishments awarded were certainly of the latter character. On one occasion “Richeart Herbertsoun fleschour” was brought before them “for the maist barbarus bangsterrie done be him against James Watsoun fleschour, and for striking of the said James Watsouns grit dog.” The slain dog was represented as worth £2 sterling, and “maist necessar and profitable to him;” and James craved “to be fred of the said Richearts oppressioun, bost, and bangsterrie, in tyme cuming and to mak the said James satisfactioune and recompens for his said dog.” Richard having appeared and confessed, the punishment awarded was that he be “wardit qll monanday next and that day stockit at the croce, and the dog to be laid befoir him,” and thereafter to be put in sure ward till he find security to keep the peace.4 On another occasion a person described as “ane idill vagabound” is apprehended “upon suspitione” of having committed an assault on a young child. There is no trial, and no evidence whatever is taken, but on the strength of the suspicion only, and of the assumed fact that he is an idle vagabond, he is ordained off-hand “to be laid in the stokis qll the evening, and “thairefter put out of the toun at the west port, and banist the same forevir; and gif evir he be fund within this toun heireftir, of his awin consent, to be hangit but [without] ane assyze.”

But although the magistrates, as a rule, dispensed even-handed justice, they undoubtedly did so in many instances in a very arbitrary way, and with little regard to constitutional forms. To such an extent had this come to be carried by the magistrates who came into power after the Restoration, that it became a public scandal, and in 1684 we find the following minute by their successors: “The same day the Magistrats and counsell considering the great clamour made be the tounes people by the abuses committed be the lait Magistrats these few yeirs past by decerning severall persones to pay debts and soumes of money to others, and extorting and exacting fynes from several of them, without vsing ane probatioune or decerning any formall sentence against them in public court, far contrair to the law and pratique of the burgh: for remeid therof it is enacted and concluded that in tyme cuming none of the Magistrats within the burgh, Baillie of Gorballs, nor Watter baillie, shall have power to fyne any persone except by conveining the transgressors in a public court.”5

The arbitrary committing of suspected persons to prison – often on the mere verbal orders of a magistrate, and without ever bringing them to trial, was a practice not confined to Glasgow. Mr. Hector gives many instances of the same kind occurring in Paisley even so late as the end of the last century. Here is one taken out of many from the judicial records: “May 6, 1791, Archibald Bogle incarcerated by order of Bailie Brown on suspicion of desertion. May 17 liberated by order of Bailie Brown.” Thus, adds Mr. Hector, Bogle was imprisoned eleven days without a warrant, and liberated probably after the bailie had discovered that there was no foundation even for suspicion.6 And there are many other similar cases.

From an incidental notice in one of the council minutes we learn the interesting fact that the magistrates of Glasgow, like some of the rulers in eastern cities in Scripture times, were in the custom of standing in the public street, near the cross, to hear the suits of the citizens and to dispense summary justice. On one of these occasions a person, described as a merchant burgess, addressed the provost in disrespectful and abusive terms – the crime being aggravated by the fact that some distinguished strangers were standing by. The whole scene is so curious, and it is so graphically described in the record, that I need make no apology for transcribing it: “2 April 1678 The quhilk day the Baillies and Counsell being conveined anent the complent given in befor them by John Grahame Procurator Fiscall of this burgh against Thomas Crawforde, merchand burges thereof, makand mention that upon yesterday the 1st of April instant James Campbell present Proveist of the said burgh with sundrie utheris, the Magistratis and uthir burgessis, being standing on the plaine stones beneth the tolbuith, the place ordinarie for the Magistratis ther waiting and attending to heir the Complents and grievances of the burgesses and uthirs, and to give them justice incumbent to their office accordingly; And at that tyme being about thrie houris in the afternoone, several persones of qualitie and strangers war standing besyd, the sid Thomas Crawforde in ane arrogant and prowd maner, without consideratioune or respect that he, as a burges of this burgh, oweth to his Magistratis to whom he is sworne be his burges oath to give them all dew obedience, most contrair therto, in a furious way come to the said James Campbell Proveist, and there fell in questioning him about sundrie things, and did challing him therupone; and the Proveist having desyred him severall tymes to desist because of the straingers, onlookers and marvelling at the Proveists patience, and the miscarriadge of the said Thomas, Trew it is the said Thomas wold nowayes decist but said in a disdainful way to the Proveist that he knew his malice and wold byd the butt of it &c.” The fiscal accordingly craved the council “to wnlaw and fyne him, and to rive and destroy his burges and gild brother ticket, and to cry down his fredome;” and this is ordered to be done.

On various other occasions the magistrates showed that they were tenacious of their dignity, and repeated notices occur in the burgh records of parties being punished for behaving disrespectfully toward them. On one occasion “William Watson alias Blackhous William,” is accused of “contempt and misbehaviour done be him to the magistratis in uttring disdaynful speiches to thame, with his bonet on his head, and being desyrit be ane of his nychtbors to tak af his bonet and reverence the magistratis, answerit and said, with bannyng, that he would not take af his bonet to the baillie.” The culprit having “confessit his misbehaviour,” and the magistrates having “fund the same ane hie and proud contempt and evill example to utheris to do the lyke,” inflicted a fine of ten pounds (16s. 8d.). But in this case, as in too many others, punishment did not bring reformation. Blackhouse William had been unable to pay his fine, and having been consigned to durance he threatened to set fire to the prison, and actually attempted to do so, protesting at the same time that “he wad naither acknowledge provest nor baillie, king nor casart,” and for this he was again arraigned. The opprobrious words he denied, but he “confessit that being wardit in anger.” This time justice was vindicated by the offender being “ordanit to be wardit in ane unfreemans ward quhill the morn, being mercat day, and then to walk bare heidit to the croce, and after being put in the irnes thair be the space of 4 hors, he is humblie on his kneis to ask God mercie, and the baillies pardon, for his hie and proud contempt.”7

Some of the punishments for theft are curious: “George Mitchell being apprehendit for thift is decernit of his confessioune that gif ever he be apprehendit within this citie in tyme cumyng to be brunt on the schoulders and cheik and to want ane lug out of his heid.”8 The punishment of mutilation by cutting off an ear was common also in the old English burghs, and in some of them it was practised after a somewhat singular fashion. In the ancient town of Lydd there was an ordinance in the year 1460 that in cases of petty theft the offender was to be nailed to a post by the ear and left there “with a knyffe in hand.” He might choose the time of his liberation, but he could only effect it by cutting off his own ear.9

At an early period we find special provision made for conducting the deliberations of the council with becoming dignity and order. By a minute in 1589 “it is statut, for keeping of a dew gravitie and amitie in counsall, and reverence to be borne to the provost baillies and honourable counsall of the toun, that quatsumever he be that injureis ane vther in counsalhous, be word or deid, salbe depryvit immediatelie of the counsall, and will nocht be admitted for the space of thrie yeiris thairafter, besyd vther punischment that the counsall sall think meet to enjoyne to tham for the tyme.”10

There were no reporters in those days, and not only were all the deliberations of the council in secret, but the members were strictly forbidden to reveal anything which occurred or was said there. At an election of magistrates in 1584, the minute, after narrating the nominations, proceeds thus:- “Attour everie ane of the persounes foirsaidis, suorne vpoun this present counsell, is content and consentis that thay and everie ane of thame quha happinnes to oppin and reueill ony mater, purpois, or caus votit, proponit, and concludit, within the Counselhows, or yit the votis of the Counsell, to ony persounes nocht being counsallouris, that thay and everie ane of thame, immediatly efter tryall and knawledge had thairof, salbe depryuit in likemaner, and neuir to bee vpoun counsell thaireftir as vnwordie thairof.”11

From the same minute we learn the curious fact that one of the council at that time acted as doorkeeper, and that this duty was imposed, for each diet, on the latest comer: “Attour it is statuit and ordaint that sik of the counsell quha cummis hindmest to the Counsell at tymes requirit, thay being warnit, sall keip the dure quhill [until] the nixt that cummis relief him, and the hindmest of all to keip the dure quhill the counsell ryse for that tyme.”

Nor did the council encourage large deputations in those days. A minute of the middle of the seventeenth century informs us that “Johne Hall being knocking at the Counsall hous doore desyring to have entrie, and it being granted that he sould com in his alon and speak quhat he pleased: because he was not pemittit to com in with ane multitud at his back he refused to com in but protestit at the door.”12

In connection with the subject of the maintenance of dignity I may mention here a curious question of precedence which occurred at the beginning of the present century. The point was raised in 1803 in the convention of royal burghs, and had respect to the precedence of the Provost of Glasgow and the Provost of Perth at the meetings of the convention. At these meetings the seats which had, for a considerable time, been occupied by the members were as follows: The Lord Provost of Edinburgh occupied the chair; the commissioner from Glasgow sat on his right hand, and the commissioner from Perth on his left. The two commissioners from Edinburgh sat opposite the chairman, and the other members sat without any prescribed order. But the commissioner from Perth insisted that thereafter he should sit on the right hand of the chairman, and that the commissioner from Glasgow should take the less honourable place on the left. One of the grounds on which this demand was based was a letter from James VI. in 1594, directed to the earl marischall, commanding him to place the commissioners of the burgh of Perth in parliament in the second place, and next to the commissioners for Edinburgh. But this was no precedent, as at that time Glasgow was not represented in parliament at all. Another and a better ground was that Perth was made a royal burgh at an earlier period than Glasgow. The case was discussed at great length, and long printed pleadings were lodged by the parties. The result was that the convention, at a meeting in July, 1804, decided “that the Provost of Perth had no title to the seat claimed by him as his right; neither has the Provost of Glasgow, or any member of Convention, a right preferable to another to occupy the seat on the right hand of the President thereof, and therefore they dismissed the claims of the parties.” Against the judgment the Provost of Perth protested, with a view, as was supposed, of bringing the question before the Court of Session, but he allowed the matter to drop.13

In the earlier times when the interests of the bishops depended so much on the prosperity and influence of their burgh, the provosts were selected not from among the citizens, but from among noblemen and gentlemen of rank whose position and power would prove useful to the bishop and the town in cases of emergency. Thus we find such persons as the Earl of Lennox, Lord Boyd, Sir George Elphinston,* Crawford of Jordanhill, the Stewarts of Minto, Houston of that Ilk, Hamilton of Cochno, and others occupying the position of chief magistrate. Latterly it came to be the practice with the archbishops to give grants of the office during their own life. An example of this occurred when Archbishop Boyd appointed his kinsman Lord Boyd to be provost during his (the archbishop’s) lifetime.14

These old provosts were frequently the leaders of parties in the council, and among the citizens each had his own partisans and his own peculiar policy. In the beginning of the seventeenth century we have a glimpse of a small local commotion arising out of one of their party disputes. When Sir George Elphinston was provost a change was made in the system of municipal election, which Sit Matthew Stewart of Minto thought would be injurious to his local influence. Sir Matthew succeeded in enlisting the sympathies of the crafts, who took to arms, and “climbing up to the platform of the market cross proclaimed their remonstrance against the new arrangements in the sight of the magistrates who sat in their Council house close by.” Nothing seems to have come of the rising, but some collisions followed, and the two knights and their principal supporters were imprisoned for some time in Linlithgow on account of “the general insolency” of which they had been guilty.15

The fate of these two great families, who gave so many provosts to Glasgow, was a sad one. A mural tablet in the Cathedral commemorates the names of eight Stewarts of Minto in succession, “knights created under the banner.” When McUre wrote his history, in 1736, the family, he tells us, was “mouldered so quite away that the heir in our time was reduced to a state of penury little short of beggary.” Of the other family, Sir George Elphinston, the favourite friend and servant of King James, who acquired a great estate in Glasgow, and rose to be lord justice-clerk, “died so poor that his corpse was arrested by his creditors and his friends buried him privately in the chapel adjoining his house.”

As a rule the provosts did not reside within the burgh, but on their own domains – coming only to the city on occasions of emergency or special business, and on these occasions, especially when they rendered any special service, they were usually rewarded by some present, generally wine. For example, under date 18th June, 1583, we find “given to Agnes Broune for wyne presentit to the proveist in time of trublis, being caused to abyde in this toune for pacifeing thairof xiij li vis. viijd.” On another occasion the council minutes bear that the provost had remained in the town “for pacifeing the trubles betwixt the merchandis and craftsmen;” and no doubt on that occasion also he would be suitably entertained. At the time when Lord Boyd was provost there are repeated entries of presents of wine to him. One is of “twa hogheidis wyn gevin and presentit to my Lord Boyd at the haill townes command xxxiij lib. vis. viijd.” It must have been very light claret, as the price of the two hogsheads was, in our money, little over £4. Again, in 1575, there is a present of a half tun of wine to the provost; and again a tun in 1577 – the last bearing to be an expression of the gratitude of the town “in keiping of thame fra syndry particular raiddis to the court, thaj being charget thairto, and salfing thame fra wther intenementis.”

But besides such gratuities there appear to have been both “fees” and perquisites paid to the provosts and bailies. Thus in 1573-4 there occurs an entry of a payment “to my lord provost for his fie xiij lib. vjs. viijd. (£2, 4s. 6d.) and to thrie of the bailies for their fies xx lib.” (about £1, 18s. each). And from a subsequent minute of council it appears that each year were given to the provost, “quhilk hes bein in vse thairof of befoir.”16 In subsequent years the fees vary in amount. They appear to have been discontinued before the end of the seventeenth century, and in 1720 a small fixed allowance was made to the provost. On the 31st of March of that year a minute of council bears that “in respect the provest as Chiefe Magistrat whiles in that station is obliged to keep up a post suitable thereto, and cannot but be at considerable charge in furnishing his house with wines for the entertainment of gentlemen who may have occasion to wait on him at his house, it is their judgment there should be fourty pound sterling settled upon the provest yearly for defraying the said charge and he may therewith furnish himself with what wines he thinks most fitted.” This payment continued to be made down to the passing of the first reform act, when it was abolished. The last payment to the provost was made on the 30th of September, 1833.

With the exception of cocked hats and chains I am not aware that, except perhaps the provost, the magistrates of Glasgow had until quite recently any distinctive costume. But they may at one time have had such. One of the sumptuary laws of James VI. was “that the Provest bailzeis and some of the principallis of thair counsall of the burrowis of Edinburgh, St Johnstoun, Dundie, St Andrews, Glasgow, Striveling and Aberdeyne sall weare gownes of reid scarlatt cloathe with furringis aggreable to the same vpoun Sondayis and all vtheris solemne dayis.”17 If this was ever acted on may it not have been the origin of the scarlet cloaks which in later times were worn by the “tobacco lords” and other merchant princes of Glasgow? It was certainly not till a later period that the magistrates came to wear gold chains and medals, but there is evidence that as early at least as 1627 the provost had a distinctive hat, as there is an entry in the burgh accounts for that year of a payment “for ane hatt and string to the provest.” In 1720 the town council enacted that the provost should wear a velvet court dress. The gold chains were for the first time introduced in 1767, and were then, as the minute bears, “delivered to the magistrates to be worn by them as badges of honour.”18 The cocked hats continued to be used till 1833, when they were abolished at one of the first meetings of council after the passing of the reform act. At the same time a motion was made to abolish the gold chains and medals also, and to melt them down “for the common good;” but this proposal of ill-judged parsimony was happily defeated. It was not till 1875 that official robes were adopted for the provost and bailies and the town-clerk.19

It was perhaps to keep up a martial spirit among the citizens, as well as for their own dignity, that, besides two drummers, the magistrates in old times maintained a trumpeter and a piper – the last-named functionary being sometimes described in the burgh records by the euphonious title of “the touns minstrel.” By a minute in 1675, appointing one John McCaine to the office, he is designed as “commoun pypper or minstrel,” and his is directed “to goe throw the toune every day morning and evining or at such tymes the magistrats sall appoynt – vsing his office.” His salary is fixed at a hundred merks – £5, 11s. The trumpeter had the same salary, “by and attour some little thing at the magistrates pleasour to be payit to him that day he sall have occasioune to ryd in the militia.” He was also to be “obleist to wait and attend wpon the magistrats for goeing of errands or quhan they sall be pleased to send him.”20

By an earlier minute all the town’s officers, as well as the drummers and piper, are appointed to be dressed in “coit, brekis, and hoiss of red kairsey claithe.” On one occasion, where an order is made for new uniforms, the quantity of cloth allowed to each is fixed at “fyfe eln;” but “becaus Andro Stark, Wm. Letham, Rob. Wilsoun, elder, and Robt. Glasgw ar biggar nor the rest of bodie, to ilk ane of thame half ane eln mair.” The clothes are all “to be maid be thair selfs in jupe fassoun.”21 When, in the following year, a drummer fell to be appointed, the magistrates, having in view the making of the clothes, preferred a tailor to the office, and it was made a condition of his appointment that he should undertake “to learne Jon. Jeimesoune, his collig, the tailzeour craft swa long as ye counsall sall appoint, becaus they are onlie thame twa to be drummers.”22 The drummers appear to have quarrelled on a question of precedence, and the magistrates were obliged to interfere. This they did by a minute which “ordainis the drummers to touk throughe the towne weik about, and he who toukis for the weik sal onlie have power to touk to the haill Lords and strangers sall cum to the town for that weik.” The minute concludes with an admonition to them “to leave [live] together peacablie as brether and not wrang or injure utheris.”23 The wages of the drummers were paid by a special tax on the inhabitants.24

In other matters, besides piper and drummers, and officers in scarlet uniforms, the magistrates, after the Reformation, made provision for their personal dignity. In 1610 a charge appears in the burgh accounts “for grein silk, fustean, and other furnesing to the twa grein claiths to the Counsall satis in the kirkis heich and laich.”25 Some thirty years afterwards there is a minute of the council which “ordains ane velvot cuschein and ane velvot black cloth to be laid in the kirks before the provost in tyme coming.”26

It is pleasant also to notice that in early times the Glasgow magistrates, with all their troubles, had a regard to the amenities of social life. They had flowers on the council table, and, what is curious, they had flowers also placed on their seat in church. In their accounts towards the end of the seventeenth century there occurs a payment for “roses and flowers furnished to the Counselhous and kirks, and to the Magistrats and Counsell;”27 and there are subsequent payments for flowers yearly to the Counsell hous and seats in the Churches.”

They were kind to the poorer class of citizens, and liberal in their charities. Their records abound with examples of this. The payments to people in destitute circumstances are frequent, and there are also repeated instances of a kind consideration for those not actually in poverty, but requiring temporary encouragement and assistance. For example, a working man had his horse stolen, and the magistrates “ordain the Master of wark to pay him four rex dollars for helping to mak vp the loss.” A poor “student of philosophie presently lawried or to be lawried” – that is, laureated, about to take his degree – is allowed twenty-four pounds Scots “for supplying his present wants and helping him to buy cloathes and books.” Another poor scholar has a gift of six pounds scots “to help to buy him a coat.” On another occasion the master of work is ordained “to buy and provyde for ane poor boy going to the College, being a burges sone, ane cloak goune, and ane hatt, of the qualitie as the magistrats sall appoynt him.” Again, one John Gemmell, merchant, “in respect he is knowne to be ane verie honest man and hes lost his stock by sea venter,” is granted a loan of 200 pounds scots. Early in the seventeenth century (1626) there is a payment of “fourtie merk to ane Grecian bishop.” A sum of “twenty pundis” is paid to “ane distressed gentleman.” There is an order “to pay to Antoine Nauder a Frenchman thrie rex dollars to help to carry him and his wyfe off the town, he having left his countrie for his religion.” The magistrates on another occasion send certain persons “throw the toune for collecting a contributioune for releiving of Walter Gibsone Skipper at Innerkeithing and Jon Reid his mate, from their slaverie, being prisoners with the Turks;”28 and there are many similar cases.

For a long time the magistrates paid an allowance or annual pension to a “chirurgian” for the benefit of the poorer class of citizens, and among the practitioners thus subsidized was “Mr. Petir Lou,”** a name well known in the medical history of the city, of whom mention has already been made. The amount paid to this gentleman appears in a minute of the town council in 1608: “Gifen to Mr. Petir Lou chyrurgin for his pensioun addettit be the toun to him liiij£ vis. viijd.” (£4, 8s. 10d.) Subsequently the city paid also for the services of a physician, but this practice was discontinued in 1684, at a time when the finances of the burgh were at a very low ebb. The minute on the subject is curious: “27 October. The said day the Magistrats and counsell considering the sad condition the toun is in throw the great debt they are resting, it is theirfoir concludit that the toun shall make use of no persone as the touns physitian or chirugian in time coming, and if any person who is unwell, and deserves to be cured, wpon their applicatioun to any of the Magistrats they are empowered to recommend them to any physitian they shall think fitt.” Apparently they had not been particular as to who they employed in cases which they thought deserving of cure, as in the same year in which they discontinued the employment of a “chirurgian” there is an entry in the records of a payment “to the mountebank for cutting off umqll Archibald Bogles leg.” The mountebank was paid for this service “60 lib” (£5), a sufficiently liberal fee considering that his patient, being described as deceased, had probably died under his hands.

But although the magistrates ceased to pension a  physician, they continued to retain the services of a person skilled in lithotomy, and there is a minute bearing that a certificate having been produced in favour of Duncan Campbell “subsryvit be the haill doctors and most part of the chirurgians in toune of his dexteritie an success,” they appoint Duncan to the office to operate on the poor “in place of Evir McNeil who is become unfit to doe the same through his infirmitie.” The reason for the appointment appears to have been that the regular surgeons did not operate for that disease. It is curious to note from the council records that the disease appears to have prevailed chiefly among children. To what cause its prevalence at that time is to be ascribed I do not know. When, long afterwards, it was proposed to shut up the pubic wells in the city a committee of the town council issued a pamphlet containing reports by medical men, in which, among other things, it was stated that the well water contained lime, especially sulphate of lime, and the opinion was expressed that “lime is generally the cause of gravel and stone.” But exception has been taken to the statement that there was so much lime in the Glasgow water as to cause the disease. In our own time certainly calculus has been comparatively rare in Glasgow.

An amusing example of the control exercised in old times over medical men practising within the burgh is to be found in the “Seal of Cause” which the magistrates granted on 16th August 1656 in favour of the “Chirurgeounis and Barbouris” – these two professions being at that time united in one corporation. A seal of cause was a local charter of incorporation granted by the magistrates, in which was defined the conditions on which it was granted. In the one in favour of the surgeons and barbers – by which that corporation is authorized to exercise within burgh “the art of chirurgeourie and barbourie” – there occurs the following clause, which is too good to remain buried in the charter chest of the corporation. It provides “That no free mane presume to taik ane uzr freamans cuir af his hand untill he be honestlie payit for his bygaine paines, and that at the sight of the baillies, with the udvyce of thair visitour, in caice the patient find himself grived by the chirurgiane, under the payne of ane new upsett; excepting always libertie to the visitour and qrter maisters to tak patients from ane free man not fund qualified for the cuiring of them, and to put them to ane more qualified persoune as shall be thoght expedient after exact tryall.”

Bloodletting in Glasgow, as elsewhere, was universal among all classes; the usual season being spring. As a rule it was done by the barbers, and it was this, no doubt, that led to their being united in the same corporation with the surgeons. This branch of their profession was symbolized in the sign over the barbers’ shops, which remains over many small shops to the present day. The bare pole – a pun on poll – referred to the shaving of heads. The red strip painted round the pole indicated the bloodletting, and the basin suspended at the end represented the vessel which received the blood. In the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, under date May, 1491, there is a payment to “a leyche that leyt the king blud;” and in another entry we have the payment of 12s. to McMulane the barber “for the leichcraft done be him to the litil boyis of the chalmire.” But James IV. not only had blood let but he practised the art himself as an amateur, and he bribed his attendants to allow him to operate on them. In the royal accounts there occurs a payment “to Domynico to gif the king leve to lat him blud.”29 Even the lower animals were subjected to spring bleeding. In a book of accounts of the nunnery of Radegunda, in the year 1449, there is an entry of the payment of twopence “for bleeding the cart horses on St. Stephen’s day.”30

A few instances occur of the encouragement of literature by the magistrates in a small way. In 1661 the sum of ten dollars is ordered to be paid “to James Cerss, Philomath, for dedicating his Almanack to “the toune.”31 I have not seen any copy of this Almanack, but it was no doubt a continuation of it that was printed by Robert Sanders in 1667 and subsequent years. The first of these which I have seen is entitled “A new Prognostication for the year of Christ 1668 being Bissextile or Leap-year, with many fairs not heretofore insert, by J. H. Philomathes. Printed at Aberdene and imprinted at Glasgow by Robert Sanders Printer to the Town and are to be sold at his shop. M.DC.LXVII.” The others bear only to be printed by Sanders, but they had been all compiled in Aberdeen, and they all contain the usual prognostication of weather; “dismal and perillous days;” directions for letting blood, &c. Copies of these old Glasgow Almanacks must be now extremely rare.32

In the year 1662 the burgh accounts show a payment of twenty dollars “to Mr. Johne Andersoun ane of the doctors of the Grammer school for divers respects and for dedicating a book to the magistrates.” On another occasion the treasurer has “ane warrand for the soume of eight rex dollars payed to Mr. Wm. Geddes minister for his incuradgment to print the twa books called a Memoriall Historicum and another book sett our be him.”33 On a later date the treasurer is ordained “to pay to James Robison Schoolmaster three guinzeas for his encouradgment in compiling and printing a litle book entituled a dialogue betwixt a young Lady and her Schoolmaster shewing the right way of sillabing.”34 And in 1736 – the year in which McUre published his well-known history – there occurs this entry in the burgh records: “Remit to the Annual Committee the petition given in by John McUre, Writer, craving some consideratioun for defraying his charges in putting forth a book which he calls the Hystory of the present state of the City;”35 and no doubt the petition received a favourable answer.

The magistrates did something also in the fine arts. But not much. In 1641 they ordain the treasurer “to have ane warrand to pay to James Colquhoun fyfe dollars for drawing of the portraict of the toun to be sent to Holland.”36 It would be interesting if this old view of the city could be recovered. We are indebted also to the public spirit of the magistrates of that time for the portraits of royal personages which we have in the Corporation Galleries. In 1670 there is a minute by which “it is appoynted that the provest wrytt to London to the Deane of Gild to buy for the tounes use the portrators of King Charles the First and Secund as also ane carpett.”37 But the dean succeeded in getting only one portrait – that of Charles I., and two months afterwards there is a warrant for the price of it: “twenty fyve punds starling for the kings portratour.” Seven years afterwards the order is repeated to procure the other, “that it may be hung in the Counsell-house with the rest now there.” In 1708 the provost reported that he had bought from Mr. Scougall, limner in Edinburgh, the portraits of William and Mary, “both of full length for twentie seven pounds sterling.” Queen Anne’s portrait, by the same artist, was added to the collection in 1712 at the price of £15, and that of George I. in 1715 at the same price. We are all familiar with the stone statues of the Hutchesons, the founders of the hospital bearing their name. One of these, that of Thomas Hutcheson, was executed on the order of the magistrates. The artist was one James Colquhoun, and the price paid was 500 merks, about £28 of our money – a good price considering the time and the character of the work.

In early times the magistrates in their corporate capacity appear to have exercised a generous hospitality. “Corporation dinners” were of frequent occurence, and there are some curious notices of these banquets three hundred years ago. They appear to have been held in different taverns by rotation, so as to distribute the favour equally. And our old rulers were not above running up a score, though no doubt they honestly cleared them off periodically. On one occasion we find an order by the council “to take ane account of what reckonings is restand in any taverns in the toune that hes been spent wpon the tounes accumpt this last yeir, that warrand may be granted for paying the same.”38 Of special corporation banquets there are repeated notices. Under date 4th July, 1573, there is an entry of a payment “to Bessie Douglas for the provost baillies and counsales dennaris on Witsonyisday xiii lib. vis. viiid.,” – about £2, 5s. according to the value of money at that time – not a very extravagant amount certainly. In the following year another “bancatt” took place in the house of Catherine Steward, on the occasion of “the seeling of the provosts commissioun.” The expenditure on this occasion was xviij lib., a trifle over £3, but this is increased to a small extent by two subsequent payments – the first “to Robert Lettrik, officer, for aquavitie furnisit to the bancatt vis.,” a little more than a shilling; and the second xs. – about two shillings of our money – “for cairage of wyne and flour fra Edinburgh to the bancatt at Catho Stewardis.” In 1575 there is a payment to Euphame Campbell “for ane bankat maid to the provest baillies and counsale and wtheris, dekynnis and honest men, at command of the baillies;” and on 24th May, 1656, the council “appoyntes the tounes dennar on the first Tysday of June next to be made reddie in Thomas Glenis hous, and the Dein of Gild to have ane cair thereof and of thais quha sould be invited thairto.”

The hospitalities of the corporation cost more in our days, but considering the importance and wealth of the city the annual expenditure under that head has been moderate enough – not exceeding, on an average of the last ten years, about £400. There have been exceptional occasions, such as in the year of the Duke of Edinburgh’s marriage, when the city spent in hospitalities nearly £1600.

The magistrates also in the old times, as now, kept the king’s birthday. On one of these occasions we find this entry in their minutes: “Ordeines ane warrand to be grantit for 41 lib 10s. (£3, 9s. 2d.) as for “expensis of vyne and confeitis spent at the croce upone the fyfte of July the kingis daye – my Lord of Glasgw being present with sundrie uthir honorabill men.”39 And a similar charge appears in the following year.

In presents to their provosts, as well as to the bishops and to strangers, the corporation accounts show various payments. In the burgh accounts in 1609 we find a charge of fifty pounds Scots (£4, 3s. 4d.) “propynit be the toun to the baptisme of the provests barne,” and for “sugir and sweit meitis” on the same occasion. In 1684 there is an order to pay to John Finlay, a maltman, the sum of 89 lib. 9s. (£7 odds) “quhilk was spent in his hous at severall tymes be the magistrats on the touns account.” Another charge is for “vyne, confeits, and breid, and sum aill, furnist and send to the Counsal hous that day the lard Auchinbrek was made burges.” One of the gifts of wine by the magistrates may be noticed as illustrating the change in the position of the archbishops after the Reformation. We can imagine what must have been the grandeur of the ceremony, and the lavishness of the expenditure, at the installation of a bishop such as Cameron. When Boyd of Trochrig was “admitted bischop” in 1573 the town council appear to have thought it suffiicient to present, and the bishop perhaps thankfully received, “ane gallon of wyne,” for the price of which a charge appears in the burgh accounts.40 But as a rule the magistrates, after the Reformation, were kind to the archbishops and repeatedly made them presents. On one occasion there is a charge for “silver work given to the ladie Elphinstoun the bischops daughter at her marriage.”41 On another there is an entry of “the sowme of twelfe hundreth threttie sex pounds (£103) payit for French wynes given be the toun to the archbishop of Glasgw and utheris this last yeir.”42 And there are many similar entries.

There occurs also in the burgh records a curious series of charges for wines and confectionery purchased by the magistrates and disposed of as gifts to parties to whom they were indebted for services rendered to the town, or whom they desired to propitiate. Between Dunbarton and Glasgow there never was any great cordiality, yet in 1607 a sum is paid “to Symon Stewards wyfe for vyne presented to the baillies of Dunbarton.” In 1668 there is a payment of nearly £80 sterling “for some wynes was disposed of to some noblemen for their courtesie and favour showne to the towne.” In 1670 there is again a considerable sum “for twa hogheids French wyne, twa rubors, and ane butt of sek, sent to Edinburgh to some persones.” A few years afterwards, 1674, Donald McGilchrist has a warrant for 240 pounds Scots “debursit be him for French wyne given be the toun to Sir John Harper at severall tymes for service done be him to the said burgh.” In 1686 the council “appoints the provest baillies and Dean of Gild to gratifie such of the tounes friends as they sall think fitt by sending them what wynes they think convenient on the touns accompt.” In 1688 the treasurer is ordained to pay to Bailie Bell the sum of £12 sterling “for ane hodgeshead of sack, and £14 sterling for half ane tun of French wyne, and £7, 16s. 8d. more for two cask of rasenis and two cask of figs, all furnished by him on the touns account whilk were given to severall of their friends the last year.” On one occasion a warrant is granted to the treasurer for the sum of £10 sterling, which had been paid by him in Edinburgh “to ane friend for doeing the towne ane guid turne.”43 And on 20th April, 1695, the council “appoints the thesaurer to have allowance in his own hands of 200 merks payed out be him as the price of ane hogsheid of wine given to a friend of this toun whom it is not fitt to name.”

There can be little doubt that one reason of the city spending so much in wine was that the taverns, which originally were almost entirely in the hands of women, were, many of them, now kept by officials of the burgh – bailies, deacon-conveners, and others. This had given rise to some scandal; so much so that in the end of the seventeenth century the town council was obliged to take up the matter. their minute bears that they had taken to their consideration “the severall abuses hes been committed these severall years past by electing and choiseing of magistrats and deacon-conveners in this burgh who keped change and publict taverns, which occasioned much debaushire and drunkenness, and poor people to spend their money needlesslie in said taverns; It is therefore hereby enacted statute and ordained in all tyme comeing that nae person or persones be elected and choisin to bear office as Proveist, baillies, Dean of Gild, Deacon Convener, Baillie of Gorballs or as Water baillie, wha keipis ane publict tavern or change house.”44

Another commodity, more harmless, and more characteristic of the city, was largely used by the magistrates as the medium of expressing their good-will – namely, herrings. At a very early period the curing of salmon and herrings, both for home consumption and for the French market, was an important branch of trade in Glasgow, and Principal Baillie states that by the middle of the seventeenth century it had greatly increased. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the consumption of herrings was much greater among both the middle and lower classes than it is now. At that time they formed the principal food of the reapers in harvest, and they formed, with oaten cakes, the entire sustenance of the numerous class of seamen employed in the fishery. Seven herrings to each man for a meal was the common allowance. The shoals came much farther up the firth then than they do now; and in some seasons, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, it is said that not less than nine hundred boats have been employed in the herring fishery within the Cloch. When the fish did not come into the lochs in large quantities, the fishermen were in the practice of making three voyages during the season to more distant grounds. Each boat paid to the crown one thousand herrings for each “drave” or voyage.45 These were called the “Assise herrings,” and for a long time the Argyll family held a grant of the crown’s right to this tax on the Firth of Clyde, for which they paid a reddendo of 1000 pounds scots – £50 – per annum. Their profit must have been considerable, for in the old rentals of the Argyll estates the annual value of the assize herrings is larger than the whole rental of the estate of Roseneath.46 Some of the Canon lands of Glasgow were held for the payment of so many cured herrings. In a retour of the seventeenth century it is stated that Lord Boyd held certain of these lands in the parishes of Largs and Dalry for they yearly payment, inter alia, of “6000 halecum rubrarum” – red herrings.47

The greater part of the herrings caught in the Clyde were taken to Greenock – which, indeed, owed its foundation and first rise to the herring fishery – where they were bought by the Glasgow merchants, and, after being cured there, were exported from Greenock to Rochelle alone, beside what went as usual to the other ports of France and the ports of the Baltic.48

But the quantity consumed in Glasgow must have been also very great. the magistrates, as I have said, used them to a large extent in making presents, and it is curious to note that the fees which they paid yearly to the counsel permanently retained for the city consisted in part of barrels or half barrels of these fish. In 1612 there is a minute of council, entitled “Act anent herrings to the Touns advocates,” which bears that the magistrates, “for the great and thankful service dune be John Nicoll wryter in Edr. to the toun,” ina a case specified, “and for the expectatioun quhlk they haif of his service to the toun, hes ordainit the thesaurer and Mr. of werk to send ane half barrel of herring to him, for this yeir only; with twa half barrels to Mr. Alexr. King; twa to Mr. Thomas Hendersoun; ane to Mr. Wm. Hay, and ane to James Winrame with 10 lb to ilk ane of their clerkis.”49 In the following year there is a payment to Jonet Lugie “for ane hoghead of herring to be sent in barrelis to the tounes men of law.” Under date 13th December, 1628, there is a minute bearing that “the provest bailyeis and counsell hes aggreit and condescendit to give yearlie to maister John Robertsoune advocatt, last chosen for them agent for the toun, ten pund of yeirlie fiall, and twa half barrellis hering, as the rest of the tounes principall advocatts gettis, during the tounes will and plesour allenarlie.” And after this there are repeated entries of payments for barrels and half barrels of herrings to the town’s advocates and others. By an entry in the burgh accounts of a later date we learn that the sum paid for “the Advocatts herring” for the year 1666 was 187 lib. 16s. 8d. (£14, 18s.).

But Glasgow was not alone in the practice of propitiating her friends, and in showing her “gratitude for favours to come,” by occasional gifts. In the English corporations in very early times it was the custom to give presents to men in office or persons of influence to whom they looked for favours. Examples of this are found in the records of Bridport and Faversham and other places, and curiously enough, in the case of the last-named corporation, the gifts, as in Glasgow, consisted in a great measure of herrings. So early as the year 1305 we find the magistrates of Faversham sending a gift of 4000 herrings to the sheriff of Kent. The price of the 4000 was 20s. Again 1000 herrings are sent to “Elyas the clerk;” 2000 are sent to the constable of Dovorre, and other quantities are sent in gifts to various other persons.50 The articles which form the subjects of presents by the town of Bridport and other corporations are bread and wine, chickens, fish, beef, oats, and articles of horses’ trappings.51

Our artist’s sketch of the tobacco lord John Glassford.***

In Glasgow, when we come down to the times after the introduction of tobacco, we find the town’s presents made sometimes in that commodity. For example, on 3d May, 1701, the treasurer is authorized to pay to the deacon convener fifty-one shillings scots (4s. 3d.) “as the pryce of four pound of tobacco presented be him to the Provest and given be him to one of the touns friends at Edinburgh, and of a bag about the same.” In England a century earlier tobacco was a much more expensive luxury. When the Earl of Northumberland was confined in the Tower for his supposed complicity in the Gunpowder Plot one of the items of his expenses was £3, 10s. for 2 lbs. of tobacco.52 But in Glasgow also, at a later period, tobacco became a luxury too expensive for presents to any friends of the town. At the outbreak of the first American war it rose in price two thousand per cent., and Mr. Glassford and other large holders among the “tobacco lords” made large fortunes.

1  Burgh Records, 5th Oct. 1678.
2  22d March, 1679.
3  Minute of Council, 30th Sept. 1645.
4  25th January, 1612.
5  27th October, 1684.
6  Judicial Records of Renfrewshire (second series), p. 221.
7  22d Feb. 1612.
8  24th Aug. 1599.
9  Fifth Report on Hist. MSS., p. 530.
10  4th Oct. 1589.
11  10th Oct. 1584.
12  23d April, 1659.
13  The pleadings and the decision will be found in a volume of Law Papers in the office of the Town-clerk of Glasgow.
14  1st October, 1577.
15  Privy Council Records.
16  28th June, 1595.
17  Proclamatioun anent the Habits, 1609.
18  Minute of Council, 15th January, 1767.
19  Minute of Council, 19th January, 1875.
20  Burgh Minutes, 3d April and 4th August, 1675.
21  11th June, 1625.
22  16th June, 1627.
23  12th Feb. 1642.
24  5th July, 1676.
25  17th August, 1610.
26  2d Sept. 1643.
27  29th Sept. 1683.
28  30th October, 1676.
29  Accounts of Lord High Treasurer, cclxxx.
30  MSS. of Jesus College, Cambridge. Second Report on Historical MSS., p. 120.
31  1st October, 1661.
32  The only series of them which I have seen is in the possession of J. Wyllie Guild, Esq.
33  17th May, 1684.
34  21st Sept. 1723.
35  4th October, 1736.
36  12th June, 1641.
37  4th June, 1670.
38  29th September, 1682.
39  19th August, 1609.
40  12th October, 1573.
41  5th Oct. 1667.
42  25th June, 1681.
43  22d March, 1656.
44  4th Oct. 1690.
45  Brown’s History, vol. ii. p. 312.
46  Fourth Report on Historical MSS., p. 481.
47  Ponts Cuninghame Topograpised. Edit. by Mr. Dobie, p. 375.
48  Brown’s History, vol. ii. p. 315.
49  Burgh Records, 19th December, 1612.
50   Sixth Report on Historical MSS,. p. 504.
51   Ibid., p. 490.
52  Papers of R. Cholmondeley, Esq. Fifth Report on Historical MSS., p. 354.
*  This is the same George Elphinstone who’s Gorbals Mansion House is depicted in one of the Thomas Fairbairn Lithographs already scanned and uploaded.
**  Peter Lowe is mentioned in Article Nos. 25 and 27 of Gallery 1 of the ‘Memorial Catalogue of the Old Glasgow Exhibition 1894.’
***  Alex has used the Glassford family portrait by Archibald McLauchlan (1767) on which to base his sketch.
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