If the Glasgow people were content with moderate house accommodation they were always liberal in providing instruction for their children. In few places indeed was more regard paid to education than in Glasgow. The magistrates bestowed on that subject a large amount of their attention, and they showed also a laudable desire to advance the social condition of the citizens by encouraging the settlement in the town of skilled artificers. The council records contain some curious entries on these subjects, although the ideas of the magistrates and the presbytery on some points were somewhat peculiar. In regard to education, for example, it did not appear to be considered that free trade in schools would tend to the advancement of education. In the beginning of the seventeenth century (1604) we find the Presbytery of Glasgow complaining of “a plurality of schools: they consider the school taught by John Buchanan, and the Grammar School quite sufficient.” Some thirty years after this the town council, proceeding on the same principal of restriction, “statut and ordainit that na mae Inglische Scooles be keipt or haldin within this burghe heireftir bur four onlie with ane wrytting schooll.”1 And a few years afterwards a poor woman who had ventured to become a teacher without official permission, is thus summarily disposed of by the town council: “The same day appoynts the Baillies to discharge [inhibit] the womane that hes tackine vpe an schole in the heid of the Salt Mercatt at hir awin hande.”2 But a difference appears to have been made between “Inglische Schooles” and a lower order of institutions called “Scots Schooles.” Two years after the date of the last-mentioned minute there is an order of the council “to tak up the names of all persounes men or weomen who keepes Scots Schooles within the toune and to report.”3 And at a subsequent meeting no less than fourteen individuals – eight of them being females – are “permittit to keep and hold Scots Schooles, they and their spouses, if they ony have, keiping and attending the ordinances within the samyne.”4
In those days young girls of all classes learned to spin. In every well-ordered house there was a spinning-wheel, and early in the eighteenth century a school to teach the art was established in Glasgow. In 1728 there is a minute of council approving of a contract betwixt the magistrates and Susannah Smith, relict of the minister of Cardross, whereby “the said Susannah Smith is nominate Mistress of the public school erected in this city for teaching girls to spin flax into fine yarn fitt for making threed or cambrick, upon an encouragement of £30 sterling annually granted by the Commissioners and Trustees for improving fisheries and manufactories in Scotland.” And two years afterwards there is a payment of £60 “for spinning wheels and chack-wheels and chack-reels to the girls in the spinning school.”5
As regards other professions no one was permitted to practise in Glasgow without the special license of the magistrates, and, in some cases, not until they had shown evidence of their skill. On one occasion, in 1569, a house painter applies for permission to practise his craft. In his supplication he sets forth that “he hes skill in washing and pynting of housses, that ther is but one the lyk within the samyn brughe, and not ane vthir in all the wast of Scotland,” and that his occupation is “rather ane science nor ane craft.”6 The permission is granted. On another occasion one James Corss, a native of the city, represents to the magistrates that having “studied the knowledge of mathematicks, and obtained ane competent knowledge thairin and vthir sciences thairto belonging, being naturallie adicted thairto from his infancie,” he desires to take up a school in the city “for teaching of their airtes and sciences in the vulgar native tongue quhilk hes not been done formerlie in this kingdome for want of encuragments thereto, and the tyes of birth and educatioune press him to mak the first proposells thereof to this his native toune.” Such an appeal was not to be resisted, and the magistrates grant the licence, and “promiss heirby to him their best encuragments.”7
In 1677 liberty is granted to an “Architector” to “exerce his employment and calling in architectorie and measonrie;” but on this occasion the permission is only granted on certain “consideratiounes,” and it is limited to a period ending at Candlemas, 1680.
In 1674 the citizens were favoured by the residence among them of a certain “Mistres Cumyng mistres of maners;” but this lady, finding that she was not sufficiently appreciated, threatened to leave the town, a calamity which the magistrates thought would prove so “prejudiciall to this place, and in particular to theis who hes young weomen to breid therin,” that they undertook to pay her “ane hundreth marks yeirlie in all tyme coming to pay her houss maill so long as shoe keepes a school and teaches childerin as formerlie.”8 Some thirty years afterwards a charge appears in the city accounts of a pension paid “to a schoolmistress for teaching young gentlewomen.”
In 1674 the magistrates, with an equal regard to the advantage of the inhabitants in the matter of creature comforts, appointed one Michael Leiper to be made a burgess gratis, “and to be keeped frie of quartering and localitie, for his better encuradgment to tak ane guid hous for serving the leidges as ane commoune coock within the same.”9 This trade appears to have thriven, as some seventeen years afterwards we find “Margaret Hamiltone Widow” applying for leave “to keep ane common cookrie within this burgh,” and offering to pay a premium of fiftie merks Scots to the toune” for the permission. Her request is granted, and she is appointed “to have the freedome as ane burgess and gild brothers relict during her lifetyme as a widow.”10 In the same spirit we find a grant of twenty pounds (20s.) made “to James Robesoune baxter for helping him to build ane oven to baik plack pyres in, as also the sowme of 20 punds Scots to buy him ane laid of wheat to encurradge him to baik guid breid.”11 The plack – equivalent to the groat – was a piece of money coined in billon, a debased white metal, and was of the value of twopence scots.
Cookery was more studied in Glasgow in the last century by the better classes than it is in our more refined times, and it was not thought infra dig. in a lady to know how her husband’s dinner should be dressed. We get some insight as to this from a minute of council in 1740 “anent the petition given in by James Lochead teacher of cookery.” It sets forth that the applicant, “being regularly educated by his Majesty’s cooks, under whom he served in the Art of Cookery, pastry, confectionery, candying, preserving, and pickling, and of making of milks, creams, seyllabubs, gellies, soups, and broaths of all sorts, and also taught to dress and order a table, and to make bills of fare for entertainments of all kinds; and that of late he has successfully taught severall young ladies, to their own and their parents satisfaction, and that for instruction of his scholars he is obliged to provide, on his own charge, flesh, fowles, fish, spiceries, and severall other ingredients, but when dresst lye on his hand for want of sale, by which he is a loser, and will be obliged to lay aside his teaching unless he be assisted in carrying it on.” He therefore appeals to the magistrates for aid. The plea was allowed, and a grant is made to him of £10 sterling yearly during the magistrates’ pleasure.12
On another occasion a teacher of dancing applies for permission to exercise his art; but this was a matter in regard to which the magistrates – looking probably to the state of morals at the time – thought that more caution was required, and accordingly leave is given only “under the provisions and conditions underwritten.” These are, “that he shall behave himself soberly, teach at seasonable hours, keep no balls, and that he shall so order his teaching that ther shall be noe promiscuous dancing of young men and young women together, bot that each sex shall be taught by themselves, and that the one sex shall be dismissed and be out of his house before the other enter therin: And, if he transgress in any of these poynts the Magistrats to putt him out of this burgh.”13
The teaching of music was in early times liberally encouraged in Glasgow, and the magistrates in this were only continuing what had been the uniform practice of the Church in ante-Reformation times. From the time that the Gregorian Chant first found its way into Great Britain, in the seventh century, it was taught gratuitously to the poor in connection with our collegiate churches and monasteries and other religious houses. The clergy were thus the masters of the “Sang scuiles.”14 One of these schools, as we have seen, was attached to the collegiate church of St. Mary and St. Anne in the Trongate. After the Reformation the government pursued the same policy. In 1579 an act was passed by the Scottish parliament ordering that “Sang schools” be provided in all burghs for the instruction of the youth in music, and the magistrates of Glasgow appear to have been very forward to act on this order. There are repeated minutes in the burgh records on the subject, and they appear to have been always careful to inquire into the competency of the teachers. On one occasion, in the early part of the seventeenth century, they found a qualified professor in the person of one James Sanderis, and for his better encouragement they granted him a monopoly. Their minute bears that they had agreed with Sanderis “to instruct the haill bairnes within this burghe that is put to his schole, musik for ten schillings ilk quarter to himself, and fortie pennes to his man; and thairfoir the said provest and baillies discharges all other sangsters within this burghe to teach musik in tyme coming during thair will allenarlie.”15
The plan of monopoly, however, appears to have failed, and forty years afterwards we find the city without any music master. A minute of council of 14th August, 1668, bears that the magistrates “taking to their consideratioune that this citie is altogether destitute of ane musitian for instructing the youth in the airt of musick, and seing its the earnest desyre of manie honest men that ane able musitiane be tryed out and brought to this place for that effect, and seing the Bischop is willing to bestow yeirlie upon such a persone ane hundreth punds scots for the mans better encuragement who is to be brought here, Its concludit that the toune pay him yeirlie thrie hundreth and fyftie marks and that to conteinew dureing the counsells will and pleasour.”16 This, however, appears to have failed to attract a proper teacher, and twenty years afterwards we find the town still in search of one. In 1691 a “Mr. Lewis de France, musitian,” applied, and with him the magistrates concluded an arrangement. The minute of council bears that Mr. Lewis had “very willinglie condescended to teach the inhabitants music and to take only fourtein shilling per moneth (1s. 2d. sterling) for ane hour in the day from these that comes to the schooll,” and to teach for nothing such of the poor as the magistrates shall appoint. And for “his encouradgement” it was provided that he should receive 100 pounds scots yearly (£8, 6s. 8d.), and that no other should be allowed to teach music.
Still the taste for music languished, and concerts were rare. “There never was but one concert during the two winters I was at Glasgow,” writes Dr. Carlyle, speaking of the years 1744-45, “and that was given by Walter Scott, Esq., of Harden, who was himself an eminent performer on the violin, and his band of assistants consisted of two dancing-school fiddlers and the town-waits.”17
While the magistrates were not slow to enforce justice and repress immorality, they were always ready to encourage the legitimate pastimes of the people. Horse-racing was a very innocent thing in those days compared with what it afterwards became, and there were not only races at Glasgow, but the magistrates encouraged them by giving cups. In the early part of the seventeenth century we find an order in the burgh records which “ordainis the Horss Raiss to be proclamit to the xxv day of May instant and the cours to be maid.”18 Forty years later one of the minutes directs “that Glasgow raice be keeped in maner as is set doune and contained in the diurnall, and recommends to the Provest to cause provyde what is necessar to be made for that effect.”19 And then follows an order for the payment of “ane hundreth punds (£8, 6s. 8d.) deburst to the goldsmith in part payment of the coups he is making to the toune for the raice.”20 Ten years later there occurs an order that “a proclamatioune be sent throw the toune that ther is a foot raice to be run thrys about the New Grein on the xxii of this instant, that who desyres to run may be admitted, and that he who wines sall have twentie shilling starling.”21
Another favourite amusement of the Glasgow people was foot-ball – a game for which their Green was well adapted. This game was prohibited by the old acts of Parliament, as it was thought to interfere with the practice of archery. But James IV. was fond of it, and notwithstanding the law, he often indulged in it himself. It was certainly encouraged and promoted by the magistrates of Glasgow, who always provided the foot-balls; and the burgh minutes, from the very earliest times of which there is any record, contain notices on the subject. From one of these, in 1575, we learn that the price of a foot-ball was twopence.22 From another in the beginning of the seventeenth century we learn that there was “gifen upon the xxviii day of Feb. 1609 to John Neill, cordoner, younger, for fute ballis to the toune at fasterins evin conforme to the ald use xxvis. viid.”
While thus encouraging innocent recreation, the magistrates were ready to suppress among the young men of the city, amusements which they considered of a more questionable tendency. In this spirit we find them, on a complaint by the university, restricting the use of billiard tables. One of the minutes of council bears that on a “complent being made be the Principall and Masters of the Colledge that some persones keeps Bulzard Tables to the prejudice of the young men, their scholars, frequenting the same neir the Colledge, quhen they could be att their books” – particularly by a person, no named, living in Milton’s land – “its concludit that he be discharged to keep the same and that no Bulzard Board be keiped betwixt the Wynd heid and the Croce.”23
From another of the council minutes we learn that, besides these private “bulzard boards,” games and plays were provided for the amusement of the people in the houses of the publicans or vintners. Unlicensed places we would call them, and they fell under the same category them, only that the magistrates, instead of using means to suppress them, interfered for their protection. At that time no theatrical representations or plays of any kind were permitted by law, unless sanctioned by an officer appointed by the crown, called Magister Ludorum, the Master of the Revels; and towards the end of the seventeenth century we find this functionary, or rather two individuals – for it appears to have been at that time a collegiate charge – interdicting the publicans from having “revels” in their houses without the requisite license. In these circumstances the magistrates came to the rescue, and the matter is thus disposed of by a minute of council, dated 5th June, 1682: “The same day ordains the provost to have a warrand for two hundred and forty pounds Scots payed to Edward and James Fountains, masters of the Revels, for descharging the Vintnors in toune of the charges of horning given them for keeping games of playes of quhatsomever kynd in their housis, and for frieing them of the lyke in time coming during their gift” – that is, during the time that the two masters had a gift of the office. In connection with the fuctionaries, I may mention that one of the favours bestowed on Glasgow at the Revolution was the appointment by royal warrant of one of the citizens, “William MacLean son of Charles MacLean merchant in Glasgow, to be our sole Magister Ludorum, commonly called Master of the Revels, in our Kingdom of Scotland.” The office fell into desuetude in the reign of George I., I think; but it had existed for a long time previously, and in the books of the Lord Lyon are to be found the armorial insignia appropriate to the functionary, viz., “Argent a lady rysing of a cloude in ye nombril point, ritchlie apparelled; on her head a garland of ivye, holding in her right hand a poniziard crowned: in ye left a vizard, proper; standing under a vale or canopie azur, garnished or: in base a thistle vert.”
In providing for the amusements of the people, the magistrates – if they erred in the alienation of the commons – appear to have been forward in promoting the health and recreation of the citizens, by providing public parks for their use. In this respect, indeed, they showed, at an early period, the same public spirit and liberality which their successors have been showing in later times – and this too, sometimes, when the funds of the corporation could not very well afford it. The first park which belonged to the city was a portion of what came to be called the Laigh Green. At what time it was acquired is not known, but it was probably included in the lands originally belonging to the see, and embraced in the Notitia of David. This portion did not extend to more than twenty acres. From time to time other portions were purchased by the magistrates, till it amounts now to more than a hundred acres, To meet the price of one of the portions of the Laigh Green, formerly called the Linen Haugh, which was acquired in 1662, the magistrates were obliged to sell some of their feu-duties, and that at a very low price – only seventeen years’ purchase. The westmost portion of the Laigh Green was called the Skinners’ Green, from its being used by the tanners for drying their hides. It was separated from the rest of the Green by the Molendinar Burn. On part of the Skinner’s Green the slaughter-house was, as I have already mentioned, erected afterwards, with an inclosure for cattle. The remaining portions of the Green subsequently acquired consisted of the lands of Kinclaith and others. The protion called the Fleshers’ Haugh, consisting of twenty-six acres, was acquired in 1792 at the price of £4000. The Green was bounded on the north by a wall, within which was a walk and a row of fine trees. A portion of the Green, including this walk, was, in 1819, taken to form Great Hamilton Street and Monteith Row.
The “old Green.” called in the early charters the Commune Viridarium Glasguense, and afterwards “the Doucatt green,” from there being a dovecot on it, was part of the common lands of the city, and consisted of the ground by the river side from the old bridge to Jamaica Street, and included a small island in the stream, which at low water was joined to the mainland. This island is shown in Blaeu’s map.24 The old Green was a pleasant grassy lawn, and in the end of the last century and the beginning of the present it formed the principal promenade of the citizens.25 But it was not retained as a public park, and from its position, indeed, it could hardly have been so. The magistrates took possession of it, and disposed of it to various parties; but, with a prudent foresight, they stipulated that if the ground should ever be required for public purposes it might be reclaimed at the prices paid for it. Of this reserved right the magistrates afterwards availed themselves, and the portion of the ground next the river is now occupied by quays and wharfs.
In connection with the amusements of the people I may refer to those periodical pageants of the different Trades which in early times were common in the burghs of England, and of Scotland also, at least in the royal burghs. In a volume of the fourteenth century, belonging to the corporation of York, there are numerous entries relating to such pageants in that city. They occurred at the feast of Corpus Christi, on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and they were remarkable for the numbers who took part in them, and for their gorgeousness and the large sums expended in getting them up. In the volume referred to some of the notices relate to complaints made to the “Chamber of Counsell” against individuals who carried on certain trades in the city, and yet refused to contribute to the expenses incurred by these trades in the pageants, and these complaints are followed by orders of the chamber on the defaulters obliging them to contribute.26 In the same way, in the Scottish burghs, the magistrates appear to have not only permitted and encouraged, but enforced and regulated similar pageants. They were accompanied by music and banners, and the masques supported the character of some scriptural or classical person, or age, or event. A very early notice occurs in the burgh records of Aberdeen, by which the magistrates prescribe to each trade the fancy characters which it is to contribute to these pageants. It is as follows:- “This craftes vnderwritten sall fynd yerly in the offerand of our Lady at Candelmas thir personnes vnderwritten: that is to say The littistaris [dyers] sal fynd the Empriour and twa doctoures; the Smiths and Hammermen sal fynd the three kingis of Culane; the talzoures sal find Our lady Sancte Bride, Sancte Helene, and Joseph; the skynnaris sal fynd two bischops and four angeles,” and so on through all the trades – each, in addition to the personated characters, being enjoined to provide “als mony honeste squiares as thai may.”27 A hundred years later, we find from the same records that the custom was still observed, and the magistrates give very special directions on the subject, enjoining “the craftismen of this burgh in thair best array to keipe and decoir the processioun on Corpus Cristi dais and Cadelmas day als honorabillye as they can, every craft with thair awin baner with the armes of thair craft thairin” – following in all this, as the order bears, “the auld lovabill consuetudis and rytt of this burgh, and the nobill burgh of Edinburgh, of the quhilkis rite and consuetude the provest had gotin copy in write.” And then follows the order of the procession and the particular characters which each trade is to provide.28
Whether similar pageants occurred in Glasgow I do not know. There are no notices of them in our burgh records, but there may have been such, as our records do not go nearly so far back as those of Aberdeen which I have been quoting. It is not at all improbable that a procession which occasionally took place in Glasgow at a later time, and the last of which occurred within the memory of some still living, may have been a relic of these mediæval displays. I refer to the processions of king Crispin, pageants got up by the Cordiners with banners and masques and music, in a very gorgeous style. They took place at intervals – sometimes alone, and sometimes in combination with the other trades. The last was, I think, of this character. It occurred at the time of the passing of the first Reform Bill, and attracted great attention, king Crispin being splendidly arrayed in royal robes. There have been, since then, many occasions on which the crafts went through the town in procession, accompanied by banners and bands of music, but the peculiar pageants of the middle ages, if they ever existed in Glasgow, have become there, as in all the other burghs of Scotland, things of the past.
I have already referred to the fairs held in Glasgow. In early times they must have been very insignificant, even though “French gloves” were to be had at them; but in later times they became of considerable importance, and were largely resorted to. In early times, if the first day of the fair fell upon a Sunday, it appears to have been held on that day all the same; but after the Reformation the magistrates (in 1577) issued a proclamation prohibiting this, and forbidding the opening of booths and selling of merchandise on a day on which “na mercatt aucht to be keipit.”29 In such a case, as we learn from a subsequent minute, the first day of the fair was held on the preceding Saturday.30 The fair began on the 7th of July, and continued for eight days, and during that period, as I have already mentioned, no one frequenting the fair could be taken for debt, nor could a runaway serf be seized by his master during “the peace of the fair.” The proclamation of the fair was an important ceremony, and in Glasgow it continued to be made till at least the early part of the eighteenth century – probably till a later period. One of the burgh minutes in 1581 is interesting as containing the form of this proclamation. It is as follows: “The quhilk day the peace of the fair wes proclamit be David Coittes, mair of fee, vpone the Greyne, and be Richard Tod toun officiare vpon the croce, efter the forme and tenour vnderwritten: Forasmekle as this day is the sext of Julij quhilk is the fair evin of Glasgow, and the morne the fair day, quhilk continewis the space of aucht dayis, thairfore I inhibit and forbiddis straitlie in our Souerane Lordis name, and in name and and behaulfe of ane noble and potent lord Esme erle of Lennox, lord Darnlie and Obinze etc. prouest, and baillie of the baronie, and in name of the bnaillies of this toun, that nane of our Souerane Lordis legis cumand to this fair, reparing thairin, or gangand thairfra, do ony hurt or trublens ane to ane vther for auld dett or new dett, auld feid or new feid, bot leif peaceablie, and vse thair merchandice and eschange vnder Goddis pece and our Souerane Lordis protectioun, vnder all hiest pane and charge that may be impvt to thame doand in the contrare, and to be callit and accusit for breking the kingis Maiesteis pece and trublance of his hienes mercatt To the quhilk proclamatioun the officiares reqvirit witnessis viz David Lindsay elder, Thomas Cloggie, Mungo Wilsoun, and NIniane Drew.”31
As a precaution against “breking the pece” – and in all probability not an unnecessary one – certain of the citizens were appointed “to keip the fair,” and for that purpose to be duly armed. Thus at a meeting of the town council held on 6th July, 1574, “being the fair even,” the magistrates issued an order for “every booth halder to have in readiness within the booth ane halbert, jack, and steel bonnet, for eschewing of sic inconveniences as may happen, conform to the auld statut made theranent.” This was in accordance with an act of the Scottish parliament which required that every yeoman or burgess possessed of twenty pounds in goods have a good doublet of fence, or a habergeon, with an iron hat, a bow, and a sheaf of arrows, a sword, a buckler, and a knife. Those possessed of only ten pounds were to have a bow and a sheaf, with a sword and knife.32 Again, in the beginning of the following century, we find an order by the magistrates “that tuentie of the merchand rank, togidder with tua of ilk craft, be electit and chosin, at the discretioune and optioune of their deikinis, for keiping of the fair of this burgh, Setterday nixt, quhilk is the fair eivin of the said burgh, and hauldin as the fair day becaus of the Sabbothe day, and that with corslat and pik.”33 And in the following year “it is ordanit that xij merchandis, and tuelf of craftis nameit and warneit, attend on the sereff the tyme of the fair with sword halbert and steilbonnet.”34
McUre says in his day the fair was proclaimed or “fenced” within an inclosure or garden where the convent of the Greyfriars stood, “at a place they call Craignaught.” This place, otherwise written Craignathe, Craignache, and Craigmak, is mentioned in the old burgh records as a place where the magistrates met on the occasions when the fair was to be proclaimed. Thus, under date 6th July, 1580, there is this minute: “The quhilk daye the Court fensit be the baillies at Craigmak, and thaireftir callit the sute roll, and proclamit the fair.” And in all the subsequent minutes of council down to 1607, when the fair is ordered to be proclaimed, it is at a court held at Craignac or Craignaught, although in the same years the ordinary meetings of the council are held in other places; for example, in 1574 the ordinary meetings are held “in the Blackfrier Kirk,” and in 1575 “in the tolbuytht of Glasgw.” McUre says he does not know what “Craignaught” means. Mr. Macvean, in his reprint of McUre’s work, says that in recently digging a foundation there was found in the locality a whinstone rock, which it is probable in former times appeared above the surface, and that this rock may have given rise to the name. This conjecture receives confirmation from the peculiar terms of one of the old burgh minutes (6th July, 1607), which bears that the fair was proclaimed at “the heid court of Craignache halden vpone the Craig thairof by the thrie balleis and accompaneit with the Counsell of the said bruch and deikins thairof.” It would appear from this that the ceremony of the proclamation was at that time made from a “craig” or rock within the inclosure referred to. How it came originally to be proclaimed there I do not know.
The fair was held at first at the Cross at the head of the High Street. Afterwards, and for a long time, it was held at the foot of Stockwell, and latterly at the foot of the Saltmarket. There are some still living who must recollect the large numbers of cattle and horses which crowded the Stockwell and streets adjacent on the Wednesday of the fair, to the inconvenience and sometimes the danger of passengers, any thoroughfare being next to impossible. Indeed, till the establishment of the Cattle Market in Grahame Square, the Stockwell, which was then the chief entrance to Glasgow from the south, was the only place in the city where a regular cattle market was held; and the “Brig-end” was the rendezvous of all country servants coming for hire.35 In our day the fair of Glasgow is more noted for the inhabitants leaving the city than for crowds congregating in it.