Of the Borough of Rutherglen, its Charters, Set, Antiquities, &c., Part IV., pp.37-51.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

THE best frequented and, probably, the most ancient of all the fairs in Rutherglen, is the one called St. Lukes; it begins on the 3d Monday of October, old style, and continues the whole week. 

FROM an old ballad published in Pinkerton’s collection of Scotch poems, 1786, author unknown, it appears that this fair was once held in great reputation, but was considerably on the decline when the poem was written. As the ballad is possessed of no small merit, and contains some curious facts relative to the fair and the manners of the times, I have thought proper to give it a place in this part of the history. 

   TO yow, my lordis of renoun, 
The haill pepill of Rugling tound; 
Burges, merchants, and indwellaris; 
Craftsmen, officers, and meit-sellaris; 
Ryche men, puirane, and gud yemen; 
Wydows, maidins, and hyre-women; 
Honest matrons, and guid wyfis; 
Young men, and younkers that sindil strifis. 
Magistratis, and men of degrie; 
Servands, and sic as luifis on fie: 
Schortlie of the toun the haill menzie, 
Maist humblie to yow now dois plenzie. 
That our traffique dois clene decay; 
Our schift and gaine is quyte away. 
We haif na change within our burgh; 
The griene girs grows our streithis through. 
Our baxisteris of breid hes no saill; 
The brotheris hes na change for aill. 
The fleschers’ skamblis ar gane dry; 
The heiland men bringis in na ky. 
The merchands hes na change of wair; 
The hostellaris gettis na repair; 
The craftismen ar not regardit; 
The prentes boyis ar not rewardit; 
The stableris gettis na stabil fies; 
The hyre-women gettis na balbeis; 
The hors-boyis ar hurt of thair waige. 
There is no proffeit for a paige.
   Schortlie, thair is na change within, 
The court of strangeris is sa thin. 
And all this sorrow, and mischief, 
Is nouther cum of huir nor theif; 
Nor be the force of enimeis; 
Nor be privat conspiraceis. 
Bot becaus men hes lattin doun 
The fair, and market of our toun. 
I mean the mercat of our hors; 
Quhilk nather cumis to port, nor cors, 
Nor to the croft our toun beside;1
Quhar mony ane was wont to ryde. 
At guit Sanct Lukeis nobill fair 
Quhair mony nobills did repair; 
And for the wery wynter tyd 
For ryddin hors did thame provyde, 
For thame and all thair company; 
That it was plesour tham to se. 
Bot now the nobillis takis na fors; 
And cairis not for ryddin hors. 
On hors thai will no mony spend, 
But spairs it till ane uthair end. 
Sua nevir is sene intill our toun 
Lord, laird, burges, or baroun. 
And quhair that mony gay gelding 
Befoir did in our mercat ling, 
Now skantlie in it may be sene 
Tuelf gait glydis, deir of a preine.
   This cummis not, as we considder, 
That men to travel now ar slidder; 
For mony now so bissie ar, 
Quhidder ye travell neir or far. 
Go befoir, or byde behind, 
Ye sall thame aye in your gat find: 
thoch nothing to thame thair perteine, 
Yit thai will ay be bissie sene.
   Nor yit tak thai this cair and paine, 
On fute travellan on the plaine, 
Boy rydes rycht softlie on a MEIR,2
Well montit in thair ryding geir. 
The richt ressoun thane till espy, 
Quhy rydin hors men will not by, 
Is that thai get ane MEIR unbocht; 
And sua thai think thai ryd for nocht. 
And thinks it war ane fulische act 
On ryding hors to spend the pact; 
Haifand ane yaid at thair command, 
To ryd on baith in burgh, and land. 
This wikit MEIR sa weill thame staikis, 
And ambillis with them in the glaikis, 
That quha to hir dois anes him hant, 
Thairefter he can not her want. 
For scho so gloriouslie dois ryd, 
That thame puffis up with pryd: 
Be thai anes montit on his bak, 
Thai think in thame there is na lak.
   Thair meit doublet dois them rejoys; 
Thay spred abrod thair russet hois; 
Thay tak delyt in nedil wark, 
Thay gloir in thair weill russit sark. 
Thair litil bonet, or bred hat, 
Sumtyme heiche, and sumtyme plat, 
Waites not how on thair heid to stand; 
Thair glufis perfumit, in thair hand, 
helpis meikill thair countenance: 
Et tout est a la mode de France
Thair dry scarpenis, baythe tryme and meit; 
Thair mullis glitteran on thair feit; 
Thair gartans, knottet with a roys, 
Putis all the lassis in thair chois. 
They snyte, thoch thair na mister be, 
That ye may thair trim napkyne set; 
And, gif ye richtly it considder, 
The goldin knappis shall hing the gidder. 
Quhaneas thay talk of ony thing, 
All tendis to thair awn loving; 
Wald ye esteme thame be thair crakis, 
Thay wald be Cesaris in thair actis: 
For lordlie liberalitie, 
Thay gone bot kingis for to be. 
Thair ryches, as thairselfs dois count, 
King Cresus’ threfour may surmount. 
Onto thair talis quha list attend, 
Thay knaw all to the warlds end: 
Gif ye will trew all that thay tell, 
In everie thing thai do excell. 
Tha ar the fassiouns, as I heir, 
Of men that rydis on the MEIR.
   The wemen als, that on HIR rydis, 
Thay man be buskit up lyk brydis. 
Thair heides heisit with sickin saillis; 
With clarty3 silk about thair taillis; 
Thair gounis schant to schaw thair skin, 
Suppois it be richt oft full din. 
To mak thame sma the waist is bound; 
A buist to mak thair bellie round: 
Thair buttokis bostcrit up behind; 
A fartingal to gathair wind. 
Thair hois made of sum wantoun hew; 
And quhene thai gang, as thai nocht knew, 
Thay lift thair goun abone thair schank: 
Syne lyk ane brydlit cat thai brank. 
Sum taunting wordes thai haif per queir,4
That service thame in all mateir. 

THE decrease of Luke’s fair no doubt considerably affected the town’s revenues, arising from the customs levied from almost every article exposed to sale. A remedy, however, for this evil was at hand: but it was such as might naturally be supposed rather to increase than diminish the cause of complaint. Additional duties were imposed on goods brought to market. The following custom was, in the year 1658, exacted from wool and cloth brought to the fair. 

“It is ordered by Provost, Baillies and Counsall that the Customer shall exact of custome in tymecomming, for eache pack, four schilling; for a fardell5 twa schilling, and for other things, that cometh to the mercat, as formerly, and no farder.” 

ADDITIONAL duties were afterwards greatly enlarged, as appears from the following Table.

   October 1st, 1670. A Table of the rates and pryces of custome to be exacted by the Customers at this nixt faire and in tymecomming for the goodes and merchandice following

   First, for ane pack of walked woollen cloathe, or sarges or other stuffes at the iporting to be sold within this burgh, Sex schilling. 

   Item, at the exporting of a pack of cloathe woollen or Sarges &c, to be payed be the bwyer, sex schilling Scotts. 

   Item, for a fardell of woollen cloathe, thrie webs, thrie schilling. 

   Item, for twa walked webs, twa schilling. 

   Item, for ane single walked web, twelff penneyes. 

   Item, for ane pack of playding, at the importing, fowr schilling. 

   Item, for the exporting of a pack of playding, fowr schilling. 

   Item, for a sinlge web of playding or drogat, if it be above sextein ell, twelff penneyes; and if it be under seven, eight penneyes. 

   Item, for ilke paire of playdes imported, eight penneyes. 

   Item, for ilke peice or cutt of whyte lining cloathe, caryed upon a man or womans backe or arme, being above sex cutt, two penneyes Scotts. 

   Item, for ane fardell of lyning cloathe imported on horsbacke, belonging to ane persone, fowr schilling. 

   Item, for ane pack of lyning cloathe bowght and exported, eight schilling. 

   Item, for ane pack of bannets belonging to ane persone, at the importing, thrie schilling, and alfsmeikle at the exporting. 

   Item, for ilke chapman Creemer that caryes his pack on his back, twelff penneyes, and for these that hes thrie packs caryed on horsback, or on slaides, at twa schilling. 

   Item, for ilke kow or young stirk bull or oxen, and swyne that is browght to the mercat, twelff penneyes, and alfsmeikle for ilke ane that is bowght, at the exporting. 

   Item, for ilke fardell of bannets belonging to ane persone at the importing, ane schilling sex penneyes, and alfsmeikle at the exporting be the bwyer. 

   Item, for ilke loade of frwit, fowr schilling. 

   The Provest, Bailleis and Counsell ratifies and approves the foirsaid table. And ordaines the saids rates and pryces to be exacted be the Customers Intyme comming, and no farder, 

   And if any persone or persones Collectors of the custome or there servands shall be fund or tryed to exact any more nor according to the rates conteined in the befoirwrytin table, they shall be lyable, ilke ane of them, contra obeeing the premiss. In ane fyne and valow of twentie punds money, toties quoties, to be payed to the profifsal for the publict use of the court.”

THESE customs, having afterwards undergone many alterations and improvements, are now reduced to the following Table, according to which they are, at present, exacted. 

l.   s.   d.
For each Horse or Mare imported for sale 
0   0   1½   
Each Cow or Bull 
0   0   1½   
Each Pack of Linen Cloth 
0   0   1½   
Each Load of Fruit 
0   0   4      
Each Slieck of Fruit 
0   0   0½   
Each Chapman’s Pack with a Horse 
0   0   3      
Each Chapman bearing his Pack 
0   0   1      
Each Pack of Woolen Cloth 
0   0   6      
Each half Load of Cloth 
0   0   3      
Each single Web of Cloth 
0   0   1      
Each Sheep 
0   0   0½   
Each Horse sold or nieffered, and exported 
0   0   1½   

THE customs exacted at Luke’s fair are, by way of distinction, called the penny-custom, because, at first. a penny Scots was demanded for each article exposed to sale at the market. 

BUT the revenues of the town were concerned in other exactions than that of the penny-custom. The profits arising from the Ellwand-Stock, the Ladies and Trone, increased considerably the pecuniary product of these public markets. 

THE Ellwand-Stock consisted of a great number of ellwands, marked by authority, to ascertain their just length. These were given out, for a certain small sum, to the sellers of cloth, during the fair, and the profits arising from them were sold, by public roup, along with the penny-custom, to which they were frequently annexed. 

FEW things could have a better tendency to prevent deceit in the seller, and suspicion in the buyer of cloth, than these properly adjusted measures. The stock was sometimes pretty considerable, for we find that an addition of 80 ellwands was made to it in the year 1682. They were made by a wright in Glasgow, and cost four pund Scots. 

THE Ladles was a duty imposed upon grain, or meal, brought into the market for sale. It is said to have been introduced into the west of Scotland, when a great plague raged in the country, probably about the end of the fourteenth century. It was generally believed that money of every kind, but especially copper, readily catched and as readily communicated the infection. Owing to this opinion, country people, being strictly on their guard against so dreadful an evil, would not touch money from any person in a town where the plague was thought to be, until the money was held, for a considerable time, in boiling water. It was believed, and perhaps not without reason, that this operation would entirely destroy the infection, if there were any. To humour this prevailing opinion of the people, and to prevent, if possible, the spread of the plague, a caldron, with boiling water, was kept always in readiness, in market places, on the market days. The money intended to be laid out, was put into an iron-ladle, and held for a certain time in the water. The ladle full of meal, in order to defray the necessary expences, was exacted from every load of meal brought to the market; and hence the origin of the name of the custom or duty, 

PUBLIC taxes, however trifling or temporary their original causes may have been, are very seldom removed, and the unwary community is made to groan, for ages, under their increasing weight. The Ladles continued to be rigorously exacted, although the plague was at an end, the fire extinguished, and the caldron broken to pieces. 

THE capacity of the ladle was appointed to be equal to the fourth part of a peck, as appears from an act passed in the year 1661. “The ladle is to contain a fourth part of a peck, and is to be taken out of each Sake of beir, malt, meil, peis, beines, wheat, that comes from the country to the town, for common sale.” The following act, being more extensive than the former, was made in the year 1662.

   “THE Provost, Baillies and Counsell, for the better defraying of the publict debts and burdings of this incorporatione, and improvement of the commune dewties, and revenews thairof, have resolved, concluded, and ordered, and hereby resolves, concludes, and ordores, That the Ladle full of victwall (as the samyne is now maid) extending to the fourt part of ane peck (or theirby) shall be furthwith, in all tymes comeing, exacted, levyed, and collected of each sake of beir, malt, meill, peis, beines, wheat and aitts which, heirefter, shall be bowght in the country, and browght within this burgh for common sale, by any of the inhabitants and burgesses thairof, or by whatsimever persone or persones duelland without the said burgh. And the partie buyer and inbringer of the forsaid victwalls, at the incomeing thairof, is and shall be, hereby, astricted & obleidged to acquaint the taksman and keiper of the said ladle that he may come and ladle the said Victwall, befor any sale or use be maid thairof; With power to the taksman or keiper of the ladle to conveine the buyers and inbringers of victwalls out of the country as said is (in caice of their deficience in paying of the ladle forsaid) befor the Magestrats and to prove the quantities, by witness, oath of pairtie, or any other legall way of probatione they please. And orders the said Ladle to be roiped and sett out to these wha shall offer to pay most for the saime.” 

THE effects of this act were but of short continuance, for the custom ceased to be levied soon after the weekly market was not frequented. 

IN Glasgow, however, the Ladles are still exacted at the commuted price of half a peck per load; and, besides defraying the charges of collecting, produce to the revenue of the city, between six and seven hundred pounds sterling per annum. 

THE Trone was a duty paid for the use of trone weights, appointed by the Magistrates, for weighing certain goods that were sold at the markets and fairs. The balances were suspended from a large beam, of the shape of a cross, that was erected in the market place. The weights were generally made of whin-stone, and hence called the trone-stones; they were “ringed with iron rings,” and stamped by authority to shew that they were just. This duty, for the time of Luke’s fair, 1622, produced, to the revenues of the town, the sum of “fowrtie pund ten schilling Scots,” besides defraying the charges of collecting. Bus so much was the state of the fair changed, in the year 1690, that it fell so low as seven merks. It is now altogether annihilated. 

THE fairs of Rutherglen have undergone very material changes. Horses seem to have been the chief article of sale, at a time prior to the date of the old ballad already mentioned. Afterwards they were frequented mostly for wool and woollen cloth, from the west country, about Ayr and Galloway, and which was purchased for Glasgow, the Lothians, &c. This species of traffic, being now bought up in Ayr, Maybole, &c. is almost at an end, and has given the place to cows, but chiefly to horses, for which the fairs of Rutherglen have become famous. The horses are mostly for the draught, and are deservedly esteemed the best, for that purpose, in Europe. They are generally of the Lanark and Carnwath breed, which was introduced into the county more than a century ago. It is said, that one of the predecessors of the present Duke of Hamilton, brought with him to Scotland six coach horses, originally from Flanders, and sent them to Strathaven, the castle of which was, at that time, habitable. The horses were all stallions, of a black colour, and remarkably handsome. The farmers in the neighbourhood, readily embracing the favourable opportunity, crossed this foreign breed with the common Scotch kind, and thereby procured a breed superior to either. From this, a strong and hardy race of horses was soon spread through the country, but in many places, owing to neglect, was left to degenerate. By want of proper attention, we often let slip the most favourable opportunities of improvement, and suffer unmanly indolence to deprive us of many blessings we might otherwise enjoy. A high degree of merit, however, is due to the farmers in the upper part of the country, for their unremitting endeavours to improve this excellent breed. They pay strict attention to every circumstance respecting the colour, the softness and hardness of the hair; length of the body, neck and legs; but chiefly to the shape of the back, breast and shoulders of their breeders. No inducement whatever, can lead them to encourage the breed of a horse, that is not possessed of the best qualities. Providence commonly favours the attentive and the diligent. Their laudable attempts have proved to be successful, and Britain is now reaping the merited fruits of their well directed care. Every farm, almost, through the extent of several parishes, supports 6, or at least 4 mares, the half of which are allowed, annually, to foal. The colts6 are mostly sold at the fairs of Lanark and Carnwath, and bring to the owners from 5, to 20l. each. They are generally purchased by farmers from the counties of Renfrew and Ayr, where they are trained for the draught, till they are about five years old: they are then sold at the fairs of Rutherglen and Glasgow, from 25, to 35l. each; from thence they are taken to the Lothians, England, &c. where they excel in the plough, the cart and the waggon.

1  “Nor to the croft our toun besyde.” The Horse Croft, containing a few acres of land, is situated at the west end of the town, and, with the main street, was occupied by horses brought to the Fair, when at its greatest fame. Afterwards, upon the decrease complained of in the Poem, the horses were confined to the street only, and the Croft was set apart for other purposes. It was inclosed about 50 [277] years ago, but still continues to be called the Horse Croft. this circumstance, being known to very few strangers, affords a great probability that the Poem is authentic. 
2  The MEIR, seems to mean pride, as we say a man is on ‘his high horse.’ 
3  See Lindsay on side (i.e. long) tails, among his poems. Chaucer, in the Persones Tale, railing at extravagant dress, mentions ‘the coste of the embroidering; the disguising, endenting, or barring; ounding; paling; winding, or bending; and semblable wast of cloth in vanitee: but ther is also the costlewe furring i nhis goune, so much pounsoning of chesel to maken holes; so much dagging of sheres; with the superfluitee in length of the foresaide gounes trailing in the dong, and in the myre, on hors, and eke on foot; as wel of man as of woman,’ &c
4  Per queir, that is by book, with formal exactness. Quair is book, whence our quire of paper. ‘Go thou litil quayer,’ Caxton. Proverbs of Chrestine, 1478. He also often uses quaires for books in his prose. 
Go, litil quaire, unto my livis quene. 
Chaucer, Complaint of Black Knight. 
The blak bybill pronounce I sall per queir
The word Quair, in this acceptation, is rendered immortal by the Kings Quair of James I. 
5  Or three webs. The word fardel is derived from the Italian fardello, a bundle or packet. Bailey’s Dict
6  The colts, when a year old, are called Tomontals, a provincial contraction for a twelve-month-old.

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