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Of the Borough of Rutherglen, its Charters, Set, Antiquities, &c., Part V., pp.52-63.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

The following is a list of the Fairs of Rutherglen, with the times of the year in which they are, at present [1793], held.

MARCH, first Frid. old style. Not frequented. 

APRIL, last Frid. o. s. 

JUNE, first Tuesd. after Trinity Sunday. 

JULY, third Frid. o. s. 

AUGUST, third Frid. o. s. 

OCT. third Mon. o. s.  

NOV. third Frid. o. s

BUT, independent of every other circumstance, Rutherglen acquired a considerable degree of influence, from the share which it had in the management of political matters. It has, for some centuries past, been the “Head Burgh of the Netherward of Clydesdale, or shire of Lanark; and all the edicts in the parishes of Bothwell, Barton-Shotts, Cambusnetham, Glasfoord, Strathaven, Blantyre, Cambuslang, Carmunnock and Rutherglen are served at its cross.”1

THE influence of this borough must formerly have added considerable weight to the political affairs of the nation; for in the year 1617 it sent two Commissioners to the parliament of Scotland. At present it is united with Glasgow, Renfrew and Dumbarton, in conjunction with which, it sends one Commissioner only, to the British parliament.*

FROM the following copy of a Letter, sent to the Magistrates, by Gen. Monk, we may learn, what ideas the General had formed of the importance of Rutherglen.

For My verie loveing freinds The Provest and Baillies

of the burgh of Rutherglen.


                   HAVEING a call from God and his people to marche into England to assert and maintayne the libertye and being of parliaments, our ancient constitutione and thairin the friedome and rights of the people of these thrie Nationes from arbitrary and tyrannicall usurpationes upon their consciences, persones and estates, and for a godly Ministry. I doe thairfor expect from yow the Magistrates of the burgh of Rutherglen, that yow doe preserve the peace of the Common wealth in your burgh. And I heirby athorize yow to suppress all tumults, stirrings, & unlawful assemblies, and that yow hold noe correspondency with any of Charles Stewarts pairtye or his adherents, bot apprehend any such as shall make any disturbance and send them unto the nixt garisone. And doe further desyre yow to countenance and to encowrrage the godly Ministry, and all that trowlie feare God in the land. And that yow continow faithful to owne and assert the interest of the parliamentary government in yowr severall places and stationes. I hope my absence will be very short, bot I doe assure yow that I shall procure from the parliament whatever may be for the good government & reliefe of this Natione, and dowbt not bot to obteane abatements in yowr assessments and other public burthenes according to the proportione of England. And what further service I may be able I shall not be wanting in what I may promote the happines & peace of this afflicted people. I shall not trwble yow further, bot beg yowr prayers and desyre yow to assure yowrselffes that I am 

Yowr faithfull friend and humble servand


J George Monk.    

Ed. the 15th Nover. 1659.    

   Postscript. I desyre yow to send me word to Berwick under yowr hands how farre yow will comply with my desyres by the 12th of Decer. nixt. I desyre yow that what is behind of the last fowr moneths of the twelff moneths assessment may be in a reddines against it be called for.2

THERE are few things, respecting this ancient borough, that merits greater attention than the free and unembarrassed election of its Magistrates and council. The evils arising from a self-elected magistracy, and their uninterrupted continuance in office, were, at an early period, severely felt by the community. They found by experience, that the guardians of the rights and liberties of the town, too often neglected the charge committed to their trust, and basely under mined the constitution they were sworn to support. Negligence on the one hand, and undue exertions of power on the other, did, at length, excite the complaining burgesses to trace out the true cause of these evils, and to seek for a proper remedy. 

THERE are times when the multitude, deprived of their natural rights, will neither be intimidated by the threats, nor subjugated by the artifices, of political influence, and overgrown power. They will think for themselves: they will lay schemes to regain their liberty; and, they will dare to put them in execution. Such a spirit of freedom is inspired by the Author of nature, for the good of mankind in general, and of smaller communities in particular. 

A REFORM with respect to the magistracy, and set of the borough, was begun by the inhabitants, soon after the beginning of the last century. In the execution of their design they were greatly assisted by Mr. David Spens, town-clerk, whose office gave him many opportunities of defending the interest of the community. 

HAPPY would it be for the complaining burgesses in Scotland, were it now in thier power to follow the laudable example of the citizens of Rutherglen; and like them, effectually to check the public abuses of which they so much complain. But the period in which this could be done, is, probably, long since past. 

AFTER repeated struggles, and a long train of well adapted political exertions, the majority of the Magistrates and council enacted, in the year 1660, “That no Provest nor Baillie shall continue longer in office than twa zeirs togidder.” This act, which at first met with violent opposition, was renewed, ann. 1670. In the mean while it was ordered, “That no more than twa persones be upon the Provest Lyte in place of thrie or fowre or more that was formerly.” Before this it was also enacted, that the Provost and Baillies should reside in the town or royalty all the time they were in office. 

THESE favourable beginnings opened the way for a thorough reform; the chief clauses of which were laid before the Corporation for their perusal, and, next year, meeting with the approbation of the inhabitants, were appointed to be the Set of the town in all time coming.

A copy of the new Set or Constitution of the town of Rutherglen, as it is recorded in the council books, and extracted from them into the records of the general Convention of the Royal Boroughs of Scotland.

   “AT Rutherglen the Twelt day of October, One thousand sex hundred thriescore ellevin zeirs. 

   Andrew Harvie Provest, Wm. Riddell baillie, Robert Spens, George Fairie, George Wyllie, Wm. Riddell fischer, Thomas WIllkie, Johnoe Fairie, Johne Riddell elder, Johne Shaw, James Wyllie, Robert Bowman, Johne Riddell tailzeor, Johne Mwre, Johne Smith, and Robert Awldcorne Counsellors of the burgh of Rutherglen, With the speciall advise and consent of the haill inhabitants therof now conveened. Considdering the debates, differences and divisiones of this incorporatione In order to the electione of the Magistrats and toun Counsell therof, And that it hath beine the constant and continwall practice of the Provest and Baillies of the said burgh thir many zeires bygone efter there electione zeirlie, to Nominat and elect a Counsell, by, and to themselffes, whairby some leiding and factious men have brought in on the Counsell all there freinds, allayes, relationes and adherents; And so have practized and enndevored to inhawnce and perperuat the Magistracie to themselffes for a long tyme; and to make use of and dispose upon the commone goodes, revenewes and caswalities of the burgh as they thought fitt, without controlment, to the great prejudice and rwine of the publict interest of this poore incorporatione. For preventing whairof and for removeing and setleing of all the differences and divisiones of this burgh, in relatione to the electione of there Magistrats and toun Counsell. And for establishing a constant and solid order to be inviolablie observed thereanent in all tymecoming IT is now inacted statut and Ordained by the saids Provest, Baillie and Counsell With the consent of the deacones of trades and haill Inhabitants of the said burgh foirsaid; That the toun Counsell of this burgh, consisting of ffyftein persones for this succeeding zeir and in all tymecomeing shall be elected and choisen in maner following To wit, that ilke ane of the thrie deaconries; Viz, of the smiths, weivers, and masones and wrights, shall give in a List of sex persones, and the fowrt deaconrie, Viz, the tailzeors shall give in a List of fowr persones; And the remanent burgesses inhabitants within the said burgh and territorie therof (beiring scott and lott within the samyn) shall give in a List of eight persones to the Provest and taw Baillies of the said burgh, Wha shall choyse thrie out of the severall thrie sexes, and twa out of the fowr, and fowr out of the eight, which makes upe the number of ffyftein persones wha are to be the commone Counsell of the said burgh. And the foirsaid forme of electione of the said commone Counsell is to be unalterable in all tymecomeing. And the saids fowr trades and remanent burgessses shall be holden and obleist to meit and give in there respective Lists of persones foirsaid to the saids Provest and Baillies upon the thretein day of October instant for this instant zeir, And upon the first thursday nixt efter the electione of the Magistrats zeirlie, in all tyme therefter. Whairin if the saids trades, or any of them, shall failzie, That the saids Magistrats shall have power to choyse the Counsellors for the trade, or trades, and remanent burgesses, ane, or other, of them that shall happin to failzie to give in there List to the said Provest and Baillies upon the said first thursday nixt efter the said electione. ——— Item, It is inacted, statut and ordaned, that the Magistrats of the said burgh shall be choysen within the tolbwith of the said burgh upon the twelf day Immediatelie efter Michailmes, In this manner. Viz, at the electione, in the zeir 1672, And in all zeirs therefter, The Provest and Baillies shall be elected and choysen be a frie voyce of the than Magistrats and Counsell of the said burgh, and ofthrettie persrones of additionall Counsell to be choysen be the said commone Counsell. And that the said Provest and Baillies shall only continow in there Office for the space of ane zeir. And shall not be capable to be continowed bot shall be changed zeirlie. ——— And the toun Thesawrer to be thairefter choysen be the Provest, Baillies and Counsell so established. ——— And for auditeing, comptrolling and stateing of the Thesawrer accompts zeirlie, Thair shall be choysen thrie be the Provest, Baillies and Counsell; and thrie be the deacones and masters of the foirsds fowr crafts, and eight persones of the remanent burgesses foirsaid; And the saids sex persones to be stentmasters for proportionating and laying on of all publict burdings to be imposed upon the said burgh. ——— And whatevir persone or persones refusses to accept of any of the foirsds offices of Provest, Baillies and Thessr: foirsaid (being lawfully elected yrto) shall pay to the Tessr: for the commone use and behwife of the said burgh The sowme of Ane hundreth Pundes Scotts money. ——— And it shall be Lissime and lawfull to the present Magistrats and Counsell, for the tyme being, to elect and choyse fitt and able men to supplie the places of such of the saids Provest, Baillies, and Tessr: and Counsell whoe refusses to accept the saids offices, and of these deceisand in the intervall of electiones. ——— And this order to be inviolablie observed and keiped in all tymecomeing. ——— And whatevir persone or persones Provest, Baillies, Counsellors and burgesses, within this burgh, shall anywayes heirefter indevore to repaill or anywayes infringe this ordor, He or they shall not only be reput and holden as infringers of the liberties and priviledges of this burgh, And thereby, ispo facto, shall forfawlt there burgesshipt and be reput and holden as infamows and perjured persones, Bot shall also be lyable in ane fyne of ane Hundreth Pundes to be payed to the Thessr: for the publict use of this incorporatione. ——— And farder, all such facts and deids to be done in prejudice of the foirsaid fitt and established forme of electione of the siads Magistrats and Counsell choyseing of the Thessr: Auditors and stentmasters, It shall be voyd and null, and of nane availl, force, strenth, nor effect as if the samyn had never bein thowght upon or made. And Ordaines the above wryttin act and sett to be recorded in the said commune Counsell bookes of the said burgh of Rutherglen, and in the bookes of the fowr respective deaconries above mentionat.”

“Act of the town Councill of Rutherglen relative to the Sett of the said burgh.

Rutherglen: 27: Apryle: 1710: yeirs.

   JOHN MWRE and Patrick Witherspone Baillies; Andrew fleming, James parke, Johne Witherspone, James ffriebairne, William Harvie, Andrew Harvie elder, John Scott, James pedie, and Robert Bowman Counsellors, now Conveened; takeing to thair serious Considderatione, that this burgh, and the publick good and utilitie thairof, Hath suffered by persones being advanced Into the Magistracie thairof, without knowledge, and experience of the touns effaires and circumstances of the samyn. ——— And which evil practisses may be yett againe Renewed, and be of dangerous Consequence to the toune and publick good thairof, and, Consequentlie, to everie privat burges of the samyn, unles remeid be provydit, Which the saids Baillies and Counsell ar willing to doe, To the Utmost of thair power, In Mainer underwryttin. THairfor, the saids Baillies and Counsell, have statuit, and ordained, and heirby, with advyse, and Consent, of the ffowr deacones and thair Masters of croft, Representing the saids trades, and the Rest fo the hereitors and burgess wha ar not incorporat within the ffowr deacaonries; Statutes and ordaines, that in all tym cumeing, no persone shall be Capable of beiring office, as Provest of this burgh, untill first he have borne office as baillie thairin, for ane yeir at Leist. ——— And that no persone shall be Capable to beir office, as baillie of this burgh, unless ffirst he hes served as toune thessr. thairof. ——— And Becawes, It will alsoe be of evill and dangerous Consequence to this burgh and the publick weill and utilitie thairof, if any persone shall be advanced to be aither Provest, Baillie, or thessr. of this burgh, except ane ordinarie burges thairof, Haveing alwayes his duelling and residence Within this burgh, and threttine pund land thairof, dureing the haill tyme of his beiring office in any of the forsaids stationes. For preventing whairof, THe saids Baillies and Counsell, with Consent forsaid, Have statuit, inacted, and ordained, And heirby statuits, inacts, and ordaines, that, in all tyme cumeing, no persone shall be capable to beir office, Within this burgh, aither as provest, baillie, or thessr., except ane ordinarie burges of this burgh; Haveing always his duelling place and residence within the same, and threttine pund land, belonging thairto, dureing the haill tyme of his beirand office In any of the forsaids stationes. And that none but such shall be Capable to be votted upon to beir office In any of the forsaids stationes. ——— And the saids Baillies and toune Counsell, With advise forsaid, Have Inacted, Statuit, and ordained, And heirby inacts, statuts, and ordaines, that it shall not be lawfull for any Magistrat, Counsellor, or vther burges qtsumevir, In all tymecumeing, to vote, plott, or Contribute, anent the Incrocheing vpon, or Contraveening this pnt act, vnder the paine of being declaired Incapable to beir office, In any publick statione, within this burgh, for ever thairefter, and of Losseing his friedome: and vnder the paine of Ane Hundred punds Scotts of fyne. ffarder, for the publick use, weill, and behove, of this burgh, And to the effect this act may be more readly maid effectuall, It is heirby declaired, that it shall be in the power of any of the privat burgess of this burgh, quther Counsellor or not, as weill as the Magistrats, or Counsellors thairof, to cawes the same be put to executtione at thair instance, and that vpon the expenss of the Contraveeners heirof. ——— And that these presents shall be Recorded In the Counsell bookes; and extracts heirof given, gratis, by the toune Clerk thairof, to the ffowr trades, that the samyn may be Recorded in each trades bookes: And ane vther extract given by the Clerk, gratis, to the heretors: and this present act, with the wrytt, Comonlie called the act of establishment of this burgh, daittit the twelf day of octr. Jaj vi & Sevintie ane zeirs, shall be oppinlie red, yeirlie, In all tymcumeing, In presence of the Magistrats, Counsell, and burgess, that shall be present vpon the Election day of the Magts., efter the additionall Counsell hes given thair oathes, and before the Magistrats be elected. ——— And that the present Magistrats of this burgh, with the present Counsellors, shall subscrive this act: And that all succeiding Magistrats, and Counsellors, of this burgh, shall, in all tymcumeing, immediatlie efter giveing thair oathes de fideli, and befoir they exerce, Subscrive this act. ——— And ordaines the Clerk to extract ane dowble heirof, vpon parischment, which is to be signed by the present Magistrats, and toune Counsell, and the ffowr deacones, and yr. mrs. of croft, and the rest of the heretors, and burgess, who ar not Incorporat within the ffowr deaconries. And which, with the forsaid act, called the act of establishment, Is ordained to be put into the touns charter cheist. 


John Muir.    

Pat: witherspone.    

   This Act, ratified and approven be the provost Baillies, and Councill, upon the twenty fourth of October, One thousand Seven hundred and ten years. And ordains ye. same to stand in all tymcumeing. And Alsoe, of new againe, Enacts, Statues, and ordains, that no persone, or persones, whatsomever, except he be an Burgess, and Constant Induellar within this Burgh and territorie thereof, shall not be capabell to be elected to represent this Burgh, either as Elector for the Burgh, or any other manner of way qtsumever, Intymcumeing, And that under the pains and penalties therein contained.”

THE above Set is inserted in the records of the general Convention of the Royal Boroughs of Scotland. A judicial extract of it is taken from these records, and laid up in the charter-chest, to be annually read on the day when the Magistrates are elected.

1  McUre’s Hist. of Glas. p. 88.
*  This is in line with the reports of Scotland’s being under-represented in the British Parliament from the signing of the union, as reported across numerous Newspapers and reproduced in RSH’s ‘Treaty of Union Articles’ (2019).
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