Aberdeen, pp.197-201.

[Scottish National Memorials Contents]

   ANCIENT BURGH SEAL, of Aberdeen, made in 1440. The brass Seal and Counter Seal, after having been lost from the custody of the Council for upwards of ninety years, have again been placed in safe keeping. It is conjectured that this Seal was granted to the burgh by James I. as some recompence for undertaking, along with the other three burghs of Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee, to pay his ransom in 1424. The workmanship displayed in the Seal is curious and interesting, as it preserves a record of probably the earliest occurrence of the motto of the town, ‘BON ACORD.’ It is described by Laing (Scottish Seals, p. 208, Plate xxix., fig. 1) as a fine large seal, beautifully designed and executed, representing the miracle of St. Nicholas restoring to life the three murdered children of a converted prince of Athens. Lower part, the front gate and walls of a castle, and upper part a Gothic canopy SIGILLUM COMUNE DE ABERDEN. Counter Seal, on a shield a castle triple-towered, within a double tressure flowered and counter-flowered. Supporters, two lions rampant coné. On scroll above the shield BON ACORD. The inscription on the back of each half is as follows:- 

     ye     was 


(See Figs. 138 and 139.) 


   CASTS OF ANCIENT SEALS, of Aberdeen, (a) Previous to 1440. This cast is from the Burgh Seal attached to the Bond of Ransom for David II., 1359, preserved in the Public Record Office, London. (See Fig. 140.) (b) From Seal of 1440. This cast shows the design of the City Seal made in 1430. See above (978). (c) Secret Seal, fifteenth century, having the armorial bearings of the burgh, and the legend ‘SIGILLUM SECRETUM BURGENSIN VILLE ABÆRDANUS AD CAUSAS.’ This Seal was used apparently for such documents as bonds of man-rent, attestations of propinquity, decisions of assizes, etc. (See Fig. 141.) 


   SILVER KEYS, of the City of Aberdeen. Very little is known regarding the history of these keys, but it is believed that they are of seventeenth century workmanship. Although the town was at one time protected by six ports, these required other keys than those exhibited, which were used only for the ceremony of giving the liberty of the burgh. They are still invariably presented to every Lord Provost at his election, and on two occasions they have been presented to Her Majesty while passing through the city. 


   STAFF AND BUCKLE, of Aberdeen Fencibles. This corps of citizen soldiers, to the number of about 400, was only one of several corps raised in compliance with the recommendation of Government as a means of defence against the threatened invasion by the French in the beginning of this century. The Lord Provost was Colonel Commandant, and the dress of the corps consisted of a blue coat, white facings, white vest and breeches, with black gaiters, a round hat and feather. 


   TOWN’S DRUM, of Aberdeen (seventeenth century). The drum or ‘sweesh’ was a very important civic institution before the introduction of daily newspapers. It is customary to associate the drum with military matters only, but the records of the various burghs are filled with references to the important part it played in the everyday life of the city some three centuries ago. No meeting of the Guildry or Head Court of the citizens was properly constituted until the drummer compeired and testified that he had intimated the meeting ‘thro’ a’ the raws o’ the toon’; no funeral ceremony of importance could take place till the mourners had been summoned by the drum; and one of the severer modes of punishment was that of banishment from one’s native burgh, by tuck of drum. The drum exhibited had doubtless seen many such scenes, and others also of a more exciting kind during the civil war of Charles I.’s reign. 


   SEDAN CHAIR. These carriages, invented in Sedan at the close of the sixteenth century, were in common use in Scotland during the eighteenth century. This chair was the last one used in Aberdeen. 


   THE MARSHAL STAFF OF SCOTLAND, borne by the Earls Marischal, presented to Marischal College in 1760 by the last Earl Marischal. The office of Grand Marischal of Scotland was hereditary in the family of Keith from the time of Malcolm II. (1005-34), when it was bestowed for bravery in fighting against the Danes. The dignity came to an end by the attainder of George, tenth Earl Marischal, on account of his connection with the rising in 1715, and it is understood this staff of office was at a later period, through the interposition of the historian David Hume, deposited in Marischal College, which was founded by George, fifth Earl Marischal. The staff is a plain silver-gilt rod three-fourths of an inch in diameter, having steel ends one inch in length, which taper out to one inch diameter, the whole length of the staff being 22 inches. On the butt or face of the steel knobs are the Royal Arms and the arms of the Earls Marischal. The date of the staff is not known, but the arms shown are older than those recorded by the eighth Earl Marischal in 1672. (See Fig. 142.) 

(985) Lent by the UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN. 

   SMALL SILVER GILT CHALICE. This vessel, which might more correctly be described as a tazza, measures 7 ¼ inches in height: the bowl which is 4 inches in diameter is very shallow, being only 1 ½ inches deep, and is richly embossed with acorns and oak leaves: the stem is of a baluster pattern and slender. On the outside rim there is engraved the inscription: ‘S • S • THEOL • FACVLTATI • ST AND • DEDIT • M • GVLIELMVS • GVILD • ABERDONENSIS 1628.’ It bears the London Hall-mark of the year 1613-4. Dr. William Guild, the donor of this chalice, was a man of much note in his day. He was the son of Matthew Guild, an armourer or ‘Sweird slipper’ in Aberdeen, who possessed considerable means, and had his son educated at Marischal College. In 1608 he was appointed minister of King-Edward in the Presbytery of Turriff, and about that time he published his first treatises. He was drawn into notice by his association with Dr. Andrews, Bishop of Ely, who was selected by King James to carry out the scheme for bringing the Scottish clergy into conformity with the English Church – a movement that did not meet with much success. He afterwards became one of the ministers of Aberdeen. In 1631 he purchased the Trinity Monastery and Chapel for the purpose of founding an hospital, and providing a meeting-house for the Incorporated Trades, and to this gift it has been said that the remarkable financial prosperity of the Aberdeen trades is due. The reasons which may have prompted Dr. Guild to present this chalice to St. Andrews are unknown. As to the chalice itself it may be said that the design seems to preclude the probability of its having been originally intended for ecclesiastical purposes. Vessels of this shape are found from about 1570 till the outbreak of the Civil War in the reign of Charles I., and they seem to have been used for purely domestic purposes. This cup would appear to have passed through other hands before coming into Dr. Guild’s possession, as faint traces of another and older inscription are to be found underneath the present lettering, and in one of the cones of the acorns a crest is engraved which has escaped the eraser’s hands. [A. J. S. B.] (See Fig. 143.) 


   SILVER CUP, presented in 1653 to Aberdeen University by Lord Strathnaver, an alumnus of the University. (See also page 307.) 

(987) Lent by the UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN. 

   SILVER PEN, to which was annually attached a silver plate containing the name of the successful candidate at a comparative trial in the Greek Class of Marischal College. Presented by the Earl of Buchan, December 12th, 1769. The first holder of the Silver Pen was James Hay Beattie (1782), son of the author of The Minstrel. Kennedy (Annals of Aberdeen, vol. i. p. 116) says:- ‘In the Museum is preserved the elegant gold box presented by the Earl of Buchan to the College in 1769, enclosing a silver pen, for which an annual competition takes place among the students of the Greek Class. The successful candidate is rewarded by a donation of books, and a small silver medal with his name inscribed upon it is appended to the pen.’ 

(988) Lent by the UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN. 

   THE LINEN STAMP, of Aberdeen, 1745. A stamp office for linen was instituted in Aberdeen by the Board of Trustees for Manufactures, early in the eighteenth century, in compliance with the provisions of the Act of Parliament for inspecting and stamping all linen goods. 

(990) Lent by the UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN. 

   STOCKING STAMP, of Aberdeen, 1749. The manufacture of stockings was an important industry in Aberdeen town and district throughout the eighteenth century. The industry originated about 1650, and it is recorded by Anderson (Essays on National lndustry) that the Magistrates presented Field-Marshal Keith with a pair of stockings spun from Highland wool, and knitted so fine that, although of the largest size, they could be easily drawn through an ordinary thumb ring. These were valued at five guineas, and so highly were they prized by Keith that he deemed them worthy of presentation to the Empress of Russia. The stamp is one of a series issued by the Dean of Guild Court in 1749, for use in Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, Ellon, Cruden, Old Deer, Turriff, and several other localities. 

(991) Lent by the UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN. 

   ALEXANDER IDLE’S CHAIR (Shoemakers’ Craft). ‘The chair presented by Alexander Idle, Shoemaker, in 1679, has the crown and cutting knife of his craft carved on the back, with his name, A. Idle, Deacon Convener, 30th November 1679.’ – Bain’s Guilds of Aberdeen, pp. 176-7. (See Fig. 144.) 

(992) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSE. 

   JEROME BLAK’S CHAIR (Wrights’ and Coopers’ Craft). ‘A Chair presented by Jerome Blak, Cooper, in 1574, is ornamented with a carving of the Black arms (a saltire between a crescent in base, a mullet in chief; for crest, a hand holding a cooper’s adze, in dexter proper).’ – Bain’s Guilds of Aberdeen, pp. 176-7. 

(993) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSE. 

   ANDREW WATSON’S CHAIR (Fleshers’ Chair). ‘The Chair of Andrew Watson is most elaborate. The arms of his trade are carved and coloured on the upper part of the back, and on the centre one the arms of the Watson family (an oak tree eradicated on base, surmounted by a fess, charged with crescent between two mullets).’ – Bain’s Guilds of Aberdeen, pp. 176-7. (See Fig. 145.) 

(994) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSE. 

   KING WILLIAM’S CHAIR. ‘This chair is mentioned in an inventory of the plenishing belonging to the Trinity Hall taken in presence of Patrick Whyt, Deacon Convener, 1696, as “King William’s chair,” and although some of the framework has been renewed, the panels (showing carved heads of monks and warriors) evidently belong to the early monkish period.’ – Bain’s Guilds of Aberdeen, p. 175. 

(995) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSE. 

   These chairs form only a selection from the fine series of chairs and other furniture belonging to the Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen. They were presented to the several Incorporations by members of the crafts who had mostly attained to the office of Deacon or to the higher dignity of Deacon Convener. ‘Some of them,’ says Bain, ‘date from the time that the craftsmen held their meetings in the Deacons’ houses, while it is tolerably certain that one of the largest chairs [995] belonged to the old monastery.’ The Aberdeen chairs form the finest existing illustration of the taste and skill of Scottish craftsmen in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

   PORTRAIT OF WILLIAM THE LION, from Trinity House, Aberdeen. ‘The curious production representative of William the Lion is one of the few relies of the Trinity Monastery. When and by whom it was painted are matters apparently now beyond human ken, and not a little of its artistic value has been lost on account of a repairing which it underwent in 1715. In that year the Convener Court “granted warrant to William Anderson, present Master of Hospital, to agree with Charles Whyt, painter, anent renewing King William the Lion his picture as cheap as possible, always not exceeding fifty shillings sterling.” Fortunately the renewings did not go the length of any interference with the face. We have it on the authority of an artist who took a drawing of the work in 1821 for Lieutenant-General Hatton, that the face had been left untouched. The King is represented wearing a curiously formed helmet, and holding a book in one hand and a rod in the other. There is a chain round his waist, indicative, it is said, of penance for the part which history says he had in the murder of Thomas à Becket.’ – Bain’s Guilds of Aberdeen, pp. 175, 182-3. 

(996) Lent by DEACON GEORGE ROSE. 

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