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Old faces, old places and old stories of Stirling (Volume 1) online

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vessel. Some authorities incline to the belief that the figure


on the second shield (which is considerably defaced) is that of
a wolf, and may have reference to the burgh arms, more especi-
ally because of the letter S, signifying Stirling ; while others
hold that it is a remnant of the insignia of imperial Rome, the
she-wolf and twin infant sticklers, and bears reference to the
Roman system of weights and measures. In the " Extracts
from the Stirling Burgh Records " the following appears, hav-
ing reference to the regulating of other Scotch measures :

19 October, 1599. The counsall hes condiscendit and gewin
expres command to Robert Robertsone, peudrar, being present
at counsall, that all stoupis, sic as quartis, pyntis, chopines, to
be maid be him heireftir, sail be agriabill in mesour to the jug
and stampit with the townis stamp, and that the pluik [measure
knob] be benethe the mouth of ilk stoup as followis, to wit, of
the quart stoup and pynt stoup ane inche, and of ilk chopein
stoup half ane inch, and that he present the stamp to the coun-
sall yeirlie.

By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1618, it was ordained
that the wheat and pease firlot was to contain 21^ pints, and
the bere and oat firlot 31 pints, of the Stirling Jug ; and in
connection with the statute then passed the Jug was trans-
mitted to Edinburgh, as appears from the following :

17 January, 1618. For obedience of the letter direct to
thame be the lordis of his Majesteis secereit counsell, desyring
and commanding the stowp or jug to be send for informatioun
to the commissioneris apointit be the parliament for reducing
the wechtis and measouris to ane conformitie, agane the
iiyntene day of this instant, ordanes the said stowp or jug to
be sent to Edinburgh with Dougall Galloway to Johne Sherare,
baillie, being presentlie thair, to the effect he may produce the
same befoir the saidis commissioneris ; and ordanefe the clerk
to wret to him to reassave the same, and to desyre him to be
cairfull of the keping of the same.

4 May, 1618. Nominates and apointes Johnne Sherare,
James Forester, baillies, and Johnne Williamson, clerk, to ryde
to Edinburgh agane the nixt counsell day to deale for ane
warrand of the jug to be disperset throwche the haill burrowes,
as Lynlythgow hes done for the firlott.

After the adjustment of the weights and measures, above


referred to, sets of standard liquid measures were supplied by
the Stirling municipal authorities to the several free burghs
throughout the country, the following minute of Town Council
bearing thereupon :

16 September, 1622. In presens of the counsell, Johnne
Sherer, provest, producet and gaif in ane compt writtin and
subscrivit with his hand, quhairintill he charget him self with
the resett, in the tounes name, of the soume of aucht
hundrethe and sex pundis usuall money of this realme for the
prices of threttie foure jugis of bras ventit be him amang the
frie burrowes of this realme.

The question of the right of Stirling to have, hold, and to
issue the standard liquid measures came up about the time of
the Union, and steps were taken to prove to the cavillers that
the town had undoubted authority for its claims to possession
of the Jug. The following minute has reference thereto:

1 November, 1707. Appoints the tounes rights with respect
to the jug of the Scots pynt to be looked out this day and sent
to Edinburgh on Monday next to Bandalloch for vindicating
the tounes right to the keeping of the liquid measures.

In the following year a re-issue of standard measures came
to be made, as the following minute bears :

24 July, 1708. Authorizes the dean of gild and conveinir
to distribute the standarts of the liquid measures to the
sevarall royal burrows, as the provost of Edinburgh shall desyre
from time to tyme, after the saids standarts shall be stamped
with the touns armes, and to receave thirtie pounds Scots for
each of the setts, and to be accountable theirfor, and lyke-
wayes for 30 lib. alreadie receaved from the burgh of Glasgow.

In the year 1750 enquiry came to be made relative to the
Jug, when it Was found to be amissing, and on search, two
years thereafter it was found by mere chance amongst a heap
of lumber in a garret in Broad Street, the person who had
had it on loan for testing purposes a brazier or coppersmith
having joined the Jacobites in the '45, and not returning,
his effects were disposed of.


The Merchant Guild of Stirling.

The Guild is the oldest institution in the burgh indeed, is
one of the very oldest municipal incorporations in Scotland.
It is mentioned in a charter granted to the burgh of Stirling
by Alexander II. in 1226, but that charter is not one of
creation, but merely confirms certain already existing privi-
leges, and the origin of the Guild must be looked for at a much
earlier period. The date of Stirling's first burghal charter is
unknown, but in charters still extant, belonging to the reign
of David I. (1124-1153), the town is repeatedly referred to as
one of the King's Royal Burghs. Historians who have given
special attention to this matter, now admit that in the first
Scottish burghs (and Stirling was one of the earliest) the Guild,
a voluntary association of the leading members of the com-
munity, formed for mutual aid and social intercourse, pre-
ceded, and formed the nucleus of, the new municipality. It
would thus appear that the Stirling Guild must have been in
existence as early as the beginning of the twelfth century, how
long before it is impossible to say.

When the burgh was erected, the control of its affairs and
the management of its common property were committed by
the King to the Duodene or Dusane, a kind of committee of
management, the germ which has now grown into the modern
Town Council. This body, composed of twelve of the most
sufficient and discreet burgesses, was selected from the ranks
of the already organised Guild, and the connection thus formed
between the two corporations the Guild and the Burgh sub-
sisted down nearly to our own day. The power thus entrusted
to the Guild remained solely in their hands for upwards of four
hundred years. In the sixteenth century the craftsmen
began to assert themselves, and they were at length, not
without much opposition, permitted to send representatives to
the Council Chamber. The majority of the Council, however,
were always chosen from the Guildry, and the influence the
Guild was thus enabled to acquire it continued to exercise until


its long and honourable record was closed by the passing of the
Burgh Reform Act in 1832.

In addition to political power, the Guild possessed certain
commercial privileges. By Royal authority the brethren of
the Guild enjoyed the exclusive right of trading in staple and
imported goods within the burgh. Protective restrictions on
trade, however, are not in harmony with modern ideas, and this
monopoly of the Guildry was swept away by Act of Parlia-
ment in 1846. Although deprived of political power and com-
mercial privilege, the Merchant Guild continues to maintain
a useful and honourable existence, its functions now being
wholly of a social, charitable, and philanthropic nature.

The social side of Guildry life finds expression, to a consider-
able extent, in the annual Michaelmas supper of the brethren.
At this feast the Dean of Guild, arrayed in the rich robes
pertaining to his office, and attended by his officer, resplendent
in the brilliant " green and gold " livery of the incorporation,
presides over a large gathering of the brethren and invited
guests, and a few hours are spent in pleasant social intercourse,
keeping alive the traditions and maintaining the old customs
which have come down through many successive generations of
Guild brethren. At these festivals as at all other meetings
of the Guild the Dean wears a massive gold chain, to which
is attached "King David's Auld Gift to the Gildrie," a gold
ring set with precious stones, and bearing the inscription,
" Yis for ye Deine of ye Geild of Stirling." This precious
relic, which was given to the Guildry by King David II. in
1365, and which has for the last five hundred years been handed
down with religious care by each retiring Dean to his successor,
is believed to be the oldest badge of office possessed by any
corporation in the kingdom.

Amongst the long list of names engrossed on the records of
the Merchant Guild no one is held more in honour than that
of John Cowane. This worthy Son of the Rock was a wealthy
merchant, who served many years as Dean of Guild, and held
office at his death, in 1634. He bequeathed a large portion of
his ample means for the establishment and endowment of a
hospital for sustaining and maintaining decayed Guild brethren.
In the two and a half centuries which have elapsed since


Cowane's Hospital was founded, it has proved of great benefit
to many members of the Guild who, after manfully doing their
best in the battle of life, had, through misfortune, sickness, or
old age, fallen into poverty, but, relieved from the chilling
dread of penury, were by it enabled to pass their last days in
comparative comfort.

To be chosen Dean of Guild of Stirling has always been re-
garded as one of the highest distinctions conferred in the
burgh, and the office has been held by many of the men most
eminent in local history. The election takes place annually
at Michaelmas, the retiring Dean being eligible for re-election.
The present Dean is Mr Samuel Forrester Millar, whose por-
trait appears in these pages. Mr Millar's enthusiasm and
devotion to the interests of the Guildry, and his own genial
personal, qualities have made him one of the most popular
Deans who have occupied the chair. First chosen to the office
in 1890, the esteem in which he is held by the brethren of the
Guild, and the value they put upon his services may be estim-.
ated from the fact that in each successive year he has been
re-elected, and is now serving his ninth consecutive term of

The Crafts of Stirling.

The great change which has taken place in the municipal
government of Stirling since the passing of the Reform Bill
renders it somewhat difficult for those living in the present
day, under new jurisdictions, new laws, and new conditions
and customs, to realise the place occupied and the influence
wielded by the craft associations for over six centuries. The
power possessed by these, and the jurisdiction they exercised,
in virtue of Royal Charters, Acts of Parliament, and Acts of
Council, were far more extensive than is generally supposed.
Their monopoly of trading privileges so far as their own
handicrafts were concemed was but one thing. They were
much more than mere industrial or trading societies ; had a far
wider scope, and exercised a rigid supervision of the whole
conduct of the individual, all the journeymen, servants and


apprentices in the town, as well as the members proper, com-
ing within the jurisdiction of the deacons and their courts.
Each craft acted as its own parochial board ; they were the
only friendly and benefit societies in existence ; and, to a cer-
tain extent, members were assisted by loans out of the general
funds to carry on their business.

The Crafts, or, as they are called, the Seven Incorporated
Trades, consisted of the Hammermen, Weavers, Tailors, Shoe-
makers, Fleshers, Skinners, and Bakers, and ranked next in
importance to the Merchant Guild. The head or governor of
each craft was called the Deacon, the members of each craft
electing their own, and the election was an annual one, taking
place at Michaelmas. Thereafter the newly-elected Deacons
and the old Deacons, being lawfully convened at the Deacon-
Convener Court House, " on the hills " near Irvine Place, pro-
ceeded to nominate and elect one of the newly-elected Deacons
to be Deacon-Convener of the Seven Incorporated Trades for
the ensuing year, who, in accepting office, gave his oath to be
faithful therein. By virtue of their office the seven deacons
became members of the Town Council. The office of Deacon-
Convener was a most important one, second only to the Dean
of Guild, and the members of the Seven Trades received bene-
fit from many sources.

On page 161 we have taken notice of the ancient banner
of the Seven Trades, and the sash and sword worn by the

About the middle of the sixteenth century, Robert Spittal,
tailor to King James IV., founded and endowed an hospital
called Spittal's Hospital, and he was followed by many bene-
volent persons in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who
left sums of money to the same hospital. In 1674 David
Adamson, minister of Fintry, left 800 merks for maintaining
" ane bursar of philosophy " at the College of Glasgow ; in
1724, John Allan, writer in Stirling, bequeathed 30,000 merks
for behoof of poor and indigent boys of tradesmen ; and in 1804,
Alexander Cunningham, merchant in Stirling, left 1000 for
the better support of poor widows of tradesmen in the burgh.
Necessitous craftsmen participated in the benefits to be
derived from these mortifications.


The Maltmen.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the maltmen were
considered craftsmen, and also had their deacon. They were
both wealthy and powerful, and, in consequence, became very
turbulent, so much so that, in 1567, by Act of Parliament,
they were excluded from the crafts altogether, and deprived
of their deacon. In 1603, James VI., by Seal of Cause, re-
stored the maltmen of Stirling in all their ancient rights and
privileges, but they were not again allowed to elect a deacon.
Their chief officer was called a " visitor," and from this date
they became one of the four tolerated communities of the
burgh. There are now very few maltmen in the town,
scarcely sufficient to call a meeting together.

The Mechanics.

The Society of Mechanics formed another of the four toler-
ated communities of the burgh, and embraced the Masons,
Wrights, Plasterers, Slaters, Painters, Coopers, and Dyers.
They received their powers from the Town Council. The
mode of procedure consisted in the Town Council granting
letters under the seal of the Burgh Court, called " seals of
cause," sometimes reciting a previous Act of the Council, but
in all declaring the peculiar rights and privileges which the
members of the body were to enjoy. The Society had no
representation at the Town Council. They enjoyed purely
trade privileges. After the death of Alexander Cunningham
they shared in the benefits derived from his mortification.

The Barbers.

The barbers and periwigmakers formed an important branch
of industry in the -burgh at one time. They were erected into
a tolerated community in 1718, but are now extinct.


Another community, called the " Chapmen/' received their
privileges in 1726, with power to elect a " Lord Chapman " and
other necessary office-bearers amongst them for their better

The number of members in each corporation and community,
as taken from the report of the Royal Commission on Munici-
pal Corporations in 1835, was as follows : Guildry, 402 mem-
bers. Seven Incorporated Trades Hammermen, 34;
Weavers, 138; Tailors, 20; Shoemakers, 36; Fleshers, 8;
Skinners, 11 ; Bakers, 18 ; total, 265. Tolerated Communi-
ties Maltmen, 54 ; Mechanics, 125 ; Barbers, 4 ; Omnium
Gatherum, 65; total, 248. The chapmen seem to be extinct,
and the barbers nearly so at this date.

The Reform Bill had the effect of excluding the craftsmen
from the Town Council, and the Act of 1846 entirely swept
away their monopoly of trading privileges. What has kept
them together since, has been mainly their connection with
Spittal's Hospital and the other mortifications. Shorn of their
power and privilege, these institutions have now become
almost solely interesting relics of a by-gone day.

The Ancient Society of Omnium

This body at the present day exists little more than in name,
but had, it would appear, some considerable standing in the
burgh as early, at least, as the beginning of the seventeenth
century. In a minute of Town Council, of date 28th Novem-
ber, 1642, relative to the appointment of a town drummer,
towards the support of whom " the omnigadrum, viz., the
wrichts, maissones, coupares, litstares, glassinwrichts, sklait-
teris, gairdneris," are to contribute " the soume of ten poundis
yeirlie," we have some clue to the composition of the body ;
and again, on 19th February, 1723, the Council took into con-
sideration a petition at the instance of the deacons of " the
tolerate society or incorporation of workmen, hauxters,


carriers, horsehyrers, and other dargsmen of such employs or
occupations therein, commonly called the omnigatherum, for
themselves and in name of the remanent members of the said
indulgent society." From the tenor of that petition it may be
gathered that the body consisted of burgesses who were not
connected in any way with either of the incorporations of the
Guildry or Trades, and, following upon the petition, it was
enacted that no such burgesses, nor any persons not entered
with any of the other trades or corporations were to " be
allowed or suffered to use, follow, or practise hyring of horses,
driving of carts, carrying of merchant goods, selling of hauxter
ware, keeping of milk cows, fatning of cows for slaughter, or the
like employs," under a penalty until they " enter with the said
omnigatherum . ' '

That the body was of some considerable account in the burgh
is made fully apparent by the recurrence of Council minutes
concerning it. In 1643, a minute of date 9th October, concern-
ing appointment of a minister to the second charge, bears that,
in payment of his stipend of 1000 merks, " the haill omni-
gatherim of the said burgh " were to contribute " amongst
thame, 46 13s. 4d., quhairof to be payit be the mechanikes
amongst thame 20, and be the remanent of the said omni-
gatherime 26 13s. 4d." In fixing the stipend of " maister
Matthias Symsone " as minister, on 8th September, 1656, at
1200 merks Scots, and 200 merks Scots for manse and glebe,
" the rest of the omnegatherum " were ordained to contribute
" the soume of 48."

Another evidence of their importance is afforded by the fact
that on 17th December, 1604, " It is ordinit be the provest,
baillies and counsall, convenit, that fra this furth in al tyme
cuming thair sal be joyned, yeirlie, to the counsall of this
burgh, twa of the auld merchand bailleis, and twa of the omni-
gadrum, as extraordiner persones of counsall, conforme to use
and wount." The body is also minuted as having come to the
help of the Common Good in 1617, as appears, under date 20th
October, when " William Rynd, maissoun, Thomas Michell,
flesher, William Thomesoun, . . . for thame selfis and in
name of the rest of the omnigadrum, renuncet and gaif our to
the toun, for help of thair commoun gude, thair part of the tak


of the shoir deutie, with all proffit and commodity thairof,
bayth of yeiris bigane and to cum."

For some cause or other, not stated, meetings of the body
were prohibited, as appears from the following minute: "15
June, 1614. " Statutis and ordanes that fra this furth thair
be na conventioun nor inciting amangis the nychtbouris and
inhabitants of this burgh callit the omnigadrum, nather
privatlie nor oppinlie, under the panes contenit in the actis
of parliament, without the concurrance of ane of the magis-
tratis of this burgh."

Nowadays, as above noted, the body exists little more than
in name, the only evidence of their presence being seen on the
occasion of a public procession, when a turn-out of gaily-
caparisoned horses is made, and the Omnium Gatherum takes
precedence of all other public bodies. On the occasion of the
walking of the burgh marches, they are warned to furnish a
proportion of the birlamen, who also take precedence, al-
though " use and wont " is all that can be claimed for the
privilege. The only tangible remnant of their ancient glory is
the sum of 1 sterling per annum, paid to them for their seat
in the Parish Church.

Stirling : Variations of the Word.

Considerable diversity of opinion exists as to the origin or
derivation of the word Stirling. We do not profess to be able
to throw any light on the subject, and merely content our-
selves here with citing the variations of the word which have
come under our observation. There are, besides the present
name of Stirling, Sterling, Sterlyn, Strigh-lang, Streueling,
Streweling, Strivelin, Striveline, Striveling, Strivelyn, Strive-
lyne, Stryveling, Strivlin, Strivilin, Striviling, Strivling.



IN bringing this volume to a close it will doubtless be
deemed not uninteresting to glance at the curious cus-
toms which prevailed in the City of the Bock during the
16th century, as well as at the laws which regulated
the conduct of the inhabitants during that period. The first
thing likely to receive notice from the reader of the ancient
records of the burgh is the great amount of power exercised
by the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, who possessed
privileges which extended not only to the maintaining of good
order, but also dealt with matters which now-a-days would be
deemed outwith their province altogether. Not only did they
deal with offenders in all sorts of misdemeanours, but they had
also the power of regulating the prices at which certain com-
modities were to be sold, and even the hours during which it
might be lawful to traffic in them, as well as the number of
persons who could carry on certain occupations in fact, con-
trolling every matter in which the welfare of the burgh was
concerned, commercially and otherwise, even regulating where
marriages were to be celebrated, and the number of persons to
be present thereat. A vast amount of matter of historical
interest is available, which throws considerable light upon the
social life of the burgh, and from what is within reach we have
made the following selections.
One curious item is the

Strange Names

for persons, places, and things to be met with in the chronicles
of the period, amongst these being, for instance, seriands, for


officers or sergeants ; browdinster, an embroiderer ; backstaris,
bakers ; pykaris, petty thieves ; skemlis, the places where meat
and fish were sold ; and barrasyet was the name for the princi-
pal gate or port entrance to the town from the south, probably
that which gave the name to Port Street. Then we come
across wobstaris for weavers, nunschankis for an afternoon re-
past ; langsaddill, a long wooden seat ; chenyeis, for chains ;
curchrie, a covering for a woman's head, and also nicht-
courchre, a nightcap ; gryissis, pigs ; gait dychtingis, certain
dues payable to the town, and many others, not a few of which
are perfectly unintelligible to us now.

Where there is such a variety of material to deal with, it is
difficult to know where rightly to begin, and, having begun, to
know where to leave off. Taking something relative to trade
first, we find in 1520 that " It was statut and ordinit that na
houkstar sail by ony manir of fycht (fish) na uder stoufe
(commodity) to tap (retail) agane apon nebouris quhill efter
xij houris, under the pane of escheting of the stoufe that is
coft," and the same as to corn, hay, or other fodder ; which
means that no small dealer was to purchase any of these articles
for the purpose of selling over again, before 12 o'clock, which
would show that burghers were to have the first chance of the
dealing, both as regards buying and selling.


who killed any faulty meat, or exposed such for sale, were to
be prohibited from dealing in meat within the burgh for a
year ; and if the deacon of the fleshers knew of any such case,
and did not report it to the proper officers, he was to pay 40s.
Every flesher was to be responsible for his servant, and no
animals were to be killed but in the Backraw, and in booths.
A flesher bringing any " spoulyeit or mauschit " (musty) meat to
market was to pay 8s for the first fault, the second time he
was to forfeit the meat, and be prohibited from selling for a
year and a day. " Blawin flesche " was strictly prohibited, and
when mutton was brought to market the head of the sheep was
to be produced. As regards the


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