In early times shires
must have been entrusted to warlike nobles able to maintain order
and to levy contributions for the sovereign. The representative of
the king in Forfarshire has been named in successive ages maormor,
thane, earl, and sheriff, an office which until the middle of the
eighteenth century was hereditary in some leading family. In 1747
this hereditary jurisdiction was abolished by act of parliament.
That it was an office of emolument as well as of honour is evident
from the fact that the sum of .£152,037 was voted as compensation to
those about to be deprived of it. Of this sum £12,137 fell to the
king’s representatives in Forfarshire.
After the passing of
this act, advocates by profession were nominated as sheriffs and
held courts in the county towns. As the population increased and the
duties of the sheriff multiplied, sheriffs-substitute were
appointed. The sheriff-principal is now entirely an appellate judge.
There is one sheriff-substitute for Dundee alone, and another for
Forfar and Arbroath. Honorary sheriffs-substitute are also
appointed, three in Forfar, seven in Dundee, two in Arbroath, and
one each in Montrose and Brechin. The sheriffs-substitute hold small
debt courts periodically at Forfar, Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose,
Brechin, and Kirriemuir. Justice of the Peace courts, or Petty
Sessions, are held in Dundee, Forfar, and elsewhere for small debt
and other purposes. The burghs possess police courts presided over
by local magistrates to deal with minor criminal offences.
In olden times the
sheriff had both legal and military duties to perform; but while the
former have been largely extended, the latter have diminished. The
sheriff still has, however, the superintendence of the police and
certain powers and duties with regard to the military in times of
civil disturbance. Under the Territorial Reserve Forces Act, 1907,
the Lord Lieutenant is ex officio president of the Territorial
Association. In Forfarshire there is a Lord Lieutenant, a
vice-lieutenant, and twenty-seven deputy-lieutenants; and in the
County of the City of Dundee, the Lord Provost is also Lord
Lieutenant, and there are nineteen deputy-lieutenants.
purposes Forfarshire has its County Council, besides which every
important burgh has its council for local affairs. The most
important, the royal burghs, created by charter from the Crown, are
Forfar, Dundee, Brechin, Montrose, and Arbroath. Next come
parliamentary burghs, towns possessing the right of sending members
to parliament. Police burghs consist of towns with over 700
inhabitants formed under the Police Acts. All three designations may
be applicable to one and the same town. In older times there existed
also burghs of regality, as Kirriemuir; and burghs of barony, as
Glamis and Edzell.
The County Council of
Forfarshire consists of fifty-four members (four ex officio)
representing the various electoral divisions. The fifty elected
members are distributed thus:—Dundee District, thirteen; Forfar
District, fourteen; Brechin District, twelve; Arbroath District,
eleven. The County Council levies rates and borrows money for public
works; and has the oversight of roads and bridges, public health,
and police. A special District Lunacy Board has the superintendence
The Poor Law is
administered by parish councils, who also levy rates for primary
education. Primary education is entrusted to school boards, of
which, apart from towns, there is one in each parish. Special
committees take charge of secondary and technical education.
affairs in the presbyterian churches are managed by various
presbyteries within the synod of Angus and Mearns. Forfarshire has
fifty-five civil and thirty-one quoad sacra parishes.
rendered more compact by the Boundary Commissioners in 1892. Before
that date there were certain detached portions of parishes within
the adjoining counties, and some detached portions of other counties
in Forfarshire. Thus the parishes of Alyth and Coupar Angus are now
wholly in Perthshire; while the parish of Liff, Benvie, and
Invergowrie, and that of Fowlis Easter have passed entirely into
Previous to 1832
Dundee joined with Forfar, Perth, Cupar-Fife, and St Andrews in
returning a member to parliament. Dundee has now two members, the
Montrose burghs (Montrose, Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar, and Bervie)
one, and the rest of the county one ; so that in all Forfarshire is
represented in parliament by four members.