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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter II - Clearing Old Scores


ALTHOUGH Glasgow saw no such clash of arms within its gates at the Revolution as it had seen at the Reformation and during the risings of the Covenanters, it was conscious constantly, for a considerable time, of the ominous sough of war. During 1689 and 1690, with the coming and going of regiments, and billeting of troops on the inhabitants, it must have borne much the appearance of an armed camp. While Dundee's rising for King James threatened the peace of the country, it was evidently thought necessary to guard the western passes by which a force might descend from the Highlands into the low country. One of these passes was at Balmaha on the eastern side of Loch Lomond, not more than twenty-three miles from Glasgow itself. It was a pass to be made notorious presently by the cattle-lifting and blackmailing exploits of Rob Roy. To frustrate a descent the Government placed a garrison at the mansion of Drumikill, near Drymen. The Highlanders evidently adopted the plan of starving out the unwelcome garrison, and Captain Stewart, its commander, was forced to send a message into the city, saying he was in straits. The magistrates thereupon despatched in relief eight bolls of meal, for which, it is recorded, they paid £61 13s. 4d. Scots, with twenty-eight shillings for carriage. [Burgh Records, 27th Sept., 1690.]

There is mention, in the town's records, of Danish and English troops quartered in the city. £5912 Scots were distributed among citizens who had had their crops eaten and destroyed by the English forces when they lay at Glasgow in September, 1689, and for the sums these forces were owing the townspeople for meat, drink, and other requirements. £150 were paid Lieutenant William Duff to prevent his company taking free quarters among the inhabitants, and a slightly larger sum was paid to a writer in Edinburgh for raising a criminal action against certain officers and their servants in Sir James Leslie's regiment, at the instance of Elizabeth Cochrane, for the killing of her husband, John Reid, a wright. £24 Scots was paid for the loss of a horse requisitioned by one of the Danish officers to ride express to England, and never returned; and the tenants in Gorbals had to be recompensed for damage done by the Duke of Gordon's men, who "did eat and destroy the lands there." So constant were the demands for his services in billeting troops and the like, that a quartermaster was regularly employed by the magistrates, and the salary of Rio sterling was paid him yearly. [Ibid. 6th April, 23rd May and 5th Sept., 1691, 10th June and 15th Sept., 1692.]

Not least interesting is the fact that a Glasgow merchant, John Simpson, was commissioned and paid to hire four pilots at Greenock and convey them to Leith for the purpose of bringing four of King William's ships of war from that port round the north of Scotland to Londonderry in August, 1689. Londonderry had already been relieved, and the famous siege raised, on 28th July, but, though too late to help that achievement, these ships of war formed a valuable addition to the fleet which co-operated in the final overthrow of the Jacobite cause in Ireland. [Ibid. 15th Sept., 1692.]

A few months later another request of similar sort, in connection with the same campaign, was sent to Glasgow. On 27th July, the day before the relief of Londonderry, King James's general, Viscount Dundee, had fallen at Killiecrankie, in the moment of victory, and shortly afterwards the repulse of his clansmen at Dunkeld had ended for the time the Jacobite menace in Scotland. Troops could therefore be spared for the Irish war, and in the spring King William was preparing for the final effort of that campaign. The provost of Glasgow was accordingly requested to charter two vessels for two months or longer for the transport of six hundred soldiers, with their provisions. Complying with this request, two vessels were chartered from Glasgow merchants, the Unitie, of 150 tons, belonging to William Walkinshaw and partners, and the James, of 110 tons, belonging to Thomas Peter and partners. The charge was twelve shillings sterling per ton per month, and payment was to be made out of the excise duties of Glasgow itself. These vessels no doubt carried from the Clyde a contingent of the troops which fought for King William at the Battle of the Boyne. [Burgh Records, list April, 1690.]

It was probably as a result of this military atmosphere that the first Volunteer movement started in the city. There had, of course, been previous offers made by the magistrates to raise troops, but it was only in May, 1692, that a number of private persons came forward with the offer to form an armed and mounted company "to ride when desired," on condition that their horses should be stabled and fed at the town's expense while on active service. The offer was duly accepted by the magistrates. [Ibid. 12th May, 1692.]

A great clearing up of old scores by the Town Council naturally followed the new settlement of the crown and the abolition of the episcopal system, with the change over to a new party in the management of the town's affairs.

The first act of the new council was to take note of certain abuses consequent on the election of keepers of taverns and change-houses to be magistrates and deacon-conveners. In order to gain favour, it appeared, poor people had been induced to spend money needlessly in these places, and had been led into debauchery and drunkenness. It was therefore enacted that no keeper of a tavern or change-house should be eligible for the post of provost, bailie, dean of guild, or deacon-convener, under a penalty of £1000 Scots. [Burgh Records, 4th Oct., 1690.]

There had been trouble also with the chamberlains of Provand. By their remissions these agents had allowed the tenants of the town's lands in that property to fall into arrears of rent to the amount of £20,000. As a short and sharp cure, which was probably effective, the salaries of these chamberlains were stopped till they should secure the clearing of the accounts, and legal action was directed to be taken for the return of salaries already paid, to cover certain doubtful intromissions in the books. [Ibid. 5th Sept., 1690.]

But the worst case of all was that of a late provost of the city, John Barnes. During his terms of office in 1683 and 1685 Barnes had scattered the town's moneys in rather questionable payments with a profuse hand, and he had borrowed large sums of money on his own account, which the magistrates and council were afterwards induced to declare a free gift for his great pains and trouble in the town's affairs. [list. Glas. ii. 414.] Action had been taken by the Town Council, and the case decided against Barnes in the Court of Session in 1685. [Morrison's Dictionary of Decisions, p. 2513.] These moneys the magistrates roundly named embezzlements, and called Barnes to account for their repayment. Action was taken before the Privy Council in Edinburgh. As a result Barnes was imprisoned in the Tolbooth there till he should find caution to the amount of £1000 sterling for the clearing of the charge. It was resolved also to prosecute the magistrates and town councillors who had acted with Barnes, and who had joined with such suspicious alacrity in his squandering of the town's money. A request which the ex-provost made, after he had lain several months in prison, to be set free on his own bond or parole was refused, until he should give a frank account of the ways in which he had disposed of the embezzled money, and of the "fines" or burgess fees which had been paid into his hands. [Burgh Records, 29th Mar., 2nd June, 11th Aug., 1690.] As no further notice of the matter appears, it may be supposed that Barnes was one of those who languished hopelessly in Edinburgh Tolbooth till released by death or some state amnesty.

Another considerable intromission with the city's funds was apparently at the same time abandoned as a bad debt. Since the Earl of Argyll refused to repay the 10,000 merks and £10,000 Scots borrowed by his father from the funds of Hutchesons' Hospital and the Blackfriars Kirk respectively, [Hist. Glas. ii. 395.] he had himself, like that father, suffered the doom of execution and forfeiture, and although his son's title had been restored by the Scottish Parliament, it was either considered hopeless to pursue him for the debt, or undesirable to trouble the representative of a family which had suffered so severely in the cause of the political party which was now at last in power. Whatever the reason, the town clerk was instructed on 2nd June, 1690, to lay up the Marquess's bonds among the other town's papers, and Glasgow remained permanently the poorer by a substantial sum. [This matter was raised again ten years later, when it was proposed to reverse the forfeiture of the Marquess of Argyll. The magistrates then agreed to be content with such sums only as might be received from the Marquess of Huntly and others of the Marquess' debtors.—Burgh Records, 23rd Dec., 1700.]

But the most significant clearing of scores lay in the Town Council's dealings with the ministers of the Glasgow churches. Most of these ministers seem to have conformed to the new order, but there appears to have been considerable delay in paying the stipends of several. There is a note of settlement with half a dozen on 18th April, 1691, but there was clearly a disposition to deal more hardly with others. In their case the provost was commissioned to go to Edinburgh, and not only to defend the town against their claims before the Privy Council, but to endeavour to have the ministers themselves suspended. [Ibid. 13th and 25th April, 1691.] One of these last, Alexander Milne, had held a charge in Glasgow for over twenty years, but it was only at the intercession of several influential persons, who were "the toune's freinds," and upon his giving a receipt clearing the burgh of all further claims, that the magistrates agreed to pay him a thousand merks. [Ibid. 9th May, 1691.] A similar transaction took place with George Buchanan, who did not get a settlement of his stipend for 1688 till August, 1691. In consequence of the suspension or ousting of ministers a number of the pulpits seem to have been occupied for a time by temporary preachers, whose remuneration is recorded in the Town Council minutes; and between April, 16gi, and March, 1692, the magistrates invited no fewer than four new ministers to serve the churches of the city. The uniform stipend offered, it is interesting to note, was £1000 Scots (£83 6s. 8d. stg.), with £80 for house rent, and the Town Council was generous in paying the cost of removing the new minister's furniture from his previous abode.

Curiously enough, while the magistrates displayed an eager anxiety to rid themselves of the obligation to submit a list of burgesses to the archbishop, or whoever came in his place as superior of the burgh, for his nomination of a provost, they were ready, without being asked, to submit a list of ministers to the Presbytery for the nomination of one of the number to fill the pulpit of a city church. [Ibid. 16th Mar., 1691.] What was a right grudgingly conceded in the former case was a homage willingly proffered in the latter.

On the whole the treatment, by the Town Council, of the ministers of the city churches who were willing to come to terms and to conform to the new order, appears to have been not unfair. The city fathers had always shown a respectful regard for the spiritual guides of the community. John Gibson, the Glasgow historian of the eighteenth century, definitely states that their stipends were among the most generous in Scotland. [Gibson's Hist. p. 130. When one of the town's ministers, Alexander Hastie, retired in 1711 on account of old age and infirmity, the Town Council made him an annual allowance of L54o Scots.—Burgh Records, 28th June, 1711.]

None the less, the finances of the burgh were at that time giving the city fathers considerable anxiety. A bomb was burst upon the Town Council when the Dean of Guild tabled a minute of the Merchants House detailing the town's debts, and pointing out that these amounted to the large sum of £200,000. For the defraying of the debts the merchants suggested that Parliament should be asked for powers to sell the whole public goods of the town, and at the same time it was agreed to levy a duty of thirty shillings on every brewing of malt, as well as on every butt of sack and butt of brandy, and twenty-four shillings on every barrel of mum beer consumed within the burgh. Faced by the facts, the city fathers at once agreed to the measures proposed—all except the maltmen, who shrewdly saw in the suggested duties the beginning of a burden upon their trade which was destined to grow heavier from that day till this. Nor were they long in seeing their apprehensions begin to be fulfilled. No more than fifteen months later, when it was found difficult to levy cess and other public burdens by means of a direct tax, the magistrates resorted to the easy plan of increasing the duty payable upon every "masking" of malt and every tun of wine consumed within the burgh. [Ibid. 8th Aug., 1689, 29th Nov., 1690.]

Another novel and rather daring device for raising money to pay the debts of the burgh was also resorted to. It had been the custom of the magistrates for many years to farm out the various sources of revenue of the burgh, such as the toll at the bridge and the dues at the weigh-house or tron, to individual renters for an annual payment. The Town Council now set out to become themselves farmers of revenue on a larger scale for behoof of the town. Among various innovations the new Government had proceeded to impose excise duties for the purpose of securing a regular revenue, throughout the country. In the levying of these duties the ingenious city fathers of Glasgow saw an opportunity, and proceeded to introduce themselves as middlemen. They took a lease for two years, at a fixed rent of 65,000 Scots yearly, of the inland excise duties of the shires of Lanark, Ayr, Renfrew, Bute, Dunbarton, and Stirling. They did not actually levy the duties themselves, but proceeded to farm out the several shires to third parties, with the idea of securing a profit by the enterprise. But, while a profit of a thousand pounds Scots and three guineas yearly was made out of sub-letting the excise of Stirlingshire, the duties of the shires of Renfrew, Bute, and Dunbarton, let to Thomas Crawford, younger of Cartsburn, produced no more than the sum paid for them, and there appears to have been some difficulty in securing a party to take over the duties of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. On the whole the adventure does not appear to have proved so successful or profitable as to tempt the magistrates to repeat it. [Ibid. 14th Dec., 1689.]

More promising, as a means of raising money, was a proposal to sell the lands of Provan, lying to the north and east of the city. These lands had contributed the revenue for one of the ancient prebendaries of the Cathedral, and had been possessed by King James IV. himself when he served as "Canon of Balernock and Laird of Provan." For many years before the Reformation members of the Baillie family had held the prebend, and in 1565 its two thousand and odd acres were granted by Queen Mary to Sir William Baillie, President of the College of Justice. By the marriage of Elizabeth Baillie, the " Air of Provan," the property passed to Hamilton of Silvertonhill, and in 1667 it was acquired from Sir Robert Hamilton, grandson of that pair, by the magistrates and town council of Glasgow. [Burgh Records, 2nd May, 1668. Lugton's Old Lodgings of Glasgow, pp. 35, 37, 41; Charters and Documents, ii. 350.] We have just seen that the magistrates were finding difficulty in collecting the rents of the estate, which were in arrears to the extent of some £1600 sterling. They apparently therefore entertained the idea of selling the property. [The Commissioners appointed in 1835 to enquire into the state of the municipal corporations in Scotland animadverted on this transaction. "Permission," they stated, "was, in 1691, given to the Corporation of Glasgow, by the Convention of Royal Burghs, to sell lands of great value, because heavy burdens had been occasioned by the vast soums that have been borrowed by the late magistrates, and the misapplying and dilapidation of the town's patrimony, in suffering their debts to swell, and employing their common store for their own sinistrous ends and uses. These lands were accordingly sold, avowedly in consequence of the malversation of the magistrates. Had this not happened, the burgh would now, in addition to its present estate, have been in the possession of lands worth from L100,000 to £150,000—a sum sufficient to have relieved the inhabitants of almost all the burghal taxes that now press on them."—Report, p. 31.] The Duke of Hamilton made an offer to purchase the land, including the arrears of rent, for 100,000 merks (£5554 14s. 3d. stg.), and the town council agreed to accept the offer. [Burgh Records, 25th April, 1691.] But an agreement had already been made to dispose of the lands to William Govan of Drumquhassle. and as he apparently declined to forego his bargain, it was concluded to hand them over to that individual for a payment of 77,000 merks and an annual feu-duty of 1000 merks, which, capitalised at twenty-six years' purchase, would make the price 103,000 merks - 3000 merks more than were offered by the Duke. [Ibid. 15th May, 1691.] The whole transaction seems to have been badly managed, however, and to have come to nothing, for in the following year the lands were leased to three other parties, George Buchanan, maltman; Robert Buchanan, baxter; and Thomas Hamilton, maltman, for eleven years, at a rent of 5400 merks yearly. [Ibid. 20th June, 1692.] From that time the details of management of the estate, houses and lands, were a constant care and anxiety to the magistrates, who had to defend their property from dilapidations and encroachments, to straighten marches, drain bogs, compensate improvements, etc. It was not till thirty-eight years later that the great estate was finally disposed of by feuing, the price being fixed at twenty-six years' purchase after the deduction of teind, and an annual feu-duty of one-third of the rent. [Ibid. 19th Aug., 1729, 1st May, 1733. See infra, p. 147.] The proceeds were then wisely directed by the magistrates to be used entirely for the payment of the town's debts. The superiorities of Provan were finally themselves sold in 1777. [Regality Club, 3rd Series, p. 12.]


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