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The History of Glasgow
Chapter LIII - Early Council Record—Navigation of the River Clyde—University's Exemption from Taxes and Subsidies—Vicarage of Colmonell—Seal of Cause to Cordiners


WHEN John Gibson published his History of Glasgow, in 1777, he seems to have had access either to a council record going farther back than the earliest now in the city's repositories or to extracts from such a register. Quoting an ordinance and statute of the year 1556, "made be the baillie, Johne Muire, and the remanent counsel! of the town and ceite, for the ingathering of the tax, laitlie devisit to be tane of the burrowes," Gibson shows that the city's share of a tax on the burghs in general was allocated on the citizens by " stenters " selected from the merchants and the several bodies of craftsmen. For the merchants twelve stenters were appointed, and for the craftsmen the smiths supplied 5; baxters, 3; cordiners, 2; tailors, 4; skinners, 2; weavers, 4; masons, 4; mealmen and maltmen, 4; coopers, 3; and fleshers, 4. [Gibson's History of Glasgow, pp. 79, 80. At this time Glasgow stood eleventh highest in a list of 42 contributing burghs. In the allocation of an impost on the burghs of i,000 merks the following were the eleven highest contributors :—Edinburgh, 168; Stirling, 16; Glasgow, 13; Ayr, 15; Haddington, 20; Aberdeen, 63; Dundee, 84; Perth, 49; Montrose, 18, St. Andrews, 20; Cupar, 18; fractions omitted (Cony. Rec. i. pp. 521-2).]

Three years later Gibson again gives information apparently obtained from a now missing council record, mentioning that in 159 the citizens elected their own magistrates at a time when the archbishop had left the town and taken up his quarters with the Queen-regent and the garrison in Leith fort. [Gibson's History of Glasgow, pp. Si, 82. James Denholm in his History of Glasgow, published in 1798 (p. io) repeats this statement and expressly cites "Council Record" as his authority.] Statutes and ordinances by the magistrates fixing the prices of ale, bread, tallow, candles and horse corn, on 30th September, 1360, are also quoted, a "grit dearth approaching to a famine," in 1563, is referred to and the price of wine in 1569 is restricted to 18d. the pint. [Gibson's History, pp. 82-84. Prices fixed:—ale, 4d. the pint; 4d. loaf to weigh 32 ounces; 2d. loaf, 16 ounces; tallow, 8s. the stone; candle, 6d. the pound; horse corn, 8d. the peck.]

Acts of the town council, dated 6th October, 1556, have been preserved in an extract under the hand of William Hegait, town clerk. On that day the provost, bailies and council ordained that the baxters, as the bakers were called, should have three market days in the week, viz., Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for bringing their bread to the cross, and no bread of outside bakers was to be sold at the cross except on these days. An outside traveller bringing bread to the market was not allowed to sell it to strangers in large quantities or wholesale [The words are:—"in in laidis, creillis nor half creillis nor in gret the gidder." (Facsimile of Extract in The Incorporation of Bakers of Glasgow, 1891, P. 43.)] till the inhabitants were served and twelve hours had struck. Only the traveller who brought the bread, and not any huckster, was allowed to sell it, and there were to be only two prices, 4d. and 2d., the weight varying with the market price.

Referring to election time in 1573, three months before the existing records begin, Gibson states that the claim of the bishop to appoint the magistrates was revived by Archbishop Boyd and that against this the council protested and for that year chose their own magistrates. [Gibson's History, p. 84. Similar notes taken from the existing records are continued by Gibson who correctly states that in 1574 Lord Boyd was appointed provost during the archbishop's lifetime and his Iordship's acceptance (Glasg. Rec. i. pp. 22, 23). This continuity of reference adds to the likelihood of a previous council record being really in existence in Gibson's time. But there is little chance of the book again becoming available, and without it the historian must be content to leave much of the city's sixteenth century experiences in obscurity.] From this remark, and keeping in view the procedure at election time in 1561 [Antea, p. 387.] it may be inferred that since 1559 the citizens had elected their own magistrates, though as formerly the bailie of the regality had ex officio held the provostship. Lord Boyd, in 1573, succeeded Sir John Stewart of Minto, who had been bailie of the regality and provost of the burgh from at least the year 1565, by which time the Earl of Lennox had been reinvested in his estates.

Though no authority is cited, it was probably from an early council record that we have the first information about improvements on the navigation of the river Clyde, the channel of which, for about thirteen miles below the city, was so interrupted by fords and shoals as to render the passage difficult, even for craft of the smallest size. It is stated that in 1556, huts were erected near Dumbuck and inhabitants of Glasgow, Renfrew and Dumbarton, entered into an agreement to work on the river, for six weeks at a time, per vices, with a view chiefly to remove the ford at Dumbuck and the most prominent sandbanks. Though, it is added, this work was of considerable benefit to the navigation, the river was still in a very imperfect state, the shores were rugged and irregular; and as at high tide the water spread over a great surface, forming pools and islands, the most skilful skipper often ran the risk of missing the channel. [Cleland's Annals (1829) p. 371.]

During Queen Mary's reign the exemption from taxes first granted to the University by James II. in 1453, was confirmed and on other occasions was adapted to the special circumstances of its office bearers. The first of these confirmations is contained in a Letter by the Earl of Arran, governor of the kingdom, dated 6th July, 1547, in which previous letters of exemption are enumerated and ratified and the University and its rectors, dean of faculty, procurators regents, masters and scholars, relieved of all taxations, exactions and other charges that might be imputed to them. In 1554-5 the clergy of Scotland agreed to levy a crown contribution of 10,000. At that time John Colquhoune, parson of Stobo, was rector of the University, John Layng, parson of Luss, was dean of faculty, and John Houston, vicar of Glasgow, was regent in the "Pedagog"; and the Queen-regent, recognising the exemptions formerly granted to members of the university, "and being myndit rather to augment nor hurt thare privilegis," granted a Letter under her signet, discharging the collector of the tax from levying any part of it from Stobo and Luss parsonages and Glasgow vicarage. The Letter is dated 8th February, 1555-6; and by similar documents, dated respectively 15th June, 1556, and 14th March, 1556-7, the rector, dean of faculty and principal in the University, for the time, were relieved from payment from their respective benefices of any part of a crown contribution of 2,000 granted by the clergy in May, 1556, and another of 2,500 granted by them in December of that year. [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. pp. 118, 122-4. In 1556-7 Archibald Betoun "chantour of Aberdeine" was rector, John Houston was dean of faculty, and John Davidson, "pensionar of the personage of KinkelI, within the diocy of Aberdeine" was principal regent. Stationers and parchment-makers are included in the enumeration of those sharing in the university's exemption from taxation in 1453 (Ibid. p. 38). Manufacture of parchment thus seems to have been practised in Glasgow, and it is noted that in 1531, when large numbers of parchment skins were being purchased for crown purposes, the lord high treasurer bought some of these in Glasgow (L.H.T. Accounts, vi. p. 50).]

About this time Archbishop Beaton definitely annexed the vicarage of Colmonell, in the deanery of Carrick and shire of Ayr, to the University. This was done by a charter granted at the archbishop's "Palace" on 24th January, 1557-8, but in previous writings there are indications that the annexation had been resolved upon in 1537, and in a lease granted in 1552 the rector of the university consented for his interest. Under the name of Kirk-Colmanele, the church with its pertinents belonged to the bishops of Glasgow and these were confirmed to them by three successive Popes, in the twelfth century. The rectory and revenues were settled on the chapter of Glasgow and were possessed by that body till the Reformation. For some years after 1557 the revenues of the vicarage were paid to John Davidson, principal regent of the university, and under the new foundation, in 1572-3, the vicarage was assigned to the principal of the college as the chief part of his remuneration. [Munimenta, pp. xiv, xvi, 56, 62 ; Caledonia, p. 541; Glasg. Prot. Nos. 2112-3. In exercise of their right of patronage, the dean and chapter, on 24th February, 1477-8, chose a parish clerk of Colmonell, and on the same day the archbishop gave him official admission (Reg. Episc. Nos. 414-5).]

According to title deeds and rental, the university was possessed of four acres of land in Dowhill, " betuix the burn and the Muyr buttis," but when the ground was measured by the " barony men," at the bishop's command, in 1557, it was found to be over two falls short of that area. On the supposition that this deficient ground had been lost through encroachment by neighbouring proprietors, it was agreed that their "evidents" or title deeds should be examined, but according to a memorandum made at Whitsunday, 1559, that had not been accomplished, because, in the first place, the archbishop "passit to France to the Quenis marriage" and latterly "the controversie rays betuix the Protestants and the Papistis for the religione." [Munimenta, p. 67.]

Just in time to escape the more acute stage of this " controversie," and by means of a seal of cause to obtain the recognition of the archbishop and authority for the maintenance of altar services, the cordiner and "barker" or tanner craftsmen, on 27th February, 1558-9, presented a supplication to the magistrates and council, seeking ratification of their rules and regulations conform to the usual practice. The honour of holy kirk, the common weal of the town and the profit of " our soverane lord and ladyis " lieges repairing thither, augmentation of divine service at the altar of St. Ninian in the metropolitan kirk, with " the honour of the sanctis Crispin and Crispinani, our patrones," are set forth as leading motives for the application, and then followed a statement of the "statutes, articles and rules " desired to be sanctioned. These included power to choose a "dekin and kirkmaster," sanction for specified sums to be paid for maintenance of the altar by craftsmen on setting up booth, by prentices at their entry, by masters and servants weekly, and by those presenting to the market any work or "barkit" leather. Prentices had to serve for seven years, and a freeman was to take one only in the seven years, and there were rules as to stands in the market, the hours of the market, the inspection of work, the employment of servants, giving obedience to the deacon and imposition of fines. The deacon, with advice of the worthiest craftsmen, was also to be authorised to make statutes to their own craft for the commonweal and profit of the burgh. [Within eleven years after this seal of cause was obtained by the cordiners it was superseded by another (27th June, 1569) in almost identical terms, so far as relating to business and workmanship but containing variations necessitated by changes in national affairs. In the seal of 1558 allusion is madeto the lieges of " our Soverane Lord and Lady, the King and Quene," Francis and Mary. Ere 1569 was reached Mary had passed through two widow-hoods, dethronement and exile; and in the second seal of cause her son, " the king," is referred to as the ruling sovereign. Then, in consequence of the Reformation, maintenance of divine service at a cathedral altar was illegal, and the money formerly so destined was, in 1569, appointed to be given in support of poor decayed brethren and relief of the common charges of the craft. Money, also, formerly spent on banquets was in future to be used for similar charitable purposes. No reference was made to the archbishop and the magistrates and council were the sole granters of the new seal of cause. See Cordiners of Glasgow, by William Campbell (1883) pp. 248-55 also The Scottish Croft Guild, by Robert Lamond, in S.H.R. xvi. pp. Ig1-211.]

The magistrates and council, with consent of the archbishop, approved of and confirmed the statutes, articles and rules, and the seal of the archbishop and the common seal of the burgh were appended to the written parchment.


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