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Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington
The Incorporation of Hammermen


HAMMERMEN were another of the nine incorporated trades of Haddington. The corporation included trades which used a hammer, viz., smiths, saddlers, tinsmiths, and watch and clock makers. Hence its name. It was always reckoned to be a respectable corporation, and often the trades bailie and convener of the trades were chosen from it. The only members of it now alive are Mr Ferme and Mr Porteous, saddler. The yearly election of the deacon and office-bearers in the month of September, was an event looked forward to with much delight, especially by the older members, such as old John Cochrane, “hinges Tamie Cowan“ downright Adam Cockburn; John Pinkerton, "pinkie;” George Young, “sindie;” and others. At the election they were persons of great importance, and were dressed out in their best. The following stanza from Fergusson’s poem, “The Election,” fitly describes them :—

“Whare’s Johnny gaun,” cries neebour Bess,
“That he’s sae gaily bodin,
“Wi’ new-kaimed wig, weel-syndet face,
Silk hose, for hamely hodin?”
“Our Johnny’s nae sma’ drink, you’ll guess,
He’s trig as ony muir-cock,
An’ forth to mak a deacon, lass;
He dou’na speak to poor fock
Like us the day.”

On such occasions “high festival” was held in one of the principal inns; some of the magistrates and burgesses were invited as guests. There was always a supper when the election dinner was ordered: the election dinner itself and another supper when the bill was paid. As the funds of the corporation were ample, the viands and the liquors provided were first class and in great abundance.

John Darling, an old member, always stipulated that a boiled gigot of Southdown mutton with caper sauce was to be on the table, which he declared was food fit “for the gods.”

Much hilarity with the feast of reason and the flow of soul prevailed at these annual meetings. William Aitkin, watchmaker, “Muffie,” used to sing his song; “The Hazel Rung,” in great style. Deacon George Spears also often sung, and told old stories and anecdotes connected with the corporation and old Haddingtonians in byegone times, and often broke out in vehement terms against “strangers, outlanders, and interlopeters,” who came into the burgh and who wanted to make themselves persons of importance in opposition to old Haddington folk.

Bailie Matthew Dawson, watchmaker, “Pivot,” was a perfect chronicle of old events, which had happened during the stirring war times, when officers and landed gentry of high degree lived in the town, and made it a place of great importance.

The Hammermen Corporation, like the others, is now extinct; and the names of many old members may be remembered by few, while the recollection of the festive occasions is become a matter of history.

Masons and Wrights.

The United Corporation of Masons and Wrights, which included plasterers, glaziers, and slaters, is the only one which possesses property and funds, which at present amount to betwixt five and six hundred pounds. Mr Andrew Dickson and Mr R. W. Smiles are the only remanent members.

Tailors.

Among the old members of the Incorporation of Tailors were—

Deacon Skinner.
Robert Dudgeon.
William Dudgeon, "Singie.”
Sandie Sheill.
James Cowan.
David Dickson.
David Knox.

Adam Richardson, “the Eel,” was the last deacon. It has long ago been extinct, and no members remain.

Fleshers.

The Nisbets and Thomsons were long ago members* of this incorporation, also Messrs Gaff and Walker, Robert Johnston, a well-known Haddington man, was the last deacon. It is now extinct.

Skinners.

The skinners were always a small incorporation, and were long represented by the Pringles. George M'Cullagh was the last member, who was entered in 1832.


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