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The History of Glasgow

MATERIAL for the early history of Glasgow was not very accessible when the eighteenth century historians, M'Ure, Gibson, Denholm, and Brown, compiled their works, and this mainly accounts for the extremely limited extent to which original sources of information are used by these authors. Towards such excusable neglect the present generation might be indifferent if it were certain that everything of local historical value, then in existence, were still available, and this may safely be assumed with regard to the bulk of the manuscripts, but there are grounds for believing that some have disappeared in the interval.

All the muniments which Archbishop Beaton took with him when he left the country at the time of the Reformation were retained in Paris till near the end of the eighteenth century, but by good fortune they had come under the notice of Thomas Innes, an eminent elucidator of ancient Scottish annals. Innes was a Roman Catholic priest and was latterly vice-principal of the Scots College, where most of the Glasgow manuscripts were deposited. These documents, as well as those deposited in the Chartreuse of Paris, he had carefully examined in the course of his historical inquiries, and he had been specially gratified with the proof they afforded of the legitimacy of the Stewart line of kings. Public attention having been directed to the results of these investigations, Father Innes was often applied to for information procurable from the Glasgow manuscripts. The University of Glasgow asked him to supply extracts of the writings relating to that institution, and a similar request came from the magistrates and council of Glasgow with reference to the documents specially relating to the city.

In consequence of the communications thus opened, and the correspondence which followed, a number of authenticated transcripts were transmitted to the University in 1738, and later on a complete copy of the Episcopal Register was supplied. In 1739 the magistrates and council were presented with transcripts of the early city charters and other writs in which the municipality were more immediately concerned. Till the original documents were returned to this country, at a later date, it is probable that investigators of the early ecclesiastical and municipal history of Glasgow obtained most of their information from these transcripts supplied by Father Innes.

John M'Ure, Glasgow's first historian, was keeper of the Register of Sasines for the Regality of Glasgow-and adjoining district, from which register deeds relating to the burgh were excluded, and thus he had no special knowledge of the city so far as could be learned from its registers. But M'Ure claimed that his nativity in the city, great age, long experience and employment, had given him more than ordinary occasion to know the state of the town, while at " no small difficulty and expense " he had procured from Paris copies of such documents as he judged essentially necessary to illustrate his work. M'Ure's history was published two years before the University procured its first transcripts, and therefore he had to depend on what was obtainable from Paris direct. Father Innes, whom he styles "the learned and ingenious Mr. Thomas Innes," supplied a copy of the foundation charter of 1175-8, where it is provided that the city was to have all the privileges of a royal burgh; and in the history it is bluntly

stated that Glasgow was created a royal burgh by William the Lion. Technically this was wrong, because in strict language a royal burgh must be held direct of the sovereign, while in the case of Glasgow the bishop intervened. But in a wider sense the statement was substantially correct. Some of the more recent historians who criticised M'Ure's verbal inaccuracy went to the opposite extreme, and, reasoning from the name while overlooking the substance, represented Glasgow as an ordinary burgh of barony, with its citizens dependent on the pleasure of the bishop as their overlord. In actual experience, and by virtue of its earliest charters, Glasgow had trading rights, home and foreign, as full as any enjoyed by a royal burgh. It held its own courts, admitted its burgesses, and conducted its municipal administration, all in accordance with the ordinary procedure of a royal burgh. Only in the election of the magistracy was there a peculiarity. The bishop chose the bailies, but this could only be done from a leet presented by the burgesses or the town council, so that the election in the first instance came from the citizens. With regard to the provost, an official who at a comparatively late period was added to the town council of Glasgow, the bishop had a freer hand, as the original nomination was left to himself. But even after the bishop's selection of the bailies and nomination of the provost, the commissions both to provosts and bailies were issued by the town council.

John Gibson, who published his History of Glasgow in 1777, makes more abundant use of transcripts obtained from Paris than M'Ure did, and he also broke new ground by giving a few extracts from the city's own records. Here attention is arrested by quotations from a council record prior in date to the earliest of the records now preserved in the city's archives. Embracing the period immediately preceding and succeeding the national change from the old to the new faith, the missing volume must have contained much of vital importance in telling the story of such a city as Glasgow, whose civic and ecclesiastical affairs were so closely intermingled. Gibson's meagre extracts, which may after all have been taken, not from the original record, but from transcripts, do not conclusively prove that the volume was really in existence in his day, and therefore the discredit of its loss must not without further proof attach to the record custodiers subsequent to that time.

Glasgow's episcopal registers and writs, so full of information about localities throughout the diocese, were largely used by George Chalmers in his Caledonia, published in 1807-24. By this time the original documents had passed through serious risk of destruction during the French Revolution. Part of the writs had been brought to this country by the Abbe Macpherson, rector of the Scots College at Rome, and Chalmers himself, who was always on the outlook for manuscripts of historical value, obtained the custody of some of these. Other writs and registers came into the hands of Bishop Cameron of Edinburgh, but suspicions are entertained that several bundles traced to St. Omers, in France, were never returned to this country.

In 1832 the Maitland Club, by the issue of a volume of selections from town council and burgh court records (1373-80) took the first effective step for having the local manuscript collections made readily accessible for historical purposes; and, through newspaper enterprise, this publication was shortly afterwards followed by a supplementary series of extracts (1588-1750), now known in their republished form as Memorabilia. Then came, in 1843, the Maitland Club's issue of Registrum Episcopatus Glasguensis, a most important work, containing a print of the ancient register and of all charters relating to the bishopric and the cathedral from the earliest times till the middle of the sixteenth century. In 1846 the Club issued to its members Liber Collegii Vostre Domine and Munimenta Fratrum Predicatorum de Glasgu, being collections of documents relating to (i) the Collegiate Church of St. Mary and St. Anne (1516-49), and (2) the Place of the Friars Preachers in Glasgow (1249-1559); with selections from miscellaneous writs preserved in the University's archives. The University's own muniments, including such of the writs relating to that institution as had already appeared in print, were issued by the Maitland Club in 1854.

Besides the documents comprehended in these publications there had been returned from Paris two MS. volumes relating to the diocese, one consisting of the Protocols of Cuthbert Simson, clerk of the Cathedral Chapter (1499-1513), and the other the Rental Book kept by the archbishops (1509-70). The publication of these manuscripts, under the title Diocesan Registers, was undertaken by the Grampian Club in 1875. Little was known either of the Protocols or the Rental Book before their publication, but each has its peculiar value in providing minute and interesting particulars regarding the city and barony before the dates when the existing council records and town clerks' protocols commence.

Beyond what had been accomplished, about forty years previously, no progress was made in the publication of municipal records till, in the year 1876, the late Sir James Marwick, through the medium of the Scottish Burgh Records Society, began the publication of the city's charters and records. Latterly continued and completed to the year 1833, under the authority of the Town Council, this series extends to fourteen bulky volumes, and the valuable information thereby provided for the local historian has been supplemented by eleven thin quartos, embracing the protocols of the town clerks of Glasgow, so far as preserved, between the years 1530 and 1600.

From time to time portions of the large accumulation of historical material here enumerated have been utilised in narrative form, notably by Sir James Marwick in his Historical Introduction to the first volume of Glasgow Charters and in his Early Glasgow, but it is generally recognised that the time has come for the history of the city being presented on a more comprehensive scale than has hitherto been attempted.

After finishing, in 1916, the editorial work entrusted to me by the Town Council eight years previously, it was not my intention to undertake anything further in connection with the city's history beyond the issue of (1) a few papers supplementary to Glasgow Memorials, and (2) a revised and enlarged edition of Historical Glasgow, originally compiled as part of a handbook on the occasion of the British Association's visit to Glasgow in 1901. Unexpectedly, however, suggestions came to me from various quarters which led to reconsideration of that limited design. In the course of an appreciative notice of the completed charters and records, which appeared in the Scottish Historical Review, I was urged to undertake the compilation of a history of the city. Approval of that step came both from individuals and from some of the public journals, the Council of the Glasgow Archaeological Society concurred, and Glasgow Town Council formally invited me to proceed with the work. Perhaps too easily persuaded to enter on so congenial a task, and not sufficiently realising the difficulties which lie in the way, many of which can only be partially overcome, I have ventured thus far, and the first instalment of the new history of Glasgow is now submitted to the public.

That the Town Council should have extended to the present scheme the generous support which they gave to the publication of their charters and records is highly gratifying, alike to author and publishers ; and in this connection grateful acknowledgment is due to Sir John Lindsay, Town Clerk, for the interest manifested by him in the progress of the work, and for his cordial co-operation in facilitating the needful business arrangements.

Surviving all its many hazards by land and sea, in this country and abroad, the ancient register of the bishopric, known as Regis/rum Vetus Ecclesia? Cathedralis Glasguensis, is now safely deposited in St. Mary's College, Blairs, Aberdeenshire; and through the courtesy of the Right Rev. James M'Gregor, Rector of the College, facilities were readily afforded for photographing the four pages here reproduced in facsimile. All the documents in the register are printed in Registrum Episcopatus, but it is interesting to have a specimen of the original manuscript, penned, it is thought, in the twelfth century. The photographed pages begin with the last two lines of Earl David's Inquisitio (the whole of the lithographed MS. of which is given in the published Regis/rum), and also contain the foundation charter of the burgh of Glasgow, the charter instituting Glasgow Fair, and other documents specified in the List of Illustrations.

As will be seen from quotations and footnotes, I have freely availed myself of the researches and opinions of other writers and to several personal friends I am indebted for information and advice. Very specially have I to express my obligations to Mr. George Neilson, LL.D., for invaluable assistance. Not only was Dr. Neilson always ready to confer with me on preliminary points, but he also, in renewal of similar favours rendered on previous occasions, took the trouble to read over all the proof sheets of the present volume and to give me the benefit of his wise counsel and serviceable suggestions.,

GLASGOW, December, 1919.

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