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Merchant and Craft Guilds
A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades
Part II. Chapter I - Special Privileges of Craftsmen

THE great change which has taken place in the municipal government of Aberdeen during the last half century renders it somewhat difficult for the present generation, living under new jurisdictions, new laws, and new conditions and customs. to realise the place and position occupied by the craft associations for over four centuries. The power which they possessed and the jurisdiction they exercised in virtue of Royal Charters, Acts of Parliament, and Acts of Council, were far more extensive than is generally supposed. Their monopoly of trading privileges, so far as their own handicrafts were concerned, was but one thing. They were much more than mere industrial or trading societies; they had a far wider scope. They embraced a rigid supervision of the whole conduct of the individual ; all the journeymen, servants, and apprentices in the town, as well as the members proper, came within the jurisdiction of the deacons and their courts. Each craft acted as its own parochial board; they were the only friendly and benefit societies in existence, and to a certain extent members were assisted by loans out of the general funds to carry on their business. It will be readily understood, therefore, that as the individuals connected with the craft associations, both directly and indirectly, formed by far the largest proportion of the population for over four hundred years, the history of these societies cannot fail to assist in throwing light on the habits, customs, and general mode of living of the people from the twelfth century down to within less than half a century ago. Under the jurisdiction of these associations the individual gave up almost all freedom of action on religious and social, as well as trading, concerns; and the different acts and statutes passed in these associations, and to which we will refer more in detail as we proceed, will illustrate the extent to which individual or personal liberty was voluntarily resigned in favour of the common weal.

The early history of the Craft Guilds or associations in Aberdeen is to some extent traditional. We have evidence of the existence of special trading privileges as far back as the twelfth century, but it is not until well into the fifteenth century that time public records give us any direct information of the existence of organised bodies of craftsmen. Deacons or Masters of the Craft are known to have been general in all the leading burghs in Scotland about 1424, but it is impossible to fix the precise date at which any particular Craft formed an association with "ane wise man of the Craft" at its head. The introductory chapters which have already been given on Merchant and Craft Guilds both at home and abroad, should assist in throwing some light on that period of the history of the Aberdeen Crafts which may be considered traditional—the period embraced between the date when trading charters were first granted to the town, down to the time when mention is made of their functions and privileges in the Burgh Records.

The earliest charters granted to Aberdeen had reference to trading privileges solely. Charters confirming the town in the possession of its property came at a much later date; in its infancy the town only sought protection to hold its market, and carry on its small trading concerns freely and peaceably. In 1196, William I. (King William the Lion) granted the following charter to burgesses in and north of Aberdeen.

William, by the grace of God King of Scots, to all good men of his whole land greeting, Know all men present and to come, that I have granted, and by this my charter have confirmed to my burgesses of Aberdeen, and to all the burgesses of Moray, and to all my burgesses dwelling to the north of the munth (?) [the Grampian Hills] their free hanse, to be held where they will, and when they will, as freely and peaceably, fully and honourably, as their ancestors in the time of King David, my grandfather, had their hanse freely and honourably. Wherefore I strictly forbid anyone to trouble or disturb them therein, on pain of my full forfeiture.

By this charter it is evident that similar privileges had been granted during the reign of David I. (1124-53) but it is not improbable that these privileges had been granted without any formal written charter. In point of fact, charters in writing were scarcely known in the North of Scotland at this period, their introduction taking place in the reign of David's brother, Alexander I.

King William also granted "speciall fredomes to the whole burgesses of Scotland," one of these being that no prelate, earl, baron, or secular person shall presume to buy skins, hides, or such like merchandise, but that they shall sell the same to merchants or burgesses within whose sheriffdom and liberty the sellers of such merchandise dwell; and also that the merchandise aforesaid and all the other merchandise shall be presented at the mercet and mercet cross of burghs and there "preofferit" to the merchants of the burgh "effectuoaslie" without fraud or gyle, and the custom thereof be paid to the King. By two separate charters, King William confers similar privileges to the burgesses of Aberdeen specially, giving them also exemption from tolls and customs in all markets and fairs within the Kingdom. Both these charters are dated Aberdeen, 1179. (It may be mentioned in this connection that King WilIiam's name is very closely associated with the Aberdeen Trades. In the earlier part of his reign he erected a palace (the site of which would be about the foot of the present Exchange Street), which was afterwards gifted to the monks of the Holy Trinity. This palace, at which King William occasionally took up his residence, became the property of Dr. William Guild, and was gifted by him to the Incorporated Trades in 1633. In an inventory of the furniture in this edifice, taken at the time it came into possession of the Trades, there are mentioned King William's chair, King William's table, and his picture, all of which are still extant. Fuller reference to the old Trinity monastery will be made in a subsequent chapter.)

It will be observed that these charters were granted to "my burgesses" generally. Here we find the starting point with regard to both merchant and craft associations. This is the basis on which the superstructure rests, and unless this fact is kept clearly in view it will be impossible to understand the growth and development of the merchant and craft associations known as Guilds or Crafts. The rights conferred are conferred generally, and the distinctions between the privileges of the merchants and the craftsmen arose gradually, before being recognised by law or royal charter. When we keep this cardinal fact before us as to the general nature of the original gifts of right to trade and other privileges, we can trace not only the development, but the causes of all the various conflicts and differences that arose as the towns increased in importance, and advanced in their ideas of government and the relative rights of citizenship.

The word burgess, which has, it is said, a Roman origin, simply meant a citizen or inhabitant. Burgesses were the legally recognised inhabitants of a place, hamlet, or village, or any considerable collection of families—groups of individuals who, by trade and the use of handicrafts, were seeking to maintain an independent existence, and not be entirely subject to the nobles and chieftains of the land. The conditions and privileges of burgess-ship have varied in different periods and in different parts of the kingdom, but, in its simple and original form, it meant a legally recognised inhabitant and nothing more.

In the twelfth century, when the first recognition of burgesses by the Crown in Scotland took place—or at least of which there is any record—the villages and towns in Scotland were both few in number and scantily populated. Previous to that, they had not been deemed worthy of special recognition; it was only when the inhabitants became sufficiently numerous to be of service to the king in times of emergency that they were recognised, and that the right to trade and protect themselves against invasion was granted. The earliest towns have been well described as a "mere bit of land within the lordship, whether of the king or soave great noble or ecclesiastic, whose inhabitants, either for purposes of trade and protection, came to cluster together more closely than elsewhere." Thus the granting of trading privileges and protection in the possession of any property they might acquire, cane to be the first means of knitting the burgesses together, first into a body known in some parts of the country as the Frith Guild, formed for the purposes of order and self-defence; and next as a Guild for defending and protecting their means of livelihood as well as their lives. As time wore on, the burgesses divided themselves into two classes. The merchant class, as Hallam says, "gradually concentrated themselves on greater operations of commerce, on trades which required a larger capital, while the meaner employments of general traffic were abandoned to their poorer neighbours." Motley, in his history of the Dutch Republic, also gives an excellent description of the rise of towns, which may, with remarkable accuracy, be applied to burghs in this country: "By degrees the class of freemen, artisans, and the like, becoming the more numerous, built stronger and better houses outside the castle gates of the `land's master,' or the burghs of the more powerful nobles. The superiors, anxious to increase their own influence, favoured the progress of the little boroughs. The population, thus collected, began to divide themselves into Guilds. These were soon afterwards erected by the community into bodies corporate; the establishment of the community, of course, preceding the incorporation of the Guilds."

Much confusion has arisen in attempting to make out that the Craft or Trade Guilds sprang out of the Merchant Guilds. Neither in Scotland nor anywhere else was this the case. Both had the one common origin, and the division or separation into distinct classes, having distinct and separate interests at stake in the community, was simply the natural outcome of their conflicting interests. The confusion on this point has chiefly arisen from the fact that in some places merchant trading was more extensively carried on than handicrafts; but as a matter of fact there were more instances of an exactly opposite nature, where the craftsmen became and were known to be associated into Guilds before the merchants. Originally they both belonged to the one general class designated as burgesses, and only became separated when their particular interests began to conflict. It is a simple case of development. First, the general body of burgesses loosely brought together; then followed the grant of rights and privileges; then arose combinations in each class for the defence of the privileges pertaining to their particular branch of trade or industry. But at no time were the crafts under the control of the merchants. The merchant burgesses, it is true, had greater influence in the Town Councils than the craftsmen, as was the case in Aberdeen, but the one class of associations did not spring from the other; they all sprang into existence on account of the trading privileges granted to the general body of the burgesses or inhabitants. On 12th February, 1222, a charter, of which a translation follows, was granted to Aberdeen by AIexander II.

Alexander, by the grace of God King of Scots, to the bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, sheriffs, provosts, officers, and all good men of his whole land, clergy and laity, greeting. Know all men present and to come that I have granted and by this my charter have confirmed to my burgh and to my burgesses of Aberdeen, the rights and privileges that my predecessors granted to the burgh and to the burgesses of Perth, that is to say to hold their market on Saturday in every week. And I have rightly given my sure protection to all good men who shall come to that market. And I forbid anyone wrongously to inflict injury or annoyance or inconvenience upon them while coming to market or while returning, on pain of my full forfeiture. I also strictly forbid any stranger merchant to buy or to sell anything within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen outwith my burgh of Aberdeen, in despite of my protection. But stranger merchants are to bring their merchandise to my burgh of Aberdeen, and there sell the same and receive their money. If, however, any stranger merchant shall, in despite of my protection, be found within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen buying or selling anything, he is to be apprehended, and kept in custody, until I shall have declared my pleasure regarding him. I likewise strictly forbid any stranger merchant to cut his cloth for sale in the market of Aberdeen, save from the day of the Ascension of our Lord to the Feast of St. Peter's Chains; between which terms it is my will that they cut their cloth for sale in the market of Aberdeen, and there buy and sell their cloth and other merchandise in common with my burgesses in like manner as my proper burgesses: saving my rights. I likewise ordain that all who dwell in the burgh of Aberdeen, and wish to take part with my burgesses in the market, take part with them in paying my dues, whose men soever they be. I likewise forbid the keeping of any tavern in any town within the sheriffdom of Aberdeen, save where a knight is lord of the town and dwells therein; and there no tavern save one only is to be kept. I likewise grant to the same, my burgesses of Aberdeen, that they have their Merchant Guild, the waulkers and weavers being excluded. I likewise strictly forbid anyone dwelling outwith my burgh of Aberdeen within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen to make or cause to make cloth, dyed or shorn, within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, save my burgesses of Aberdeen who are of the Merchant Guild, and who take part in paying my dues with my burgesses of Aberdeen; with the exception of such as had hitherto their charter securing this privilege. Wherefore I strictly forbid anyone within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen to presume to make cloth, dyed or shorn, on pain of my full forfeiture. If, however, any person's dyed or shorn cloth shall be found made in despite of this protection, I command my Sheriff to seize the cloth, and to do therewith as was the custom in the time of King David my great grandfather. I likewise strictly forbid any stranger outwith my burgh at Aberdeen to buy or to sell hides or wool, save within my burgh of Aberdeen. All these privileges and usages, however, I grant, and by this my charter confirm to them, without prejudice to the privileges and free usages which before this grant were bestowed on other burghs and burgesses within the bailiwick of Aberdeen. Moreover, I strictly enjoin my baillies of Aberdeen to render aid to my burgesses of Aberdeen, and rightly to maintain them in possession of the foresaid true usages of the burgh. And I forbid anyone to make bold wrougously to trouble my foresaid burgesses, in despite of the foresaid reasonable laws and usages, on pain of my full forfeiture.

In the curious exception made in the above charter regarding waulkers and weaners—an exception that is also made in charters granted by Alexander II. to Perth and Stirling—we have an indication that the merchants even at that early period had been desirous of securing the monopoly of dealing or selling, and of confining the craftsmen to the exercise of their particular crafts. The same exclusion was attempted during the reign of Edward I. in London, Winchester, Marlborough, Oxford, and Beverley, and are the first indications that we have of the long-standing conflict between the more plebeian crafts and the more wealthy merchant burgesses. In all countries, the weavers, and their fellow craftsmen the waulkers or dyers, were the first to make their existence known as a combined body, and it is thus interesting to note that in Scotland, as far back as the thirteenth century, they were specially mentioned in a charter excluding them from the same privileges as the Merchant Guild.

King Robert the Bruce granted six charters to Aberdeen, all of a more or less trading character. The first was a charter granting to the community the charge of keeping the forest of Stocket; by the second he granted the privilege of holding the Trinity Fair in the town; and by the third, which is dated Berwick, 10th December, 1319, he confirmed the burgesses in the property of the burgh, along with the mills, waters, rivers, fishings, small customs, tolls, courts, weights and measures, and all other liberties granted by His Majesty's predecessors. This charter is looked upon as the fundamental charter of the town.

In 1336, a portion of Edward's army, under Sir Thomas Roscelyn, laid Aberdeen waste. It was pillaged and burned by the English invaders, and some years elapsed before it recovered from the devastation. King David, who had been abroad at the time of his father's death in 1:329, carne to Scotland in 1341, and, along with his consort Johanna, paid several visits to Aberdeen, where he also held his first Parliament. It was about this time that he granted several charters to the town, confirming the burgesses in all their property and privileges, and it was also during his reign that the newly-restored town came to be called New Aberdeen. From this period trade began to develop with considerable rapidity. In the Rotuli Scotia, there is frequent mention made of Aberdeen merchants obtaining passports to England to barter their commodities ; and the customs paid at this period also show that, compared with other towns in Scotland, Aberdeen must have been an active trading centre.

The mention of New Aberdeen recalls the fact that there are in the "archives" of the Aberdeen Trades several interesting documents pertaining to the trades in Old Aberdeen, showing that so far as trading privileges were concerned the two burghs acted independently. These documents include a translation of the charter granted by James III. in 1498 in favour of the Right Rev. Father in Christ Williamn Elphingston, Lord Bishop of Aberdeen, etc., etc., for his great services as Ambassador to England, France, Burgundy, and Austria, and for his other important, faithful, and useful labours for the good of the commonwealth, by which the village of Old Aberdeen is confirmed in the privileges of an Episcopal City and University, and erected into a free burgh of barony, holding of the said Bishop Elphinston and his successors, Bishops of Aberdeen, who are to have power of appointing a provost, baillies, and other magistrates; and the burgesses thereof are allowed to buy and sell wines, wax, cloth, woollen, and linen or any other merchandise; and to exercise the occupations of bakers, brewers, fleshers, fishers, and craftsmen of any other trade; to have a cross and market-place, and a weekly market every Monday, and two public fairs—one on the Monday before Pasch (or Easter), to be called Skeir Thursday's fair, and the other on St. Luke's day, to continue for a week. This Charter, which is dated Linlithgow, 21st August, 1498, was confirmed by an Act of Parliament of Charles II., passed on 20th May, 1661. There is also a charter granted by the Right Rev. Father in God George Halyburton, Lord Bishop of Aberdeen, to the Trades of Old Aberdeen, which confers upon them several privileges, and grants them the liberty of erecting lofts for themselves in the Cathedral. This charter is dated the Episcopal Palace, Old Aberdeen, 20th April, 1684. A charter was granted by George T. confirming all previous charters, and directing the town of Old Aberdeen to be held as a barony of the Crown as coming in place of the Bishops of Aberdeen, dated at St. James's, 19th February, 1719.

It was under these early charters that the craftsmen began to form their associations. One of the first Acts of the reign of James III. was to the effect that " no man of craft use merchandise be himself, nor sell merchandise either by himself, nor his factors, nor his servants, unless he leave and renounce his craft without colour or dissimulation." Thus the merchants and the crafts were driven apart, and each had to form associations for the protection of their particular privileges. As towns grew in size, craftsmen of the same calling multiplied, and having interests in common, it was natural for them to associate together for the promotion of their mutual interests. Reading and writing were unknown accomplishments among craftsmen, and all interchange of ideas and information had to take place by "word o' moo." When, therefore, they had interests in common to protect they were compelled to meet and form combinations of some sort. Out of such meetings the formation of private fraternities or societies, composed of the members of the same handicraft, was an easy step. "Such private societies existed long before the members sought public recognition by the authorities, and before the magistrates of the Royal Burghs had the power conferred upon them to bestow exclusive privileges upon craftsmen." (Warden's "Burgh Laws.")

When the crafts began to assume a position of importance in the burghs, the Legislature took more particular cognisance of them ; and for their better organisation and "conduction," the second Parliament of James I., held at Perth, passed the following Act on 12th March, 1424 :-

It is ordainit that in ilk toune of ye realm, of ilk sundrie craft used yairin, be chosen a wise man of ye craft, and be consent of ye officer of ye toune, ye qlk shall be holdine Deacon or master over the rest for ye tyme, to governe and assaye all workis yat beis made be ye craftsmen of yat craft, sua that ye kingis leidges be not defraude and skaithed in tyme to cume as yai have been in tymes bygone threw untrue Yuen of the craftes.

This is the first mention of deacons in an Act of Parliament. Previous to the passing of this Act the craftsmen appear to have elected their deacon without asking the consent of the "chief officier of the toune," perhaps for the good reason that in many of the burghs there was no chief officer at this period in existence. Three years after the passing of the above statute, another was passed which plainly indicates that the deacons and the crafts had been assuming more power than was deemed desirable. This Act emphatically declares :-

Whereas the statutes made in former Parliaments anent Deacons or crafts in the burghs of the Kingdom tended to the hurt and common loss of the whole kingdom, the King, with the advice of the three estates of the realm, has revoked the said statutes and wholly annulled them, forbidding in time to come the election of such deacons by the craftsmen in any burghs of the kingdom, or the exercise by them though otherwise elected of the duties of deacons, or the summoning of their customary assemblies which are believed to resemble meetings of conspirators.

The Act then proceeds to specify the duties to be performed by the Wardens who were to be chosen by the Councils.

It is statute and ordanit that men of Crafts within burrows shall have for a year to come of every Craft a Warden chosen by the Councill of the burgh, who, with counsel of other discreet men unsuspected, assigned to him by the said Councill shall examine and appryze the matter and the workmanship of ilk Craft, and sett it to a certain price, the whilk if any breakes, the said Warden shall punish the said breakers in certain pain, whom, if he punish not, the Alderman, Bailies, and Councill of the burgh shall punish them in certain pain; whom if they punish not, the king shall have a certain pain of that burgh. The pain of the breakers of the price shall be escheat of the samen thing of the whilk the price beis broken, to be applied, the one half to the Warden of that Craft, and the other half to the common work of that burgh where it beis seen most expedient. The pain of the Pryzer, if he be negligent and punish not shall be in the unlaw of the Burrow Court as oft as he beis convict culpable, and fallyse, shall be applied for the half of the common purse of the town, and of the other where it beis most expedient to the work of the town. The pain of a Alderman, Bailies, and Councill of the Burgh that beis negligent in punishing of the Warden as oft as the default, shall be in ten pounds to the king, and shall be raised after that they be challenged and convict by the Chamberlain and his deputes, the whilk ordnance shall be extended to Dleasons, `Frights, Smiths, Taylors, Weavers ; and all others likewise generallie who has fees and handling shall be prysed as is before said, and attour to landward jurisdictions, ilk Burrow shall pryse in the Burrows, and punish the trespassers as the Wardens does in the Barronies, and if the Barron does not the Sheriff shall punish the Barron, and if the Sheriff does not they the shall be in Amerciament to the King. And the Aldermen, Bailies, and .Councill in Burrows shall inquire ilk month at least if the Warden of the Crafts pryse will and punish ye trespassers, and if any man complains of over great price or breaking of the price made or sett to the Alderman, Bailies, and Councill that they punish the pryser and gar the party complaining be assized under the pains aforesaid.

The above Act furnishes a striking illustration of what may be called the State regulation of industry instituted in the fifteenth century and continued down to very recent times. Wages were regulated, the price of manufactured goods of all kinds, from the penny loaf to a salmon barrel, fixed, the number of journeymen and apprentices strictly limited, and the quality of the work inspected. All these matters were subject to the control of the local authority and the craft associations acting under Royal Charters, Acts of Parliament, and Acts of Council.

It is evident from the numerous Acts passed at this period that the craftsmen had a hard time of it. No sooner was the election of deacons legalised, and the powers they were entrusted with put into operation, than the associations of craftsmen were condemned as conspiracies "of general prejudice to the kingdom," their gatherings denounced as "meetings of conspirators," and the election of deacons declared illegal. About 1457, however, the crafts seem to have taken the law into their own hands, and elected their deacons without obtaining the consent of the governing body of the town. An exemption had been made in the case of the goldsmiths of Edinburgh, who were authorised to appoint "ane officiar" to inspect all work and see that it was up to a certain standard; and, taking advantage of this case as a precedent, the craftsmen throughout the country generally continued to elect their deacons in despite of the statute that was passed putting then down "in all tym cuming." This however, was soon put a stop to. In 1491, the office was again abolished, because it was " understood by the king and the three estaits that the using of Deacons of Crafts in Burghs is richt dangerous, and as they use the same, may cause trouble to the lei es by convening together and making laws of their craft contrary to the common profit, whereby when one leaves work another dare not finish it," and " it is statute that ilk sik deakons sail cease for ane yeir, and have no power but to examine stuffe and warke wrocht by the craft; that rneasons and wrichtes and uther men of craft wha statutis that they sail have fee alsweill for the halie daie as for the wark day sail be indicted as common oppressors and punished accordingly." For a time the craftsmen were less aggressive towards the Town Councils; but as they gradually increased in numbers and influence in the communities, they commenced a long series of conflicts, the history of which, as far as Aberdeen is concerned, will be given in a subsequent chapter.

Very severe punishment was imposed upon craftsmen when they ventured to act independently or in any spirit of antagonism to the Town Council. For instance, on 18th May, 1484, we find that in Aberdeen, "ye alderman, baillies, and consale, becauss thae have foundin grete fault in ye craft of ye cordiners at yis tym, thae have put down ye deyknis of ye said craft, annuland al powaris that yai gef to thaini of befor, and will, fra hyncefurth, tak ye correction of thaim all in tym to cum, and to punyss thaim after yair demerits yt sal be committed in tym cummand."

The office of deacon-convener was never formally recognised by law in the same manner as that of the deacon. A convener of deacons is first heard of when the crafts had to combine for their common interests against what they considered encroachments in their privileges by the merchant class of burgesses. The first mention of a deacon-convener in Aberdeen occurs in connection with the Common Indenture in. which George Elphinston, saidler, is designated as deacon-convener; but, for reasons not far to seek, the Town Council of that period do not appear to have looked on the office with any degree of favour. An effort was made in 1591, as the following extract from the Council Register will show, to put down the office altogether, but the craftsmen seem to have paid little heed to the edict, as they continued after a brief interval to elect their convener as before :-

3rd November, 1591—The said day in the terms assignat to David Castell, deacon to the wobsteris, Alexander Steven, deacon to the baxters, William Spence, deacon to the cordinaris, Andrew Watson, wricht, alleging him deacon to the wrichts, and Gilbert Blak, deacon to the couparis, for thamselfhs, and in name of the remanent deacons of the craftis of this burgh to exhibit and produce before the prouest, baillies, and counsall sic power authoritie and right granted be thame either be the Acts of Parliament, or yit giffin to thame be His Grace, or any of his majesties predecessoris, or be the magistrates and counsall of the said burgh to elect and cheis ane deacon of deaconis, or deacon-convener, to assemble and convene the haill crafts of this burgh, with certification that gif thai failziet to produce the same this day the prouest, baillies and counsall shall proceed against the said deacons for electing of the said Alexander Steven, deacon-convener, and against the said Alexander for accepting, exercising and using of the said office, as disturbers of the common weal, quhytness, and peace of this burgh, contravenaris of his Majesties Acts of Parliament and usurpairs of authoritie and power upon them to cheis and have a deacon-convener prohibitt be his grace's lawis, and discern them to have done wrang thereanent. And the sadis deaconis to desist and teas fra all cheising and electing of ony to be deacon of deacons or deacon-convener to the craftis of this burgh hereafter, and the said Alexander to desist and cease frae all using and exercising of his said office in ony tym coming, as the craft and ordinance set down thereanent upon the 27th of October last by past at lynth does testify—The persons of the counsall after calling they are to say, Alexander Rutherford, prouest, etc., being all personallie present in the counsall hous, causit call all the saidis deacons out the tollboyth window to compere this day before thaim to the effect aforesaid and thay being oft tymes callit nane ane compearit except the said Alexander Stevin, present deacon-convener to the saidis craftis, and the saidis David Castill, deacon to the wobsteris quha being desired be the counsall to satisfy the desire of the said ordinance maid upon the said 27th of Oct. for producing before them the power, authoritie, and right which they and the saidis crafts had giffen and granted to them be Actis of Parliament or be his Grace or his Hines predecessors or yet be the magistrates of this burgh to elect and cheis ane deacon of deacons, or deacon-convener, and to produce whatsomever right they had giffane thame power and authoritie to that effect (gif they any had) the said Alexander Stevin, present deacon-convener to the saidis craftis, and the said David Castell, deacon to the wobsteris, cowpearing peisonallie for themselffes, and in name of the remanent deaconis of the craftis of the saidis burgh, producit nathing for satisfyeina of the dyett according to the ordinance of the said Act of Counsall of the date aforesaid ; And therefore the Provost, Baillies, and the persons of the Counsall foresaid have fand that the deaconis of the craftis of this burgh have done wrang in electing of the said Alexander Stevin, deacon of deacons, and deacon-convener to thaim, and the said Alexander in the using and exercising of the said office without any power, right, or authoritie giffen or grantit to him to that office either be Actis of Parliament or be His Majesties predecessors, or yet be the magistrates of this burgh. And therefor descernit and ordainit the saidis deacons to desist and teas frae all cheising and electing off ony deacons off deacons or deacon-convener, and the said Alexander Stevin fra all using and exercising of the said office in tym cuming.

For eight years after this deliverance, there is no mention of a deacon-convener being appointed, but, as will be seen from the following list, there is an almost unbroken line from 1587 down to the present day:—

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