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Merchant and Craft Guilds
A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades
Part III. Chapter VI - Relics and Reminiscences of Old Trades Hall

THE extension of the railway system to Aberdeen sealed the fate of the old Trades Hall. When the Aberdeen Railway was projected in 1844, the hall and site, which extended from the foot of the Shiprow to near the present line of railway, were scheduled, and although not required for railway purposes, the buildings had to come down when Guild Street and Exchange Street were constructed. The last of the buildings was taken down in 1857, and while the excavating operations were in progress a careful watch was kept for relics and antiquities, the following notes being taken by a local antiquarian at the time :—" A great number of human bones were found when the digging for Guild Street commenced, which had probably been the site of the ancient burial grounds of the Trinity Friars. It had extended to the south end of the convent, and ran east from the side of the church for some space. The bones were generally in a very great state of decay, the skulls dropping to pieces when lifted. The remains of a coffin in one instance were found, which fell to dust on exposure. About the middle of this part of the ground were found a bit of iron resembling a key, and the bowl of a small spoon curiously ribbed on the back. The foundation walls of the hall, which were probably those of the old convent, were built with lime on the outside and with clay between the stones. The walls were several feet in thickness. At the east end of the hall, twelve or thirteen feet below the surface, were found the remains of a more ancient building, composed of rude stones cemented with clay. Below some of the lowest were found oaken boards which seem to have formed part of some ancient vessel, and near the same place five or six oaken beams were found, which had probably supported rafters in the old building (King William the Lion's

Old Trades Hall

palace). They had holes in the side as for the ends of posts being morticed into them. The ground here was very moist, puddled with clay and small stones. On excavating westward, the old wall was found continued along the side of the more modern one at the distance of about fourteen inches. About the middle of this part of the building a silver tablespoon was found, much corroded as if by the action of fire. A portion of what looked like a buff jerkin, and some remains of old shoes with very large hobnails in the heels, were also found."

Many interesting relics were transferred from the old hall to the new buildings in Union Street. The collection of antique oak chairs, presented from time to time for the use of the deacons of the different Trades, has been long looked upon as the most complete of its kind in Scotland. Some of them date from the time that the craftsmen held their meetings in the deacons' houses, while it is tolerably certain that one of the largest chairs belonged to the old monastery. This chair is mentioned in an "inventory of the plenishings belonging to the Trinity Hall, taken in presence of Patrick Whyt, Deacon Conveener, 1696," as "King William's Cheer," and although some of the framework has evidently been renewed, the panels (showing carved heads of monks and warriors) evidently belong to the early monkish period. The Convener's chair, which stands about six feet high, has finely-carved Gothic. panels; and some of the other chairs of smaller size exhibit no small amount of originality of design and finish. The inventory taken in 1696 gives the following list of chairs, &c., all of which are in the new hall, and in an excellent state of preservation :—

King William's cheer and pictur.

Hammermen—Ane cheer, gifted by Lawrence Afersar for the use of said Traid; ane cheer, gifted by Matthew Guild, armourer; ane cheer, gifted by George Anderson, goldsmith, Deacon Conveener in 1609 ; ane cheer, gifted by William Anderson, goldsmith, Deacon Conveener, 1654; ane cheer, gifted by Alexander Paterson, arulourer, Deacon Conveener, with his pictur, 1685; ane cheer, gifted by Patrick Whyt, bookmaker, Deacon Conveener, with his pictur, 1690; ane cheer, gifted by James Anderson, glazier, 1692.

Bakers—Ane cheer, gifted by John Middleton, baxter, Deacon Conveener, 1634; ane cheer, gifted by Christian Mitchell, daughter to William Chapman, sometime Deacon of the Baxters, 1668, and another on Januar, 1704.

Wrights and Coopers—Ane cheer, gifted by Jerome Blak, couper, 1574; ane cheer, gifted by William Ord, wright, Deacon Conveener, 1635.

Taylziours—Ane cheer, gifted by Thomson Cordyn, taylyer, Deacon Convener, 1627; ane cheer or round table, gifted by Alexander Cocnie, taylyer ; ane cheer gifted by John Forbes, tailyeur, 1694.

Shoemakers—Ane cheer, gifted by Thomas Robertson, shoemaker, Deacon Convener, 1633; ane cheer, gifted by Alexander Idle, shoemaker, Deacon Convener, 1679; ane cheer, gifted by William Dickson, late Deacon, 1686.

Weavers—Ane public cheer for their Deacon, 1684.

Fleshers—Ane cheer, gifted by Andrew Watson, Deacon; ane cheer, gifted by John Craighead, Deacon.

Ane cheer marked W. P. coft (bought) to the Hospital; ane cheer, gifted by John Archibald.

Of the five chairs belonging to the Hammermen Trade the oldest (Fig. II.) is that supposed to have been gifted by

Laurens Mercer, a contemporary of Matthew Guild. The chair bears no date, but simply the initials "L. M.," with the arms of the Mercer family (on a Tess, three bezants; a mullet in base and three crosses, potent in chief) and underneath the motto—Crux Christi'mea corona. Laurens Mercer was several times deacon of his craft from 1572 to 1596, and although others of the same name joined the trade some time after, the chair, from its appearance and construction, bears evidence of having been presented by the Mercer who figured so prominently in Matthew Guild's time, and who also shared the same punishment as Guild for "cumy ng throch the Gallowgett on a Sunday with ane menstrall playand befor thaim."

A chair presented by Jerome Blak in 1574 is ornamented with a carving of the Black arms (a saltire, between a crescent in base, a mullet, in chief; for crest a hand holding a cooper's adze, in dexter proper). The chairs presented about the middle of the seventeenth century are all of superior design and better construction, the chair presented by Andrew Watson, flesher, in 1661 (Fig. III.),

being about the most elaborate. The arms of his trade are carved and coloured on the upper part of the back, and on the centre are the arms of the Watson family (an oak tree eradicated in base, surmounted by a Less, charged with crescent, between two mullets). Watson was deacon when the Flesher Trade was joined to the other six under Dr. Guild's deed of mortification for the administration of the Trades Hospital. The chair presented by Alexander Idle, shoemaker, in 1679 (Fig. IV.), has the crown and cutting knife of his craft

carved in the back, with his name, "A. Idle, Deacon-Conviner, 30th November, 1679." Idle had a somewhat chequered career. The books of his trade show that at one time he must have carried on a fairly extensive business, but in the end of his days he entered the hospital as a beadman. It is uncertain who the "W. P." refers to on the chair (Fig. V.), which,

according to the inventory was bought by the Master of Hospital prior to 1696. It bears the Paterson arms (a fess; in base, three pelicans vulnin; three mullets in chief). Patrick Whyt, hookmaker, presented a portrait of himself, as well as a chair (Fig. `'I.). He was several times deacon of the

Hammermen Trade, with which the hookmakers were associated, and was also elected Deacon-Convener in 1690.

At that time hookmaking seems to have been somewhat extensively carried on, as numbers of apprentices appear on records as having been indentured to the calling, which, by the way, included reedmaking and all working in wire generally. Wire windows are frequently mentioned as essays prescribed for this class of tradesmen during the sixteenth century. Whyt's chair, besides bearing his name and designation in full, has a shield charged with the Haminermen arms, and also two fishing hooks in saltire, and one in pale with the initials "P. W." in monogram.

A chair (Fig. VII.) bearing the Guthrie arms (I and 4 three garbs; 2 and 3, a lion rampant) and the initials "H. G.," with the word " Chirurgie " underneath, is evidently a relic of the Leechers or Barbers Society, now extinct. The weavers provided a chair (Fig. VIII.) for their deacon in 1684. It bears

the arms of the trade, with their motto, Spero in Deo et ipse facit. An odd looking chair (Fig. IX.) was presented by Alexander Cockie in 1617, who embellished it with his arms —"a cock; on a chief the sun in its splendour, and a crescent between two mullets," and his initials "A. C." The back folds down upon the arms, and forms a most convenient card table. On one of the chairs belonging to the Bakers is a portion of the Bakers arms, and also the Middleton arms, with the inscription, "My soul prais thou the Lord. I. M. John Midleton, deacon, 1634." Thomas Robertsone, who presented a chair to the Shoemakers in 1633 bearing the inscription "Thomas Robertsone, Deacon-Conviner, Grace me God, 1633," was killed

on the 13th September, 1644, at the battle of Justice Mills or Craibstane during the cov enantinc troubles. Three other cordiners were killed in the same affray.

There are also two massive oak tables [On 10th November, 1699, "the Convener Court ordained Charles Sangster, Master of Traids Hospital, to employ and pay William Coutts, Deacon Convener, for repairing the great table in the Trinities. Lykwise the said William Coutts accepted of the said employment and promised to project the work betwixt the Pasch next, under the faiilzie of ten dollars, and thereupon has subscribed these presents." And, again, on 18th January, 1703, "the Convener Court ordains the Master of Hospital to cause mak up the red marble table, and to mak use of the great wainscot table in their church for that effect."] in the hall, at one of which it is said the Lion King was wont to preside. Both tables have stone tops about six inches in thickness. On the ends of one of the tables are shields, one being the Guild family badge, and the other the initials "D. W. G." We give side and end elevations of the principal table.

The collection of portraits removed from the old hall to the new building has been considerably augmented of late years, and now forms a highly interesting collection both as works of art and as memorials of worthy citizens well known in their day and generation. When we mention that there are examples by Jarnesone, Dyce, R.A.; Alexander, Archibald Robertson, Joseph Nisbet, G. Reid, R.S.A.; William Niddrie, James Cassie, A.R.S.A.; J. Giles, R.S.A.; J. Stirling, J. Mitchell, and G. W. Wilson, it will be seen that the collection is fairly representative of the works of local artists.

The curious production representative of William the Lion is one of the few relics of the Trinity Monastery. When and by whom it was originally painted are matters apparently now beyond human 'ken, and not a little of its artistic value has been lost on account of a "repairing" which it underwent in 1715. In that year the Convener Court "granted warrant to William Anderson, present Master of Hospital, to agree with

Charles Whyt, painter, anent renewing King William the Lyon, his pictur, as cheap as possible, always not exceeding fifty shillings sterling." Fortunately the "renewing" did not go the length of any interference with the face. We have it on the authority of an artist who took a drawing of the work in 1821 for Lieutenant-General Hutton [David Anderson of Finzeauch, the artist's uncle, was married to Jean, sister to Dr. Guild.] that the face had been left untouched. The king is represented wearing a curiously-formed helmet, and holding a book in one hand and a rod in the other. There is a chain round his waist—indicative, it is said, of penance for the part which history says he had in the murder of Thomas-a-Becket.

The portrait of Dr. William Guild, which gets the place of honour in the new hall, bears no artist's name, but has been generally ascribed to Jamesone. Guild was a contemporary of Jamesone's, is said to have been at school and college with him, and was, moreover, a close relation; so that nothing is more probable than that Jamesone had painted a portrait of one who as Principal of King's College, a chaplain to Charles I., a leading ecclesiastic, and as a generous benefactor to the town, must have held a prominent position among his fellow-citizens. That the picture was touched up by a later hand there is no doubt. In 1741, the Convener Court granted warrant to the Master of Hospital to pay to William Mossman, a guinea "for his pains and trouble in repairing Dr. William Guild's picture ;" and in the Master of Hospital's accounts for

"An engraving from a drawing taken about 18.0 appears in Volume III, pave 298, of the "Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland," along with the following letter from Lieutenant-General Hutton to the secretary of the Society :-

"London, 34 Southampton Row,
"Russell Square, 22nd Oct., 1821.

"Dear Sir,—I request the favour of you to present from me to the Society the picture of King William the Lyon, which I took the liberty of sending to your care lately, and I shall be much honoured if it should be deemed worthy of a place in the Society's museum. It is a copy made by an artist a few years ago from the original painting, which is supposed to have belonged to the Monastery of the Trinity Friars of Aberdeen, of which the King was the founder, and is now preserved in Trinity Hall there. It appears from the records of the Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen that in the year 1715, it having become much defaced in consequence of its great age, an agreement was made with Charles White, a painter, to repair it for a sum not exceeding fifty shillings sterling, which was accordingly done, with the exception of the face, which, the artist who copied the picture informed me, has been fortunately left untouched. It is painted in fresco, and its dimensions are about four feet in height by about two feet nine inches in breadth.—I remain, yours &c., "H. Hutton.
"John Dillon, Esq., Secretary."

the following year there appears—"By cash to William Moss-man, painter, for mending Dr. Guild's picture, £12 12s. Scots." This sum is equivalent to twenty-one shillings sterling. [At the same time the Convener Court expended about £500 Scots in decorating the hall, the Master of Hospital having been authorised "to employ Robert Norrie, of Edinburgh, painter, to mint and colour the Trin,tie Hall in the Lest and genteclest manner."] On the 18th May, 1731, the Convener Court granted warrant "to their Master of Hospital, at the sight of the deacons, to satisfie and pay William Mossman, painter, for drawing Dr. William Guild, their foundator, his picture, for which this is warrand." This seems to have been an order for a drawing taken from the original, which there are good reasons for believing is the picture now in the hall, and for mending which Mossman was paid a guinea ten years after. It is hardly probable that his own drawing could have required "mending" so soon after it was executed. It is much more likely that, in 1731, Jamesone's original had been showing signs of decay, that Mossman had been ordered to make a copy of it ; and that then ten years after he had been employed to " m rend " the original itself. The picture, as it stands, notwithstanding its renovation, is an excellent one. An admirable engraving was taken from it some years ago by R. M. Hodgson, who also ascribes the original to Jamesone.

With regard to the portrait of Matthew Guild, father of Dr. Guild, there is less doubt of its being a genuine Jamesone. It bears the inscription, -which Jamesone put upon nearly all his portraits—the date of the birth and age of the subject; and we have also the familiar broad hat which appears in not a few of Jamesone's male figures.

There also hang in the new hall several examples by Cosmo John Alexander, a grandson of Jamesone's, all very fair specimens of portraiture. The portrait of Alexander Webster, advocate, by Dyce, is justly regarded as one of the finest bits of portraiture in the collection, and has on more than one occasion been exhibited in collections of old Scottish masters in the south. Alexander Webster had no direct connection with the Trades, but he took a warm interest in the Trades School, which was instituted in 1808, about the time his father held the office of Deacon-Convener.

Among other relics transferred from the old to the new hall were three swords (see p. 109) belonging to the Hammermen, Tailors, and Weavers, and several remnants of banners said to have been used at the pageants in the pre-Reformation days. The punch bowls (Fig. X.) belonging to the Convener Court,

the Hammermen, the Wrights and Coopers, and the Tailors, have also been preserved. The largest bowl was presented to the Hammermen by Convener Aleck, who, although a shoemaker himself, presented the bowl to the Haminermen because he considered "they were the best brewers and drinkers of punch among the whole of the craftsmen." This bowl is about two feet in diameter, and stands fully twelve inches high. The two large Bibles that were wont to be used in the Hospital are also in the Master of Hospital's press. One of them is a 1578 Bible, but has been allowed to fall into a very tattered condition; the other, dated 1672, is in a better state of preservation.

It can well be believed that the craftsmen quitted their old hall, so full of interesting historical associations, with feelings of deep regret. It was a veritable breaking away from the past; and coming as it did about the time that the special privileges of the craftsmen were abolished, their regret was rendered all the more sincere. When a proposal was made to erect a new hall, a veteran craftsman was heard to declare that before he would quit the old building he would rather subscribe "to have every stone of it clasped together with silver "than give a penny to build a new place of meeting. Another member, Deacon Alexander Robb, a local poet with no mean talent for versification, sang the following lines at one of the last convivial gatherings held in the old hall, to the tune of "Happy are we a' thegither ":-

O banish, Muse, a' thoughts o' sadness,
Soun' your notes baith clear and bright,
Be naething heard but strains o' gladness
On this happy festive night.
The Muse reply'd, in deep dejection,
How can I my chanter blaw
In notes o' joy—the last election
That tak's place within this ha'.

When reminiscent mem'ry traces
A' the scenes that here hae been,
The kindly hearts, the happy faces
That aroun' this board I've seen:
Then comes the sick'ning, sad reflection,
When I look aroun' you a'
This is, alas! the Iast election
E'er we'll see within this ha'.

Nae mair at sovereign's coronation
Will the festive board be spread;
Nae mair we'll hear the grand oration
When a king or queen is wed;
Nae mair, wi' shouts o' satisfaction,
Raise the loud hip, hip, hurra
For, oh ! this is the last election
E'er will happen in this ha'.

Nae mair will lords or earls be treated,
Whan they come to visit here;
Nae mair Lord Chancellors [*] be seated
Close to our Convener's chair.
These glorious scenes o' retrospection
Soon will fade like melting snaw,
For, oh! this is the last election
In our famous ancient ha'.

Nae mair the cheerf u' sang amusin'
Will re-echo through those wa's;
Nae mair the bursts of elocution
Bring down thunders o' applause.
My heart is sad when I consider,
Ere anither year or twa,
That nae ae stane upon anither
Will be left o' a' this ha'.

But whare's the use o' waefu' skirlin',
Lat us a' be happy yet,
Altho' rail trains will soon be dirlin'
O'er the spot whare now we sit.

[*] Deacon Robb was not indulging in imaginative flights when he alluded to Lords and Earls and Lord Chancellors having honoured the Auld Tarrnty Ila' with their presence. The Earls Marischal and Huntly, and in later times Lord Brougham and Mr. Joseph Hume, are mentioned in the Trades' records as having partaken of the hospitality of the craftsmen. When Lord Brougham visited Aberdeen in 1834 he was presented with an address in Trinity Hall, to which he replied:—"Gentlemen, I beg leave to return my warmest thanks for the kind manner in which you have received me, and I will never forget, so long as I live, the reception I have received from all classes—from the Incorporations and the inhabitants, civil and religious, in the great, the ancient, the loyal, and the flourishing city of Aberdeen. This is the first time I have been in any large meeting of my fellow-countrymen since great changes have been effected in the representation of the people of Scotland; and as I will shortly return to London I shall have the satisfaction to assure my Sovereign and my colleagues of the excellent working of the system of which they were the authors, and of which I, amongst others, had a humble share." Some years previous (in 1820), Mr. Joseph Hume also visited Aberdeen, and the craftsmen took occasion to offer their thanks to the eminent economist for his "patriotic, able, and independent conduct, and particularly for his unwearied exertions in behalf of the burgh of Aberdeen." Mr Hume, we are informed by the minute in the Convener Court Books, "gave a speech of considerable length on Scotch Burgh Reform, and assured the meeting that if he were again returned a member for this district of burghs he should still persevere in the same independent and upright line of conduct he had hitherto pursued. Whereupon the meeting having been so much gratified and honoured by Mr. flume's company, requested him to drink a glass of wine with them, which he most readily accepted, and after loyal and patriotic toasts, Mr. flume's health was drunk with three times three and Ioud applause. Mr. flume returned them thanks, and expressed himself in the most handsome and flattering terms, and Mr. Hume being under pressing engagements to leave this place, drank the health of the Corporations and retired. The whole proceedings were conducted in the most gratifying manner, and the evening was spent with the utmost hilarity and good humour." The Convener's signature to this minute is conspicuously absent!

O, never lat us be down-hearted,
"Let us drive dull care awa,"
Nor think our glory is departed
Whan we leave our ancient ha'.

Anither ha' will soon be finished
Whare the sang o' joy shall rise,
Our comforts a' be undiminished
A Corporation never dies.
Then why su'd we be now unhappy,
Sorrow disna' set's ava;
Push about the enlivenin' drappie
Soon we'll get anither ha'.

The new Trades Hall, situated at the south-east end of Union Bridge, was erected in 1846 after plans by Mr. John Smith, architect (see frontispiece). The main entrance is from Union Street, and on the first floor are the hall, measuring sixty feet by thirty feet, with open ornamental roof; two committee rooms, a common room, and retiring room. From the Denburnside, entrance is obtained to the school rooms, used as a Trades School down to 1878. In the upper portion of the building are the kitchen and housekeeper's apartments; and immediately above the school is the strong room, in which are stored the books and papers belonging to the different Incorporations.

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