Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1573-1589. Originally published by Scottish Burgh Records Society, Edinburgh, 1882.

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, 'Preface', in Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1573-1589, (Edinburgh, 1882) pp. lvii-lxxx. British History Online [accessed 30 May 2024].

. "Preface", in Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1573-1589, (Edinburgh, 1882) lvii-lxxx. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024,

. "Preface", Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1573-1589, (Edinburgh, 1882). lvii-lxxx. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024,


The three previous volumes of "Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh" bring down the selections from the Council Register to 1st May 1571. Between that date and 13th November 1573 no records of the Council exist. The troublous condition of the times doubtless interrupted everything like regular municipal government during a large portion of that period. But from the latter date the series of records is preserved, and the present volume contains selections from them down to 25th July 1589.

During the period when the records of the town were thus interrupted, Scotland was under three Regents—the Earl of Lennox, who succeeded the Regent Murray, and was slain in the streets of Stirling on the 4th of September 1571; the Earl of Mar, who was elected on the following day, and died on 28th October 1572; and the Earl of Morton, who succeeded on 24th November in the same year, and held office till September 1577.

The disorganised state of the capital during the two and a-half years between May 1571 and November 1573 is matter of national history, and it would be out of place to do more here than simply advert to the conspicuous features of the struggle between the contending parties, in so far as Edinburgh was specially concerned. Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange held the castle for the Queen, and occupied and fortified the city. The party of the King occupied Canongate and Leith, and held the Calton Hill and the adjoining ground. All attempts to effect an amicable arrangement between the two parties failed, and recourse was had to active hostilities. In October 1571 the King's party began to lay out a fortified camp at Leith, and commenced the siege of Edinburgh. From that time till the 30th of July 1572, as Dr Burton observes, "Scotland was the stage of one of the bitterest civil wars on record. Many as had been the occasions, and varied the forms in which the land had been visited by strife and bloodshed, the curse on this occasion took a shape entirely new. The earlier wars of Scotland had lain between national enemies. . . . . Now, for the first time in their long history, were the people of Scotland arrayed under separate banners, and a separate allegiance, in that most dismal of quarrels, a real civil war." On the 1st of August 1572 a truce for two months was arranged, and was extended from time to time till the end of the year. Before hostilities were resumed, the Earl of Mar had died, and the Earl of Morton had been elected Regent, and John Knox, one of the greatest figures in Scottish history, had passed away. The news of the massacre of St Bartholomew had also reached Scotland, and its effect was overwhelming. "No one event," says Burton, "seems to have done so much, both to the furtherance of the Reformation in Scotland, and casting its peculiar character, as this great tragedy in France. It is from this juncture that we may trace the rise of the popular zeal for the Presbyterian polity." The immediate result, as regarded the fortunes of the party who supported the Queen, was decisive and fatal. Her most powerful supporters throughout the country came to terms with the Regent, who had thus, at the conclusion of the truce, only to deal with Grange and those who occupied the castle. On the 1st of January 1572–3 a shot from the fortress announced the termination of the truce. During its continuance the city had been thrown open to the King's party, and those who had previously left their houses in it, as supporters of that party, had returned. By the time, however, that hostilities were resumed, the Queen's supporters were so reduced in number as to be barely sufficient to defend the castle, and were in no position to attempt the reoccupation of the town. While, therefore, the guns of the fortress could damage, and did much injury to, the town, they were unable to prevent the King's party from holding a meeting of the Estates in the Tolbooth about the middle of February. Still further to discourage the garrison, and accelerate the collapse of the struggle, English troops— pioneers, musketeers, and pikemen— to the number of fifteen hundred, arrived upon the scene. The forces of the Regent numbered only five hundred. But these were sufficient to conduct the operations. Six batteries were erected around the castle, and under their fire the great keep, known as David's Tower, which formed the main feature of the fortress as it then existed, was reduced to ruins. On the 26th of May 1573 the spur was taken by assault, and then, further resistance being hopeless, Grange attempted to negotiate for surrender. Failing to secure terms, he, on the 29th of the same month, gave himself up to the commander of the English troops, by whom he was delivered over to the Regent Morton. The survivors of the garrison, who numbered about one hundred, surrendered on the same day. Grange was hanged at the Market Cross of Edinburgh on the 3rd of August. With his death the Queen's influence in Scotland gradually came to an end, and Morton was left free to establish order in the country. "Purity of life, justice, and mercy had no place in his moral nature," says Burton. "But he had firmness, business capacity, and a scorn of danger, and these were the qualities needed for Scotland."

After the authority of the Regent had been established in Edinburgh, those of the inhabitants who had remained in the town during its occupation by Grange were called to account, and had "to compone for their lyff." The least sum that any of them had to pay was twenty merks, and all were charged, "on thair awne expenssis, to mak blak gounis, with the quhilk thai stood at the kirk door an hour befoir the preitching, or afoir the minister or tyme thairof; that thai did by and attour the mony charges thai wer put to befoir; and thai that mycht not buy borrowit fra thair nychtbour; quhilk gounis were decernit to be delt to the poore." (fn. 1)

The magistrates who were in office at the time when Grange took possession of the city were supporters of the Regent, and left it, and their place was occupied by the election, on 20th June 1571, of Thomas Ker of Ferniehurst, knight, to be provost, and of Cuthbert Ramsay, Thomas Hamilton, Halbert Maxwell, and Hew Lauder, to be bailies, "with all vther membaris of court and counsale." (fn. 2) By whom or in what way that election was made does not appear. The Diurnal of Occurrents states that "the lordis of the nobilitie being in Edinburgh causit" it to be done. Probably Burton is substantially accurate when he says that Grange drove the provost forth, and set in the civic chair, as his own deputy, his son-in-law, Ker of Ferniehurst, whom Burton describes as "a notorious commander of Border rivers, with as little of the municipal or corporate in his character as could well be." (fn. 3) In November 1572, Lord Lindsay of the Byres appears as provost. Michaelmas was the regular period for the election of magistrates, and he had probably been elected at the usual time. On the 22d of that month a proclamation was made at the market cross, in which, after reference to the great troubles that had fallen on the inhabitants of Edinburgh, and the injury they had thereby sustained, all and sundry the lieges, "alsueill men of weir as any vther," were charged, under pain of death, not to molest, trouble, or invade in any way, either in body or goods, the burgesses and craftsmen, or any others who had remained in the toun during these troubles. "It was said," reports the writer of the Diurnal, "that my Lord Lindsay being chosin provest of Edinburgh, wes the instrument of this proclamatioun, and wald on nawyis accept the same office without thai quha remanit in Edinburgh wer ressauit in fauouris, to the effect he may obtene all thair favouris." (fn. 4) The record of the election of magistrates in 1573 does not exist, but the Council minutes are resumed on the 13th of the following month, and from these it appears that Lord Lindsay was re-elected provost for the municipal year 1573–74.

A contract between the town council and the ministers, engrossed in the council minutes of 16th December 1573, (fn. 5) refers to an act of council of date 7th November 1572. This reference, with the election of Lord Lindsay, probably at Michaelmas of the latter year, would seem to indicate that, after the conclusion of the truce with the Queen's party in August of that year, and the subsequent return to the city of those burgesses who adhered to the cause of the king and the regent, the regular system of municipal government had been resumed, though the records of it, down till November 1573, have unfortunately disappeared. When the regular series of the records is resumed, the narrative of the burghal administration flows on as if there had never been interruption.

The execution of Grange and other leading supporters of the Queen's cause, after the capture of the castle, practically terminated her influence in Scotland. During the remainder of her captivity, she and her agents were unceasing in their operations, but these operations had more immediate relation to England, France, and Spain, and no reference to them, nor even to her execution on the 8th of February, 1587, occurs in these records. Nor do the council minutes contain any allusion to the Spanish Armada,— Which eighteen months after the death of the Queen attempted the invasion of England,— until it had been shattered and destroyed. On 11th October 1588, a minute refers to the arrival in Edinburgh, from Ireland, of a number of shipwrecked Spanish sailors, in great distress. These, with befitting humanity, the authorities resolved to relieve, finding it "expedient that the bowellis of mercie, compassion and christian charity be schawin vopone them." A collection was accordingly appointed to be made through the town, for the purpose of providing them with clothing and assisting them to return to their own country. On 23d October a deputation was ordered to proceed to "the king's grace ower the water," to arrange for the transport of the strangers; and on 1st November reference in made to the arrival of a great number of shipwrecked Spaniards, "in maist meserabill estaitt, bayth naiket and famishet," and another collection was ordered to be made for their support.

The selections given in this volume embrace almost everything of local and general interest which the records of the council contain, and it is impossible here even to indicate the great variety of subjects to which they relate. Reference may, however, be made to some of the more important.

On 15th October 1574, the first indications appear of the approach of the plague. A Frenchman has arrived in Leith from London, where "the pest" is understood "to be vehement," and is "presentile seik." The householder with whom he is lodged is ordered, with his whole family, to remain closely in house for eight days, or longer, "quhil thay be tryit quhat followis vpon the said seiknes." Eleven days later, the council "vnderstanding the pest to incres in Kirkcaldie and Leith," make proclamation that no inhabitant of Edinburgh shall have communication with either of these towns, and that no inhabitant of these towns shall resort to Edinburgh, under pain of death. Then follow other regulations — requiring outbreaks of sickness to be reported to the magistrates, and the ports of the town, other than the Netherbow and West Ports, to be closed; prescribing the hours at which alone the ports named are to be opened, and ordering a daily watch of six men to be maintained. In rapid succession ordinances are made requiring vagabonds and idle persons to leave the town; ordering the tenant of the Sciennes to remove, so that, if the sickness increase, the infected people may be placed there; appointing a master cleanser of the people cured of the pest, with an assistant; authorising the purchase of a cardron for cleansing the foul goods, and the furnishing of all other necessaries "for the clene and foull mure." Then, on 26th November, forty bolls of meal are ordered to be bought, and sent to Leith for distribution among the poor and sick persons on the Links. On 7th January 1574–5, the house on the Links of Leith, called Little London, is directed to be cleansed, the "clengit folkis of the said linkis" are appointed to be placed in it, and a watch is ordered to prevent any unauthorised persons resorting to the house, under penalty of death. On the 18th of February, the pest having been removed, the cleansers and folks upon the mure are ordered to be brought home, and the timber of the lodges, the caldron and other things provided by the town in connection with the sickness, are appointed to be taken away. Six years later, viz., in September 1580, a minute of council refers to the reappearance of the plague, which had been brought in a ship from Danskin. The infected people were placed in St Colm's Inch, and cleansers were appointed to them, but the infected persons died, and enactments were made for the support and payment of the cleansers. On 3d October a minute refers to another arrival of infected persons from Danskin and from Bruges. Two days later, three persons, who had been confined to their lodgings under suspicion of being infected, were ordered to be put at liberty; and on the 14th of the same month, the conservator of Scotch privileges at Campvere was required to take steps to prevent infected persons coming to Scotland from Maine and other parts of Flanders; proclamation was also ordered to be made at Leith against the transport of persons from these places to that port. Nothing farther appears in the records on this subject till 24th July 1584, when reference is made to the reported outbreak, in the town of Wester Wemyss, of plague carried thither in infected goods from Flanders. Proclamation is accordingly made against the importation into Edinburgh or Leith from any part of Flanders of goods by which infection may be carried; and all persons arriving from that country are required to report themselves for inspection before going among the lieges. On 14th August, a collection is ordered to be made on behalf of the people of Wemyss, where the pestilence is understood to be great. On the 26th of the same month, a watch is appointed to be stationed on the shore of Leith to examine all persons arriving there; and boats are prohibited from landing between Queensferry and Leith, except at the latter port. On 19th September, all communication with Dysart, Kirkcaldy, and Wemyss is prohibited, and on 24th September, this prohibition is extended to St Johnston, in which it is said the pest is "laitlie brokin up." On 23d December 1584, a collection is appointed to be made on behalf of the burgh of St Johnston, and, on 6th January 1584–5, this collection appears to have produced £261, 17s. 2d. No outbreak of the plague in Edinburgh appears to have taken place till April 1585, when a woman died of a disease which excited suspicion, and led to various houses being placed under surveillance. The death from plague of two other persons in one of these houses, on 9th May, led to the removal of the survivors to the neighbourhood of St. Roque's Chapel, and the placing them under inspection. The house in which the deaths took place was cleansed, and other precautions were adopted. On the following day, cleansers were appointed to be in readiness, and a watch was posted at each of the two open ports; and, on 12th May, clothing was provided for the cleansed folks, and temporary dwellings were erected for them at the Sciennes. Six days later, five or six lodges were ordered to be put up on the Mure to accommodate those who might be sent there; and, on 19th May, three persons were appointed for each quarter of the town, to aid the bailies in supervising their respective districts. Daily meetings of the council were also ordered to be held "after the prayers and sermon." On the 20th and 21st of May, a caldron and other furnishings were ordered for cleansing operations, with a pair of irons and shackles for punishing offenders; and on the latter day, a man and two women were ordered to be put to the knowledge of an assize on a charge of having knowingly concealed the existence of the plague amongst them. The latter order concludes with the stern words, "and being fund culpabill in any poynt of the premisses, to be immediately execut to the deyth at the stray mercat," emphasised by the appointment of a man "to be executioner of the foul folk, and all such as shall be convict for breaking of the burgh laws and the statutes of burgh." The anxiety of the town's people at this period did not prevent them from aiding the afflicted inhabitants of St Johnston, for whom £244, 13s. 10d. were collected. An act of 24th May refers to those "that ar steiket up in the Water of Leyth, and hes nocht of thair awin," and ordains the treasurer "to furnies all necessaris to thame." It alludes also to the daily and nightly occupation of the bailies in suppressing sickness and helping the poor and sick. From this time onward to December the records are filled with acts relating to the state of the town, disorganised as it was by the ravages of the plague. The students attending the college had taken fright and left the town; the clerk of the kirk evidently also contemplated removal, and one of the bailies was directed to entreat him to remain in his office, "notwithstanding this perrilous tyme," and to increase his yearly stipend by £10. An act of 25th June. proceeding on the narrative "that the nychtbouris ar past furth of the toun, and hes left the samyn desolat, and thair buithis and howssiss in daynger of brekking be lymmers," appointed twenty-four persons to keep watch and guard, onehalf by day and the other half by night. On 10th August, all meetings of the people on the streets or at the heads of closes, by which infection might be spread, were prohibited. On 17th September, four Flemish cleansers and curers of the pest were appointed to be sustained upon the town's expenses for fifteen days, "to give pruif of their knawlege and airt." On the 22d of the same month, the council,—acknowledging the service rendered to the town by James Henryson, surgeon, who had himself contracted the sickness, and lost his wife by the plague,—exempted him from all future taxations and extents to be levied within the burgh. A letter from the King to the council, dated at Stirling, on 22d September 1585, referes to the pestilence as having infected a great part of the inhabitants, and carried off some of the bailies, councillors, and other officers of the burgh. An act dated 5th November, referring to the fact that, notwithstanding orders to the contrary, a great number of persons partly infected, and certain others upon suspicion of being infected, come to the streets and meet their neighbours, whereby the sickness is increased, ordains all clean persons, who are appointed to keep their houses, to remain therein for the time so ordained, and all such as are foul to be executed. An act dated 17th December, refers to the number of infected persons as being greatly diminished. And another act, of the 22d of the same month, directs all goods which have been or still are suspected of infection, though they may have been cleansed, to be laid out in the open air "to tak the air of the froste, nichtlie or daylie, quhill the samyn may be jugeit furth of suspitioun." The act contains farther stringent orders for the cleansing of all suspected goods, and the adoption of other measures fitted to diminish or prevent infection. An act, dated 19th January 1585–6, refers to the sickness as "beand removet in the mercie of God."

The Records during the period included in this volume show frequent interference on the part of the Government — both that of the Regent and of the King — with the free election of the magistrates and office-bearers of the burgh. On one or two occasions the town council resisted, and asserted their right to elect their own magistrates; but usually they yielded to the dictation of the Government — in some cases protesting that compliance should not prejudice the liberties of the burgh, in others without offering remonstrance, or protest of any kind. The unsettled condition of the times, no doubt, gave colour to the excuse with which the Crown usually accompanied its behests; but there can be no doubt that King James needed little excuse at any time for pushing as far as possible the assertion of royal prerogative. Of such interference with elections examples may be seen under date 4th October 1575, and 6th October 1579. But, on the other hand, a royal letter, dated 30th September 1576, recognised the right of the burgesses to choose their own magistrates and office-bearers. On 20th September 1578, the whole body of the citizens, convened by the council to consider a royal missive in which the election of particular individuals to the magistracy appear to have been required, boldly asserted the right of the burgesses, under the charters of the burgh, to elect their own magistrates, and their declinature to yield to royal interference in such a matter. The King still pressed his demand, but the council refused, and elected a provost and magistrates of their own choice. On 27th September 1582, His Majesty contented himself with appealing to his faithful subjects to elect such persons as would have regard to his authority and service.

Frequent disputes occurred, during the period with which this volume deals, between the merchants and the craftsmen in regard to the share which the letter were to be allowed to have in the administration of the affairs of the burgh. These disputes culminated in the municipal election on 2d October 1582, and resulted in a popular tumult which called for the exercise of the royal authority. On the same day a royal proclamation ordained the provost and magistrates, who had been elected on the previous day, to hold office for the year, "without preiudice of the richt, libertie or priuelege, ather of the craftismen or merchandis of the said burgh in tyme cuming." The merchants and craftsmen were also required to nominate each party twelve persons, not privy councillors, and to deliver their names to the King, with a view to his choosing three on each side to whom the whole differences between the merchants and craftsmen should be referred— His Majesty to act as oversman, with advice of his council, in case of difference of opinion. In obedience to this mandate, each of the parties nominated arbiters, who, after full inquiry and deliberation, drew up articles for the settlement of the controversies. But these articles the craftsmen would not accept. The King therefore called the contending parties before him in February 1582–3 and required them to submit all their differences to the arbiters previously named, and to His Majesty as oversman, and to abide by the decision which they might pronounce. This both the parties agreed to do, and, on 22d April 1583, the arbiters, with the Kings as oversman, issued their decree-arbitral, which practically settled all the questions that had for so lengthened a period been the subject of bitter controversy between the merchants and craftsmen of the burgh.

Though the King had thus effectually interfered to adjust the differences between the merchants and craftsmen, he did not, in the election of the magistrates at Michealmas 1583, leave the council to exercise their own choice, in the manner prescribed by the decree-arbitral. On the contrary, he required them to elect certain merchants and craftsmen to be of the council, and named the persons whom he wished to be appointed provost and bailies. The council deputed two of their number to carry a letter to the King, in which they desired "His Grace to consider thair privileges and acts of parliament, and quhow perilous it is in the begynning to brek onyh poynt of the decreitt gevin in be his Majestie." But the appeal was unsuccessful, and the council gave effect to the royal command,— ordaining "that the admission suld stand as gif it had past be way of electioun, and the act to beir that thai wer electit and chosin." In like manner, on 6th October 1584, the King required the council to elect the Earl of Arran, chancellor, to be provost for the ensuing year, and the several other persons whom he named to be bailies, dean of guild, and treasurer. The council, accordingly, altered the leets which they had formerly agreed upon, and elected the King's nominees. So also, in October 1585, after the council had elected William Little to be provost, a royal letter was produced, in obedience to which, notwithstanding the previous election of Little, the Earl of Arran was reappointed provost. Previous to the 24th of November, however, the earl had fallen under the royal displeasure, and the council, with continued subserviency, resolved on that day to approach the King desiring his goodwill and favour in the election of another provost, and also authority to the town to supply a vacancy among the bailies. Two days afterwards his Majesty signified his desire that William Little should be elected provost. The vacancy in the bailieship he remitted to the council themselves to fill up. Little was therefore appointed provost, and the Earl of Arran was formally deposed. In the following year Little was re-elected, without any apparent intervention of the part of the King.

The position of Edinburgh as the capital, and the frequent residence of the sovereign at Holyrood, drew to the city many distinguished strangers, ambassadors and visitors from other courts. These the magistrates not unfrequently entertained. In those days also the sovereign seems to have considered it not inconsistent with the royal dignity to impose upon the town the duty of showing hospitality to his visitors. On 7th June 1576, the council appointed a banquet to be given to certain gentlemen from Bohemia, who had arrived on a mission to the King. The cost of the banquet appears to have been £77, 13s. 4d. On 21st July 1579, the council learning that certain gentlemen from Germany were expected to arrive in Edinburgh, and that the King wished them to be honourably received, appointed lodging and other necessary things to be prepared for them, and resolved that they should be "sufficiently entertenit on the tounis chargis." On the 21st of the following month, also, the council had presented to them a writing from the King, then in Stirling, requiring them to entertain the English ambassador, who was about to arrive in Scotland. On 8th January 1583–4, £162, 6s. 9d, were allowed in the accounts of the city treasurer for the previous year as the expenses of a banquet to the French ambassador. On 14th June 1585, the council resolved to entertain the Danish ambassadors with spice and wine, and appointed a deputation to welcome the strangers. A month later, letters were ordered to be dispatched to the lord provost, the Earl of Arran (who was also Lord Chancellor), and to the town of Dundee, "to travell that for the weill of the estait of burrowes and honour of the realme the imbassadouris of Denmark may be more honerablie interteneit and better luiket vpoun." On 15th May 1587, the town entertained the King and nobility to a banquet at the Market Cross — the cost of which amounted to £30, 10s. 8d. On 28th June 1588, again, the King "earnestly desired" the town to entertain, for fifteen or twenty days, two sisters of the Duke of Lennox who had recently arrived from France. The magistrates endeavoured to escape from the expense, pleading "the toun's greitt burdings in His Graces effaires;" but His Majesty gave them to understand that noncompliance would incur his sovereign displeasure. In these circumstances they chose the lesser of two evils and consented to bear the expense to an amount not exceeding five hundred merks. Whether this limitation commended itself to King James does not appear, but, on 3d July, three members of council were appointed to contract for the "entertainment" of the ladies, "als guid cheip as thair may." On 2d August and 11th September 1588, reference is made to a banquet by the town to the ambassador of the King of Navarre, — the cost of which seems to have amounted to £116, 19s. 4d.; and on 29th May 1589, the council agreed, at the request of the King. "to mak ane honest moderatt bankett to the imbassadouris come from certane townies in Holand, in Nicol Vddert's new howse, on Sonday at even nixttocum, or soner gif the cause requyre."

These records also furnish some details as to the reception, in 1579. of the King, who had accepted the government of the realm in his own person. and had resolved, with the advice of the privy council, to transfer his residence from Stirling to Edinburgh. In anticiption of that event, the town council, on 20th August, ordained a cupboard of silver gilt—consisting of the several articles described in the minute—to be prepared as a present to his Majesty, and to meet the expense it was resolved on the 27th of that month to lay an extent of £4000 upon all the neighbours, merchants, and craftsmen. On the 4th of September to deputation, including one of the ministers of the town, was appointed to "vesie the maister of the Hie Scoles tragedies to be maid be the bairnis agane the Kingis heir coming. " (fn. 6) On the 11th of the same month, every merchant extrented at £10 and upwards was ordered to provide himself with a gown of fine "balk chamlett of silk of cierge, barrit with veluous efferand to his substance." Such as were extended above £16 were required to have gowns of the "lyke stuff, the breistis thairof lynit with veluous and begaireit thairwith, with cotis of veluous damest or satene;" and each defaulter was subjected to a penalty of £20, to be applied to the public works. The craftsmen were also appointed to be similarly provided. Three days later, minute directions appeared as to the liveries to be provided for the macer of the council and the thirteen city officers and orders were given to provide "and paill of blew veluett of sevintene elnis of purpour and lynit within with reid tafetie." The Over and Nether Tolbooth and the Laigh Councilhouse were ordered to be washed with chalk, and a Frenchman was appointed to be consulted as to the device of "the triumphe agane the King's heir cuming." On 2d October, certain persons were ordained to "tak ordour with the wrychtis for vpsetting of daillis and vther tymmer on the Nether Bow, and vther places neidful, for the decoring of the toune." On 7th October, thirty-two burgesses were appointed to carry the King's pall, and the dress which they were to wear was carefully prescribed,— failure to provide it being punished by a fine of£40. All filth and obstructions on the High Street or closes were ordered to be removed, under penalty of£5, and imprisonment till paid. On the 14th of the same month the inhabitants were ordered to hang their stairs with tapestry and arras work. On the 16th the King made his entry. "He come furthe of Dalkeith," says Moysie's Memoris, "quhair he had bein at bankit four days of befoir; he enterit at the West Poirt quhair he was met be the honest men of the toun cled in silk gounis lynit with weluet, to the number of je vsing sick ceremonies as wes requirit for a prince." (fn. 7) On the 20th of the same month the magistrates presented the King with the cupboard, and other articles before referred to. (fn. 8).

The unsettled state of the country during the period with which this volume deals, necessitated the frequent establishment of a strong watch at the ports by day, and in the several quarters of the city by night. This watch sometimes consisted of men hired by the town, but more frequently of citizens, called out in rotation by the bailie of each quarter of officers specially appointed for the purpose. To such watches reference is made in acts dated 9th January 1576–7, 16th April, 18th May, 28th July, and 12th August 1578, 31st January 1578–9, 2d and 16th November and 2d December 1580, 26th October 1582, 7th October 1583, 22d July 1584, 31st January 1587–8, and 11th May 1588. But in addition to the duty which every burgess had thus to undertake, he was also liable to be called on to guard the Sovereign, whose frequent residence in Holyrood exposed the citizens of the capital to numberous calls of this nature. Illustrations of this will be found in acts dated 18th January, and 10th and 20th February 1580–1, 21st November 1582, 26th November 1583. 24th March 1583–4, and 30th October 1584. There were, moreover, numerous demands upon the city to furnish men for the performance of special military duties and contingents to the national forces, whenever the exigencies of the times required. Examples of these will be seen on 5th May 1579, when the town was required to send its whole available force to the siege of Hamilton on 18th January 1580–81, when it had to provide one hundred hagbutteris to convey the Earl of Morton a prisoner to Dumbarton; (fn. 9) and, on 21st April 1584, when five hundred persons were appointed to proceed with the King to Stirling, to protect his Majesty and to assert the royal authority. The proper performance of such duties necessitated military training, and the providing, by every burgess, of arms befitting his means and position. The possession of these, and of the necessary skill to use them. were evidenced by public weaponshawings, to which frequent references are made in acts of Council and Parliament. Of the former, the acts dated 17th March 1573–4, 5th August 1584, and 15th July 1587, are illustrations.

This volume also contains a good deal of information as to the provision made by the town council for education in the burgh. In 1577, the High School was conducted in a building rented from Archibald Steward (who was elected lord provost in the following year), but complaint was made that the structure was not water-tight, wind-tight, or lockfast. The owner was accordingly ordered to put it in repair before winter, "sua that the bairns sit warm and dry," and failing this being done, the treasurer of the city was directed to make the requisite repairs, and to deduct the cost from the rent, But, on 29th January 1577–8, the council resolved to build a high school in the Blackfriar kirkyards, and, on 16th February, ordered the building to be ready for "receiveing of the youth" prior to the following Whitsunday. The cost of the new building was, on 10th May 1578, appointed to be raised by an extent on the inhabitants. On 9th July, its windows were directed to be stanchelled with iron, and, on 6th August, a wright was employed to roof the school. An act of Council, dated 13th February 1578–9, shows that the new school was not occupied till Whitsunday 1579, and that the rent of the old school, due at Martinmas 1578 and Whitsunday 1579, was ordered to be paid. On 10th April 1579, William Robertson, "maister of the New Hie Scole callyt the Grammer scole of this burgh," undertook to keep[ the building wind and water-tight, receiving from each pupil twopence at each term of Whitsunday and Martinmas, for the "made and uphald of the said scole, yeirlie, in all necessaris foresaid, and as he presently resauis the samyn." In the following month he, and the "instructors of doctors" of the school, complained of the insufficiency of their remuneration, and threatened to leave, but were induced to remain under an arrangement by which the fees were increased, and all other persons were prohibited from teaching, except when admitted by the magistrates and council after examination, with advice of the ministers of the burgh. On 11th June, Robertson was inducted in the new school, but seems not to have attended to necessary repairs, for, on 4th March 1579–80, the city treasurer was ordered to get these made at the master's expense. On 27th March 1584, the master had become unable to exercise his office, and a committee was appointed to confer with him as to the terms on which he would renounce it. The result of this negotiation was that, on 3d April, the council agreed to give him a retiring allowance of two hundred merks, payable quarterly out of the common good. Hercules Rollock was appointed to succeed him, under conditions which practically secured him a monoply of the teaching of grammar in the town. These are detailed in an act of council, dated 14th August 1584. The continuance of this monoply is shown by an act of 26th February 1588–9. On 1st September 1587, there is an entry as to a serious outbreak in the school. Not only did the scholars "hald the schole aganis thair maister, bot als maist prowdlie and contemptuously held the same aganis my lord provost and the bailyeis." The result was that the magistrates had to break in the door and capture the building by force. The scholars were found to be armed "with pistols, swords, halberts, and uther wawpouns and airmour." No loss of life and no serious damage to person or property appears to have taken place. The master was left to exercise befitting discipline, and the liberty of the scholars was curtailed.

Provision was made during this period for the teaching of French. On 3d September 1574, arrangements were made with a Frenchman to teach reading, writing, the French language, arithmetic, and "laying of compte," a fee of 25s. a year being paid to the teacher for each pupil, besides an annual salary of £20. This school appears to have been in operation on 25th June 1578. A song school also appears to have been maintained, along with a number of others, reference to which, under the name of "lecture schools," is made in an act of 7th December 1586.

Many entries also occur in this volume as to the establishment of the College of Edinburgh. Previous to the Reformation, Robert Reid, Bishop of Orkney, had bequeathed eight thousand merks for the endowment of a university in Edinburgh, but no steps appear to have been taken to carry out that object till 1561, when the subject was revived. Payment of the bishop's legacy was not obtained till 1582; but, in 1563, the council acquired a considerable part of the ground and buildings of the Kirk of Field, either for an hospital or a university. (fn. 10) Nothing further of a definite character appears to have been done till 24th April 1579, when the town council appointed a committee to confer with Clement Little and Alexander Sym, advocates, "for taking of ordour anentis the founding of ane universitie." The result of this movement appears to have been that the council resolved to begin the work, but that it was delayed through the influence of the Archbishop of St Andrews and the Bishop of Aberdeen, who apprehended that the establishment of a college at Edinburgh would injure the universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen. In 1581, however, that obstruction was removed; the council acquired, and obtained confirmation by the Crown of their right to, the provostry of the Kirk of Field; (fn. 11) they also acquired contiguous buildings, which had formerly belonged to the Duke of Chatelherault; and progress was made, by adapting for the purposes of a college buildings already existing, and by erecting others of a very humble description. The undertaking thus commenced received the royal sanction by a charter under the Great Seal, dated 14th April 1582, and ratified by parliament in 1621. On 5th April 1583 the council ordered six hundred merks to be employed "upon the bigging and founding" of the college. On the 26th of the same month they appointed two masters of work "to the building of the wallis of the college." On 27th July farther sums, the proceeds of an extent, were ordered to be similarly applied. On 17th September £20 were authorised to be paid to Mr Robert Rollok, (fn. 12). "quha is to be maister and regent of the college, and that for making his expenssis to transport himself, his buikis and guidis, and vpsetting of his chalmer." On 4th October £11 were ordered to be paid "for outredding of the twa privie seillis,— ane of the lettere of the erectioun of the college and ane vther of ane lettere concerning the provostrie of the Kirk of Feild." On the 9th of the same month a bailie was commissionel to pass to the King in regard, among other things, to the college. On 11th October proclamation was ordered to be made, warning all scholars and students who were to enter the college, to come to a bailie and give up their names, with a view to order being taken for "thair placeing and instructing." On the 16th of the same month two of the council were ordered to convene "vpoun Sonday nixt afternone the persouns quha wes nominatt to sett downe and devyse the ordour of teaching, with the dischypline to be keipit in the college now erectit, and to se that this mater be putt to ane guid poynt." On the 25th of October the treasurer of the city was ordained to furnish the college with a "sufficient skellet bell;" and, on the 30th of the same month, an interesting act prescribes the terms on which students were to be provided with sleeping accommodation in the college. The sons of burgesses were to provide their own beds without payment, taking them away with them when they left. On 8th November Mr Duncan Nairn was appointed second master in the college, with a stipend of forty merks a-year, and an allowance of £20 for board till 2d February. On the same day all the students were ordered to remain "nichtlie in thair chalmeris," and also to wear gowns, under pain of removal from the college if they disobeyed either order. On 13th December the loft or gallery in the east end of the High Kirk was set apart for the students and masters. On 30th October 1584, a committee was appointed to confer with Mr Robert Rollok "for taking up ane howse and tabill in the college." On 17th March 1584–5, and extent of £380 was ordered to be levied for the work of the college. On 23d April 1585, the two bells of the college being broken, were appointed to be made into one bell, and orders were given to enclose the college with walls. On 9th February 1585–6, a letter constituting Rollok first and principal master of the college was read and ordered to be signed by the provost, bailies, and town clerk, and the seal of council was appointed to be appended to the document. On 17th October 1586, after public disputations, Mr Adam Colt and Mr Alexander Scrymgeour were selected for the appointment of regents, and £10 was ordered to be paid to each of them to cover expenses till Alhallomas. Each of the other four candidates was ordered to be paid £10 towards his expenses. On 27th August 1587, reference was made to the completion by the Principal of a course of philosophy, and it was deemed expedient that he should begin and teach theology. But as to this the presbytery were ordered to be consulted. On 8th November 1587, Mr Philip Hislop, who had been educated in the college, was appointed one of the regents, and three stranger scholars, who had also competed for the appointment, were ordered to be paid £10 each.

The present volume contains numerous enactments in relation to the clergy of the city—their appointment, the providing of houses for them, the raising of moneys for their support, by taxation and voluntary contributions, and the collection and application towards the same object of the feu-duties, ground-annuals, and other sums which had previously belonged to the priests, monks, friars, and prebendaries. Frequent acts also appear as to the poor, and as to providing for their relief in a variety of ways,— by collections at the church doors, by the imposition of a weekly tax according to the discretion of the bailies and council, by licensing begging only by such persons as were provided by the magistrates with badges, and by the levying of a uniform weekly rate from all the neighbours, merchants and craftsmen. Concurrently with these efforts to provide for the honest poor of the town, stringent orders were from time to time issued against sturdy beggars and others not connected with the city, who were from time to time required to leave, under pain of sharp punishment.

During the period to which this volume relates, the magistrates and council seem to have usually met twice a-week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, at ten o'clock. Nonattendance was punished by a fine of eighteenpence, which was given to the poor; and an act of 8th October 1574 required each councilor to bring with him a "syde goun of lak." On 11th December 1576 it was ordered that, in the absence of the provost, the bailie for the week should preside. On 26th November 1579, it was ordered that the minute of each meeting should be read over before the council dissolved. On 4th October 1581, the council bell was appointed to be rung a quarter of an hour before each meeting, and every absentee at the ceasing of the bell was subjected to a fine of eighteenpence, absentees for the whole day being liable to a fine of five shillings, unless exempted by the provost and bailies. On 17th October 1582, the scale of fines was altered. Out of these fines and other proceeds, the council were provided with lunch, the expense of which the collectors were ordered to pay on 8th November 1583. On 7th August 1584, a third meeting in each week was appointed to be held, on Tuesday afternoon, at two o'clock; absentees from the meetings being subject to the same fines as on ordinary council days. On 18th November 1584, a new scale of fines was enacted. On 19th May 1585, it was resolved, in consideration of the apparent increase of the plague, that the council should meet every day after prayers and sermon. On 25th October 1587, the council resolved, "for the honestie and gravitie requyrit in thair calling," that after Martinmas they should con vene "cled with gownis in maist decent maner and nocht with cloikis," according to the acts previously made.

Frequent references also occur in this volume to a variety of matters, to which only allusion can be made. Among these are, the price and quality of wines, and the weight and price of bread; the conditions of the admission of burgesses and guild brethren; the cleansing of the streets and closes; the water supply and the means adopted in times of drought to preserve it for domestic use; the production, by "outland" persons seeking employment as servants, of certificates of life and character from the ministers of the town or shire in which they had lived; the prohibition of the employment of women servants in drinking booths, and of any burgess or guild brother holding more than one tavern or booth; the order on the townspeople to attend their own parish kirks; the proper observance of the Sabbath; the election by the neighbours of each quarter of a merchant and craftsmen for each fifty, to command them and see that they were properly armed; the division of the inhabitants into thirties, with two—a merchant and craftsman—to command each thity; the division of the town into four parishes, each having its own church, and each church its own reader; and the election by the council with the advice of the ministers, of three elders and four deacons for each parish, who, with the council, should take order as to the correction of manners and support of the poor; the appointment of visitors of quarters, and their duties; the printing of Bibles in the town, and the requirement that every householder should be provided with a copy. Of these, and many other details of the daily life of the citizens in the latter half of the sixteenth century, the present volume affords abundant illustration.

J. D. Marwick.
Glasgow, December 1882.


  • 1. Diurnal of Accounts, p. 337.
  • 2. Ib. p.226.
  • 3. History of Scotland, vol. v., p. 66. Mr Burton states that Preston of Craigmillar was the provost thus deposed, but the Council records show that Mr James M'Gill, who had been elected provost at Michaelmas 1570, accepted the office on 20th October in that year. [Extracts from the Records, vol. iii., p. 277.] On 16th February 1570–1, "Mr James M'Gill, provost," appears to have been in England along with the Earl of Morton and the Abbot of Dunfermline, as ambassadors for the king, "for procuring libertie for our schippis to pas in France." [Ib. p. 283] And on 20th April 1571, the Council resolved that the bailies, council, deacons, and certain honest neighbours ride to Dalkeith, to the Earl of Morton, the Lord Dunfermline, and the provost, to render them thanks for their labours in the town's affairs. [Ib. p. 285.] The Diurnal of Occurrents also mentions that, upon the 13th of the same month, a company of the bailies an I council passed to Dalkeith, to speak with the provost, "Mr James M'Gill, tuitching the estait of Edinburgh." [p. 209].
  • 4. Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 322.
  • 5. See p. 7–8.
  • 6. The King, it will be remembered, was not thirteen years of age at this time.
  • 7. A detailed account of the reception will be found in Maitland's History of Edinburgh, pp. 23–38 pp.,37–38, and in Documents relative to the Reception at Edinburgh of the Kings and Queens of Scotland, 1561–1650, pp. 30–31. Arnot, in his History of Edinburgh, devotes only six lines to the subject.
  • 8. Moysie's Memoirs, p. 25. The value of the cupboard was estimated to be six thousand marks, or £4000 Scots.
  • 9. On 2d June 1581, the council understanding the Earl "is to be execut to the deid after none, for certain crymes of lese majesty," appointed, for the honour of the town, that the lockman should be provided with a new garment and stand of clothes of the town's livery. On 14th December 1582, a royal letter ordained the Earl's head to be taken down from the Old Tolbooth and buried.
  • 10. Extracts from Council Records, vol. iii., pp.163–182. In this place Lord Darnley met his death on the 10th of February 1567–8, having been blown up with gunpowder in a house which was afterwards acquired by the town (pp. 557, 559–560), repaired and appropriated as the residence of the principal of the college.
  • 11. Page 560.
  • 12. Rollok had for several years been professor of humanity in St Salvator's College, St Andrews, and at the time of his appointment to Edinburgh in March 1583, was professor of philosophy in that college.