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Casualties, Arms’ Money, Guild Wine, Guild Box

A  s the years of the Middle Ages unrolled so Aberdeen's Burgesses continued to enjoy their trading privileges. As in other large Scottish burghs, so in Aberdeen no one could trade in goods not of his own manufacture unless he was a Burgess of Guild. Trade Burgesses, however, could manufacture and sell their products, but little more.

As each new Burgess, of Guild or Trade, was admitted to the privileges of his order he had to pay to the Town Council a sum called his composition.

These were then allocated by the Town Council to various accounts kept in their books. To our modern eyes they bear unusually colourful titles such as Casualties, Arms’Money, Guild Wine, Guild Box and Additional Fund to Guild Box.

Arms’Money replaced the weapon in the hand of the entrant Burgess, Guild Wine was in place of the payment for the medieval feast, and the Guild Box was set up in 1600 to collect small payments for the relief of poverty among Guild brethren. The box was banded with irne havend four lockis and four keyis held by the Dean of Guild, the City Treasurer and two merchants.

Burgess Oath before 1714

Burgess Oath before 1714

Income and expenditure fluctuated over the years, but in 1710 the Dean of Guild was in a position to invest £19,000 Scots from the Guild Wine Fund in a half share in the first half of the Lands of Skene, out of which the Lands of Cairnie remain, held today for the Guildry charitable funds, the Bridgeworks Account and the Common Good.

The Burgess oath underwent several modifications. One clause belatedly inserted by the Town Council in 1678 sought to impose a severe restriction on non-Protestants. Such was the outcry against it that an order was obtained from the Privy Council in Whitehall in 1714 to rescind it.

In 1819 the Convention of Royal Burghs voted to abolish the oath, replacing it with an undertaking by Burgesses to discharge every civil incumbent duty by law, the wording which remains on the Burgess ticket to this day.

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