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Fees, Penalties and Ransoms

E  stablishment of a town council can be traced back to 1179 when the burgh's Burgesses were granted a free Hanse - freedom to act as a corporate body with power to make its own rules of local government.

In early days, a new Burgess had to pay not only an entry fee to the Common Good, he was also required to wine and dine Council members.

When Queen Margaret Tudor, consort to James IV and sister to Henry VIII, visited Aberdeen in 1511 she was escorted into the burgh under a canopy held by four Burgesses.

In the 15th Century it was absolutely essential that each Burgess have a personal residence and possess property in the burgh. Non-resident Burgesses could be deprived of their freedom to trade.

In 1576 it was decreed that after the feast of St Martin no Burgess would wear plaid. Penalty – fined 40 shillings. In 1598 the Guild prohibited members from wearing blue bonnets. Penalty – £5.

Aberdeen Burgh Register Doodle

Aberdeen Burgh Register Doodle

Early Royal charters granted by successive monarchs were all directed towards the burgh’s Burgesses, some exclusively, others also towards the community.

In 1357, three Burgesses from Aberdeen were appointed with others from Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee to negotiate for the ransom of King David II held captive, but in comfort, in England. The figure – 100,000 merks sterling.

Burgh records of November 1736 tell of a contract drawn up between the Dean of Guild and William Durward – anent the town’s dung.

In 1296, letters patent were submitted on behalf of Aberdeen Burgesses and the community promising to serve well and loyally their dear Lord, Edward, King of England, and his heirs.

In October 1393, Robert III granted licence to Aberdeen Burgesses to build a Town House, 80ft by 30ft, on any suitable site, but not in the midst of the market place.

It was customary that a new Burgess’s entry fee be handed over ceremonially in a white kid bag. By the 1970s the bags were in need of cleaning and were duly washed. They disintegrated.

In the mid-16th Century, one Burgess granted leave of absence from the burgh for three years without losing his freedom status had to arrange that a fellow Burgess undertook to meet his share of taxation and other charges.

First mention of the Guild Box fund comes in burgh records of July 16 1600 when the Town Council ordered that a suitable box be made to hold offerings and fines, such to be bestowit to the help and support of the dacayit brether of Gild.

Assessors to the Dean of Guild were first appointed in 1609. Four were then chosen each year from those who had held Council office for at least three years.

In 1738, William Young of Sheddocksley was admitted as an infant Burgess at the age of two. He twice served as Provost of Aberdeen, from 1778 to 1780, and from 1782 to 1784.

A condition of entry to the Guildry that has remained through the years states that no Burgess or any member of his family shall be anywise burdensome on the Town of Aberdeen for the space of ten years from the date of entry.

In medieval days, Burgesses were encouraged to practise their marksmanship at the Links range. Nowadays, some Burgesses can still be found practising at the Links – on the golf range.

Individuals can qualify for admission as Burgesses of Guild provided that they live or have a business address within the City of Aberdeen and should:-

  • Be at least 25 years of age;
  • Have some years of experience in industry, commerce or the professions;
  • Hold or have held a position of responsibility in his or her business or organisation; and
  • Have shown involvement in activities outwith work which are of benefit to the community.

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