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Fechts, furnication and sclander: a deek at the auld Edinburgh and Glesca burgh records

The wabsite British History Online haes setten furth in digital form extracts frae the burgh records o 16t and 17t century Edinburgh and Glesca. I haed a bit rake aboot and hae waled oot a wheen examples, that ye can see ablo, alang wi glossars for wirds that’s no sae kenspeckle tae modren lugs. The’r recordins an-aw o me readin them oot (in Modren Scots, less or mair, cause ettlin tae uise the pronunciation o the time wad be a richt tyauve for a body that’s no an expert in Aulder Scots).

The burgh records gies us a guid insicht intae local (and whiles national) ongauns o the time, and it’s aw (binna the antrin bit Latin) written in Scots. The Middle Scots o civic administration can aften be awfu formal soondin, and it’s no aye spelt in the modren wey, but ye’ll recognise mony o the wirds frae the day’s language, like claes, steek, laddies, the morn, haud, kirk, causey, toun, dicht, frae, auld, and fecht, as weel as aw the wirds that Scots shares wi English. And tak tent: in terms o content—as ye micht expect frae yon time in history—some o it’s no enlichtent at aw.

The spellin haesna been chynged binna the interchyngable v, u, and w, that’s been pitten whaur we’d expect tae see them the day, for tae mak it a bit easier tae read: vpoun is chynged til upounMaxuell tae Maxwell etc.

Haudin the toun in a guid state o repair

Steking of the kirkyaird yet.

The provest baillies and counsall ordanis maister Jhone Prestoun, dene of gyld, to caus clenge the filthe about the kirk, and to caus steik the gret yet on the est syde of the kirk yaird sua that the laddis get na interes to mak the samyn ane symmar feild and to brek the glas windokkis.

Edinburgh, 4 Aprile 1567

yet yett; dene of gyld the high heid ane o the guild-brethren or merchand company o a royal burgh [DOST]; sua sae; clenge mak clean; laddis laddies; interes entrance; ane a; symmar feild ? a field whaur gemms or sports is played in the simmer [DOST]; windokkis windaes

Anent the doun taking of the bellhous.

The provest, bailleis, and counsall hes concludit to tak doun to the grund the haill bellhous in the Trongait, baith new wark and auld.

Glesca, 19 Mairch 1631

Calsay halding clene.

Item, that all nychtboures haiffand foir tenements dicht the calsay fornent the samyn to the middis of the calsay, and remove all filth and staynes thairfra the morne be none, under the payne of xl s. till be taikin of thame that failyeis, but favoures; and that thai hald the said calsay fra thine furth clene quhill after the entrie of the Quenis Grace; and that oppin proclamatioun be maid heirof be the belman.

Edinburgh, 17 Julie 1538

nychtboures neebors; haiffand haein; foir ? front; calsay causey; middis middle; be by; none nuin; failyeis fails, maks defaut on peyment; but favoures ithoot favour; oppin open; fra frae

Thirty-nine shipwrackit Spainiarts

Contributioun Spayngyearts.

Forswamekill as thair is cum to this burgh to the number of threttie nyne Spayngyerts of the Spayngye navie and ma to follow, quha hes maid schip wrak in Ireland, and is cum in at the west verray naiket, pure and desolatt, fynds it expedient that the bowellis of mercie, compassioun, and christiane cherity be schawin upoun thame, and thairfore that ane collectioun to be maid throw the haill toun and imployet in clething to thame, and the superplus to be gevin thame in money that thai may be despeschet away; and appoyntis every baillie in his quarter, takand the persouns following with him, to craif the sam … and quhill thair claythes be gottin that thai be sustenit upoun the said contributioun.

Edinburgh, 11 October 1588

forswamekill forasmuch; Spayngyerts Spainiart (a body frae Spain); Spayngye Spaingie (Spainish); ma mair; pure puir; clething claes; takand takkin

Scabbit horse

The pointis of the heid court:— Scab.

James Andersone, millare, hes thre scabbit hors; Johne Gammyll hes ane; Thomas Scott hes ane; and Thomas Will hes ane scabbit hors. Quhilkis persones ar ordanit to be warnit to the nixt court to heir thame decernit to be handillit conforme to the auld statutis maid anent scab and fairsy, and to be sichtit be Archibald Muir and Thomas Watterston.

Edinburgh, 19 Januar 1573–4

hors horse (singular and plural); scabbit dreein ‘the scab’, ane or tither o sindry skin diseases affectin bease; fairsy farcy; sichtit examined, inspectit

Speirin for a lend o siller

Lord Bothwell.

The sam day, afternone, the provest, baillies, dene of gild, thesaurer, counsall, deykins of crafts, and certane nychtbouris of the toun beand convenet anent the mater proponet to thame of before concerning my Lord Bothwell, quha desyret to borrow sum money of the toun, considering the greitt burdings lying upoun the town and thair commoun guid alreddy, and for uther wechty ressouns moving thame, thay fand it nocht expedient to len or grant to his lordschip ony money, and appoyntet George Carkettill, Thomas Fischear, maister James Jhonestoun, and sic as past before to his lordschip, to declair thair answer in maist gud and plesant termes.

Edinburgh, 2 October 1588

beand bein; wechty ? serious, important ? burdensome; nocht no

Foondin o Edinburgh University

Villa, universitie.

The provest, baillies, and counsall ordanis maister Jhonne Preston, Alexander Uddert, Robert Kar, younger, William Littill, and Henry Chairteris, of the counsall, together with maister Clement Littill, maister Alexander Sym, advocatis, to convene thame selves in the ministeris luging the morn be four houris efter none, for taiking of ordour anentis the founding of ane universitie, and to repoirt the nixt day.

Edinburgh, 24 Aprile 1579

luging ludgin (accommodation)



The quhilk day, Robert Gibsoun and Williame Sutherland, messinger, ar decernit hinc inde in ane wrang and amerchiament of court, viz., the said Williame for cuming to the said Robertis hous and provoking of him to fecht, and the said Robert for casting of his bonnet to the said William, and provoking of him to the singular combat, and dome gevin thairupoun.

Glesca, 5 August 1589

messinger messenger; hinc inde on baith sides; amerchiament the condition o bein subject til a pecuniar penalty at the discretion o the court or judge [DOST]; dome judgement; gevin gien

Act, Roxburgh.

James Roxburgh, allegeing him to be borne in Lowdoun, being tane and apprehendit and putt in prissoune for the tuilyeing, fechting, and drinking in the nicht in ane John Riches hous, and suspect of theft and pyikrey, and ane vagabound, haveand na occupatioune nor craft, is be his awin consent decernit to be banist and absent himself furth of burgh and barony, and gif he beis apprehendit heireftir within the same, but ane maister quhomewith he is feitt fra terme to terme in honest service, in that caice he is content to be hangit to the deid, but ane assyis, and to departe out of the towne incontinent.

Glesca, Mairch 1594–5

Lowdoun Lothian; tuilyeing quarrelin; pyikrey cleekin items that’s no wirth meikle; haveand hivin; feitt ? employed, engaged; assyis ? judicial inquiry; incontinent immediately

Andersone, Steyne, wrangis.

Marione Jamesone, Jonet Maxwell, Marione Maxwell and Jonet Maxwell, hir dochteris, ar fund in the wrang and amerchiament of court for trublance done be thame to Marione Stene, spous to James Andersone, carter, in stryking of hir, scartyng of hir and dynging hir to the erd, upone the last daye of Marche; […]

Glesca, 2 Aprile 1574

dynging knockin, drivin; erd grund


Wemen taverneris dischairget.

Forsamekill as it is perfytelie knawin and understand to the provest, baillies, and counsall of this burgh, that the filthie vyce of fornication, drukkennes, and all kynde of pollution is daylie increst, throw the greit multitude of wemen tavernaris, dry topstairis, and ventaris of wyne, aill, and beir, quha for the particular lucre and gaynes to thame selves and thair maisteris, intysis the youth and insolent pepill to sic filthynes, provoking thairby the wraith and the displesour of God appearandlie to fall upoun this citie, gif haistie remeid be nocht provydit thairto; […]

Edinburgh, 23 Mairch 1579–80

taverneris innkeepers; dischairget prohibitit; topstairis sellars (but no brewsters) o ale; ventaris vendars; lucre gain, profit

Statuta, fournacatouris.

Statuta, harlottis. The provest, baillies, dene of gyld, and counsale, persaving the dalie incres of the horrible vice of fornicatioun for laik off schairpe punisment; For remeid quhairof thay ordane all the harlottis that salbe apprehendit in vice heirefter to be hurlyt in ane cart throuch the toune and banist the boundis thairof induring the provest, baillies, and counsallis willis.

Edinburgh, 25 Aprile 1578

statuta statute, decrete; hurlyt hurlt

Sclander and filthie sangs

Bell banist.

Bartelmo Bell, appr[e]hendet and wairdet for ane vicious and sclanderous persoun and for singing oppinly of filthie and badrie sangs, oblist himself to depairt furth of this burgh incontinent and nocht to cum within the samyn heirafter, under the payne of deid.

Edinburgh, 17 November 1587

wairdet hauden in the jyle; badrie bawdy; oblist obliged

Fowside. Fleming, sclander.

The baillies and counsell, convenit anent the sclanderous wordis spokin be Janet Fowside to Mergaret Flemyng spous to William Flemyng, be saying that scho had tane Duncane Leiche to ane chalmir and had layne with him and usit hir as he thocht guid, the baillies and counsell upoun the said Jonetis awin confessioun, and conforme to ane decreit and damnatour gevin thairupoun of the foirsaid sclanderous wordis, ordanis hir upoun Monounday nixtocum to be presentit to the govis and to the brankis to be put in her mowth, and thair to stand and remane in hir mowth during the said Mergaret Flemyngis will, […]

Glesca, 25 Julie 1584

scho she; chalmir chaumer; usit uised; damnatour condemnatory sentence; Monounday Monday; govis a device, like a pillory, for siccarin fowk for public puinishment; brankis a airn device functionin as a bridle and gag

Barroun, Symmer, Pennecuke.

The ballies counsaill and dekynnis of craftis assolyeis and decernis quyte David Somer, baillie, and James Barroun, dene of gild, fra the complaynt gevin in upone thame be maister Johne Pennecuke, persoun of that ilk, contenand in effect the saidis personis to have sclanderit and iniurit him, sayand it wer weill worthy he wer harlitt throw the toun at ane hors taill; […]

Edinburgh, 4 September 1560

assolyeis acquits; decernis ? settle; quyte quite, ? in the sense o ‘withoot dout’; contenand anent a document or ither writin: tae hae or include as a statement or pairt o the wirdin [DOST]; sayand sayin; harlitt draigit

The’r nae dout the burgh records is a fouthie wellspring for historical speirers. If ye hae a rake yoursel, be shuir tae lat us ken in the comments ablo if ye finnd ocht that staunds oot.

There is forby ither historical documents in Scots online for them that’s interestit. I’v listit a wheen on the Omnigadrum page o this site.

The social media image for this post is a screenshot I’v taen frae Virtual Time Binoculars—Edinburgh 1544 by Smart History.