Since the 16th Century at least nine trades have advanced the interests of trade in the City of Dundee. These trades are fully autonomous but have incorporated and are known as the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee. The Nine Trades in order of precedence are:– Baxters or Bakers, Cordiners or Shoemakers, Skinners or Glovers, Tailors, Bonnetmakers, Fleshers, Hammermen, Brabeners or Websters or Weavers and Listers or Dyers.
Third in order of precedence of the Nine Incorporated Trades Of Dundee is the Glover Trade.
The earliest reference to Skinners comes from Edinburgh where there was an obligation to support their altar there. This was in 1450 and although records of the Dundee skinners are not available until their seal of Cause in January 1516, there is every reason to believe that they were organised even before that date as Dundee was a very important Burgh at that time and in some ways more than Edinburgh itself.
In 1516, the Town Council granted to the Skinners, or Glovers, of the burgh a Charter or Seal Of Cause permitting it to become an Incorporation. This Seal Of Cause is now missing but it is engrossed in the new Lockit Book. By the terms of the charter the craft became bound “in honour and loving of God Almichtie, and of the glorious Lady the Virgin Marie, and of Sanct Dutho and Sanct Martene, our patron, to the reparation of our altar within the paroch kirk situate and placit, for the uphald of God’s service daily to be done at the said altar, and to the honest sustentation of ane chaplain daily to sing and say at the said altar. To uptake from all manner of person that occupies the craft forty shillings, to be applied to the uphald of the altar and service to be done at the samin – except free men’s sons of the craft whilk sall pay but six shillings eight pennies.”
In the Burgh Court records we find some notice of a contention regarding a claim made on behalf of this altar. Jok Myll having succeeded to the business of Andro Law as a skinner and dealer in skins, he became bound to pay Andro forty shillings for the entry and the goodwill. The deacon and craft, however claimed “the forty shillings to pertene to Sanct Dutho,” and an assize found “that what time and how soon they prove this sufficiently the said soum to be deliverit to the Sanct.” Thereafter Jok tried to get himself relieved from the obligation into which he had entered; and the Bailies adopting the usual method for clearing such complications, named arbiters to “convene in the Kirk this day or the morn;” and, “gif they agree nocht the parties upon all debates betwixt Andro and the craft, and anent the freeing of Jok Myll of forty shillings, and all the lave of the matter betwix the craft and Andro,” to “deliver their sentence in writ betwix this and the morn or the sun gang down.”
A Glover Lockit Book, beautifully restored, is in the Dundee Local History Section of Dundee Library. This book contains records for the use of the Glover Trade of Dundee in the year 1554.
Its opening words are:
“In the name of the Father Sone and Holie Gaist So be it.
The Feir of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdome.
Blessit at thay that feiris god and walkis in his way for of his labor he sall eit happpie art thow I say..
How happie ane thing it is for us to sie Brethren Togidder fast to hald the hand of the unitie.”
In 1661 the name of the craft was changed from Skinner to Glover Craft. Sadly no explanation is given for this change.
It contains a record of membership of the craft and approval of accounts and payments made to the Deacon and sums due. At this time the trade appears to be covering the area from Montrose to Perth.
A new book was opened in 1607, presumably because the older book was lost for a time, and entries appear in both it and the old book. The older book was found later and the Clerks and Deacon mixed the two up at times resulting in the dates jumping from one book to the other. The older book was used almost exclusively for the recording of Apprentices and Servants, although a few Masters are recorded. 24th November 1789 Jas Fraser son to Alex Fraser tenant at Nairn was entered servant to Mathew Buist and has paid the sum of three shillings and four pence sterling. The book has at some time been rebound. One entry 22 November 1784 are two blank facing pages. Next entry is 24 Jan 1672, two pages later 10th Nov 1653 to 1612 and 1603 to 1677.
As usual many of the “unfree” Glovers found refuge in Rotten Raw, later the Hilltown which was beyond the jurisdiction of the burgh and they pursued their call there as ever to the discontent of the craft. All the trades constantly complained about these unfreemen and regularly pressured the burgh council to prosecute them. Eventually the town purchased the Hilltown and although for a time it still retained its own council, it and the trades quickly came under the banner of the town.
It should be noted that three female members of the Myln and Mychel families (Isobel, Kirsten and Margrit) were listed as Masters of the Glover Trade from 1613. Most of the trades would allow women to carry on their late husbands’ businesses after they died. Many apprentices were indentured to a man and his wife, “whichever be the longer living” showing that although they could not attend meetings or be consulted in decision making they were very much involved in the business. Presumably, Isobel, Kirsten and Margrit would have been the daughters of a craftsman and his wife who had both died.
In the early 1500s there was constant trouble with local people, because some skinners, in making their tan pits, had spoiled and diverted the water from their neighbours’ well and there were many, many actions because of this. Around February 1522 there were frequent troubles in the burgh concerning these skinners until the craft constructed a tannery for preparing all white leather beside the Wallace Burn, not far from St Roques Chapel. At this time the bailies took oversight of the skinners work to the benefit of the town.
Pure water was highly valued and some endeavour was made to preserve the purity of this stream; “all middens” were ordered “to be haldin away fra the Scouring burn,” and “na filth be allowed to be toomed in the Castle burn, but only in the sea;” and when the Glovers placed limepits upon its course for scouring their skins, it was found that these “poison and intoxicate the water” which serves “the maist of the inhabitants to their brewing and washing,” and they were ordered to be removed, as being “very hurtful to the common weill.” But the principal purpose which the burn served was in driving the wheels of the grain mills, which were situated at the riverside on the east of the Castle Rock.
The Wooden Lands were at the west end of Agyllis Gait near the West Port. Later, about 1616, it fell into the hands of William Stevenson, a tanner. In 1634 a considerable sum was granted by Alexander Boyter for the use of the poor of the Skinner Craft, William Skinner was one of those entrusted with the gift. The Stevenson grave is still in existence in the Howff.
Ultimately in 1682 the property came into the hands of Robert Christie, shoemaker, Convener of The Nine Trades. He was the first person to use the title ‘Deacon Convener Of The Nine Trades.’ It was situated a little to the west, outside the port and was used for the “wapinschaws” that had been instituted by an ancient act of Parliament. These were the practice areas where the burgesses would practice archery and the bearing of arms. The ‘wapinschaws’, which was required of burgesses who were charged with the protection of the burgh, a kind of ‘Home Guard’ to protect the burgh, were normally held twice a year, but the ground was also used for the staging of plays in the open air. The actual site lay between Brown Street, Blinshall Street and the Scourin Burn.
Similarly, what was once called Makkesoun’s Close became known as Harris’s Entry after baker Roderick Harris, uncle of William Harris, benefactor of Harris Academy. He would have worked in the bakehouse at the junction of the close or entry with High Street and owned the principal house in the close. John Makkesoun is recorded in the Seal Of Cause of the Craft in 1516 He would have worked in the bakehouse at the junction of the close or entry and the High Street and owned the principal house in the close. It had earlier been named Makkesoun’s Close. John Makkesoun is recorded in the Seal Of Cause of the Craft in 1516.
His connection with the Craft was disputed 12 years later when the members declared “that they have had no regard to the sd William as ane craftsman, but as ane actuall trafecting merchd who has deserted the Skynner Craft and all benefites.” It was very important that every Master of the Craft was a fully qualified tradesman and no merchants buying and selling only could join. However he entered the Council in 1639 was elected Hospital master, and was Treasurer in 1643, when he was appointed ‘General Surveyor of the Haill works’ for the strengthening of the defences of the town. Eight years later in 1651, he was empowered, along with Alexander Carmichael and John Raitt, to put the town in ‘ane position of defence’ at which time the sum of £20,000 Scots was spent in fortifying the burgh to prevent it from falling into the hands of General Monck.
Andro Law complained to the Bailies “on the deacon of the skinners for the stopping of certain taskmen to mak service to him of the craft, and on thae persons that have his money refuse to mak service to him”. This raised an important question regarding the rights of labour altogether beyond the privileges of crafts, and the Bailies, for “waikness of Court,” adjourned their proceedings for a week; warning “the pairties, follower and fenders to compear.” At the adjourned Court “it is fundin be assize that the deacon has wrangit Andro in the stopping of the taskmen to wirk their werk, and doom given thrice upon him for the samin and till he upset (make good) the skaith susteinit therethrough. And the taskmen sall wirk to [Andro] in time coming, as weill as till ony others, as they did of before.” Thus establishing the right of freemen to employ unfreemen.
Some skinners, in making their tan pits, had spoiled or diverted the water of a neighbour’s well, and the Bailies “anent the claim of troublance and taking away of a well frae Elizabeth Kyd, relict of John Walcar, [as shown] be her bill of complaint on Will Rolland and his colleagues, skinners, has assignit the morn efter the Head Court day next to them to answer to the bill – tane to be advisit with.” Nothing is said regarding the decision, but there continued to be frequent troubles in the burgh concerning the skinner’s pits, until the craft constructed a tannery for preparing all white leather beside the Wallace burn, not far from St. Roque’s chapel. For the credit of the town the Bailies took oversight of the skinner’s work. James Abirnethy, having been convicted “for selline of evil barkit leather, grants, and he fall in sic time to come, that he sall pay forty shillings to Our Lady Werk in and for the said fault.” On 16th April 1794 The Trade met and “took into consideration the present state of the Trade’s ground at East Port, where the lime pots are situated, that the Skinner house and dykes are gone to ruins, and that none of the members of the trade have used the same for several years past.”
The trades resolved to sell the properties, and authorised the Deacon and Boxmaster to do so. On 20th June 1795 it was reported that the property had been sold for £80. The Trade approved of the sale.
Why the pots at the East Port had fallen into disuse is not recorded, however the number of Masters was now very low and it may be that the remaining members were not tanning their own leather but buying it in from specialists, There had always been complaints that members of the Craft throughout the country were not particularly skilful in this part of their craft.
During 1552-3 there are some particulars regarding transactions in skins “James Fothringham grants to give James Cunningham the lot of the auld pets that is in his hand, and the copy [of the names] of them that has the lave thereof, so that he may pass to Sanct James ; that he may pass.”
Andro Murdoson is decerned “to pay Thomas Robertson, burgess of Perth, the soum of forty-one pound, resting awing of the complete payment of five score of goat’s skins and five score gross leather points, soft receivit be him frae Thomas at the Midsummer last bypast.”
The fleshers often sold their skins by contract. We have seen that “Sande Barre conditionit his slaughter skins to Thomas Maxwell of the same price that Ersche Patre sauld his” Pelts or sheep skins. Probably the market at St. Boswells.
List of the Members of Glover Trade in 1831:-
Mr George Rough entered 3 Decemr. 1824
Thomas Walker entered same day
James Stewart entered 15 Decemr. 1831
Peter Stewart entered of same Date.
From 87 Masters in the 1566 the trade slowly declined until today it has the same number of Members as recorded above showing how fashions and needs change over the centuries.
In 1604, the Oath taken by Master of the Trade on joining was: “Ye form of ye Oath to be taken of ye prentis Intrant & Master
In ye first ye sall fear serve and obey ye almichtie God maker of heavin and earth and frequent with reverence to ye hearing of his holie word and participating of his blessed sacramentis and give reverence to ye ministers yroff And maintane ye religion presentlie proffessett.
Next ye sall obey ye Kings majestie and his most nobill successoris ye sall lykwys give obedience to ye provost and baillhies of yis brugh and thr laws mad & to be mad for ye weilfair of ye same.
Thridlie ye sall obey ye Deacon and brethren of ye Skynercraft and mainteine and deffend in body and gudis all ye lawis mad and to be mad for ye weillfair of ye same. Fourthlie Ye sall be ane obedient true and faithfull servant to your master and sall nether heir nor sie his skaith nor any of ye brethren of ye said craft But sall hender and stop ye same so far as hyis abell.
Finallie Ye sall mantene geord and peace according to yor power. This ze will promise Be ye name of God, ffather sone and Halie Ghost. In the name of the father, sone and halie Gaist. So be it. The feir of the Lord is the Beginning of wisdom. Blessit ar they that heiris God, and walks in his way, for of his labor he sall eit, happie art thou, I say.
How happie ane thing it is,
And Joyfull for to sie,
Brethren togedder fast to hald,
The haand of Amitie”
At one point the Acts of the Trade clearly lay down that an apprenticeship should last for eight years plus one year for meat and board and that no Master may take on another apprentice during that time (even if the apprentice should die). However the Watt and Gourlay families took on 30 and 33 apprentices respectively between 1664 and 1716. It may be the fact that they were Deacons of the Craft and the power that that position gave them allowed them to break their own Acts with such impunity. It is also strange that some 32 apprentices were taken entered from the town of Alyth around the early 1700’s. There is no explanation for this despite the fact that it was not common for apprentices to be taken into any of the Trades from so far outwith the Burgh.
The Essay or Trade Test to become a Master in 1607 is as follows: Ye forme of ya assay of every Intrant Maister to be produceit to ye Dekyn and four of his brethren quhome ye craft sall appoynt. In ye first ane Dosan off safficient almeit ledder quhilk he sall tak vp at ye watter and alme Lykwayis wt his awn hand wt sameikill Materiallis as yer sall appoynt And sall mak of ye same and pair of Dowbill gluffis of haill ledder ane pair of singell gluffis ane stchiutting [shooting] gluff wt ane purs of haill ledder wt ane Calit bage [satchel] And ane Dosan of poyntis (ties before buttons were used) sufficiently horint.”
There is a comment by A J Warden in his “Burgh Laws, Guilds and Crafts” to the effect that “The Glovers are understood to be a wealthy Incorporation, but on this subject the outer world have little information, the members being reticent anent the financial position of the Trade”. This situation still applies today as, although the writer had had access to all their other records, there is the single exception of their Accounts, which are still kept private.
Examples such as the Perth Glovers’ sword-dance dress of 1633, still resplendent in Perth Museum, need to be interpreted to modern society to both remind people of the importance of dance in the past and to encourage them to preserve these traditions for the future.
In common with the other Trades’ the Glovers support charities, particularly the Duncanstone College of Art and other projects and of course support the work done by the General Fund Court of the Nine Incorporated Trades of Dundee.