The Guild of Merchants, generally accepted as having been formed in 1286, known as the Guildry, were the most powerful of all the public bodies in the burgh. All the councillors were Guild Brothers. The Dean of Guild sat in judgement in a Court of Law, taking evidence on oath on all matters concerning buildings and property in the burgh. Arguments regarding ownership, private wells, and boundaries abounded. The Guildry could also order a building to be demolished if it had lain derelict for a set number of years.
The Guild Court also had full responsibility for goods coming into the burgh through the harbour. If any ship sailed in to Dundee with a cargo for sale it had to be offered first of all to the Guildry. Their Assessors would examine the cargo and negotiate with the ship’s master the price for all or part of the cargo. If they were successful the cargo would then be divided up between the Guild brothers. If the cargo was not wanted, or the price could not be agreed, the Dean of Guild might give permission for the ships master to try to sell it to any freeman of the burgh provided that it was not below the price which the Guildry were offering. On occasion they would simply refuse the cargo and tell the captain to try to sell his goods elsewhere.
There is a classic case of a Merchant being brought before the court for disobeying this regulation. His defence was that he had sailed out beyond the bar of the river, gone on board the ship and negotiated with the Captain. He lost his case.