Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives

Aug 1, 2014

300 years ago, according to ‘The History of Edinburgh’ by William Maitland (published 1758), a society was inaugurated by the Town Council to regulate the business of Edinburgh’s cadies who operated as guides, messengers and purveyors of pamphlets and news sheets.

Another account, in volume II of the Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, suggests that it was in 1699 that magistrates first 'required that street criers and ballad sellers be supervised by requiring them to enrol in a society later known as the Society of Running Stationers or Cadies'. Both accounts agree that each entrant had to pay to join the Society.  Maitland's account details the fees:



To engender public trust, cadies had to wear blue aprons and an official badge. They often gathered at the Mercat Cross to await clients, and were supervised by the Town Guard. The illustration above depicts a cadie in conversation with a Town Guardsman.

The Society was limited to twenty cadies and the 'Companies Box' was also used to collect fines from those whose behaviour fell below the standards set by the Town Council. Maitland tells us that 'The First Monday of August yearly, is henceforth appointed the day on which they are to open their box, at the Order of the Magistrates' The funds within were used by the magistrates to assist the sick and for the burial of the dead.

Fines were applied for many offences: including:

'Dispersing of profane and scandalous papers . . Six Pennies Scots.'

'Unbecoming language .. profane the Lord's name or break the Sabbath day . . Four shillings Scots.'

'Whoever shall be found drunk, tippling, or gaming away his Money, shall pay Two Shillings Scots into the Box for each Transgession.'

More serious offences such as 'fighting, Correspondence with Thieves, Pickpockets or debauched Persons,' and failure to maintain 'decent Apparel and an honest Lodging-place' could lead to expulsion and a resultant loss of livelihood. 

Click to view more images of the box and badges which are displayed in The People's Story Museum, Canongate.

By the mid 1800s it appears that cadies were no longer operating. However the nomenclature was adopted by water caddies who could be hired to fill barrels at the city's fountains and carry them to homes and businesses. Today, in the tradition of the cadies, some walking tour companies set off from the vicinity of the Mercat Cross.

Cadie/Town Guard image extracted from 'The Heart of Midlothian' Lithograph by W and A K Johnston, 1852.

Images of box and badges courtesy of Edinburgh Museums & Galleries: The People’s Story Museum.

Image of water caddie courtesy of City of Edinburgh Capital Collections.

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