Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives

Dec 14, 2015

The Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh reveal that across the centuries the burgh council has taken wide ranging responsibility for many areas including criminal and youth justice, wildlife conservation and protection of citizens abroad.

Three hundred years ago, for example, the records reveal that, on 14 December 1715. the Council treasurer was informed by councillors that:

‘David Glendinning is to have care and oversight of the toun’s swans with the usual salary of £20 Scots yearly.’

One hundred years before, on 22 December 1615, the council reimbursed a ransom paid to release eleven Leith sailors held captive in Turkey:

‘The council and remanent deacons grantis for support and relief of (list of 11 names), mariners in Leyth, captives in Turkie and relieved by James Fraser, Scottishman thair, for help of their ransome the sowme of ten pundis stirling out of the schip box.’

Another century before, on 22 December 1515, the council decreed the following punishments for theft:

‘Small theft or pykrie (pilfering) punist by being had to the trone (Tron) and their lug (ear) to be takket (tacked) thairto and banist for year and day, under the payne to be banist for euir (ever).’

It seems however that young nascent criminals were more severely treated by both additional corporal punishment and banished to permanent preventative exile:

‘Any minor and of less age and pairt with any common thief to be scurgeit to (flogged at) the gallows, and thair his lug takkit to the beam, and banist this toun and four miles about, and never to come therein under the pain of deid.'


Source: Extracted from bound versions of the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh which are held by Edinburgh City Libraries, and can be accessed in the Central Library, George IV Bridge: Edinburgh and Scottish Collections

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