The breaking of the Hammermen’s buist


In 1575 a dispute erupted within the Hammermen craft after someone broke the buist, or strongbox, and removed the money contained within it. A group of craftsmen (below) were chosen as arbiters by the others to decide what ought to be done, and ‘with one voice’ they stated that the box should be mended and the money returned to it. The buist would then be given to the deacon for safekeeping, and the keys given to the most honest men of the craft. If it so happened that any craftsman broke the buist in the future, he would be deprived of his office, and forbidden from holding any office again.The outcome was also copied into the book of Master John Bonkle, Steward of the regality of St Andrews and clerk of the city, and witnessed by members of the craft.

This kind of decision-making process was very common in the crafts. They chose respected men of good judgement to speak on behalf of the others, and settled disputes and arguments amongst themselves. This was part of the freedom which burgesses and guild members enjoyed from other jurisdictions – for example that of the regality – and was a privilege of craft membership. It meant that a burgess who committed a crime had the right to be tried in the burgh court, by his peers, instead of the sheriff court, where he might receive less favourable treatment.


At santandrois the last day off Aprile the yeir off God 1575 yeiris the quhilk day anent the variance betwix the hammer men off the cite of santandrois anent the complent gevin in for brekking up of thir commoun buist and taking out oft certaine money out of the sam The decisioun off the said mater and taking away and doun-putting of the variance forsaid with the heall consentis professit the heall mater to James Sowrdye, Alexander Millar, Andro Craffaris, Andro Muffat, James Broun in Ergaill, Johne Buge and William Giffard all in ane voic findis ordanis and decernis the buist to be mendit againe and the money takin furth thairof to be ressavit and put thairin againe and the buist to be usit with the auld kayis thairoff and failyeing thairoff to be usit with new kayis to be maid thairto.

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