Did you know…

That early modern scribes had ways of correcting mistakes in their texts?

Baxters insertion

This excerpt from the Baxters book, dated 28 October 1558, records that William Sagis was admitted as an apprentice to Duncan Kenloquhy, and that he paid 6s 8d to the altar of St Tobert, as was traditional. In the sixth line from the top, you can see that the Baxters’ scribe, chaplain Peter Lawson, forgot to record that Sagis also gave a pound of wax to the altar, and so added a column of three small circles in the appropriate place in the sentence, to mark where this information should have been included. He then wrote ‘and ane pund of vax’ in the margin, following a corresponding set of three circles there.

This form of insertion was common, and can be found in the other craft books as well. In the seventeenth century, the Hammermen’s scribe used a caret (^) instead of three circles to perform the same function.

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.

Did you know…

That in the early modern period the Hammermen were the largest and most prestigious craft in St Andrews? Hammermen were metalworkers, and in St Andrews the craft included silversmiths, goldsmiths, armourers, blacksmiths, wheel-wrights, cutlers and pewterers, saddlers and lorimers (who made metal horse-trappings). Much of their business came from the many religious institutions in St Andrews.

The composition of the Hammermen craft varied between towns. In Edinburgh the craft included locksmiths, while in Aberdeen it even included skinners and glovers, presumably because they were too few to warrant a craft of their own.

Health and Safety by the Fleshers


The first two acts on this page of the Fleshers book deal with the storing of animal flesh – an important concern in a city the size of seventeenth-century St Andrews.

It was forbidden for a brother of the craft to hang flesh up on any stair, or to lay it under any stair, east of the market cross. Anyone who broke this rule would be fined forty shillings each time he did so. Brothers were also not allowed to hang sheep flesh on the common. Instead, they could do so at any freeman’s door, with his leave, or on a fleck. This was a special stand for the display of meat or cheese.

Any Flesher who bought a sick or diseased beast, and attempted to sell it at the market, would be fined ten merks. There were also strict rules about where meat could be sold – brothers were not allowed to use any booth in the marketplace except their own. Allowing an unfreeman to slay an animal in a freeman’s booth was also punishable.

By maintaining these standards the craft also preserved their reputation for producing quality goods. It was the deacon of the craft who was responsible for enforcing the rules. He therefore had to be both a skilled craftsman, and a man of good local standing.


Item it is ordanit withe the consent of the hail breither of craft that na brother of craft, at ony tyme heireftir, upon the merkatt day, hyng thair flesche upon ony staire or lay thair flesche under ony stair be eist the cross under the paine of xl s ilk tyme.
Item it is voted and ordanit with the consent of the hail breither upon the hill that na brether hing thair flesche sheip at the comoun, nor at Androw Dewingis staire, nor na stair exceptit be at ane freimans dur, with his leife, and na uthir wayis or upon the fleckis, under the paine of foure ls ilk tyme ony sall do the lyk.


The bearing of the Baxters’ banner


This excerpt from the Baxters book is dated 28 October 1558, less than two years before the Scottish Reformation. The Reformation had a great impact on the crafts, as it dramatically changed their religious activities. Before 1560 each craft sponsored its own altar in the church – the Baxters had an altar to St Tobert – and engaged in religious pageantry.

This entry records that John Myllar was admitted as apprentice to Thomas Steyne, baxter and citiner [citizen] of St Andrews, and that Myllar gave the traditional offering of a pound of wax for the altar. This was done in the presence of the craftsmen, who met in the gallow lake, an area at the north end of what is now the Scores.

The chaplain of the altar, Peter Lawson, acted as scribe during this period, and in this entry he saw fit to record that the craftsmen were gathered ‘for the bearing of the banner’, giving a rare glimpse into this aspect of guild life. This suggests that the craft were preparing to process through the town with their regalia after the meeting, and that it was expedient to admit John Myllar as apprentice while they were all together.

Following the Reformation, and a four-year gap in the records, Peter Lawson no longer styled himself as ‘chaplain’, instead using simply ‘master’.


The quhilk day Jone Myller is admyttit lawful prentis to Thomas Steyne, baxter, citiner of this cite santandros, hes pait his pund of wax to the alter of Sanct Tobert, resavit be David Mylis positor, and 6s 8d to Jone Wilson at command of James Browne elder, decane, in presens of the craft in gallowlayk congregat, and that for the baring of the banar, the quhilk Jone Miller is wrytyne in this buke be me, maister Peter Lawson, chaplane of the alter forsayd.