The Council had problems with the Common Riding in 1706
It started with the removal of George Scott from the council arising from his conduct towards the Town Clerk
George Scott is discharged by the council of continuing any longer ane councillor, in respect not only of his going to bear some office in the Castle of Edinburgh, but for his calumniating and speaking notour untruth of the town-clerk behind his back, contrary to the statutes of the town ; and by saying that he had been for thirty years “ane knave, cheat, and rascal”
Whatever lay behind that decision, the Council’s election of Thomas Hardie [according to the tradional list] as cornet caused ructions after he refused to carry out his duties
The person elected cornet having declined to carry the pennil, or colour, caused ane great disturbance, confusion, and mutiny amongst the otherwise civil inhabitants, even to the committing of some riot, abusing of magistrates, and almost to the effusion of blood ; whereupon the council directed the eldest bailie to carry the same through and out of the town, and the younger bailie to carry it back again in and through the town, with power to appoint any person they chose to carry it along the Common Muir.
Having put the job of Cornet into the safe hands of their two baillies [who were elected onto the Council by the burgesses, the property owners of the town eg sixty burgesses voted for new baillies in 1702] and just to make matters clear to the young men of the town
The council further resolved, that the young unmarried men should not carry the same in future, unless they petition, and are permitted by them to do so.
and they then dealt with Thomas Hardie, the man they had elected as the 1706 Cornet
Farther, the party refusing to be cornet is fined ten groats for absence from the Common riding, and 20 for refusing to carry the colour
But abuse of the bailies continued – and John Binnie is next to be removed from the Council
John Binnie, late bailie, is found guilty of traducing Robert Hardie, present bailie ; and is also fined for ” breach of waird, into which he was incarcerate, and ryveing off the lock of the Tolbuith door, and ryveing up the daills of the loft of the said Tolbuith
But by the start of June things had got out of hand, with the young men running their own common riding with a “mock colour” as the council discussed at their meeting on Tuesday 1 June [the Common Riding was held towards the end of May until the New Calendar was fully adopted]
The bailies and council considering the confusions, tumults, disorders, and riots, even to the effusion of blood, and high contempt of magistracy, caused by the young unmarried men and lads of the said town, who drew in ane hostile fashion by themselves, and contrary to all ancient custom and practice of the said town for many generations and hundreths of years past; made and patched up ane mock colour of their own, carried the same along the haill common, and through the haill town, deriding, mocking, scoffing, and laughing at the old pennil and bearers and carriers thereof ; menacing, threatening, and with many intolerable, injurious, and opprobrious words and speeches, publicly abusing the bailies, town-council, and other honest burgesses, their faithful adherents, conform to their burgess oath, not only by deriding, mocking, and scoffing, and abusing the said bailies the foresaid day at the riding of the common marches, but also upon the morrow thereafter, by crying themselves, and hounding others to say publicly, and loudly to hollow out at windows, and to hout the bailies when passing by in the streets about their own necessary business and negotiations, and all this done by these persons, or others by their influence hounding and sending out of others for that effect.
In respect whereof, and that it was visible and notoriously known to the most part, if not the haill inhabitants of the burgh, that in the very instant of time when Baylyea Hardie was to mount upon horseback, and carry the said pennil, according to statut and ordinance, they, and others their associates, came publicly upon horseback in ane threatening manner, with ane buit to carry the staff or standard in, and offered to gripe at and carry the said colour. As also, in regard that they did not only carry the said mocke colour through the Common Muir and town, and intended, if not disuaded by peaceable burgesses, with their faction and associates to proceed and go before through the haill town the bailies, town-council, and other honest burgesses, contrary to all former ancient practice they were ordained to remain in prison till they found caution for their better and more peaceable behaviour in future.
Quite who the ringleaders were is unclear to me [unless it was the suspended councillor George Scott and baillie John Binnie] but the council somehow managed to put some of the young men [or the older Scott and Binnie] into prison, and then debated what to do with them on Tuesday 8th and Thursday 17th June
The quhilk days the bailies having called together the council, anent the letters of suspension and charge to set at liberty, brought out against them at the instance of the above parties ; it was put to the vote of the council, whether or not they would adhere to and back the bailies in discussing the said letters of suspension before the Lords of Council and Session ; when the council, by a great majority, resolved to do so.
And the council backed the baillies when the “letters of suspension” went to the Lords of Council and Session – the senior judges sitting as the supreme civil court of Scotland. [nowadays the Court of Session, and then in an independent Scotland]
I would love to track this story through the Court of Session archives! But they look enormously complex
Whatever happened, trouble was to flare up again the next year, the year of the Act of Union with England. Did this in some way sharpen the discontent amongst the young? Did they feel that the Common Riding – and they – were being sold down the river to the Auld Enemy by the burgesses and, particularly, the baillies?