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Heroes of Scotland - William Wallace

Chapter VI.
The Municipal Buildings

The Municipal Buildings, which comprise the assembly chamber of our civic senators, the reception and banqueting halls on state occasions, and the offices for the administration of the public affairs relating to the interests of the city.

We have little reliable information as to the proceedings of the Town Council till about the middle of the sixteenth century. Immediately after the Reformation in 1560 our information is somewhat extended. About that period there is little doubt of their being able to transact business, according to their own mind, though with closed doors, as the city records sufficiently show:—

Minute, 4th October, 1575.— “Lord Boyd having been named Provost by the Archbishop (Archbishop James Boyd of Trochrigg), and a list of eight burgesses having been presented to His Grace for the purpose of naming two of them as bailies, he selected two of them as bailies for the said year. These gentlemen, having accepted office, immediately commenced their rule by the following statute: ‘It is statut and ordanit by ye provost, bailies, and counsule, yt gif ony persone of ye counsule happins to revele ony ying spoken or tretit in counsule, as counsule, sall be removit of ye counsule, and never in tymes cuming to be admittit upon ye counsule agane, but halden infame, and yair freedomes calit down!’”

In the year 1605 James VI. granted liberty to the Town Council to elect their own magistrates, and on the 2nd October of that year the Lord Provost and bailies were elected for the first time in the Council’s history without the interference of either ecclesiastical or lay superior. On the Restoration in 1660 the Council received a letter from the Earl of Glencairn, the Lord High Chancellor, ordering them, at their annual election, which fell on that day, to choose their magistrates from those who were cast out of office at the beginning of the Commonwealth, in 1648. The command was obeyed, and, although then an old man, Cohn Campbell, the Provost of 1648, was again elected Provost. Another retributive act was the dismissal of John Spreul, the Town-Clerk, on the 17th September, 1661, for having subscribed the Western Remonstrance in days gone by. Such was the spirit of the day!

It may be interesting to note that it was as far back as 1766 that the Town Council and Merchants’ and Trades’ Houses resolved that the Magistrates, the Dean of Guild, and the Deacon Convener should wear gold chains emblematical of their respective offices. Previous to that time, in 1720, it had been appointed that the Lord Provost should wear a velvet court dress on public occasions.

The Municipal Buildings that adorn George Square are the fifth in order that have served for civic purposes. The first Tolbooth, situated at the Cross, on the north-west corner of Trongate and High Street, existed from 1400 till 1626. We have neither records of this structure nor plans of its architectural features at this date, beyond the fact that it rested upon a piazza, within which and on a level with the Trongate and High Street were shops or booths, the property of the Corporation, leased to leading shopkeepers of the time. The rents derived from these booths, whence the name Toll-booth, were applied to the maintenance of the Council House and the prison overhead. Mr. Andrew Macgeorge in his valuable work, “Old Glasgow,” says of this earlier Tolbooth: “We have no account of its appearance, or when it was erected. In the ancient charter of the city it is frequently mentioned as the place of meeting of the Burgh Courts.”


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