Wednesday, 4 November 2015

No more backbiting! Slander in Scotland

A post first published on my other wee blog in 2012!

No more backbiting...!

After some time away from them, I've gone back to transcribing the weavers records of Perth, which are in held private hands but which I was able to photograph a few years ago for a university project. I'm currently working on the minutes from 1671, and found this wee gem which made me laugh! It's from December 21st 1671, at a meeting held within the merchant seat of St. John's Kirk in Perth:

Here's the transcript:

The said day the deacone & calling taking to yr
serious consideratne the great injuries & wrongs
done by sevirall of the calling to oyers and especialie
of the furious exclaiming & backbytting one off
another Thirfor for preventing of the Lyk in tyme
to come  The said and calling in ane voice Inactd
and ordained that whatsoever brother ffrieman
or other of the said calling that exclaimed backbytd
or does any of the Lyk injuries to any oyer broyer
off the said calling at any tyme heirafter shall be
ffynd in ffourtie shillings scottis money unforgivin
toties quoties for ill tyme they or anther of them shall
contraveine this partl act And the ffyne to be takin
up be the deacone & appropriat for ye callings use
and this act is ordained to stand in full force for ever

A Corbie clk

If it all looks a bit weird, it's because it is written in both Scots and in Secretary Hand, so here it is in English:

The said day the deacon & Calling taking to their
serious consideration the great injuries and wrongs
done by several of the Calling to others and especially
of the furious exclaiming & slandering one off
another Therefor for preventing of the like in time
to come  The said and calling in one voice enacted
and ordained that whatsoever brother freeman
or other of the said Calling that exclaimed slandered
or does any of the like injuries to any other brother
off the said Calling at any time hereafter shall be
fined forty shillings Scots money without any remission
on each occasion for all time they or another of them shall
contravene this particular act And the fine to be taken
up by the deacon & appropriated for the Calling's use
and this act is ordained to stand in full force for ever

A Corbie clerk

Some unusual Scots terms in the extract (see

backbyted (= bakbited) - slandered
toties quoties - as often as necessary, on every occasion
unforgivin (= unforgevin) - of a fine or penalty, without remission on any part

For a handy tutorial on how to read old forms of Scottish handwriting visit

But the BIG question is - what was all the backbiting about? Sadly, the minutes just happen to leave out the juicy bits...!


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit My Pinterest account is at

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