Aberdeen Pipers Tales

 The Common Minstrels of Aberdeen

In the 15th century Scottish Burghs were assessed for the maintenance of boy-bishops and abbots out of reason, whose only task was to make people merry, a more rational impost was that which was levied for the support of the town minstrels. These appear to have been of old establishment both in Aberdeen and elsewhere, and by the statutes enacted in their favour we learn the nature of their duties.

Their appointment was for life. Their office was to do ‘continual good service’ to the town in their proper calling ‘at even, and morn and other times needful’. And for this they were to have ‘their daily wages and meat of the neighbours of this good town circularly’. While those who refused payment were to be amerced in eight shillings to the baillies, ‘and two shillings to the said minstrels for their day’s cost’. This was for the substantial burgesses, who were able to endure such a penalty; but it is added,’ If there be any poor folks that are not able to give them meat, that they give them two pence to their fee and costs.’

Such an establishment was reckoned not only necessary for the comfort and pleasure but also the grandeur of the burgh; and in the reception of noble visitors and great civic processions of the magistrates the services of these musicians were in great request as well as bountifully rewarded. They were very wella ttired and they had a silver badge, with the arms of Aberdeen engraved upon it and which was given them by the town and made by David Thomson the goldsmith and horologist of Aberdeen.

From The History of Society p495.