Culross Pipers Tales

On the 11 th October 1599 this curious order was passed by the magistrates of Culross.

The qlk day becaus of the great misorder usit within this burgh in the nycht by dronken personis gawin throw the toune with pypars or ony other instrument and trubling of the indwellars of this burgh thereby ,and vilipending and dispysing of the magistrates for reprehending the samyne, therefore it is statuit and ordanit there be no aill nor wine sauld within this burgh to no persone except to gentilmen or to gentilmens servants under the panes of the penaltie of the price of ani boll malt ; and gif ony pypar or menstrall shall happin to play throw this burgh in the nycht, except with honest men, the doaris, as weill the menstralis as others that accomanies them, ilk ane of thame to be wardit therefore and to pay ilk ane of theme £5 respective.

There was nothing new about prohibition in the 1920' s in America.

In 1660 on the 12th November the Town Council appointed their first official Town Piper, thus ;

The said day , in the presence of the said bailleis and counsell compeared personallie Johne Horne; and there the said Johne most willinglie and frelie offered his service to the town in going throw the town playing upon the pype , alse weill at nycht as in the morning, everie nycht and everie mornyng, as is accustomat to be done in other burghes and acted himself nawayes to divert himself therfa, healthe of bodie permitting, and except other lawful occasions impedit the samyne; for the qlk service he is to receave his shear of the Yule wages, and his house maill (rent) to be payed to him be the toun yearlie during his service , and that by the attour any othir thing he may wynn at banquettis or brydells (weddings) within this burghe in tyme coming.

The conditions of service of the piper in Culross appear to have been most generous. He would also have been provided with a uniform of the towns livery and a pair of shoes. In 1710 on the 22nd of June due to economies forced upon the town by the depression of that time we read that "The councill recommened to the theasorer to provide a piece of strong plaiding cloth; and cause dy the same in the towns livery, to be a coat to the toune piper."

One piper of Culross left under a cloud as this record of 4th December 1713 tells

...the magistrates and councill, considering the misbehaviour of Donald MacKenzie, their town piper, and that he is already found, by sentence of the magistrates of yesterdays date, that he has been found guilty of breaking the Sabbath-day and of haunting vagabonds company therefore they unanimously deprive him of his office of town piper, and declare him incapable of enjoying any office within this burgh in time coming; and like ways they banish him out of the burgh and territory thereof, and discharge him ever to be present in the same tyme coming under the pain of being imprisoned in the eirnhouse* during the magistrates and councill their pleasure, and being scourged out of the town.

*Eirnhouse or Ironhouse, was the prison on the ground floor of the Culross Tolbooth. I think it fairly certain that Donald MacKenzie did not tarry long in Culross after that edict.

Buy Broom Besoms

A tune which was apparently popular in this area in the late 17th century was "Buy Broom Besoms" and was sung by itinerant pedlars selling their wares.

Buy Broom Besoms, better never grew, Bonnie heather reenges, wha'll hae them noo? Besoms for a penny , reenges for a plack, An ye winna hae them, tie them on my back.

The tune is still a popular favorite played on the Northumbrian smallpipes. ( see the Northumbrian Pipers Tune book). Of course the reenges, or bunches of heather, used for scouring pans became the Lucky White Heather sold at the roadside to tourists.

Culross and Tulliallan, from Burgh and Kirk Session Records: by David Beveridge -1885 pp 61,139,309