Lords Hay of Yester, having traditionally the sheriffship of the area, exercised along with it the provostship of the burgh. The first recorded reference to any other as provost was in 1609 when one John Dikisoun is named. Chronological records of provosts began in 1620 with James Williamson, and are recorded with accuracy until 1975 when Robert Kirkpatrick demitted office on the reorganisation of local government.
The word 'provost' has been of considerable significance to local government in Scotland. Derived from the Latin praepositus, it means in simple terms 'the leader'. Thus until 1975, the provost of a burgh was its civic head to whom deference and respect were paid and who by usage became chairman of the town council. By contrast, the chief officer of the town council, the town clerk, was less in the limelight, but yet influential. He was the adviser to the council with no vote but expected to proffer wise counsel on many matters. He was also the keeper of the minutes, documents and insignia of the council. Records of clerks to Peebles Town Council began with John Donald in 1459 and end with the writer in 1975. The penultimate Town Clerk was James Walter Buchan who was the younger brother of the first Lord Tweedsmuir and who edited an erudite History of Peeblesshire, which covered earlier centuries up to 1922.
For the purposes of this summary we can now pass over a few centuries and consider briefly the implications of one or two relevant statutes. These are as follows:
The first of these Acts virtually placed royal burghs, parliamentary burghs and police burghs on a par with each other for local government purposes. The Act of 1929 brought into being a structure for the division of local functions between town councils and county councils. The Act of 1947 was little more than a revamp of the earlier Act re-defining the relationship between town councils and county councils, revising electoral procedures and times and the representation of town councils on their appropriate county councils.
Under the 1947 Act, municipal elections were switched to May instead of November. Peebles Town Council comprised twelve members, one-