The Burgh

exploited. This was the situation which pertained when Robert Kirkpatrick took office as provost of Peebles, the last of a long line. Indeed, not only were the ancient offices of provost and bailies to vanish in 1974 with the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 but the Royal and Ancient Burgh itself disappeared as a legal entity.

In 1990 Peebles will celebrate the 850th anniversary of its creation as a royal burgh. Although documentary evidence in the shape of the original Charter was destroyed during one of the English incursions, probably in 1308 when the town was burned, other evidence confirms that  Peebles  became  a  royal  burgh  in  the  reign  of King David I of Scotland (1124-53), the likely year being 1140.4

The 1973 Local Government (Scotland) Act effectively destroyed the royal burghs and, along with them, privileges which had been cherished for hundreds of years. As the Peebles Town Council disappeared so did the ancient right to create freemen of the burgh and the privileges which that honour conferred. Freemen and burgesses alone had the right, in medieval times, to belong to the burgh; all other inhabitants were unfreemen or indwellers. Thus, they had no right or say in the election of magistrates. Burgesses could be admitted to the burgh and the earliest surviving recorded admission of a burgess to Peebles is dated 2 November 1490 when one 'Will of the Ost' was admitted. On the direction of the council, he paid 'XI shillings at the bailleis wil'.5

Until the 1833 Act, only burgesses and guild brothers could become councillors. With the extension of the franchise, the creation of ordinary burgesses became unneccessary. The custom of creating honorary burgesses was introduced in 1840. Among those who received this honour in Peebles for their contribution to the community were William and Robert Chambers, the publishers, in 1841; William Ewart Gladstone, MP (whose forbears came from Hundleshope) in 1880; Andrew Carnegie in 1909; and John Buchan in 1919. Serving soldiers of both wars were collectively honoured, as was The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) in 1952. This, then, was one of the ancient rights bestowed on Peebles by its burghal status as a royal burgh, which was removed by a casual 'on the nod' vote of the House of Commons in 1973.

Historically, it is impossible to justify the revival of the custom by the Tweeddale District when they created David Steel, MP (later Sir David Steel) a freeman of the District in 1988. In defence, however, we should accept that, to some extent, the traditional rights of the