The Law and The Lawyers of Peebles


PEEBLES, as a royal burgh and the county town of a large, though sparsely populated, area had perforce, and understandably, its fair complement of lawyers from 'a long time back'.

Their designations varied - Writers to the Signet, Writers, Law Agents, Solicitors - or known to many as simply their 'man of business', these lawyers practising in Peebles were all solicitors ­that was, and still is, their qualification and justification of their right to practise the law. From 1672 there exist direct traceable records of Peeblesshire lawyers, through apprenticeships initially, generation to generation, giving unbroken connections down to the lawyers who practise in the town today - over 300 years later.

Certainly in Peebles, and probably in most similar towns throughout Scotland, they (or some at least) invariably served three almost separate functions. First, they practised the law for all who needed advice; they made wills; they carried through all executry business to wind up and distribute a person's estate on his death; they bought and sold property and dealt with the all-important transfer of title to all such property; they represented anyone who so required it in court, whether defending a criminal charge or pursuing a civil action for 'A' against 'B'; and, in general, were available to all to give help whether a person could afford to pay or not (the latter under the age-old Scottish Poors Law, where representation at least, and much else was done for nothing).

Second, several throughout the years became clerks to the county or burgh councils (or their predecessors such as the Commissioners of Supply - or The Roads and Highways or The Education authorities), running the whole administration for these bodies.

Third, with the advent of banks in the town in the 1820 - 40 period - initially The British Linen Company, The City of Glasgow Bank and the