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whether the vennels of various burghs were in a satisfactory condition.50 As often as not they were so completely blocked by miscellaneous obstacles that they were practically impassable. Middens, tar barrels, stacks of heather and broom (frequent causes of fire), fore-stairs and other obtruding structuresthrough these manifold impediments the
passenger had to make his way before he emerged in safety from his venturous passage. The magistrates did what they could to reform the state of the vennels. Thus, as early as 1437, the magistrates of Edinburgh ordered what was called the “Common Vennel” to be closed “to eschew apparent great skaith,"se while those of Glasgow in 1574 heroically declared “all the wennellis to be simpliciter condampnit and stekit up."52 But there was another inconvenience connected with the vennels which was evidently regarded with grave concern. In the event of the town being attacked the numerous passages into the main street were a serious source of weakness in defence. If the enemy made his way through the frail town dyke, he could pour his forces through the vennels and make it impossible for the defenders to concentrate their efforts in repelling them. Whenever there was the possibility of the town being attacked, therefore, the mandate went forth that every close and vennel should be built up. Whether the mandate was invariably obeyed or not it would be difficult to say. At all events, the barriers were speedily demolished, and the vennels became the standing nuisance they ever
Such was the general appearance a town in the time of Queen Mary presented by day. But what of its condition under the canopy of night? Considering the general state of the streets, as it has just been described, the most brilliant illumination would certainly have been required to make it safe to traverse them after sunset. But the materials for lighting purposes were not only inadequate, they were likewise extremely dear. Candles were due as offerings to the saints, but it was only the comparatively rich who could afford to use them freely for general purposes. Yet the authorities did what they could to produce such an amount of illumination as rendered it possible to pick one's steps without some more or less painful casualty. There were stringent regulations that
trader should affix a “bowet" or small lamp to his booth, and that the fore-stairs in the closes should be similarly provided. But the frequency with which this regulation was urged proves that it was rather a counsel of perfection than a rigidly-observed law, and we may be certain that in every Scottish burgh the bowets twinkled but intermittently either on fore-stairs or booths.
But this nightly obscuration was not such a hardship as we might imagine. The majority of the inhabitants adapted themselves to circumstances by retiring to bed, and they were helped to this procedure by the rigorous law of the burgh. After ten
o'clock at night in winter every respectable person was supposed to be safely housed. If
lawful errand took him out of doors after that hour, he must carry a bowet or candle to indicate to the watch that he had no wicked intentions; should he be unprovided with a light he was to be convoyed to “the netherhole incontinent."53 numerous reasons why the town should betake itself so early to repose. The mere difficulty of secure footing was one, but there were two others of greater urgency. Under the covert of night the peace of the town was not safe. By accident or premeditation frays would arise and blood be spilt, and the offenders, secure from identification in the darkness, could not be brought to justice. The other danger of the night was that evil-minded strangers might find their way into the town and work mischief in various ways. They might carry on illicit trade to the prejudice of the privileged traders, or, what would also sometimes happen, they might fall foul of the goods and person of some citizen who had incurred their enmity. True, the town gates were closed at nightfall, and there was the town dyke to be surmounted, but we have seen what feeble barriers these presented to any active and resolute person who was bent on making his entrance. As a general rule, therefore, after ten o'clock of a winter's night the solitude of the streets was broken only by the tramp of the watch as they went their rounds through the slumbering town. 54
TRADE, COMMERCE, AND INDUSTRY IN THE TOWNS
AVING described the external appearance
of a Scottish town in the time of Queen Mary, let us now glance at its internal organisation, at the principles on which its common life was based, and the conditions under which the individual discharged his functions as a responsible member of the community. What was said of the external appearance of the town equally applies to its organisation : it was still essentially mediæval alike in its scope and the aims to which it was directed. As will afterwards be seen, there were various indications that the Scottish towns, like those of other countries, were gradually breaking away from the mediæval type, but in the time of Mary the modifications as yet effected left that type virtually unchanged in its most characteristic features.
As we read the town records of the time, there is one conclusion that we cannot miss—that the prime consideration in the town policy was security and self-defence. Throughout the Middle Ages this had necessarily been the first and last consideration wherever a town had sprung into being.
The security the town required was of a double nature-protection from actual violence and protection from the conflicting interests of rival neighbours. For throughout the Middle Ages, it is to be remembered, the jealousy between rival towns of the same country was more intense than the jealousy that now exists between rival nations. And, as society existed in Scotland in the latter half of the sixteenth century, this double security was still the supreme necessity for the existence and prosperity of her towns. Such, at least, was the conviction of the town authorities themselves, as a few facts will conclusively prove.
Of every candidate for citizenship it was exacted, as the first condition of his receiving it, that he should possess the full equipment of weapons and armour prescribed by the laws of the burgh. As a guarantee of his ability to meet this condition he had to appear before the Council with all his accoutrements, and give a pledge, moreover, that they were his own property.
Should he fail to possess them when his services were called for, he had to pay the penalty prescribed for the delinquency.' Nor, in the times of which we are speaking, was the condition of military service a merely formal one. A plaintive petition by an Edinburgh burgher in 1584 brings vividly before us the onerous conditions under which the privileges of citizenship were retained. He is now seventyone years old, he tells the Council, and for the