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Merchant and Craft Guilds
A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades
Part III. Chapter XV - The Funds of the Seven Trades

THE Acts of Parliament mentioned in the foregoing chapter effected a vital change in the work and functions of all merchant and craft guilds. Bereft of their trading privileges, the members turned their attention almost exclusively to provident and educational objects; and in this respect the Aberdeen Trades have been remarkably successful. The individual incorporations have not only added to their capital, but the additional funds, in which all have a common interest, have also been considerably augmented. The following comparative table, showing the amount of the allowances paid to widows, annuitants, orphans, &c., for the years 1837 and 1886, will give an indication of their financial prosperity during the last fifty years:—

In addition to these sums the Trades pay about £400 per annum of corporation duty; and when salaries, management, and other expenses are taken into account, it will be seen that their present revenue represents a capital of close upon £250,000.

The following is a statement of the present entry monies to the different Trades, extracted from the Tables of Dues :—


Entry money at 21 years of age, £120. After the age of 21 entrants pay, in addition to the foregoing sum, £5 for every year or part of a year up to 33 years of age, at which age the payment will amount to one hundred and eighty pounds, which sum is the highest payment for an entrant of any age to the Trade. Widows' Fund payment extra, according to age, &c. Sons of members who have joined the Incorporation previous to the adoption of the present rules (November, 1886), are admitted at 21 years of age for the sum of £54, with an entra payment of 20s. for every year or part of a year over that age; and to the Widows' Fund, when above 40 years of age, £2 7s. 3d. Sons-in-law of members who have joined the Incorporation previous to the adoption of the present rules are admitted at 21 years of age for the sum of £60 6s. 3d., with an extra payment of 20s. for every year or part of a year over that age ; and to the Widows' Fund, when above 40 years of age, £4 1s.

The scale of benefit varies in the different Trades. Annuitants receive from £25 to £70 per annum; widows, from £20 to £35; indigent sons and daughters, from £4 to £6; orphans, from £3 to £9; while in several of the Trades considerable sums are annually voted by "warrant" in cases of necessity.

The Widows' Fund mentioned in these tables was established in 1771 for the purpose of supplementing the sums given by the individual Trades to the widows of their deceased members. Annual contributions are made to this general fund by the Convener Court and the seven Trades, while a portion of the entry money paid by each entrant is allocated to the Widows' Fund. For a considerable time—in fact, down to 1851—the accumulated capital of the Fund was comparatively small, but greater attention having been paid to this branch of benefit, the stock now amounts to over £30,000, the annual payments, as will be seen by the foregoing table, amounting to over £1200.

In 1816 a Supplementary Widows' Fund was established, mainly through the exertions of Mr. John Leslie, goldsmith, a worthy citizen whose hand was visible in many a good work among his fellow-citizens. It is optional for members to join this fund, but the dues are by no means heavy, considering that the annual allowance to widows in the fund is £9. If under thirty years of age, entrants pay £19; if above thirty and under forty, £25; if above forty and under fifty, £30; if above fifty and under sixty, £35; and if above sixty, £40. Baillie James Berry is at present factor of this fund.

\Ve have already referred in a previous chapter to the Bursars' Fund, under the management of the convener, master of hospital, and seven deacons; and, to still further encourage members to provide the best education attainable for their children, several of the Trades have, since the Trades School was given up, established educational funds of their own. The Trades School was for many years a valuable adjunct in connection with the Trades. It was established in 1808, under the following resolutions:-

(1) That the lower rooms of the Trinity House be set apart and fitted up for the schoolhouse, the expense to be defrayed from the fabric money (i.e., money set aside for maintaining the house).

(2) That six pounds sterling be annually paid from the funds of each of the Seven Incorporations, and of the Hospital, making altogether £48 annually—the whole or part of which to be paid as salary to the master.

(3) That the managers of the school shall consist of seventeen, viz.:—the patron, convener, and master of hospital, ex ojicio, and two elected from each Trade. The patron, or in his absence, the convener, to have the casting vote at all the meetings—seven to be a quorum.

When the new hall was built a portion of the building was set apart for the school, where it was conducted with marked success until 1878; but, for various reasons, it had reluctantly to be given up. Owing to the enlarged area of the town, many members could not take advantage of the school; while the passing of the Education Act forced up the cost of maintaining a school to such an extent that the disadvantages and loss became greater than the advantages.

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