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Chapter 24. - Administration and Divisions

In early times shires must have been entrusted to warlike nobles able to maintain order and to levy contributions for the sovereign. The representative of the king in Forfarshire has been named in successive ages maormor, thane, earl, and sheriff, an office which until the middle of the eighteenth century was hereditary in some leading family. In 1747 this hereditary jurisdiction was abolished by act of parliament. That it was an office of emolument as well as of honour is evident from the fact that the sum of .£152,037 was voted as compensation to those about to be deprived of it. Of this sum £12,137 fell to the king’s representatives in Forfarshire.

After the passing of this act, advocates by profession were nominated as sheriffs and held courts in the county towns. As the population increased and the duties of the sheriff multiplied, sheriffs-substitute were appointed. The sheriff-principal is now entirely an appellate judge. There is one sheriff-substitute for Dundee alone, and another for Forfar and Arbroath. Honorary sheriffs-substitute are also appointed, three in Forfar, seven in Dundee, two in Arbroath, and one each in Montrose and Brechin. The sheriffs-substitute hold small debt courts periodically at Forfar, Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, Brechin, and Kirriemuir. Justice of the Peace courts, or Petty Sessions, are held in Dundee, Forfar, and elsewhere for small debt and other purposes. The burghs possess police courts presided over by local magistrates to deal with minor criminal offences.

In olden times the sheriff had both legal and military duties to perform; but while the former have been largely extended, the latter have diminished. The sheriff still has, however, the superintendence of the police and certain powers and duties with regard to the military in times of civil disturbance. Under the Territorial Reserve Forces Act, 1907, the Lord Lieutenant is ex officio president of the Territorial Association. In Forfarshire there is a Lord Lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, and twenty-seven deputy-lieutenants; and in the County of the City of Dundee, the Lord Provost is also Lord Lieutenant, and there are nineteen deputy-lieutenants.

For administrative purposes Forfarshire has its County Council, besides which every important burgh has its council for local affairs. The most important, the royal burghs, created by charter from the Crown, are Forfar, Dundee, Brechin, Montrose, and Arbroath. Next come parliamentary burghs, towns possessing the right of sending members to parliament. Police burghs consist of towns with over 700 inhabitants formed under the Police Acts. All three designations may be applicable to one and the same town. In older times there existed also burghs of regality, as Kirriemuir; and burghs of barony, as Glamis and Edzell.

The County Council of Forfarshire consists of fifty-four members (four ex officio) representing the various electoral divisions. The fifty elected members are distributed thus:—Dundee District, thirteen; Forfar District, fourteen; Brechin District, twelve; Arbroath District, eleven. The County Council levies rates and borrows money for public works; and has the oversight of roads and bridges, public health, and police. A special District Lunacy Board has the superintendence of asylums.

The Poor Law is administered by parish councils, who also levy rates for primary education. Primary education is entrusted to school boards, of which, apart from towns, there is one in each parish. Special committees take charge of secondary and technical education.

Ecclesiastical affairs in the presbyterian churches are managed by various presbyteries within the synod of Angus and Mearns. Forfarshire has fifty-five civil and thirty-one quoad sacra parishes.

Forfarshire was rendered more compact by the Boundary Commissioners in 1892. Before that date there were certain detached portions of parishes within the adjoining counties, and some detached portions of other counties in Forfarshire. Thus the parishes of Alyth and Coupar Angus are now wholly in Perthshire; while the parish of Liff, Benvie, and Invergowrie, and that of Fowlis Easter have passed entirely into Forfarshire.

Previous to 1832 Dundee joined with Forfar, Perth, Cupar-Fife, and St Andrews in returning a member to parliament. Dundee has now two members, the Montrose burghs (Montrose, Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar, and Bervie) one, and the rest of the county one ; so that in all Forfarshire is represented in parliament by four members.

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