‘brokin folkis’ (1499)

By William Hepburn

'Brokin folkis' blog image

On 22 March 1499, Gilbert Litstar – a dyer – made a statement to the alderman and baillies of Aberdeen about dyed cloth in his possession which belonged to residents of the burgh and people from the country. He said that there were ‘certane brokin folkis’ watching in the night. According to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, ‘brokin’, when applied to people, meant being in an impoverished condition and living lawlessly as a consequence. More specifically, it often referred to ‘those having no proper feudal superior or chief, and living by violence and robbery’. The exact status of the ‘brokin folkis’ mentioned here is unclear but Gilbert Litstar clearly saw them as a great danger. He stated to the alderman and baillies that he and others stood on their feet watching over the goods by night. To avoid damage to the goods he asked Maunys the bellman to pass through the town and summon both dwellers of the town and the country who had goods to collect from Gilbert to come and get them within 24 hours. If they did not, stipulated Gilbert, and the goods were stolen or damaged, it would not be his responsibility.

This entry raises a number of interesting questions. How many clients did Gilbert Litstar have, and who were they? Why did he think that having the handbell rung through the town was a sufficient measure to warn both residents of the town as well as people in the country? Where was Gilbert Litstar keeping the goods, and why were they vulnerable? Who were the ‘brokin folkis’?


ACR, 7, p. 942, 22 March 1499

The saide day comperit Gilbert Litstar befor the aldirman and ballieis and exponit oppinlie and declarit how he hed certane littit clath pertening to induellaris of this burghe and to landmen and part of weddis and gagis Ande thar war certane brokin folkis wachand in the nicht and he and his folkis nychtlie stude one thar feit kepand the said gudis and for the eschevin of skathis he causit maunys bellman to pas throw the haill tone and be his handbell opinlie warnit and chargit ale and sindrie personis bath to burghe and land that hed ony clath or weddis with the sad gilbert to cum furthtwith and rede thar’ said clathis and weddis within xxiiij houris and protestand solemptlie gyf thai come nocht and the said clath or weddis happinnis as god forbad to be stollin or skatht that he be quyt and skathles tharof in tym to cum befor thir witnes sere Jhon Ruthirfurd aldirman Androw Cullan Richard Waus balyeis Johne Mar Patrik Andirsone James Colison Duncan Colison Johne Duncansone Philp Dumbrek.

(Some punctuation added and spelling modernised for readability.)

One thought on “‘brokin folkis’ (1499)

  1. Pingback: Songs of Medieval Aberdeen performed in the Scottish Parliament | aberdeen registers

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