Volunteers build list of provosts, bailies and sergeands in the ARO

Aberdeen History grads Callum Judge (2020) and Sophia Nicol (2020) have created a working list of civic leaders in the burgh recorded in the Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511.

Sophia and Callum built the list over the summer months of 2020, supervised by Jackson Armstrong. The list was made primarily by identifying elections of provosts, bailies and sergeands which occurred annually at the Michaelmas Head Court, or ‘curia capitalis’, held around 29 September, usually in early October.

Some 756 names of officers who served in the civic administration have been included – many individual people holding office on more than one occasion.

‘electus fuit in officium aldermanni’

The provost, or alderman, was the lead representative of the burgh. The provost was the administrative predecessor of today’s Lord Provost. The bailies had a range of duties, principally relating to justice and land. They presided over their own court, and oversaw the administration of land transactions. The sergeands (sometimes called bedels) were responsible for carrying out the execution of justice in the burgh courts, for instance in issuing summonses and collecting certain penalties. The electorate who chose these officials consisted of the burgesses of the town.

An exhaustive, final tally of all mentions of these officers in the ARO was not the intention in compiling this list. It is a working list – a first version which can be augmented and updated over time. There is not always an election recorded for each year in the ARO, and of course records for 1414-1433 have been missing for more than two centuries. Future work could include capturing additional references to these categories of officers in the corpus, and creating new lists of numerous other figures, such as deans of guild, council members, liners, ale tasters, meat apprisers, and more.

The list may be found here: Working list of provosts, bailies and sergeands in the Aberdeen Registers Online: 1398-1511. It is freely available to all as the first of a set of auxiliary resources to accompany the ARO.

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