The order of precedence among the incorporations is determined not by their relative antiquity but by the Act of Sett of the Burgh of Edinburgh, which was agreed in 1583 by King James VI in a decreet arbitral (a decree made by arbitrators chosen by the parties). Part of the reason for this is that by that time several of the trades, most of which were a century or more old, no longer possessed their original seals of cause and did not know the year in which they had been founded.
The Trades of Edinburgh:
1. The Incorporation and Royal College of Surgeons
2. The Incorporation of Goldsmiths
3. The Incorporation of Skinners
4. The Incorporation of Furriers
5. The Incorporation of Hammermen
6. The Incorporation of Wrights
7. The Incorporation of Masons
8. The Incorporation of Tailors
9. The Incorporation of Baxters
10. The Incorporation of Fleshers
11. The Incorporation of Cordiners
12. The Incorporation of Weavers
13. The Incorporation of Waulkers
14. The Incorporation of Bonnetmakers & Dyers
15. The Incorporation of Candlemakers
The Society of Barbers
The Convenery of the Trades of Edinburgh consists of the deacons of all the incorporated trades and today acts as the ruling body of the Incorporated Trades. Its present-day main focus is the various charities and events operated by the Incorporated Trades. They also assist the various Incorporated Trades wherever they can. The Convenery is headed by the Deacon-Convener of the Trades of Edinburgh, who holds the distinction of being the first tradesman in Scotland, and third citizen of Edinburgh after the Lord Provost and the Lord Dean of Guild.
From 1598 until 1858 the Convenery of Trades met in The Magdalen Chapel in Cowgate. Today it meets at its own headquarters, known as Ashfield, 61 Melville Street, which also contains a dedicated museum.
In 1704 Mary Erskine founded the Trades Maiden Hospital with the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh, to provide boarding and education for the daughters and granddaughters of "decayed" craftsmen and tradesmen. This was at first situated in the Horse Wynd (now West College Street) on the south side of what is now Chambers Street. In 1855 it moved to Rillbank at Sciennes. In 1892 it moved again, this time to Ashfield, 121 Grange Loan. Finally in 1971 it moved once more, to 61 Melville Street, on the corner with Manor Place, opposite the chapter house of St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.
The Edinburgh Trades Fund dispenses grants to students in Edinburgh. The Trades website gives more information on their activities.
The Blue Blanket is the name of the Edinburgh Tradesmen’s Banner. Its early history is bound up in so much mythology that it is difficult to sift the actual facts from the fiction. Legend has it that it was given to the tradesmen and craftsmen of Edinburgh by James III in 1482, but there is no authentic document of the period that records the supposed event. It is also said to have been carried as the battle flag of the Edinburgh Trades at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, when a large number of craftsmen died defending it and their king. The tattered remains of the Banner are reputed to have been brought back to Edinburgh the next day by Randolph Murray, captain of the Guard, and handed over, with the dreadful tidings of the defeat of the Scottish army and the death of the king.
More information is available here.
The first definite reference to the Blue Blanket in a historical document occurs in 1543, at the beginning of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. In that year is was raised in the Council Chamber by the Deacons of the Incorporated Trades, who were protesting against encroachments on their privileges and deprivation of their ancient rights.
James VI mentions it in his idiosyncratic book, The Basilikon Doron. In the first edition, published in 1599, he wrote: “And the Craftes-men thinke wee should bee content with their worke, howe bad and deare so ever it bee;
and (if they in anie thing bee controlled) up must the blewe-blanket goe.”
Subsequent editions alter the wording to read:
“And the Craftes-men thinke we should be content with their worke, howe bad and deare so ever it be: & if they in any thing be controlled, up goeth the blew-blanket.”
Just as regimental colours are renewed from time to time when they become worn and tattered, so the Blue Blanket has been renewed several times. The version that survives at the present time appears to date from just after the restoration of Charles II to his throne in 1660, probably sometime in 1661. It is in the form of a large swallow-tailed gonfalon hanging vertically from a horizontal pole and it is about ten feet high and more than six feet across. In its top left canton it bears a saltire, between the arms of which are a royal Crown and a Scottish Thistle. The main feature of the banner, however is the inscription, which is contained in two ribbons and which reads:
“FEAR ∙ GOD ∙ AND ∙ HONOR ∙ THE ∙ KING ∙ WITH ∙ A ∙ LONG/
LYFFE ∙ AND ∙ A ∙ PROSPEROUS REIGNE/
AND/ WE ∙ THAT ∙ IS ∙ TRADDS ∙ SHALL ∙ EVER ∙ PRAY ∙ TO ∙ BE ∙ FAITHFULL/
FOR ∙ THE ∙ DEFENCE ∙ OF HIS SACRED MAIESTIES ∙ ROYAL ∙ PERSONE ∙ TILL ∙ DEATH”
This saying has resonances with other Covenanting war-cries of the post-Restoration period and it may not have appeared in the earlier versions.
Until 1858 the Hammermen owned the Magdalen Chapel in the Cowgate, which was also their Convening Hall. By their agreement, the Convenery of Trades also met in the Magdalen Chapel from 1596 until 1858 (pictured here). The sumptuously restored Deacon’s Chair (1708), which is still in the Magdalen Chapel to this day, bears witness to the Incorporation’s importance and standing in the burgh in the early 18th century.
In the 21st century the Convenery continues to look after the interests of the incorporations and their freemen and members. It co-ordinates many of their activities, such as the Kirking of the Deacons (usually the first week in May) and the Riding of the Marches (early September). It also administers the Trades Maiden Fund, which was founded by the Trades of Edinburgh. The images below reflect these activities.
The Deacon, the Boxmaster (treasurer and secretary), the Deacon's Committee and the members of the Craft together make up the Hammermen of Edinburgh. Members are drawn from all sections of Edinburgh's cosmopolitan society. We all have the good of the city and it's citizens at our hearts.