The proper order


An external enquirer asking for the case: Lord Hamilton v Glasgow Diary Company. “Ooh!”, I thought, “I wonder what that was about. Some salacious case of intrigue and scandal no doubt”…

Found the case. It’s the Glasgow Dairy Company (1933 SC 18). If there’s anything salacious in that I really don’t want to know.

To paraphrase the dearly departed Eric Morecambe, they used all the right letters, just not necessarily in the right order.

…the horological journals…


I am minded to write a short article for one of the horological journals…

This is an actual quote from an email I received this morning. Gloriously olde-worlde as this is, it was only the second archaically worded email I got today (both from external enquirers). The other regarded a case from 1807… and could have been written by a gentleman of that time!

I love my job.



Adventures with auld Acts: Pre-1707 Acts of the Scottish Parliament

I had such a fun enquiry this morning! It started off looking like a simple request for an Act of the old Scottish Parliament. Easy-peasy since we have two sets of Thomson’s Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland in stock. However, my enquirer expected c.24 of 1661 to be on the topic of diligence… but it was not (dun dun daaaaa!)

We double checked a couple of sources, including Stair’s Institutions of the law of Scotland but the Act was always cited as c.24 of 1661. Then I remembered that, although Thomson’s Acts (known as the Record edition) is considered the key text, there are various other versions of the Scottish Acts available. Also, I later realised, since Stair’s work was published in 1681 he would certainly not be referring to a set of volumes commissioned by Queen Victoria!

I went off to find one of our tiny ‘Glendook’ editions of the Acts. The two volumes look striking when juxtaposed since the Glendook is only 16cm tall while the Record edition is literally larger than my torso!


Glendook is tough to work with. The tiny page size means tiny text. Also, there’s no space for extraneous information, such as year of enactment! As I paged through I happened upon what looked like the Act I was after but was required to leaf back several pages to check I was, in fact, looking at the correct year.

So, I confirmed that c.24 of 1661 was an ‘Act concerning appearand airs their payment of their own and their predecessours’ debtswhich was just what we’d hoped for. I then used the Record edition index to establish the Act was noted as c.88 in that publication. Job done! All I had left was a bit of fighting with the photocopier to make big copies of tiny books and small copies of giant ones.

Happy enquirer. Happy librarian  🙂

Some information on the two editions:

Record Edition
This is ‘Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland’ or ‘Thomson’s Acts’ by Thomas Thomson and Cosmo Innes, printed in twelve folio (43cm) volumes from 1814-75. Published by command of Queen Victoria, this edition was the most complete version of the Acts of Parliament published until that point, and has remained the key work used by historians ever since. The final volume contains an index which is very useful for tracking down Acts when you only have a name or subject.

Errors:  Separate but related acts are often merged into one, numbering of statutes is erratic from volume to volume, occasionally including forfeitures and other private business, in other instances leaving such acts out altogether. Original manuscript numbering is ignored completely.  Thomson’s overzealous editing means that some of the text, especially in the older Acts, is not as originally passed (see Notes on the Sources for the Parliaments of Scotland, 1426-1466 for details).

Duodecimo (or Glendook) Edition
Duodecimo Edition refers to ‘Glendook’s Scots Acts’ or ‘Laws and Acts of Parliament made by King James the First and his royal successors, kings and queens of Scotland‘ by Sir Thomas Murray of Glendook (1682). This was published as two volumes containing statutes from 1424 to 1681.  A third volume (1685 to 1707 by William Duke of Queensberry and others) was published later. The name ‘Duodecimo’ refers to the size of the volumes. These are the smallest volumes of the Acts we hold.

Errors:  There is a note on the St. Andrews University website detailing the errors in this edition of Scottish Acts.  Glendook’s work seems to be based on previous publications rather than original records. Of the two Glendook editions published, the earlier 1681 folio has fewer typos than this duodecimo edition.  The work is incomplete, excluding public acts and occasionally entire sessions of parliament but including Acts of Sederunt as if they were statutes.

Order in Council – update


“On the chart accompanying this Order are marked all the limits referred to therein”

My sea chart of the Cromarty Firth arrived in the post this morning – and what a thing of beauty it is! You can’t really tell from this image but the lovely folk at the Privy Council Office have scanned the original in sections then pieced them, almost seamlessly, back together. It is glorious and – as my lovely assistant demonstrates below, quite enormous!

Mo and chart

Mo with the chart

This is why I love these types of enquiries. It’s never just ‘looking stuff up and printing it out’. There’s always some investigation, searching, checking, double checking and – fairly often – some asking for help from another organisation. When I do have to seek assistance, in 90% of cases I encounter friendly, professional and endlessly helpful people who go above and beyond to get me what I need. So I want to say THANK YOU! to Margaret and her colleagues at the PCO. Your beautifully crafted chart has made my day, and I’m sure will make my enquirer very happy too  🙂

Orders in Council, old charts and the PCO

Last week I was asked to locate “the Order in Council dated 19th December 1913 (made pursuant to the Dockyard Ports Regulation Act 1865)” and concerning the Dockyard Port of Cromarty. You know I love these old ones!

Orders in Council are orders which have been personally approved, at a meeting of the Privy Council, by the monarch. If the order had been recent it might have been available via the Privy Council website – but 1913 is not recent (even by our standards).

Orders in Council fall into two broad categories, Statutory and Prerogative:

  • Statutory Orders in Council are issued as Statutory Instruments – they are numbered and are published with other SIs
  • Prerogative Orders are not SIs. They are published in the London Gazette and Edinburgh Gazette.

I had no way of knowing which I was looking for…

I began by checking our holdings of published SIs and our unique collection of local SIs (ones which don’t get re-printed). I did find a reference to the Order in Council in the back of the published volume but there was no detail there. Next, I checked online and quickly found what I wanted in the Edinburgh Gazette.

So far, so disappointingly easy.

However, my enquirer soon got back to me. The Order in Council stated:

On the chart accompanying this Order are marked all the limits referred to therein.

“On the chart”? There was no chart reproduced in the Edinburgh Gazette. I had a quick check in the National Records of Scotland online catalogue but they don’t seem to hold anything on this Order. I decided to try contacting the Privy Council Office – the first time I’ve done so. I emailed and explained my request. Today I got a lovely wee message back:

We have searched our archive records and managed to find a copy of the chart. Unfortunately it is extremely large – much too big  for our copier and scanner.

Therefore we have done a ‘cut and paste’ job and I am putting a paper copy in the post to you.

Best regards…

I fervently hope any cutting was only figurative in nature. I would hate to be in anyway connected to the disassembly of a 102 year old sea chart…

Anyway, after a wee bit of treasure-hunting and the help of the friendly folk at the PCO, my patchwork chart is in the post it seems. I really do love these old ones  🙂

The Man on the Clapham Omnibus

“Who is ‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’?” – Some time ago I was asked this question, half in jest, by one of my Enquirers.  My first response was “What man where?” …but after a little explanation I set out to track him down…

‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’ is a phrase used, mainly in England I would assume, to illustrate the ordinary or average man, the ‘man on the street’[1].  In legal terms he is a fair and reasonable man.  A pinnacle of right-thinking.

The first reported legal use of this term was in a judgement given by Sir Richard Henn Collins, Master of the Rolls, in the case McQuire v Western morning News Company:

“Fair”, therefore, in this collocation certainly does not mean that which the ordinary reasonable man, “the man on the Clapham omnibus,” as Lord Bowen phrased it, the juryman common or special, would think a correct appreciation of the work;[2]

Sir Richard gives no specific citation here but there are, elsewhere in the opinion, references to a reported opinion of Lord Bowen’s from 1888[3].  However, having looked through this report, I was unable to find any mention of ‘The Man on the Clapham Omnibus’.  Lord Bowen may have used the phrase during the course of the case but it was not included in his reported opinion.

Although Lord Bowen may have been the first to use this phrase in court it did not originate with him.

The journalist Walter Bagehot is credited with coining the term but I have found no evidence of him referring specifically to the Clapham Omnibus. In his book The English Constitution he says:

“Public opinion” nowadays, “is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus”.  It is not the opinion of the aristocratical classes as such; or of the most educated and refined classes as such; it is simply the opinion of the ordinary mass of educated, but still commonplace mankind.[4]

Note that Bagehot uses inverted commas around the phrase. This implies it was a term already in use around his time.

The earliest reference I have come across was from 1857 in the Journal of the Society of Arts.  It was used in relation to the terrible traffic problems which already existed in London at that time:

So thoroughly has the tedious traffic of the streets become ground into the true Londoner’s nature, that, to shorten his course from Piccadilly to the Bank, would be to rob him of a vested right or a natural privilege.  If a railway train from Aberdeen or the Land’s End arrives in London five minutes behind its time, the indignant traveller vents his spleen and writes a letter to the Times, but your dog-coller’d occupant of the knife-board of a Clapham omnibus, will stick on London-bridge for half-an-hour with scarcely a murmur.[5]

So, there you have it!  The extent of my, admittedly fairly light-hearted, search for The Man on the Clapham Omnibus.  He seems to have originated in a 150 year old complaint about traffic congestion. Nothing changes.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed, 1989, Vol III, p.272
[2] [1903] 2 KB 100 (at p. 109)
[3] Merivale v Carson [1888] 20 QBD 275
[4] 2nd edition, 1872, p.355
[5] May 1, 1857, p. 348


Yesterday I was searching for an old Statutory Instrument. It was only of local interest – so not re-printed in the official volume… I love this sort of enquiry!

The Urr Navigation Order 1901

I would usually expect to find copies of such items in my Very Fine Library. However, our collection of these local SIs only dates from 1930.  Next step, check the National Archives of Scotland. Their catalogue showed two items that might have been what I wanted but it was uncertain. I passed this info to my enquirer so he could go and look for himself… but this was an unsatisfying result for me. No fun.

These local SIs – by their very nature – are of local interest only (the clue’s in the title). Copies would usually be lodged with local council offices. The problem is, due to multifarious reformations of local government through the decades, old papers of this sort tend to disappear…but it’s always worth a try.

So, I decided to contact the relevant council: Dumfries & Galloway. I spoke to a very nice lady on the phone… who sounded slightly terrified by my request… but said she would look into things and get back to me. While I was awaiting her callback I had another look at the council’s website. I was delighted to find they have an excellent section about their archives, including a catalogue – which said they had a copy of the Urr Navigation Order 1901!

The callback came from one of the very lovely local archivists. He confirmed they do indeed hold the Order – and offered to copy and send it out to me. My Order is in the post. Now that is a satisfying result!

Oh, and the prize for best local council url goes to: