List Of Pollable Persons












II. VALUATIONS OF THE COUNTY IN 1644, 1649, 1667, 1674, xix


IV. PRESBYTERY OF DEER-(continued) 1


The Manuscript from which these volumes have been printed is entitled "The Book or List off Poleable persons within the Shire off Aberdein and Burghs within the same ; containing the names of the haill persones poleable and pole-money payable be them, conform to their respective capacities, according to the Act off Parliament anent Pole-money daited the 25th day of June 1695. Faithfullie extracted ffurth of the Principall Lists of poleable persons off each paroch within the shyre, as they were reported by the Commissioners and Clerks for the severall paroches appointed for that effect. By William Hay collector appointed off the Pole-money payable ffurth off the said shire. And revised and examined by ane quorum of the Commissioners of Supplie of the samen shyre and attested by them the first day of Aprile 1696."

The volume, which consists of 1541 small folio pages, was in the library of the late General Gordon of Cairness, who, sometime previous to his lamented death, communicated it to the Editor. It was at that time submitted to the Committee of the Council of the Spalding Club, who, after much consideration, were of opinion that the printing of this important record should be undertaken by the gentlemen of the county of Aberdeen, who were more peculiarly interested in the work. It was accordingly brought under their notice at a general meeting of the County in April, 1842 ; and a committee was at that time appointed to take measures for printing

the volume, if they should be of the opinion that such a step was proper. The committee consisted of the following gentlemen:-Sir Charles Bannerman of Crimonmogate, Robert Grant of Tillyfour, Alexander Thomson of Banchory, Alexander Forbes Irvine of Schivas, Henry Lumsden of Tilwhilly, John Gordon of Cairnbulg, Alexander Stuart of Laithers, James Adam Gordon of Knockespock, and Francis James Cochran of Balfour ; who being of the opinion that the volume was highly deserving of being printed, proposals for that purpose were circulated in various quarters ; and after considerable delay, such a number of subscribers was obtained as, with the assistance of a liberal contribution from the County Club, enabled the committee to enter into arrangements for its being printed, which was commenced in the month of October last.

During the reign of William and Mary, the necessities of the state in Scotland were, on various occasions, supplied by poll or hearth taxes over the kingdom, but it would appear that they were at first exceedingly unpopular, and their collection almost impracticable. The first poll tax in Scotland was imposed in May, 1693, and it was farmed out by Government to the Lord Ross, Sir John Cochran of Ochiltree, and others, for the sum of £44,100 sterling of tack duty. The tax was intended to pay the arrears due to the country and the army ; but, in the course of two years, the exertions of the tacksmen had met with little success, for, in July 1695, an act was passed for turning the tack of the poll into a collection, on the ground that "the levying of money by pole was new, and as the countrey and others concerned, had not observed the rules and ordinances contained in the Act of Parliament theranent, the tacksmen were unable to pay the stipulated tack-duty, unless they were allowed to exact the penalties imposed by the Act, which would have tended to the disturbance and oppression of the whole kingdom ; therefore his Majesty liberated the said tacksmen from the said tack and tack-duty, providing that they should make just count and reckoning of all their intromissions with the said Polemoney as if they had been only collectors."

So many disputes and misunderstandings seem to have occurred regarding this tax, between the tacksmen and other interested parties, that they were unsettled in 1701, when an Act was passed granting authority to certain noblemen and gentlemen to proceed upon, and determine these differences, "with a parliamentary power". It was not, however, altogether a new mode of taxation, for we find that on various occasions, previous to this time, the heritors were to have relief of a portion of the supply paid by them, by means of a poll tax, to be levied from their tenants, subtenants, and others living upon their lands, in proportions very much at their own discretion.(1) It had, however, never been so general till now, and perhaps the tacksmen of the poll tax were more rigorous than the landlords had proved.

Notwithstanding of the ill success of this first attempt, another poll tax was again had recourse to in 1695, and the causes for its imposition, as well as the mode of its operation, will be understood by reference to the Act imposing it, which is printed as and Appendix to the Preface. The tax was made payable as Martinmas, 1695, but on 13th August, 1696, a proclamation by the Privy Council was issued, prorogating the term of payment to the 15th October then ensuing, and discharging the penalties to which those who had not paid the tax were thereby exposed. The proclamation proceeds on the ground that the poll money of 1695 "doth still for the greater part remain unpayed, notwithstanding of all the diligence that hitherto hath been used for uplifting and inbringing of the same". A poll tax was again had recourse to in 1698, but this method of taxation was then dropped.

The two volumes now printed contain the returns of the pollable persons in the shire of Aberdeen under this latter act of 1695, as they were extracted by Mr. William Hay, the collector of the poll-money from the various rolls returned to him by the commissioners of each parish, and certified by a quorum of the Commissioners of Supply of the county. These extracts appear to have been made under the

clause of the act which directs the separate lists and rolls of each parish to be recorded and booked in a register of the shire or burgh for that purpose. Of this register an abstract only was directed to be sent to the Lords of the Treasury ; and as the object of the return was temporary, the principal register would probably soon be forgotten, and become private property, or, as in more recent cases, be purposely destroyed. It is thus, perhaps, that we may account for the fact, that so little is now known of these registers ; indeed, after considerable inquiry, the Editor has not been able to ascertain the existence of any similar record in other counties of Scotland. Although we must infer from the title which Mr. William Hay has given to the volume, that it is only a copy made by him from the original rolls or returns, there is some reason for thinking that it is made up of the original returns themselves. The handwriting of the volume is exceedingly various ; and the roll of each parish has at first been paged as a separate and complete record, while the pages are again numbered so as to read regularly from the beginning of the volume. Under these circumstances, it is rather to be presumed that the original returns had been bound together, instead of being re-written ; although it has to be stated, on the other hand, that in some parishes a blank occurs for the names of the commissioners, which would rather indicate that the ignorance of a copyist in transcribing the returns from another manuscript, than that there had been no commissioners. In either view, we must consider the record as authentic and authoritative.

The valued rent of land, which afforded a criterion for the distribution of this tax among the landlords and tenants in Aberdeenshire, had only been in existence for about twenty years. Ancient valuations of lands, the exact history of which is lost, afforded a rule of levying taxes down to the rule of Charles I. During the usurpation of Cromwell, among other useful public measures which were then originated, re-valuations of all the counties in Scotland took place, according to which valuations taxes were imposed till the restoration of Charles II., at which time it would appear that the old valuations were again partially restored to although not so

uniformly as had been maintained by various authorities. In Aberdeenshire, an earlier valuation than Cromwell's took place, as will be seen hereafter, viz., in 1644. The next valuation was in 1649. In 1665, the old extent formed the rule for apportioning a supply granted in that year ; and in 1667, we find a supply ordered to be raised and paid by the several shires and burghs of the kingdom, according to the valuations of 1660. Of these last valuations no notice occurs ; but in 1667, a valuation of the county of Aberdeen took place, probably to form a rule for payment of the tax then imposed, as measures had already been taken for ascertaining and fixing the real rent of lands in the county under a royal commission, as will be seen afterwards. It would appear that general complaints had been made of the inequality of the existing valuations ; for in this last act power is given to the commissioners of each sheriffdom to "heir and determine vpon the saids complaints, and upon tryall to rectifie all such valuations as they sall find unequall". In regard to the valuations in Aberdeenshire, complaints had existed for a considerable time ; and in 1662, we find a commission issued to the following gentlement, for the purpose of rectifying the same, viz. :- "Mr. Alexander Patoun of Kinaldie, Mr. Alexander Menzies of Kinmundie, Sir Johne Keith of Caskieben, Alexander Bannerman, elder, of Elsick, Alexander Abercrombie of Fetterneir, Thomas Gordon of Pittendreich, Partick Gordon of Cultis, George Anderson of Mabie-Counnettoch, Francis Rose of Achlossen, Johne Gordoun of Blelak, Johne Hamiltoun in Corss, Johne Gordoun of Airtloch, Alexander Bisset of Lessendrum, [ ] Mowat of Bochollie, John Gordon of Fechill, Collonell Foulertoun of Dudweik, Sir Johne Gordoun of Haddo, Collonell George Keith of Aden, Alexander Fraser, elder, of Philorth, and Johne Vdeny of that Ilk, or the maior parte of them". This committee had power to examine the existing valuation of the shire, and if they found any inequality, or disproportion, or wrong, in the same, to take a new and exact trial of the rent of the shire, and, according as they should find the same to be, they were directed to set down

a new and entire valuation and rental of every heritor's rent within the shire, and authenticate the same in the usual manner.

As has been stated, a valuation of the lands in the shire took place in 1667, and perhaps was executed under the commission above noticed. The valuation of lands in the county, now spoken of technically as the "valued rent", was made about seven years after this period, viz. in 1674, under a commission from the privy council, dated 5th August, 1673. That valuation, as appears from the attestation subjoined to the record of it, was the real rent of the lands at the time when it was made ; (2) and it has ever since been the rule for proportioning the cess and other taxes on land in Aberdeenshire. If it could be supposed that the improvement of all the land would move on with equal and steady pace, such a valuation might be held as a fair rule for the imposition of taxes at all times ; but as this has never been the case, it may be doubted whether it would not have been more

conducive to an equal taxation, to have had some machinery in existence, whereby any district or property, which, by improvement or change of circumstances, has increased in value at a rate disproportioned to the general progress of the country, might be re-valued at any time, so that the general balance might be kept up.

Thirty years of intestine confusion and distress had impaired the value of land in this county, for the valuation of 1674 is considerably lower that those of 1644, 1649, and (which might not have been expected) of 1667. The valued rent or valuation of 1674 us adhered to throughout the Poll Book, for the purpose of allocating the tax on landlords and tenants, with so few exceptions, that probably any discrepancy between them arises from mistakes in the latter. By means of a MS. written in 1672, which came into the Editor's possession a few weeks ago, he is able to present the general results of the valuations of the county of Aberdeen in 1644, 1649, and 1667, which it may be interesting to compare with the valuation of 1674, as extracted from the cess books of the county. These will be found in Appendix, No. II., to the Preface.

At the time of passing the Poll Act, it was a subject of discussion in Parliament how much of the landlord's valuation should be laid on the tenant. "The Poll Act again read, and that part of the Act put to the vote whether the poll of tennents should be one hundred part of the valued rent, or the two hundred part of the real rent, and carryed the hundred part of the valued rent".

Of this tax of 1695, every kind of property, profession, and trade had to bear a share. Rank, apart from property, was taxed, and any one who was, or had the ambition to style himself "gentleman" had to pay for that honour nearly as high a proportion of the tax as if he were possessed of land having a valued rent of £200. He could, however, escape the imposition by renouncing any pretence to be a gentleman, which renunciation was to be recorded in the Herald Register gratis. It would appear, however, that few availed themselves of this privilege in Aberdeenshire.

Comprehensive as this tax was, combining the advantages of a

personal, property, and income tax, it only produced in this county £28,148 7s. 1d. Scots, or £2,345 13s. 7d. sterling.

The tax of 1842, which did not amount to 3 per cent. on income, produced a gross return from the county of Aberdeen of about £25,000 sterling. By the returns made under the Act imposing that tax, it appears that the annual value of lands and houses in the whole county, subject to the tax, amounts to about £565,000 ; the proportion of which effeiring to the town of Aberdeen, is about £139,190. The tax of £2 18s. 4d. per cent. on the above gross annual value of lands and houses in the county amounts to about £16,401, of which from the town of Aberdeen about £4,060. The tax on incomes of persons for occupancy of land is about £700. The annual profits from trades and professions over the whole county are stated at £275,704, and the tax thereon amounts to £8,029. The proportion of this last item of profits, effeiring to the town of Aberdeen, is £236,143, and the tax thereon £6,890. In 1696, the tax on the population and wealth of the town of Aberdeen produced £2,419 16s. 10d. Scots. These returns, although there is no room for an absolute and direct contrast between them, yet, in their general results, represent in a striking manner the wonderful increase of wealth, and the marvellous development of all the departments of social, agricultural, and commercial existence which had taken place in the comparatively short period of scarcely 150 years ; while the remarkably different proportions of the general taxation, raised from the whole county, which the town of Aberdeen contributed at the two periods in question, indicate the new channels into which wealth had flown by the creation of trade and manufactures.

In any point of view the value of this record is very considerable. Doubtless any record which preserves even generally the state of a large and important district like Aberdeenshire, at a particular period, must acquire a permanent value and importance, which increases with the lapse of time ; because it forms a stationary point from which to progress, or at all events the changes subsequently occurring, may be traced in every variety of circumstances

to which the record extends. The volumes now printed contain the names of the whole inhabitants of the county (excepting children under sixteen years, and beggars), together with their occupations-the amount and distribution of their wealth-the connexion of the various ranks with each other in the domestic and other relations of life. To the genealogical enquirer, such a list of the names of the whole of the landed proprietors, and their families, must be of great value ; and the register of names of places affords to the ingenuity of the etymologist a filed of no ordinary richness and variety.(3) But to those engaged in statistical pursuits, the present record affords information at once more comprehensive, minute, and authentic, than can be readily found applicable to other parts of the kingdom at the period in question.

The record may be said to illustrate, more or less, the following points:-

The extent, value, and divisions of every landed estate in the County;

The name of almost every possession or farm ; and the names and number of the persons employed in its cultivation;

The name of every landowner, and the number and names of his family and household, together with the valued rent of his lands, and the proportion thereof payable by each of his tenants;

The amount of capital possessed by every merchant and trader;

The rate of wages part to servants of every sort;

The number and names (with the exceptions formerly specified) of the inhabitants of every burgh, village, parish, barony, farm, croft, or possession;

The occupations of the people, their ranks and classes; and

The numbers of them engaged in agriculture, in handicraft, in trade, and in the learned professions.

The Editor may remark, in passing, that in some districts of the

county with which he is more immediately acquainted, the sameness of the names of persons occurring now with the names of persons in the same districts contained in the record of 1696, is very striking. In regard to one parish, where a pretty full list of the inhabitants has enabled him to make the like comparison, at a period nearly sixty years previous to the date of the Poll Book, the similarity of names is equally remarkable. Many of our yeomen have continued in the localities which had been the home of their forefathers for centuries, and nothing but the destruction of our ecclesiastical records prevents this class of our population from tracing their extraction back to a very considerable antiquity. It is needless to remark how much of the national character may be traced to the hereditary attachment of this most important part of our population to particular localities.

In regard to the plan adopted for editing this work, it may be stated that the original manuscript has been strictly adhered to in all its arrangements. They who are acquainted with the lax orthography of the period will not be surprised to find that the same word is sometimes spelling in different ways on the same page. This it was thought better to retain, than, by altering them, to run the risk of making mistakes, and perhaps of losing the character of the record. As the work is more especially a book for reference, considerable care has been taken in the preparation of the Indices of Places and Persons, keeping in view their genealogical and etymological importance.

Form the rapidity with which the work has passed through the press, it may be that some errors have escaped the Editor's notice. It is hoped, however, that if these exist, they will be found neither many nor important.


ABERDEEN, 9th March, 1844.

Next Section

  1. Thomson's Scots Acts, January, 1667. Ibid., June 14, 1690. 

  2. The valuators off the Shyr of Aberdein, wndersubscryved, and by virtue of the commission granted to them by the Lords of his Majesties Privie Counsell, off the dait the ffyft day of August, Jaj vic and thriescore threttein years, and severall proragationes of the samen, Havening mett divers and sundrie tymes be virtue theroff, and haveing used all possible indeavowrs ffor finding out the true and reall rents off all the lands, teynds, and others lying within the said Shyr, conforme to the tenor of the said comissione and power therby granted to them, and haveing at last mett at Aberdein upon the twentie sext day of October, Jaij cic and thriescor and fourtein years, for receiveing ane accompt ffrom the severall Commissioners who wer appoynted examine the rents off the respective Presbitries, upon oath and otherwayes, and for concludeing the said matter, Doe wnaniemouslie ratifie and approve the valuation of the Shyr before written, as the samen is divydet in Presbitries, and sett down in maner mentioned in this foregoeing book, containing [ ] leaves, each page wherof is subscryved be Sir George Gordon of Haddo, knight barronet, our preses for the tyme ; and ilke totall sowme of everie Presbitrie is subscryvet be ane quorum off us the said Comissioners, and the totall of which valuatione of the said Shyr extends to the sowme off Two hundreth threttie sex thousand two hundreth and fourtie pound, threttein shilling, nyn pennies, Scots money : and heirby the saids Comissioners doe appoynt and declair the forsaid valuations to be the rule wherby all cess and other publick burdens, dew and payable furth of the said Shyr, after the first of November next, and wherof the terme of payment is not yet elapsed, shall be proportionat and laid on upon the forsaids heritors, conforme thereto ; and they annule and discharge all and whatsomever former valuations as nulle and of no use in all tyme hereafter. In testimonie wherof, the saids Comissioners have subscryevde their presents.


  3. It will be evident, from a reference to the names of places, how strong an impression the Celtic language has left on the features of this part of the country, from the great preponderance which Celtic names bear throughout the record, although it has now been for so many years a dead language, except in a comparatively small part of the highland districts. The beauty, and appropriateness to express all the varieties of locality and appearance, which are characteristic of the Celtic names, make it matter of regret that the weak and inexpensive Gothic names should ever have been introduced. They mostly prevail in the parishes of the sea coast. George Chambers, the indefatigable author of "Caledonia", had collected lists of the names of places, mountains, and streams in Aberdeenshire, and other Counties, with the view of illustrating and supporting his theory of the Celtic colonization of the country. The extensive lists which he had collected, applicable to this County, are now in the Advocates' Library, and the labour of obtaining them must have been very great. The present record would have saved him this trouble, besides presenting him with many names of places the memory of which is now lost.