Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Vivienne Dunstan takes us to Melrose in Roxburghshire, Scotland.

Part of Lauderdale map in "Blaeu Atlas of Scotland” (1654). Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

I’m lucky for my one-place study Melrose that the local court records in the mid and late 17th century survive, giving an unusually detailed insight into life in the community then, recording the everyday affairs of thousands of locals over several decades.

One of the principal people associated with the Melrose court at this time was its long-term clerk, Thomas Wilkieson, clerk from at least 1663, who was paid to record court proceedings and other legal matters for locals. In 1682 control of the court changed, and new court officials, including a new clerk, were appointed. Thomas refused to hand over the court's registers, and continued to act as clerk, leading the new clerk to complain that Thomas was making his job unprofitable. Thomas was also one of a group of old Melrose court officials who tried to block the changes, even going so far as to change the locks on the court building, and refusing to hand over the keys!

Later Thomas became clerk of the court again, and he was still alive in 1694 when the hearth tax was recorded for Melrose, appearing as a taxpayer in the list as "Tho: Wilkisone Clark”, living in Melrose town. He must have been quite some age by then. From the parish registers we know that he married Margaret Ellies in 1663, and had at least 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters, all baptised between 1664 and 1682. He may also have been an ancestor of Charles Wilkieson, a solicitor in 18th century Melrose.

Thomas is one of the most characterful people appearing in the Melrose court records, even among thousands of names recorded over just a few decades, and is definitely one of those people in my place in the past that I so wish I could have met.


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