History of the Nine Trades of Dundee

The story of the Dundee trades is very similar to that of the Trades in the other Scottish Burghs. Sadly, the only old records of the Trades to be found today are those held in the Lockit Books. They are called that because they had hasps with a lock and are priceless.

They record everyone who was admitted as a Master to that Trade from the opening of the book to the present day. Also included are the Rules, Acts and Statutes of the trade. Some of the trades include their apprentices and some have a second book for their apprentices and journeymen only.

In the days of self-perpetuating councils the Nine Trades were the only body looking after the interests of the ordinary citizen. Bear in mind that this year’s council elected the members of next year’s council and you get some idea of the problems.

The excesses of the council were a constant problem to the trades and they were regularly at odds with them protecting the interests of the ordinary people.

As a body the Nine were very powerful indeed although as individual trades they were only interested in protecting their own rights and privileges. So much so that the Convener audited the Burgh Accounts and held a key to the Burgh Kist. No money could be borrowed without the trades approval.


So who were and are the trades, what is their purpose and how did it all begin? The answer to the last question is that no one knows. However we do know that in 1124, King David I framed Laws for the regulation of various trades and his Chamberlain made regular visits to ensure that they were enforced by the Bailies.

These regulations required the trades to care for their poor and sick and laid down standards to control the price of the goods and the quality of the workmanship.

Certainly from 1306, Robert I, James I, James IV and Mary Queen of Scots all recognised the trades as separate corporate bodies.

Find out more about the Nine Trades – including a range of historical documents – in our online archive:

Nine Trades Archive