Our History

Scottish Charity Number SC009255

The Incorporation of Barbers is one of the fourteen crafts forming The Trades House of Glasgow. It welcomes into its membership individuals from all walks of life who are interested in the civic life of the City and charitable work.

 The Trades House of Glasgow was originally created at the time of reform ofGlasgow's local government in 1605.  At that time the electorate was basically divided into two groups, the Merchants and the Craftsmen.  The Craft Incorporations or Guilds comprised the Trades Rank of Burgesses under the leadership of the Deacon Convener who was given a council.  This included the Craft leaders and is the body we now recognise as the Trades House.

 Today the Trades House still meets in the Trades Hall inGlassford Streetwhich, apart from the mediaeval cathedral, is the only building inGlasgowstill used for its original purpose.

 Guilds and Craft Incorporations are the Scottish equivalent of the craft guilds or livery companies, which developed in most of the great cities of Europein the Middle Ages.  Over the years many of the House's political and legal duties have been transferred to other bodies, but the charitable functions and concern for the future of Glasgow very much remain.  The assistance of the needy, the encouragement of youth and support for education, particularly the Schools and the Further Education Colleges in developing craft standards, are now its chief objects.

On the 6th of February 2005 the Trades House and the 14 Incorporated Trades celebrated their 400th year of service inGlasgow, which was shared with the Merchants House and the City Council who have the same anniversary.


The honourable craft of the Barber can be traced to the earliest times and the motto of the Glasgow craft "Munda haec vigebat diebus Josephi patriarchae jacobi filii, Aegypti praefecti", translates into English as "This elegant art flourished in the days of Joseph, son of Jacob the patriarch, Governor of Egypt".

 The skill of the Barber's hands enabled another contribution to be made to the wellbeing of the community.  The belief in blood-letting as a cure for many ailments created a demand for this service and for centuries the hand which wielded the razor also wielded the lancet.  This relationship is still symbolised by the traditional "barber's pole", originally painted white, with red ribbon bound round and hanging from it a brass "blood-letting" plate or basin - the ribbon for taping off the arm, the pole given to the patient to hold and the basin into which the blood was drained.  The relationship between the Barbers and Surgeons was initiated on the basis of a common skill.

The renamed Incorporation of the Chirurgeons and Barbers is unique among the Crafts represented in the Trades House in owing its foundation to a Royal Charter from King James VI in 1599.  For some time the two classes of member remained distinct, although the surgeons were more strictly limited than the barbers, who with their chirurgery skills were allowed to perform simple work, healing of wounds, bleeding, extraction of teeth etc.

The Barbers' Charter was ratified by the Scottish Parliament in 1672.  However, the profession of surgery eventually fell out with the trade of the barber and a jurisdictional dispute arose.  This was referred to the magistrates who ruled in favour of the Barbers, who were granted permission to elect the Deacon.  The quarrel is now well in the past and the Master Court is glad to include in its membership a large number from the medical profession.

The Craft's objects provide for a number of needy pensioners including, by tradition, an annual gift of shortbread.  It also provides annual prizes for student in Medicine, Nursing , Dentistry, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.  A prize is awarded in association with the University of Glasgow Medico-Chirurgical Society for presentations on research subjects. A similar project is undertaken with the Dental School for dental projects. The Craft nominates 4 members to the Trades House and they participate in all of the work of the House.


During 2011, the Incorporation's Rules and Regulations were extensively revised. Under regulations 17, it states that 'the annual income of the Incorporation, after paying expenses of Management, shall be, to such an extent as the Master Court may consider appropriate, applied

-In payments to beneficiaries

-To make donations to one or more Charitable, Educational or Benevolent Institutions

-To make awards to students at Universities and Colleges

-To support other awards as the membership think fit


Management and Governance Arrangements

The Incorporation is managed by the Master Court, elected annually in September.  It comprises the Deacon, the Late Deacon, the Collector and the Late Collector, two ex-Deacons and up to eleven Masters, together with a Master appointedand by the Deacon. Honorary Life Trades Masters who have been elected by members may also attend. The Master Court meets at least four times each year.

New trustees are elected onto the Master Court as required.  By custom, the process to election as Deacon begins with membership of the Master Court and after serving at least one year on the Master Court, being proposed and elected as Collector.  After one year, the Collector moves to the position of Late Collector and thereafter typically stands for election as Deacon.  Thus the leadership position usually requires at least 3 years membership as a trustee prior to election.

In addition to the Master Court, the Incorporation elects a Clerk who is responsible for ensuring that all Trustees have an appropriate understanding of their responsibilities.  He is responsible for calling and recording all meetings and for the keeping of proper books and records of the Incorporation. 

 The trustees annually review the risks that the charity faces.   To date, these have mainly related to investment management and these have been ameliorated by a diversified portfolio management.  The Incorporation takes great care in its distribution of grants and aid to ensure that it is used in accordance with its instructions.

Clerk to the Incorporation:

Ex Deacon Ian R Thomson, MA, CA, FInstLM

Tel: 07768 502587

Email: ian@lil2.com