Historical Notes

The Incorporation of Skinners and Glovers claims to be the oldest of the fourteen incorporated Trades which together form the Trades House of Glasgow. It is ranked seventh in order of precedence among the Crafts.

The Incorporation's Charter is dated 28th May 1516 and was granted by Archbishop James Beaton, Chancellor of Scotland, with the consent of the Provost, Bailies and Council of the City and bears the Seals of the Archbishop and of the Burgh. The Charter is a proud possession of the Craft and is in an excellent state of preservation.   The Skinners had been in existence as an organisation long before the year 1516 but the Charter formed the first Constitution of the Incorporated Craft.   In it there was enacted the Rule that no one could carry on business as a Skinner unless he was a Burgess of the City and the standard of his work was good enough to pass the test set by the Masters of the Craft.   Thus the Charter had the effect of excluding strangers and ensuring good workmanship.   Regulations governing apprenticeship and training soon followed and, before long, provision was made for relieving poverty amongst Skinners, their widows and their children.

Membership was restricted to Skinners, their sons and their sons-in-law who had served their apprenticeships, passed tests of workmanship and qualified. Strangers could be admitted on becoming Burgesses of the City and satisfying the Masters of the Craft regarding the quality of their work.

In its early days the Craft was closely connected with the Church and particularly with the Cathedral of Glasgow.   Following the Reformation the Craftsmen took sole control of their affairs but the link with the Church remained. There is an annual service for the Trades House in the Cathedral.   Each Craft has its own pew adorned with its Coat of Arms and there is a Trades House window in the Cathedral.   The motto of the Skinners is "To God only be all Glory".

The late Dr. Harry Lumsden, Clerk of the Trades House, wrote the "History of the Skinners Furriers and Glovers of Glasgow" and the book was published in 1937. It is clear that the history of the Skinners is bound up with the history of Glasgow and with the history of Scotland.   Until 1833, the Town Council was composed of equal numbers of Merchant and Craft Burgesses.   The Dean of Guild as head of the Merchant Burgesses and the Deacon Convener as head of the Trades Burgesses, by invitation, have honorary membership of Glasgow City Council but they are no longer entitled to vote.

From about 1780 the Skinners took an interest in national affairs and their records show instances of them promoting Parliamentary Bills and objecting to Bills. In 1777 they subscribed £100 towards raising a battalion to serve in the American War; in 1799, £200 for famine relief; in 1803 they raised a battalion of Volunteers for the Napoleonic Wars; in 1854, £200 for aiding the widows and dependants of soldiers and sailors serving in the Crimean War; £4,000 for relief schemes in the 1914/18 War and £2,250 for similar schemes in the 1939/45 War. For this last, an additional £845 was contributed by the Members.

On 23rd September 1927 His Majesty King George VI (then Duke of York) was admitted as an Honorary Member of the Incorporation and on 31st May 1962 The Right Hon. the Earl of Snowdon was admitted as an Honorary Member.   The ordinary membership still consists mainly of the sons and sons-in-law of members and many families have been represented over generations.   Some of the present members can trace the family connection for two or even three centuries. In 2003 the Rules of the Incorporation were amended to allow women to be admitted as members and to date 35 have been admitted and 3 of them have been elected to the Master Court.

The function of the Incorporation today is entirely charitable.   In 2014 the funds amounted to approximately £900,000. The income is still devoted primarily to the relief of indigent members, widows and widowers and unmarried sons and daughters of members by the granting of gifts, approximately £15,000 in 2013/14.   In addition prizes are given for leather projects in jewellery and millinery at the Glasgow Kelvin College and for leatherwork at the Glasgow School of Art.

The first Annual Dinner of the Incorporation was held on 9th December 1566 and the custom has been continued to this day with some interruptions in times of national emergency.