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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
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Kirk-master, -maister, n. Also: kyrk-, kerk- and -mastir, -maistare. [North. ME. and e.m.E. kyrkmaster (1429), and mod. north. Eng. dial. kirkmaister, = churchwarden (also e.m.E. chirche-maister (1484), churche-master) : cf. also MDu. kercmeester (mod. Du. kerk-) in similar uses, MLG. kerkmester, MHG. kirchmeister.]

1. An official of a burgh or other community who had charge of the building-work on and around the parish church and the upkeep of the church fabric generally, from the moneys assigned to this purpose; a master of works of a church. (Cf. maister of (the) kirkwark, Kirk-werk n. b.) 1399 W. Kennedy Aberd. Ann. (1818) I. 82.]
[Eodem die electi sunt in communes consiliarios dicti burgi … Depositores, Johannes, filius Andree [etc.] … , Magistri Ecclesie [four persons]
1428 Haddington B. Rec. (Robb) 16 May.
The balȝes with the consent of the kyrk maister grantyt to James Wrycht all the anuale bigane of a land lyand in the Lydgate
1471 Peebles B. Rec. I. 167.
The quhilk day in the tolbuth efter thar cont makyn of the town the balyais and the nychburis has chossyng twa kyrk masteris and sa furth at the hed court quhen the balyais is chossyn twa kyrk masteris to be chossyn
1509 Reg. Episc. Glasg. 523.
I leif twa schillyngis of annuall … to the mendyng of twa bryggis the quhilkis I biggit to be tayn be the kyrk maisteris of the Monk land and varit on the sayd briggis
1511–12 Selkirk B. Ct. (ed.) 15.
Ilk nychtbur that is warnit … be awyce of the kyrk masteris sall gang … with the bred quhen thai ar requirit or geiff xii d. to the kirk war[k] quha sa falyeis
1530-31 Ib. 110.
This inquest ... ordines [4 persons] ouris kyrk maisteris for this yeir to cum
1531 Haddington B. Rec. in Soc. Ant. II. 403.
The sys ratifies the act maid anent the wynning of the coilpet and gyf the kirkmaister wares any monie by the masonis ony other waiy bot on the pet it to be disallowit in hys next count
1535–6 M. Works Acc. (ed.) 183.
To the pynouris … for bering of … eistland burd bocht fra … the kirk maisteris of Leith
1536 Haddington B. Rec. in Mill Mediæv. Plays 250.
That Jhon Ryklynton [etc.] … wes choissyn to be abbot off wnresson the quhilk thai all thre forsuk & wes content ylk man to pa xl s. to the kyrk maister
1542 Dunferm. B. Rec. I. 228.
Cownt of … all thyngis disschargit of the comown gud and burges silliris … be … Tomas Daugles dayn of gyld, … Welyeme Cowpar heid dakin, … Jhone Smytht kyrkmastir [etc.]
1560 (c 1650) Dundee B. Laws 22, 3.
The kirkmaster to take the oversight … anent the kirk ordering and belles ringing and of all things forsaid toward the kirk and dewties therof and honestie of the said kirk and kirkȝeard and the pains of them that sall transgress the said act to be taken up with all rigor be the kirkmaster
1585 Dysart Gleanings 42.
Kirk maisteris David Clarke George Crystesone with assistance of the baillies
1596 (c 1650) Dundee B. Laws 145.
[Commission given to] Willm Man, Willm Duncan, baillies, and Willm Hay, kirkmr, to contract … with ane meason for accomplishing the said wark [of building a steeple on the new tolbooth]
1636 (c 1700) Ib. 58.
That ther be a visitation of the librarie … and that the kirk mr. have one of the keys of the librarie and that none be lent out without his advice, and that upon a sufficient pledge to be put in the hands of the said kirk mr.

b. An official with similar duties appointed by the session and congregation of a (post-Reformation) church; a church-treasurer or deacon. 1572 Acts III. 76*/2.
[The act concerning upkeep ofparish kirks] as ȝit hes not tane executioun … because … that … thair was not kirkmaisteris or deaconis appointit in the parochinnis to ressaue the taxatioun appointit
1598 Elgin Rec. II. 64.
Johnne Gordoun gudman of Corridoun is appointit kirk maister to be assistit with John Bonyman and James Patrik and the bailleis to delyver to him the taxatioun silver for the loft bigging and ane ticket to be maid vpoun samekill as he ressauis fra thame
1613 Ib. 136.
The sessioun ordenis Johne Bonyman kirkmaister and James Young thesaurer

c. In Kirkcudbright: A paid church-officer or beadle appointed by the burgh. 1576 Kirkcudbr. B. Rec. 2.
The quhilk day Thomas McClellane … is chosin provest, … Johnne Gledstanis is chosin thesaurar, … James Cant is chosin kirkmaister for ane yeir and suorne
1578 Ib. 67.
The act … made be the minister and elderis twiching the peyment to the kirk maister of ij s for ilk mariage and xij d for the baptisme of ilk substantius mannis barne and vj d for the simple folks the said kirkmaister fyndand ane forme and benk to the brydgrwme and bryde and conveyand thame to the solemnizatioun and haifand ane basein and towell to the baptisme
1586 Ib. 212.
The quhilk day the prouest [etc.] … hes agreit with Johnne Henrysoun to be kirk maister for ane yeir and ring the bell and do sic service as the warden did and vphauld the Kirk in sklait for the soume of xl s. money and to haif the salt and vther dewties the wardane hade of befoir
1601 Ib. 391.
The quhilk day the bailleis [etc.] … hes chosin and electit Andra Gray thair kirkmaister quhill Michelmes nixt and he to ordour the kirk and ring the bell for the yeirlie payment of xl s. and he to ring the burriall bell throw the toun quhen nichtbouris deceises and to mak the graiffis for the quhilk he sall haiff … vj s. viij d.
1619 Ib. II. 249. 1623 Ib. 293. 1624 Ib. 307.
That the officeris ... sall haif the siluer ... quhilk wes in vse to the kirkmaister in all tymes cuming

2. In Edinburgh, Canongate and Glasgow: An elected officer of a craft or of the merchant guild who was responsible for the upkeep of the fraternity's altar and chaplaincy in the parish church out of the craft or guild dues and other income.Appar. in practice the office of kirkmaster was normally combined with that of deacon and these two titles are usually treated as synonymous. On the other hand the fraternity of the Holy Blood or merchant guild of Edinburgh appointed four kirkmasters each year. The title appears to have lapsed with the Reformation: thereafter the deacon is simply so styled or some other word for treasurer is used. 1497 Edinb. Hammermen 20.
All countis & reknyngis of Andro Muncurris dekynschip as kyrkmaster to the said craft
1500 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 80.
That we [sc. the walker craft] may haue … powere yeirlie to cheis our kirkmaister of the said altar as vthir craftis dois
Ib. 81.
At the kirkmaister for the tyme … may pas to the nichbouris … for the ingathering of thir dewiteis … to the vphald of Godis seruice at our said alter and ornamentis of the samyn
1505 Ib. 102.
Ane kirkmaister and ourisman to quhome the haill brether of the craftis foirsaid [the barbers and surgeons] sall obey
1507 Edinb. B. Ct. Bk. 36.
Stevin Bel kirkmaster of sanct Cristoferis altare and a part of the honourabil personis tharof
1509 Edinb. B. Rec. I. 122.
The provest, baillies, counsale and kirk-maisteris hes consentit … that … baith the craftis … be incorporat vnder ane baner
1516 Murray Early B. Organ. I. 361.
The kirkmaister and the laife of the maisters [of the skinner and furrier craft of Glasgow]
1522 Cart. S. Giles 213.
Nichole Carncors [and three others] … kirkmaisteris of the confrary and altare of the haly blude within the said burgh of Edinburgh
Ib. 214.
It sal be lefull to the foure kirkmaisteris of that yheir with the foure maisteris of the yheir preceidand … till cheis … ane sufficient chaiplane
Ib. 215.
For the quhilk suffrage portionis and expensis sua to be maid … to be takin vp yheirlie be the saidis kirkmaisteris and payit be thame of thir yheirlie annuellis eftir following
1524 Edinb. Hammermen 112.
The masteris … schesit Patrik Scot saidlar dekin and kerkmaister
1540–1 Reg. Privy S. II. 599/1.
To the dekin and kirk-maisteris of the said craft of hammermen [of Canongate]
1554 Holyrood Chart. 292.
Providing alwayis that the said dekin, kirkmasteris and brether of the said crawft big the forsaide alter
1558 Glasgow Cordiners 249.
That the craftis men of the said craft … sall haif powar ȝeirlie to cheis thame ane deikin and kirk maister

3. ? A church dignitary, a prelate. 1533 Boece xiii. iiij. 505 b.
Bischoppis and kirk maisteris, … preistis, kirkmen … quhilk mycht be apprehendit be his command war marthirit

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"Kirk-master n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 3 Feb 2023 <>



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