The Mock Burgh
adapted from Rise and Progress of Coatbridge - Andrew Miller
It has been said that "coming events cast their shadows before."
In this respect Coatbridge for several
years had the shadow of civic
dignitaries, and consequently an annual
election of Provost, Magistrates, and
other officials. The
Council meetings were held in the "Inn,"
(Coatbridge Inn) where the affairs of
town and state
discussed in regular form, and
with a convivial spirit worthy of the
realities of an actual burgh.
The members of Council had no special night of meeting, but they met very frequently, for the mirth and jollity that prevailed was very attractive, so that, with a few exceptions, the attendance was regular. The fines exacted for non-attendance went to the general fund, so that all tended to harmonise and qualify each member for the duties of office, and was sufficient inducement to prolong the Council meetings or to adjourn. Strangers were considered highly favoured when admitted. This jolly Council was carried on for years, still the coming event of which this was the shadow has not yet come; and Coatbridge, although entitled from its population and position to rank as a burgh, and has gentlemen of ability connected with it, who ought to be entrusted to govern its affairs, is still, from want of spirit or something else, as it was, and it is neither a burgh on the roll Parliamentary nor Royal.
As an example of how business could once be done in former years, the election for 1845, as issued officially for that year, is herewith given:-There followed a List of the Magistrates, Town Councillors, and Officials of Coatbridge, Elected November, 1845. William Miller - father of Andrew was "elected" as Provost.
As this election went the rounds of the Glasgow press as from a bona fide burgh, it was taken for granted that such existed; and not long afterwards, a minister from the west of Scotland, having occasion to officiate in the Gartsherrie Church, the congregation was both astonished and no doubt not a little amused to hear the rev. gentleman's special prayer for the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council of Coatbridge. The worthy man had taken it for granted that such officials did exist, and was very much surprised when enlightened on the subject.
Pro Burgh Movement
Around 1866 the Pro Burgh movement - led by Col David Buchannan who set up a committee of middle class citizens to help him fight the cause.
This was opposed by the Ironmasters, the main objectors being the Bairds of Gartsherrie who felt that an elected Burgh council would place controls on their industrial progress.
The first attempt failed. It had attempted in 1866-1867 without success to adopt the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1862 (25 & 26 Vict., c.101).
However the demand for Burgh status did not die with the 1866 campaign. Coatbridge was finally erected into a police burgh by the (private) Coatbridge Burgh Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict., ch. xli), having by then grown into what was said to be 'the largest village in Scotland'.
Its population was 24,812 in 1881. The 1885 Act granted it all the privileges of a non-parliamentary Royal Burgh. The town's fortunes were based on employment provided by ironworks (including the huge Gartsherrie Ironworks) and collieries.