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Burghs and Burgesses

Burgesses were merchants or craftsmen who owned property in burghs and were allowed to trade in burghs free of charge. They could obtain these rights by inheritance, by marriage, by purchase, or by the gift of a burgh.
Burghs were essentially urban settlements which enjoyed trading privileges from medieval times until 1832, and which regulated their own affairs to a greater or lesser extent until the abolition of Scottish burghs in 1975. 
By 1707 three types of burgh existed: royal burghs, burghs of regality and burghs of barony. Burghs produced characteristic forms of historical record, such as court books, guild records, and registers of deeds. 

John Whyte’s Burgess Ticket, 1852



Forfar Burgesses   (See Histories of Scotland & Royal Burgh of Forfar for more on the position of a Burgess). 

Most senior male members of the family were probably awarded Burgess ‘tickets’. The Burgess Roll was very loosely kept, and available lists today are extremely incomplete, with many entries lost.  The following Whytes have been identified as Burgess’s from various family records.    

1637                 William Quhyt                 Skinner/Glover Forfar

1664/1700        David Whyt                     Shoemaker

1745/49            Thomas Whyte               Shoemaker

1773                 Robert Whyte                 Shoemaker Forfar (son of Thomas Whyte)

1776                 John Whyte                    Shoemaker Forfar (son of Thomas Whyte)

1779                 Thomas Whyte               Dyer Forfar (son of Thomas Whyte)

1779                 Patrick Whyte                 Glover Forfar (son of Thomas Whyte)

1803                 William Whyte

1816                 Patrick Whyte                 son of Baillie Patrick Whyte

1816                 William Whyte                son of Baillie Patrick Whyte

1820                 David Whyte                   son of Baillie Patrick Whyte

1830                 Thomas Whyte               son of Baillie Patrick Whyte

1852                 John Whyte                    son of William Whyte - Writer  & Banker


Town Council

Burgess members of the family have played various roles in the Forfar Town Council over the years.  However, all the old town papers and records were destroyed in 1745.  The following list has been built from other sources, and is certainly very incomplete.  Arguments about land ownership also caused many rifts between families and the Town Council.

1664 -               David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Quartermaster

1667 -               David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Councilor

1668- 1690       David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Tax Collector      (Stentmaster)

1670 -               David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Treasurer

1682-1700        David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Trade Deacon

1689 -               David Whyt (Quhyt, Quheit)                       Baillie

1703-1716        Thomas Whyt (Elder)                                 Trade Deacon

1726-1727        Thomas Whyt (Younger)                            Trade Deacon   

1736-1740        John Whyte                                                Trade Deacon

1754-1755        Thomas Whyte                                           Trade Deacon

1773 -                Robert Whyte                                            Baillie

1790                  Robert Whyte                                            Trade Deacon

c1815 -              Robert Whyte                                            Baillie

1825 -                Patrick Whyte                                            Baillie

1800’s               John Whyte                                                Councilor (31yrs)

1866                  John Whyte                                               Lord Provost

1869                  John Whyte                                               Lord Provost

1872                  John Whyte                                               Lord Provost

1874                  John Whyte                                               Lord Provost

1880-81             John Whyte                                               Lord Provost

Late 1800’s        Robert Whyte                                            Procurator Fiscal (Forfar)

St John’s Episcopalian Church

Many of the Whyte family were Scottish Episcopalians.  It is not known if they were loyal during the latter Reformation period, when Episcopalians could not worship as such, nor hold local office (e.g. Town Council).  However this is possible and with all the problems that this would have brought them.


William Whyte and his sons Robert Whyte & John Adam Whyte were all Secretary of the Vestry (lay manager) in continuous succession for almost 100 years.  The Whyte family was a subscriber in 1880 to the fund for the new Forfar Episcopalian Church.                

The three Whyte-Shaw

stained glass windows in

the church are in memory

of William Whyte (died 1

849) and Margaret Adam/

Whyte (died 1893), paid

for by their daughters

Elizabeth Whyte and

Margaret Whyte/Shaw.


Forfarshire and Forfar were long been known for their Royalist support through the ages.  They made a significant contribution to the Jacobite causes of 1715 and 1745, with the local Earl of Panmure and Earl of Airlie raising large local Jacobite armies on both occasions.  However by 1745 local support may have waned.  After the defeats, the Hanovarian forces hunted-down, tried, imprisoned or had transported to the colonies many men from Angus and Forfar. The Whyte family was clearly a part of these events , particularly as Escopalians and it probably accounts for the confusion and gaps at that time in the Whyte History by Generation - particularly Thomas Whyt (1708-1760) whose life up to the age of 40 is a complete mystery.

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