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

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First published 1971 (DOST Vol. IV).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

Mair, Mare, n. Also: maire, mayr(e, mar, maeir, mer, maior, major. [(1) ME. (Cursor M.) and e.m.E. mair(e, meyre, ME. also meer, mer (1297), e.m.E. mawer (c 1488), maiour, mayer (16th c.), in sense 2 below and other senses, OF. maire, maior, maor, meor; (2) med. L. (Scottish) marus, ? Sc. and Ir. Gaelic maor steward, bailiff etc., OGael. mœr, máir (Book of Deer), Welsh maer.Both branches return ultim. to L. mājōr, mājōrem.]

1. An executive officer of the law of the Crown or of a lord of regality. Also mair of fee.In early times perh. a high-ranking executive officer but from the 15th c. or earlier a subordinate officer of a sheriffdom, having authority over the whole of the shire or over a particular district or division of it, or of a regality, who executed the sheriff's or bailie's writs. See further Dickinson Fife Sheriff Ct. lxii–lxvi. Sometimes, but by no means always, a distinction is made between the hede, master or principall mair or maire generale of a sheriffdom or district and the mair's deputes, under-mairs or mairs in that part whom he might appoint.The office was commonly heritable with rights by charter to its privileges and fees: hence mair of fee.In med. L. as marus.(1) c 1163–4 Regesta I. 262.
[Uniuersis vicecomitibus suis et maris officia … infra episcopatum de Glasgu exercentibus
c 1200 Acts I. 56/1.
Quod quandocunque dominus rex canum suum de Galwidia habere debuerit mittet breve suum usque maros Galwidie et ipsi mari [etc.]
c 1214 Lindores Chart. 167. 1220 Acts I. 68/1.
Et ille [sc. the Earl of Fife] non sicut comes sed sicut unus marus restat Regi comitatus de Fyffe ad rectitudines suas exigendas
Reg. Maj. iv. vii in 14.. Acts I. 269/1.
Ad capitalem marum vicecomitatus vel apud le toschederach
1455 Exch. R. VI. 70.]
Thome Forbes, thochoderach dicti comitatus de Mar [£6 13s. 4d.] … et quatuor maris [£4]
(a) c 1260 (? 13..) Reg. St. A. 383.
Roberto le mare
c1420 Wynt. vii. 124.
Thare eldast barnys and thare ayris Off erlys, baronys and off marys For ostage gret he tuk
1432 Acts II. 22/1.
That ilk officiar of the kingis as mare or kingis seriande … sal nocht [walk abroad] … but a horne & his wande
1451 Melville Chart. 34.
Scher Johnne of Rothvene … to Thome Wardroperr, mar, and to his deputis of the nether est quarter of Gowre, greting
c 1476 Lennox Mun. 106. 1478–9 Oliphants 20. 1497–8 Acta Conc. II. 128.
Al … landis … quhilkis the sadis [sic] lady is kennit to … be schireffis, maris and utheris officiaris
1505 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I. 50.
Williame Scrimgeour ane of the maris deputs of Abirdene at command of the schirref lauchfully summond Andro Eliss
1507 Ib. 56, etc. 1511 Reg. Privy S. I. 343/1.
A lettre … makand him hede mare within the … landis pertenyng to the King within the schirefdome of Fores
1517 Fife Sheriff Ct. 81.
Henry Sibbald mare of the quarter of Edyne
1518 Chart. Coupar A. II. 117.
Johne Striuelyng … , schereff, to James Ȝonge [etc.] … maris of the said scherefdome coniunctlie and seuerale speciale constitut
1523 Treas. Acc. V. 209.
Deliverit to the lord Ȝesteris heid mare our soverane lordis lettrez to summond [etc.]
1535 Reg. Episc. Brechin II. 186.
Dauid Lokky, ane of the maris generall of the said shireffdome
1540 Acts II. 359/1.
That all schireffis stewartis and balȝeis caus thare maris and officiaris quha sall execut the kingis lettres … to haif ane signet
1541 Exch. R. XVII. 716.
The said Walter allegit that iiij li. … wes yeirlie assignit to him for his maris fee
1609 Skene Reg. Maj. i. 68. 1699 Black Bk. Kincardinesh. 86.
Donald Hutcheon, one of the sheriffs mares and officer to the laird of Leys, did … search … her house [etc.]
(b) 1443 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 268.
We [sheriff deputes] … gert our mairis set a str[es] upon the landis [etc.]
1450 Reg. Episc. Brechin I. 146.
Dauid Balbirny mair of the quartar off Brechine
1465 Wemyss Chart. 85. 1498 Fam. Rose 168.
Alexander Finlawsone mair and serjand of the lordschip of Ardmannoch
1521 Fife Sheriff Ct. 215.
Thomas Berwyk maire generale of the said schirefdome
1525 Exch. R. XV. 126.
1536 Dunferm. Reg. Ct. 138.
The … arrestment maid vpone thair cornys … be Richert Wallut mair and officer of the said regalite
1540–1 Elgin Rec. I. 55.
For the wrangus making of ane arrestment as mair and officiar to the sheref of Elgine and Forres
1544 Dunbar Moray Doc. 67.
[By] chartour grantit be James Earl of Murray … [Alexander Anderson … became] principal mair off the lands after specefied … lyand in the earledome of Murray and shrefship of Elgine
1570 Sat. P. x. 6.
Schir Morpheus the mair assailȝeit me With all his sluggische suldarts out of number
1573 Sutherland Chart. 147. c1575 Balfour Pract. 303. 1590–1 Exch. R. XXII. 143. 1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Marus.
The Kings maire is of ane greater power and authoritie nor the messengers or officiares of armes
Ib. s.v. Recordvm. 1601 Moncreiffs 575.
[George Moncreiff] Master Mair [of the shire of Perth]
1623 Letts. & St. P. Jas. VI 353.
Thair is no schyir quhairin his maiestie hes not heritabill mairis or servandis
1622-6 Bisset I. 281/22. 1686 Mackenzie Observ. 42.(c) a1578 Pitsc. I. 45. h. of ch.
Conflict betwix the sherrife of Perth and Johne Gormak the shireff maior
(d) 1587 Prot. Bk. J. Inglis 8 Dec.
Personaly comperit Thomas Lege messynger & ane of the meris in that part of Banffe haifand in his hand ane precept executoriall of poynding
(2) 1429 Acts II. 17/2.
That a mayr of fee quhethir he be mayr of the hail schirefdome or of part sal haf power to present a … persone or personis … to the schiref … to be deputis vndir hym
1450 Reg. Episc. Brechin I. 127.
James … till our seruitour William Nudrie mair off fe off our landis off Brechine gretinge
1452 Melville Chart. 35.
Willyhame Marschale, mar of fee of the qwarter of Arbroith
1465 Charter (Reg. H.) C.O. No. 60.
We commandit the schiref or his mare of fe to … gif corporale sesine … of the said landis
1484 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 445. 1491 Rep. Boyle Mun. 4.
Ane of the stewartis of the regalite of Sanct Androis till Robert of Burne mayr of fee of the said regalite
1491–2 Acta Conc. I. 223/1. 1494 Acta Aud. 192/2 (see Mair-of-fe(e)-schip). 1505 Aberd. Sheriff Ct. I. 50; etc. 1529 Red Bk. Menteith II. 391. 1542 Reg. Privy S. II. 735/1. 1564–75 Hamilton & Campsie Test. I. 39.
To the mariefie ane firlot of corne
Ib. 42 b.
1589 Antiq. Aberd. & B. III. 188.
His said vmquhill father and vtheris his predicessouris heretabill mairis of fee of the said schirefdome … haue bene in vse … to admit deputes … in thair awin court
1590 Reg. Privy C. IV. 486.
Mr. George Bissett allegeit mair of fe and sherif officiar of Abirdene
1597 Skene Verb. S. s.v. Marus.
Now the said office is given in fee and heritage to maires of fee, quha knawis nocht their office, bot ar idle persones
1622-6 Bisset I. 140/12. Ib. 281/19.
All mairis and officeris, alsweill of fie as in that pairt, quha executis the King his majesties letteres … suld have ane signet
1662 Acts VII. 442/1.attrib. 1617 Retours, Ayr, No. 161 in Fife Sheriff Ct. lxiv.
[Hugh Kennedy retoured heir of lands and] officio sarjandi et majoris feodi, lie serjand and mair of fey office [of the bailiary of Carrick]

b. attrib. and possess. with corn, croft, fish, land, toun: Assigned to a mair as part of his perquisites.(1) 1542 Old Ross-shire I. 108.
For the mairs corne and winning of the fermes of Ross … out of ilk sek [etc.]
1606 Retours, Elgin & Forres No. 22 in Dunbar Moray Doc. 68.
[Served heir to his father] in officio mari vulgo vocato the office of mairschip of the ereldome of Murray and Westschyre of the samin, that is to say, the haill mair cornes, reik hens [etc.] … of the tounis and lands of Tarress
(2) 1456 Exch. R. VI. 217.
Onerat se … de iij s. iiij d. de Currourcrofft. … Et de xij d. de le Marecrofft … Et de xij d. de le Serjandcrofft
1527 Ib. XV. 340.
De firmis de Mariscroft
1542 Old Ross-shire I. 109.
Thrie mairs croft with ust rowme to big ane hous theron for the dwelling of the under mairs for executione of ther office
1543 Reg. Privy S. III. 69/2.
Cum ortis, pomeriis, croftis, lie mars croftis, et pertinentiis earundem
(3) 1542 Old Ross-shire I. 108.
As mairs fishe quhilks wer weikly delyverit be the kenars of Conon … weikly thre salmond fishe
(4) 1462 Liber Aberbr. II. 127.
Nos Malcomum … abbatem … fecisse … magistrum Thomam Dekysoun marum et coronatorem … regalitatis nostre … pro toto vite sue tempore … et … prefatus magister Thomas habebit vnam peciam terre que vocatur Marlande
1518 Fife Sheriff Ct. 115.
De terris nuncupatis le maris land
1529–30 Moncreiffs 570. 1532 Exch. R. XVI 545. 1572 Ib. XX. 423. 1681 Purves Revenue Crown 115.
For the mairs landes of Pittencreiff 1d. argent
(5) 1375 Reg. Great S. 224/2.
Nos dedisse … Willelmo Herowart, officium mari nostri orientalis quarterii de Fyff, una cum terra vocata le Maretona eidem officio annexa
1391 Ib. 313/2.
Terra de Martone
1520 Fife Sheriff Ct. 182.
Johnne Ramkelour tennent of the mairetoune

2. The chief magistrate of a town, a mayor.Only rarely applied to the alderman or provost of a Sc. burgh. Chiefly, of an English city or borough (also once of Perth under English occupation).(1) 14.. Acts I. 43/2.
In evir ilk burgh of the kynrik of Scotland the mare or aldirman ofthat ilk burgh [L. superior illius burgi] sal ger xii … burges … suer [etc.]
1570 Sat. P. xxiii. 52.
The toun [sc. Edinburgh] … Cheissit thé [Kirkcaldy of Grange] to be thair prouest and thair mair
1590 Burel Queen's Entry 14.
Mylord, I mene the maister mair, The prouest ane maist prudent man
(2) c1420 Wynt. iv. 2555.
In cyteys [of the Roman Empire] mayre or aldyrman … ilke man cauld … And gert hym lay his trewage downe
(3) c1475 Wall. iv. 359.
The mar [sc. an Englishman] kepyt the port of that willage [Perth], Wallace knew weill
Ib. viii. 873.
The mayr [sc. of York]
? 15.. Dunb. To London 49.
London … Thy famous maire … thé rulith prudently
1570-3 Bann. Trans. 393.
Occurantis advertised to the maior of Rye
a1578 Pitsc. II. 116/25. 1641-8 Skipper's Acc. (Smettone) 16 b.
At Lundun … to the maeir 4s. 6d.
1650 Dumfries Treas. Acc. MS.
A letter to the mair [of Carlisle]
1682 Lauder Observes 70, 71.
The Lord Mayor of London, … the mair

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"Mair n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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