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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

SESSION, n., v. Sc. usages:

I. n. 1. With def. art. (in full, the Court of Session): the supreme civil judicature in Scotland, founded in 1532 from an amalgamation of an earlier Court, also called the Session, with the King's Daily Council, and hence the formal title of its now eighteen members as Lords of Council and Session, see Lord, n., 2. Combs. (20), (24). Hence Clerk of Session, Session-house.Sc. 1700 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 309:
For confections and fruits furnished be him to a trait given be the magistrates to the president of the session and divers ladys with him in August last.
Sc. 1722 W. Forbes Institutes I. ii. 171:
This Court (called the College of Justice) sits in a House, called the Session-house.
Sc. 1754 Erskine Principles i. iii. § 6:
[It] got the name of Session; because, in place of being itinerant, and without any fixed terms of sitting, it was ordained to hold annually a certain number of sessions, at places appointed by the King.
Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 208:
The Court o' Session, weel wat I, Pitts ilk chiel's whittle i' the pye, Can criesh the slaw-gaun wheels when dry. Till Session's done.
Sc. 1818 Scott H. Midlothian xii.:
The due administration of justice by the fifteen Lords o' Session and the five Lords o' Justiciary.
Sc. 1837 Lockhart Scott xv.:
When the Court opened after the spring recess [1806], Scott entered upon his new duties as one of the Principal Clerks of Session.
Sc. 1838 W. Bell Dict. Law Scot. 361:
In Scotland, the Court of Session, as the supreme civil court of the country, combines in itself all the functions of the English courts, both of law and equity.
Sc. 1880 J. Grant Old and New Edb. I. 167:
The Court of Session is divided into what are named the Outer and Inner Houses. The former consists of five judges, or Lords Ordinary, occupying separate Courts, where cases are heard for the first time; the latter comprises two Courts, technically known as the First and Second Divisions.
Sc. 1947 Scotland (Meikle) 100:
From the decision of the Court of Session a right of appeal lies to the House of Lords.
Sc. 1958 Intro. Sc. Legal Hist. (Stair Soc.) 346:
It is apt to be overlooked that until modern times the Court of Session did not enjoy the almost universal jurisdiction in civil cases which it now exercises, but was one only of a number of civil courts whose functions it has successively absorbed.

2. The first or lowest court in the Presbyterian Church, consisting of the minister and elders of a single church having spiritual oversight and powers of discipline over the congregation and being formerly also partly responsible for the education and poor relief in a parish. See also Kirk, n.1, III., 37. Hence phr. †on the Session, in receipt of poor-relief. Adj. sessional, relating to or administered by the Kirk Session; adv. sessionally.Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Analecta (M.C.) I. 28:
The Presbiterian Government, that is, the Government by Sessions, Presbitrys, Synods, and Assemblys, is declared to be the only Government of Christ in this Church.
Ayr. 1708 Session Bk. Dundonald (1936) 567:
Andrew Flager, who gat a sessional rebuke for the sin of suearing in the Session, Feberwary 1702, had again fallen into the same sin in very gross terms.
Gsw. 1717 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (B.R.S.) 613:
The north west quarter session of this city being . . . sessionally mett and taking the election of a minister for the said vaccancy under consideration.
Sc. a.1732 T. Boston Memoirs (1766) 101:
The precentor professing his sorrow for his offence, was readmitted sessionally.
Abd. 1733 W. Forbes Dominie Depos'd (1765) 31:
He never took a good injunction Frae Kirk or session.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Reply to a Trimming Epistle vi.:
This leads me on to tell for sport How I did wi' the Session sort.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail xci.:
Would the hard nigger let her gang on the session? — for I canna help her.
Sc. 1849 T. Hanna Mem. T. Chalmers II. 307:
The number of sessional poor (that is, of poor who had been on the session's roll of one or other of the three parishes).
m.Lth. 1843 Children in Trades Report ii. K.21:
Was at the sessional school some years.
Ags. 1858 People's Journal (6 Feb.) 3:
As the old saying is, ‘I am on the Session'.
Cai. 1871 M. MacLennan B. Blake i. iv.:
I canna see whatna way I'm tae win through for sax weeks wi'oot going till the Session.
Sc. 1885 A. Edgar Old Church Life 200:
In olden times if either a minister or an elder happened to hear a word of calumny regarding a parishioner, minister, or elder . . . [he] thought it his bounden duty to report to the Session what he had heard, and the Session thought it their duty to ascertain without delay whether the report was true or false, and then to deal as circumstances required.
Sc. 1908 S. H. Turner Local Taxation Scot. 43:
Sometimes curious differences of administration were found, as in Glasgow, where the kirk-sessions of the city parishes attended to the wants of the “sessional poor,” meaning the cases which required only slight relief to a maximum of about six shillings per month.
Sc. 1928 Black and Christie Parochial Eccles. Law 466:
The session is composed of the minister (or ministers in collegiate charges) and of ruling elders — the minister and two elders forming a quorum.
Sc. 1931 J. C. Jessop Education Ags. 124:
A Sessional school in town corresponded in the main to a Parish school in the country.

Combs.: †(1) session-ba(i)lie, a kind of magistrate appointed in some parishes of the South-West of Scotland in the early part of the 18th c. to be a legal assessor on the Kirk-Session in cases involving public morals and order; (2) session(†s)-book, the minute-book and register of a Kirk-Session. Gen Sc.; †(3) session-box, the box or chest containing the church funds, esp. those to be distributed as charity; (4) session-clerk, the clerk or secretary of a Kirk-Session. Gen.Sc.; (5) session-house, a room in or attached to a church in which the Kirk-Session meets; (6) session-magistrat(e), = (1); (7) session officer = kirk officer s.v. Kirk, n.1, III. 32.; (8) session register, the register of baptisms and deaths kept by the Kirk-Session; (9) session roll, the list of those in receipt of poor relief from the Kirk-Session; ¶(10) session-saint, a member of a Kirk-Session, an elder, used ironically (Ayr. 1928); (11) session-siller, poor relief, the allowance given to the parochial poor by the Kirk-Session.(1) Ayr. 1723 Ayr Presb. Reg. MS. (29 Oct.):
Anent session balies. M[ess]rs Andrew Rogers and Henry Osburn are appointed to wait upon the Right Honourable the Earle of Lowdoun to try if his Lo[rdshi]p (being the principall sherriff of this shyre) will give a deputation to some fitt person in each session within these bounds who have not Magistrates in the paroch already.
(2) Wgt. 1700 Session Bk. Sorbie MS. (12 May):
There was no Session Book, for that which the Session had before the late Prelacy and during some of that time was mortgaged by Hugh Softlaw, who was precentor here.
Sc. 1829 Scott O. Mortality Intro.:
His death is not registered in the session-book of any of the neighbouring parishes.
Kcd. 1844 W. Jamie Muse 93:
It noo is sax and thirty years, The session book my name it bears, That in this world I've been below.
Abd. 1868 G. MacDonald R. Falconer iii. ii.:
I'll jist awa' ower to Muckledrum, an' hae a caw throu the sessions-buik.
(3) Wgt. 1713 Session Rec. Whithorn MS. (5 Nov.):
A new Session Box to hold the poors money.
Abd. 1764 A. A. Cormack Education 18th C. (1965) 22:
He had caused William Marshal their officer make a new Session Box as the old one was by far too little to hold the money collected.
Dmf. 1788 Dmf. Weekly Jnl. (25 Nov.):
Having abstracted from the Session-box, by means of false keys, considerable parts of the collections made at the door of the New Church.
(4) Edb. 1710 S. Leith Rec. (Robertson 1925) II. 23:
John Selkrig is precenter and Session Clerk.
Ags. 1730 Caled. Mercury (9 March):
There is to be, at the Burgh of Montrose, a Comparative Trial for the Offices of a Precentor, a Session clerk, and Master of the Musick, Writing and Arithmetick, and Teaching English.
Sc. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVI. 511:
This and the session-clerkship do not belong to him as a schoolmaster.
Bnff. 1869 W. Knight Auld Yule 175:
An' Grace is a douce, freckled maiden — but hark, Her age is best kent tae oor auld Session Clerk.
Sc. 1886 Stevenson Kidnapped iii.:
I'll aff and see the session-clerk.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 157:
To gang to the session clerk on the Saiturday nicht, an' tak their cryin siller an, their witnesses wi' them.
Rxb. 1921 Kelso Chronicle (25 Feb.) 4:
He applied to the Session clerk for a loan to carry him over the straitened period.
Sc. 1936 Sources Sc. Law (Stair Soc.) 155:
Many of the Kirk-Session records are no longer in the hands of the Session Clerk, but in the Register House.
(5) Edb. 1798 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (16 May) 153:
The Annual Meeting of the Society and Subscribers will be held in the Session-house of St. Andrew's Church immediately after the sermon.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie cv.:
We found him seated in a venerable carved walnut elbow-chair, amidst the elders, in the session-house.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto T. Bodkin ix.:
Mr. Gowlanthump an' the eldership — they bein' meantime i' the Session hoose coontin, ower the offerin,.
Sc. 1928 Black and Christie Parochial Eccles. Law 467:
Meetings of Kirk-session are held in the session-house, or, failing such a house, in the Church.
(6) Wgt. 1703 Session Bk. Glasserton MS. (19 Dec.):
The minister reports that it has been and is enjoined by the Synod and Presbytry that every paroch shold have a Session magistrat for suppressing ofvice and immorality. They do therfor appoint the minister to intimat from the pulpit this day that the heretors and elders may meet Thursday come a fourtnight for election of a Session magistrat, and the minister is desired to have sermon that day.
(7) Ayr. 1766 Ayr Presb. Reg. MS. (8 May):
The Presbytery hereby grant Warrant to the Session Officers . . . to summon the Persons designed in the above List.
(8) Sc. 1799 Edb. Weekly Jnl. (8 May) 151:
James Dyce, in the 107th year of his age, being born, as appears by the session register of the parish of Rayne, in February 1693.
(9) Ags. 1742 L. Macbean Kirkcaldy Burgh Rec. (1908) 268:
That fit persons be employed by the Town Councill in their name and upon their credit to furnish the poor who are not in the session roll with lint to spin.
(11) Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems 195:
Few amongst our peasant fathers could be brought to seek or even accept of the “session siller”.

3. In the Sc. Universities: the portion of the year during which teaching is carried on, orig. one continuous period from Oct. or Nov. till March or April, later extended by a summer session from May till June or July and now divided into three terms with vacations at Christmas and Easter. Also in the more recent Eng. Universities and U.S.Sc. 1714 Two Students (Dickinson 1952) 52:
Alexander Sharp grandson to the Arch-Bishop being a Double Bajan with Mr Pringle last Session.
Sc. 1775 S. Johnson Journey 12:
A student of the highest class may keep his annual session, or as the English call it, his term, — which lasts about seven months, for about fifteen pounds.
Sc. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XXI. App. 34:
The annual session for teaching, in the University [Glasgow] , begins, in the ordinary curriculum, on the tenth of October; and ends, in some of the classes, about the middle of May, and in others continues to the tenth of June.
Sc. 1860 Edb. Univ. Calendar 24:
There are two sessions in each year, viz: — I. The Winter Session, which opens in the beginning of November and ends with April, during which the Classes in all the four Faculties are assembled. II. The Summer Session, which opens with the beginning of May and ends with July, in which some of the Medical Classes are open.
Sc. 1892 Scot. Univ. Comm. Gen. Rep. (1900) 10:
The University Court of each University shall institute a summer session in such of the subjects or branches of subjects qualifying for graduation in Arts as may be determined by the said Court after consultation with the Senatus. . . . The Curriculum for the degree of Master of Arts shall extend over not less than three winter sessions, or two winter sessions, and three summer sessions.
Sc. 1956 Edb. Univ. Cal. (1956–7) 122:
Two such terms shall, for the purpose of reckoning the duration of Medical study, be deemed the equivalent of one winter session, and one such term shall be deemed the equivalent of one summer session.

II. v. †1. To call (a betrothed couple) before the Kirk-Session in order to record their intention to marry and to lay down their Pawns, q.v., or earnest money. Reg. in pass.Abd. 1708 Records Old Abd. (S.C.) II. 120:
Contracted, sessioned, or booked on Saturndays.
ne.Sc. 1832 P. Buchan Secret Songs 38:
These twa being sessioned, And cried in the kirk.
Abd. 1867 W. Anderson Rhymes 41:
‘We are sessioned', says he, ‘an' I'm sure ye're content' — Says Bell — ‘Tak my name out, I'll never consent'.

2. To summon or take before the Kirk-Session for offences against church discipline.Abd. 1892 Innes Rev. (Spring 1956) 16:
Mary Mullach herself and another grownup woman were summoned to the altar. To say the truth I wasna pleased, for the Protestants declared that we were ‘sessioned' for ill behaviour at the marriage.
Kcb. 1895 Crockett Moss-Hags xviii.:
Was there one of us, . . . that had not been Sessioned time and again?
Abd. 1914 Rymour Club Misc. II. 106:
The like o' him to preach and teach, And young dames for to Session, man!

[O.Sc. session, = I. 2., 1561.]

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"Session n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 19 Jul 2024 <>



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