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Submitted by Editor on

Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh street performers have recently been discussing how to better manage street performances in the city centre.

The problem of amplified music (Issue 334, p. 3) may be comparatively new, but the difficulty of preventing music-related nuisance has troubled Edinburgh authorities for years.

We refer readers to Issue 339 (p. 3) and offer two more Victorian examples below.

From the Edinburgh Evening News, 5 October 1875

A street musician named John Brunton was brought before Bailie Tawse at the City Police Court charged with playing a clarionet on Saturday night, to the annoyance of the inhabitants of West Register Street.

Evidence was led that the accused was in the habit of frequenting that locality almost every night, and that he persisted in blowing away when requested to desist by two hotel-keepers in the street.

He pleaded in defence that he was a native of Edinburgh, and had been a member of the musical profession in Edinburgh for 26 years, during which time had never been  interfered with.

His plea had no effect on the obdurate bailie, and he was ordered to pay 15s, or go to prison for seven days.

From the Edinburgh Evening News, 1 November 1881

John Brunton, an elderly man, was brought before the City Police Court charged with having sworn, made a disturbance, and caused a crowd on Saturday night in West Register Street.

Brunton pleaded not guilty. Two policemen stated that the accused, who was drunk, was playing a clarionet on the street. Some persons complained regarding him, and on witnesses asking him to move on, he declined, mentioning that he would be d—d first.

The Prisoner: I have had the liberty of the city of Edinburgh for the last 34 years as a musician. The Magistrate: But if any of the inhabitants object you are obliged to move on. Brunton was fined 5s, with the option of three days in jail.



John Brunton, a former labourer and widower of Ann Kay, died in St Cuthbert''s Poorhouse on 16 November 1884. He was 87 years old and finally succumbed to bronchitis.

[Images: Top – Fratellia Patricola, Wikipedia commons. Bottom – Public domain. Credit: A musician playing the clarinet outside a town-house is given threepence by a footman and asked to move on, but the musician asks for more money. Steel engraving after R. Seymour. Wellcome Collection. Source: Wellcome Collection.]