The Office of Sheriff in Scotland: its origin and early development
Malcolm, C. A.
The early history of the judges in Scotland has not so far been investigated; in fact, the historian has left the functions of the sheriff at periods prior to the eighteenth century in a condition vague and indefinite. Although the historian has neglected him, the etymologist has fixed the origin of the title beyond doubt by the quotation from the first half of the eleventh century where the name occurs in the form 'scirgerefa' (N.E.D.).And, though 800 odd years separate the sheriff of today from the earliest sheriff north of Tweed, he is a continuation of that long, unbroken line of sheriffs, performing many of the duties of the early holders. The sheriff has his clerk; the former Serjeand or Mair is now the sheriff officer. From the office of the ancient coroner (Crowner) there has evolved that of the procurator -fiscal; the 'for - speakers' or 'prolocutors' are advocates or solicitors. The Assize or Jury still does duty but not quite on mediaeval lines. The Dempster alone is missing.Without enumerating the almost countless functions of the present day sheriff one is reminded of his association with his ancient predecessors in his processions to the Mercat Cross whenever Royal Proclamations have to be made: and in his duties as Returning Officer in Parliamentary Elections.By virtue of this continuity of service the Early Sheriff is represented by his successor of the present time who thus represents the most ancient office in the Scottish Judiciary.