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History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter XIII


North-eastern commerce and agriculture—Trade of Aberdeen with Flanders, Holland, and the Baltic—Its connection with Campvere—Aberdeen merchants in Poland—Rise of textile manufactures—Extent of the cloth and hosiery trades of Aberdeen—Why the Aberdeen trade flourished—The trade of Banff--The linen manufacture in Aberdeenshire—Backwardness of husbandry till after Culloden—The early improvers of agriculture—Sir Archibald Grant: The Earl of Findlater—Dr James Anderson—Miraculous transformation round Aberdeen — Beginning of turnip husbandry and the fat cattle trade—Cattle-breeding a speciality of Aberdeenshire—Improved communication and transport—The fisheries—The granite trade.

All through its history the town of Aberdeen had been a place of considerable trade. From the days of its early Flemish settlers and of the Northern Hanse of the thirteenth century it had been the commercial capital of the north of Scotland,—the centre to which the produce of the adjacent country was forwarded for sale and export, and from which the merchandise brought from Flanders, Holland, and the Baltic was distributed. It had not, indeed, an entire monopoly of the northern sea-trade, for other ports, especially Banff and Inverness, had likewise commercial relations with the Continent ; and as the staple articles of export were few, consisting chiefly of hides, furs, wool, and salmon, so the transactions of the merchants were on a very minor scale as compared with present-day standards. The northern commerce with the Low Countries and with Danzig and Poland was carried on through Aberdeen merchants and agents abroad, to whom the exported commodities were consigned. Besides sending their own countrymen to act as intermediaries with the foreigners, the Scottish merchants had their staple port or emporium, under an arrangement with the local authorities, whereby protection of goods and exclusive privileges of trading were secured. After being fixed at Bruges, the Scottish staple was transferred to Campvere, in the island of Walcheren, on the marriage in 1444 of one of the daughters of James I. of Scotland to Wolfaert van Borselen, Lord of Campvere and Earl of Buchan. For three centuries and a half, by contracts renewed from time to time between the United Provinces and the Royal Burghs of Scotland, sometimes after a brief trial of another port, Campvere was the seat of the Scottish staple, where authorised factors, under the supervision of a Lord Conservator of Scottish Privileges as supreme judge, sold the goods of their Scottish principals. The trade of Aberdeen was on a relatively extensive scale in the seventeenth century, and Sir Patrick Drummond,. one of the Conservators, reports that Aberdeen brought more money into Scotland than all its other towns.1 Similarly Sir Samuel Forbes of Foveran, in his ' Description of Aberdeenshire,' written about the date of Mar's rebellion, states that no city in Scotland sent to the sea ships and cargoes of greater value and brought home more money in return, and that the loss of a single Aberdeen ship was more serious than the loss ot ten ships of other towns. Exports greatly preponderated over imports, and the balance being adjusted by shipments of money, the silver currency of Holland passed into circulation in the north of Scotland. The Records of the Convention of Burghs bear witness to the constant interest that was taken by the commercial community of Aberdeen in the trade and privileges of the staple port, and members of burgess families —Skenes, Gordons, Gregorys, Lumsdens, and Allardeses— held from time to time, or in contihuous succession, the coveted and lucrative office of factor.

The trade with the Hanseatic seaport of Danzig and with Poland likewise dates from an early period, and in the sixteenth century Danzig was resorted to by Scottish merchant-adventurers of all grades, from the wholesale dealer to the humble packman or pedlar. From the great Baltic port these Scotchmen passed inland to the Polish provinces, which for a time extended all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea; and when Sir John Skene speaks of seeing multitudes of them at Cracow in 1569, and William Lithgow about the same period states the number of Scottish families in Poland at 30,000, we must conclude that, however this number may exaggerate, the migration had become a highly significant fact in the life of both countries. The population of Poland consisted of a small ruling class and a large body of serfs of the soil, without any intervening middle or commercial class; and the Scotchmen stepped in with their greater faculty for trade, and found scope for its exercise in supplying the few wants of a numerous if indigent people, and in purchasing and exporting the corn and the malt, flax, and fruit which the country produced.

Of the active participation of Aberdeen merchants in the Baltic trade of the latter part of the sixteenth century we have evidence in the number of names connected with Danzig in the burgess-roll. A fee was exigible from burgesses for admission to the privilege of tins trade, and in 1566 a special duty was imposed on all goods from Danzig for the expense of " the great light on the gable of St Ninian's Chapel" on the Castle Hill, which had become part of the equipment of the port of Aberdeen. The articles of export were few, but the Scottish merchants in Danzig entered into commercial relations with their fellow-countrymen at Campvere, and thus became dealers in all the commodities for which there was a market. That the Polish trade was on a large scale is shown by the fortunes which it enabled some of the Aberdeenshire merchants to amass. Two of the families largely concerned in it for generations were the Aedies and Skenes, who prospered sufficiently to become the purchasers of landed estates in their native country. Sir George Skene of Rubislaw, a retired Danzig merchant, was for years at the head of the municipality of Aberdeen; and members of both families, after their return from Danzig, took an active part in political as well as municipal affairs. So successful as a Danzig merchant was William Forbes, the founder of the Craigievar family, that he accumulated such riches as enabled him to acquire his numerous estates in Aberdeenshire and elsewhere. At a somewhat later date the estates united under the name of Turnerhall, in Buchan, were acquired with the fortune of John Turner, a Danzig merchant, who was also a benefactor of Marischal College. Another Danzig merchant was Robert Gordon, of the Straloch family, the founder of Robert Gordon's Hospital (now College), whose fortune may have been partly acquired in the corn - trade during " King William's dear years." Fergusons of a well-known Aberdeenshire family were largely concerned in banking and other enterprises in Warsaw. Robert Low, merchant and postmaster of Danzig, was brother-in-law of the first provost, James Morison of Aberdeen, and uncle of the provost who withstood the Jacobites at the Market Cross in 1745. Leslies and Farquhars, sons and other relatives of the Covenanter provosts, with Chalmerses, Couttses, Burnets, and Barclays, Mores, Blacks, and Abercrombies, are among the other Aberdeenshire names connected with the trade in Poland. The Scottish merchants engaged in this trade sent ^10,000 to Charles II. when he was in exile; and in 1700 the Aberdeenshire communities in Danzig and Konigsberg were important enough in respect of numbers and wealth to be specially appealed to by the principal and regents for aid in defraying the cost of new buildings at Marischal College. A document preserved in the University archives gives the names of fifty-four Aber-donians resident in Konigsberg and twenty-one in Warsaw who contributed to the fund, and the Danzig merchants appear also to have responded in a liberal spirit to the appeal.1 Numbers of Aberdonians and other Scotchmen were settled at Cracow, Posen, Kulm, Thorn, Plock, Lipno, and all centres of population. When General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries went from Aberdeen to Danzig as a young adventurer and soldier of fortune in the early days of the Commonwealth, he found his own countrymen everywhere as he travelled through Poland. This state of things continued into the first half of the eighteenth century, when anarchy and war rendered the Polish cities and provinces untenable by their foreign merchants.

To the short list of commodities exported from Aberdeen in early days others were added in course of time. Aberdeen pork had a great reputation in the seventeenth century. Such was the market for it at Campvere, for the victualling of Dutch ships, that an extensive curing industry was carried on in Aberdeen, where there was no local consumption of the article, and large numbers of pigs were raised by the farmers and millers of the two counties. After the Union, when the Dutch trade had fallen away, the victualling of the British navy afforded support for the pork industry, but it gradually shrank into comparative unimportance. The extent of the trade in lambskins may be estimated from the fact mentioned by Alexander Skene, that in the second quarter of the seventeenth century he knew an Aberdeen merchant who sent 30,000 to Danzig in one year; and, following the requirements of the climate and of fashion, one of Patrick Gordon's first acts as winter was approaching was to get his cloak transformed into a "Polish overcoat lined with sheepskins."

By this time, however, Aberdeen was carrying on an extensive manufacture of textile fabrics. Weaving, as we have seen, was practised in the town and county by the early Flemish settlers, and the websters or weavers are mentioned from time to time in the early documents as members of an organised guild. They produced coarse linens and wuol-lens until the end of the sixteenth century, when Michael Wandail, a Fleming, received permission to settle in the town and to manufacture " grograms" and worsteds, on condition that he took into his employment an Aberdonian apprentice. This seems to mark a new point of departure in the Aberdeen trade, and within the next few years the Government was pressing the Convention of Burghs to follow up the initiative taken by the northern city. Proceeding on an Act passed by the Estates, the Convention sent commissioners to England, Flanders, and France to bring clothmakers to Scotland and establish " the art of making broadcloth, flemm;ngs, frieses, grograms, and other stuffs " such as were made in Flanders of Scottish wool. One manufacturer was induced to come from Norwich, and after delay a few were brought from Flanders. The Privy Council, which had to complain of the want of zeal shown by the burghs, ordered that the small body of strangers should be kept together in the capital, where, however, they soon had to appeal to the Privy Council, as they did successfully, against local pressure to enter the guild of weavers. The burgesses were more zealous for the protection of their own privileges than for the expansion of trade and industry, and the Government, in the hope of promoting manufacture, issued a prohibition against the exportation of wool. An indication of the prevalence of home manufactures is given by Taylor, the London "Water Poet," who visited Braemar and other parts of the north of Scotland in 1618, and who asserts that the northern laird's linen was made from flax grown on his own land and spun by his family and servants, and that his hosiery was made from his own sheep's wool. Home-made linen was an item in Huntly's rental paid in kind in 1600.

Another contrast between public spirit in Aberdeen and the restrictive policy generally pursued is seen in 1636, during the provostship of Alexander Jaffray, the elder, when it was resolved to establish a " House of Correction," or prototype of the prison, reformatory, and industrial school of later days, where sturdy rogues and beggars, disobedient servants and children, and disorderly persons were to be employed on the manufacture of broadcloth, kerseys, seys, and other cloths as at " Saint Paul's Work in Edinburgh." A joint-stock company was formed to carry on the enterprise, and the magistrates agreed to contribute 2000 merks of tax-money to assist in providing and furnishing premises. At the House of Correction, which gave its name to Correction Wynd, beside St Nicholas' Church, the business of spinning and weaving seems to have been carried on from the first on a scale of some importance, and during the Troubles the place was repeatedly plundered by warriors or camp-followers of the dominant faction. Some of the ideas of Jaffray and the other promoters of the House of Correct on were adopted by Robert Johnston, an Aberdonian settled in London, who in 1640 bequeathed 600 sterling to the magistrates of Aberdeen to be employed in perpetuity as a capital sum whereby the aged, blind, lame, and impotent might be employed in trade and manufacture. In 1703 the trustees invested this sum in a joint-stock company, of which a member of the Marischal family and the second Robert Barclay of Ury were promoters, formed for the purpose of carrying on woollen manufactures on a large scale at Gordon's mills on the Don, where there had been a fulling-mill for generations if not for centuries, and where the manufacture of paper had been started a few years before by Patrick Sandilands of Cotton, who may be regarded as the pioneer of this characteristic industry of Lower Donside. The Gordon's Mills Company developed the manufacture of the higher qualities of cloth, including half-silk serges, damasks, and plush; and skilled workmen were brought from France for the bleaching and other operations.

In the seventeenth century there was no district in Scotland that surpassed or even rivalled Aberdeen in the manufacture of cloth. Thomas Tucker, who reported to Cromwell's Government on the settlement of the Scottish customs and excise, states that plaidings were " made hereabout in greater plenty than in any other place of the nation whatsoever "; and in 1651 the export of this commodity to Campvere and Danzig was 73,538 ells, while a beginning had been made with the hosiery trade, which was to be the main resource of Aberdeen for many years after the demand for these fabrics had ceased. The trade in plaidings and fingrams seems to have been stimulated by a temporary demand by the Dutch West Indian Companies, in connection with the Brazilian plantations which they held in Tucker's time. The loss of these plantations by the Dutch, according to the contemporary testimony of Skene, was a " considerable cause" of decline in the trade, and another cause was the "insufficiency" or indifferent quality of the goods. The municipal authorities had exercised a certain supervision over articles for the export trade, which had in all cases to pass through the town's weigh - house and pack - house, the erection of which, in 1634, marks the growth of this trade.

The history of these industries reveals some significant facts in relation to the development of the social life and character of the people. The cloth for the home market was mainly a product of domestic industry. The wool was spun in the farmer's household into yarn, which was sent to country weavers of the neighbourhood to be made into cloth ; and Aberdeenshire serge fabricated in this way was sold at fairs and by travelling packmen. Domestic industry also had its part in the manufactures for the export trade. Alexander Skene records an incident throwing much light upon the conditions under which the Aberdeen trade wTas carried on, and why it held its ground against southern competition. An Edinburgh merchant named Barnes, seeing the great extent of the plaiding export, and that the Aberdeen merchants purchased most of their wool in the south of Scotland and resold at a profit to the spinners and manufacturers, thought that by saving intermediate profits and expenses he would be able to undersell the Aberdonians in the Dutch market. Accordingly he proceeded to set up his manufacture in Edinburgh and to export the product to Holland, but only to find that the Aberdeen goods were being sold below the cost-price of his stock. On mention., lg the matter to one of the principal Aberdeen merchants, he received the reply that the people engaged in producing the Aberdeen plaidings " had not by far such entertainment" as the Edinburgh workers had, and drank pure spring water oftener than ale, and that this was the reason why the Aberdeen plaiding controlled the market. Barnes soon gave up the manufacture; but Skene goes on to say that, " notwithstanding that our commons live at such a sober rate, they are so set at work that in former years the product of their labours hath brought into this kingdom upwards of a hundred thousand rix-dollars for many years together. Without this the nobility and gentry in these parts could not get their money rents well paid."

The hosiery trade was still more distinctively a domestic industry. By means of " rock and spindle " (for the spinning-wheel did not come into vogue till towards the middle of the eighteenth century) the wool was made into thread or worsted, which was knitted into stockings by the women and girls of the rural population. In the Cromwellian and Restoration periods the great promoter of the stocking trade in Aberdeen was a spirited citizen named George Pyper, who directly employed about 400 knitters and spinners, and attached a large number of the country people to his interest by giving them small advances of money or of linen goods. In an account of Buchan written about 1680, and attributed to Lady Anne Drummond, Countess of Erroll, it is stated that the women of Aberdeenshire were mostly employed in spinning and working stockings and making plaid-ing webs, which were exported by the Aberdeen merchants : " And it is this which brings money to the common people; other ways of getting it they have not." In the latter half of the eighteenth century, when the hosiery trade was at its height, it brought from ^100,000 to ^120,000 into Aberdeenshire every year. The remuneration of the spinners and knitters at this time came to about two-thirds of the price of the goods, or over ,70,000. The greater number of hands were employed on ordinary commercial goods, but the arts of the spinner and knitter were occasionally carried to a remarkable degree of elaboration. Pyper had samples of stockings of such fineness that they cost him over twenty shillings a pair; and a hundred years later Dr Anderson 1 mentions instances investigated by himself in which the workmanship with fine thread from the delicate fibres of Highland wool ran up the cost to four or even five guineas. A pair presented to Field-Marshal Keith are said to have been knitted of thread spun to such fineness that twenty-four miles of it came from a single pound of wool, and much greater fineness even than this is said to have been attained. Ladies' gloves at three guineas a pair were other products of the Aberdeen hosiery trade before the fine-fieeccd native sheep was superseded in the hill districts by the hardier and more profitable breeds from the south of Scotland, or gave place to cattle in the low country.

Twenty-two mercantile houses in Aberdeen were engaged in the hosiery export trade in 1771. The merchants attended at the weekly market and country fairs and bought the products of the knitters' labour, while the Dean of Guild looked round the stalls and confiscated defective goods. Numbers of the spinners and kniiters were also directly in the employment of the merchants. So important was this trade as a source of income to the rural population, that it led to agricultural holdings being broken up and multiplied, and according to Dr Skene Keith it was the means of adding more than a third to the land rental of Aberdeenshire.

After the special connection of Aberdeenshire with Danzig and Poland had ceased, the hosiery trade with Holland continued to extend until the stocking-frame impaired its re-munerativeness to the hand-knitters, and the wars of the French Revolution closed the staple port (1795). To a certain extent there was also an export to England, Portugal, and America, but it did not attain to great proportions or long survive the introduction of the frame.

Banff had participated in the hosiery trade, and for a lime it had a large export of thread to be manufactured into hosiery at Nottingham and Leicester. The local firm of Robinson & Co., which had developed the thread business, introduced an improved stocking-frame and carried on an extensive manufacture of silk, cotton, and worsted hosiery; but under the influence of English competition, and of further improvements in machinery and increased use of cotton, this manufacture was discontinued about 1816. By this time the Aberdeen hosiery trade had shrunk into small proportions, and 14,000 persons were employed in the linen, cotton, and woollen manufactures of Aberdeensh;re, chiefly in the large factories of Lower Donside and the town of Aberdeen. Fifteen hundred children, from nine to fifteen years of age, were employed in 1810 in the cotton factories of Aberdeen and Woodside.

The first notable step in the great expansion which the linen trade received in the north-east was taken at Huntly about 1737, when Hugh MacVeagh, from Ireland, under the encouragement of the Duke of Gordon, started the manufacture of yarn, which so developed under his competent management that after a time he exported large quantities to London, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and Paisley, besides manufacturing a portion of his output into cloth. Another of MacVeagh's products was silk stockings. The records of Banff show that town to have been also responding, through recommendations of its public authorities and by the action of some of its inhabitants, to the initiative of the Board of Manufactures ; and Bishop Pococke reports in 1760 that it subsisted by linen-yarn and shops. Aberdeen made application to the Board, after Culloden, for a woman qualified to instruct others in the art of spinning linen-yarn, and such progress was made in the art that before the end of the century more thread was made in Aberdeen than in any other town in Scotland.1 Great linen works sprang up on the Don — the first and largest being the establishment of Leys & Co., at Gordon's Mills, and afterwards at Grandholm Haugh ; and in Aberdeen, where the chief pioneer of the linen trade, as of local banking, was Provost Alexander Livingston, who had gained a fortune as a merchant in Holland, and lost it through too great devotion to the interests of the city. Aberdeen had its speciality in sewring-thread and in yarn for manufacturers in England and Scotland, and it suffered greatly in the days of " Grattan's Parliament" by the bounties which enabled the Irish manufacturers to undersell even in the Scottish markets.

The linen trade in the form of spinning and handloom weaving was carried on in most of the towns and villages in the two counties, and under its stimulus, with such other advantages as proximity of peat-fuel and allotments of land on favourable terras, several new villages were erected by spirited proprietors in the second half of the eighteenth century, as Cuminestown, New Byth, Mormond Village (Strichen), New Keith, New Pitsligo (originally Cavoch), Stuartfield, and Fetterangus. Tomintoul in Upper Banffshire dates from the same period, but manufactures never had much part in its economy—except illicit distillation of whisky. Much flax was grown in the counties for a time, but as fibre imported from Holland was preferred by the manufacturers its cultivation fell off. Yet the spinning of linen-yarn was widely practised as a domestic industry when the woollen trade began to decline.

Though agriculture, including pasturage, was the mainstay of Aberdeenshire all through these troublous centuries, it had been carried on under circumstances of the greatest disadvantage, the people distracted from its pursuit by ever-recurring turmoils, and their possessions subject to the raids of the Highlanders and the burnings and ravages of pol'tical or baronial strife. The backwardness of tillage, which was characteristic of the whole country, was perhaps all the greater in the north-east by reason of the political energy so distinctive of its history. The seven seasons of crop - failure, distress, and famine, with which the seventeenth century closed, had the effect of reducing the condition of the landed interest and the numbers of the rural population, many of whom perished of hunger in some of the poorer districts, so that farms occupied by several families as joint tenants were left vacant.1 Sheep-farming prevailed at this period under the stimulus of the demand for wool in connection with the hosiery and other woollen manufactures, but the flocks were depleted for food during the famine years, and had only just recovered when the fiscal arrangements of the Treaty of Union stopped the exportation of Scottish wool to the profitable foreign markets, and so depreciated the price of the commodity all over the country. The counterbalancing rise in the price of cattle, through the opening of the English trade by the treaty, was not of much benefit to Aberdeenshire until the middle of the century, when the practice of " droving" from the north-eastern counties to the southern markets began. By this time a strong movement in the direction of agricultural improvement had set in. It was manifested first in some of the counties farther south, and notably in Haddingtonshire; but if Aberdeenshire cannot lay claim to priority in the march of agricultural improvement in the eighteenth century, it had among its newer landowners and those who had seen the world several energetic men who laboured zealously to bring it abreast of the most advanced practice.

One of the earliest and most influential of the north-eastern improvers was Sir Archibald Grant, to whom we are indebted for a vivid account of central Aberdeenshire in the period immediately following the rebellion of 1715. Land improvement at this time was little thought of anywhere in Scotland. Drainage was unknown, enclosures were rare, and the immemorial system of infield continuously under crop and outfield cropped occasionally, and of runrig and "baulks," everywhere prevailed. Sir Francis Grant, one of the Senators of the College of Justice (Lord Cullen), had acquired the old Forbes and Priory lands of Monymusk in 17x2, and a few years afterwards he gave over the management to his son. At that time no part of the estate was enclosed, and there was no timber upon it except a few elm, sycamore, and ash trees about a small kitchen-garden adjoining the house, a few straggling trees at some of the farm-yards, and a dwarfish copse. All the farms were "ill disposed and mixed, different persons having alternate ridges." Such land as was m culture belonged to the farms, and was " raised, uneven, and full of stones," the ridges crooked, and the land full of weeds and worn-out by cropping without proper manure or tillage. The people, Sir Archibald Grant goes on to say, were poor, ignorant, and slothful, and engrained enemies to planting, enclosing, or any improvements, or cleanness. There was no keeping of sheep, or cattle, or observance of roads except during four months when oats and bere were on the ground. The farm-houses, and even corn-mills, and the manse and school, were dirty huts, pulled in pieces for manure, or falling of themselves almost each alternate year.

In another paper Sir Archibald Grant puts on record the facts that in his early day s, soon after the Union, husbandry and manufactures were in low esteem; turnips raised in fields for cattle by the Earl of Rothes and some other improvers in the south were "wondered at." Colonel Middleton was the first who used carts or waggons about Aberdeen, and he and Sir Archibald, with the Duke of Gordon, were the first in the north who made hay. Aberdeen, this interesting narrative informs us, was then poor and small, having some Dutch and French trade in salmon, stockings, serges, and plaiding; it had (apparently through its Dutch trade) the first use of tea, "then very scarce and little used in Edinburgh"; and it supplied Edinburgh with French wines. "All improvements of security, husbandry, manufactures, or commerce," it is added, "are since 1707, with which literature, except school jargon, hath kept pace."

John Wesley visited Monymusk in 1761, and again in 1764, and in his Journal he gives a very different picture of the place. He describes it as ljing in a fruitful and pleasant valley, in which Sir Archibald Grant had reclaimed a large area of waste ground and planted millions of trees, and states that the cultivation, especially near the manor-house, would compare favourably with that prevailing in England. "Certainly," reflects Wesley, "this is a nation swift to hear and slow to speak, though not slow to wrath ;" and he mentions that Grant had given much attention to the improvement of church music, and that after sermon thirty or forty persons sang an anthem with such voices, as well as judgment, as could hardly have been excelled at any cathedral in England. A more practical observer than Wesley, namely Andrew Wight, a skilled farmer in Haddingtonshire, who was appointed surveyor to the Commissioners of the Annexed Estates—the body charged with the administration of the estates forfeited after the rebellion of 1745— visited Monymusk in 1779, and reports that the culture of the home-farm was equal to any he had ever seen. A skilled overseer from East Lothian had been placed in charge of it, and had received leases on his own account of two other farms on the estate in order that he might give an example of good husbandry to the people around him.

But it was only after great pains and many discouragements that these brilliant results had been achieved. It was the common experience of the early improvers, who were not few, and of whom Sir Archibald Grant must be regarded as a leader and type, to have many obstacles and obstructions to contend with. The farmers were in nearly all cases slow to abandon their old ways, and a stirring address which he delivered to his tenants at the beginning of 1756 has been preserved, wherein he endeavours once more to rouse them to a serious consideration of their own interest. In their resistance to the enclosing of land, on the ground apparently of its interference with the old system of common pasturage, they had thrown down fences and wantonly destroyed young trees and crops, and he lectures them on this foolish display of militant agrarianism, and, as a man of business who had gained costly experience in great enterprises and in the London world of finance, he tries to impress them with such considerations as that some who were diligent misapplied their labour by clinging to the old ways, and that others spent much time in sauntering about, or on trifles, and even when ostensibly at work were "as if half-dead or asleep."

The pioneer of agricultural improvement in Banffshire was the Earl of Findlater, long the most active as well as the most sagacious nobleman in the north-east, and patron of the city of Aberdeen. As Lord Deskford he went to reside on bis estate near Banff about 1754. Taking one of his farms into his own occupation, he proceeded to cultivate it in accordance with the best agricultural practice of the day. After a t'me he placed three experienced " overseers" from England on farms in different parts of Lower Banffshire, where they introduced a style of agriculture hitherto unknown in the district: and further to carry out his schemes, he consolidated several small holdings into single farms and let them on long leases, binding the tenants to enclose and divide the land with stone or other fences and pursue a certain style of cropping. Lord Findlater was the first to introduce the turnip husbandry and sown-grass into his county, and by example and precept he succeeded in effecting a revolution in the agriculture of Banffshire. As head of the Board of Trustees for Manufactures, and otherwise, he also did much to develop the linen industry in his own county and elsewhere.

Among those who rendered conspicuous service to agricultural progress in Aberdeenshire was Mr Alexander Udny of Udny, the representative of one of the oldest landed families, who was a Commissioner of Excise for Scotland, and in emulation of well-managed estates in the south brought the land around his residence into the highest order, divided it into square fields, enclosed by hedges, behind which were lanes or "walks" planted with four rows of beech and elm, and erected commodious farm-buildings which he filled with a select herd of cattle, partly from Berwickshire and England and partly of the indigenous breed, and with a stud of horses " full blood on both sides." By consolidation of several holdings he formed the large farm of Monkshill, on another part of the estate, and let it at a very moderate rent to Mr James Anderson, a young man of good family in Mid-Lothian, afterwards widely known as a political economist and agricultural writer, a Doctor of Laws and Fellow of the Royal Society, and in practical agriculture the inventor of the small two-horse plough without wheels. To Dr Anderson, who marred the heiress of the Aberdeenshire family of Seton of Mounie and assumed her name, we are indebted for an exact and contemporaneous account of the rise and early progress of the new husbandry in Aberdeenshire.

One of the wonders of the new era was seen in the neighbourhood of the city of Aberdeen, where a bleak and stony wilderness was converted into fertile fields and luxuriant gardens. Up to the middle of the eighteenth century the cultivated land about Aberdeen consisted almost exclusively of sandy tracts near the sea and the rivers, which under the stimulus of heavy manuring yielded abundant crops of garden-stuffs and barley. The land being scarce and its rent very high, the great aim was to extract from the soil the maximum of produce, and a kind of culture was introduced which, according to Dr Anderson, was greatly superior to what could be found in any other part of Scotland.

Aberdeen was bounded on the one side by the sea, and for the rest by a broad tract of barren moorland, hitherto deemed incapable of cultivation. By means of drainage some swampy ground, called the Provost's Mire, had been reclaimed by Provost Fordyce, at a somewhat earlier date; and when the era of land improvement was beginning, Provost Alexander Robertson, by way of example, leased from the town and drained a small part of the Lochlands (now covered with streets and houses), and where malaria had hitherto reigned he began to raise crops of astonishing richness. The rough land about the Gilcomston and Ferry-hill suburbs—consisting of boulder-clay, with stones more abundant on the surface than herbage—had been let to five tenants, three of whom became bankrupt while the other two were following suit, when, under the initiative of such men as Provosts Robertson and Livingston, the municipal authorities resolved to dispose of the barren lands about the town in permanence at a fixed yearly feu-duty.

The first result of this step was a great increase of revenue. Several of the wealthier citizens acquired land for suburban residences, and presently it was found that an "enthusiasm of agriculture" had broken out. The feuars cleared and trenched their grounds at great expense, which, on the opportune rise of the demand for granite paving-stones in London, was partly reimbursed from the sale of the immense crop of rock and boulders with which the surface was covered. Thus thousands of acres were brought under cultivation and let at rents of from five to eight pounds an acre. " In any other part of the world which I have seen," writes Dr Anderson in 1775, "I would be reckoned impossible to convert such soils to any valuable use, and the most daring improver I have met with anywhere else would shrink back from attempting to cultivate a field which an Aberdeen man would consider as a trifling labour."these lands in some cases was as high as ^100 an acre, a fourth part of which would be recovered by the disposal of the stones for shipment to London. These lands, moreover, continued to be cultivated with care and attention, and according to Anderson the crops were better and the rents were higher than in any other part of Great Britain.

On this striking passage in local history, which is not only worthy of attention in relation to general economics, but presents a condensed and typical view of the process by which a large part of Aberdeenshire was transformed from waste into agricultural land, we have not only the testimony of Dr Anderson but also that of Andrew Wight, who in his official capacity of agricultural expert and surveyor visited the county after he had carried out his inquiries in many other parts of Scotland, and bears witness that " there is perhaps no place in the world where a spirit of husbandry has made such a figure as about Aberdeen." This new departure had hardly begun at the middle of the century, and within thirty years Wight could report that, "as far as one can cast his eye round Aberdeen, there is not a vestige of the moor remaining."

In the general report summarising the result of Sir John Sinclair's great inquiry into the agriculture of Scotland at the close of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, it is stated that the most striking feature in the cultivation of the north-east Lowlands was this reclamation of barren land in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, but that the district in general was distinguished by the very great perfection to which the turnip husbandry, with artificial grasses, had been carried, and by the great numbers of excellent cattle which it was rearmg and sending to England. About a third of the population resided in towns, and though there was no coal in the district, and nearly one-half of the lime which was extensively applied to the land had to be imported, yet by the exportation of cattle, fish, pork, and occasionally grain, and by the demand in the populous manufacturing city of Aberdeen for the produce of the soil, Aberdeenshire was enabled to carry on its expensive agricultural improvements.

The new "green crops " were introduced into Aberdeenshire by the improving landowners—Sir Archibald Grant, Burnett of Kemnay, and others—about 1750. The grass - husbandry rapidly spread ; but as turnip culture involved much more labour and a greater change of system, it made little progress till after the famine of 1782. Robert Barclay of Ury, great-grandson of the author of the 'Apology' for the Quakers, having studied agriculture among his friends in Norfolk, became, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the most effective leader of improvement in these parts. While other landowners worked through managers and overseers, or by inducing skilled farmers to settle on their estates, Barclay was his own captain of industry; and though he brought some labourers from Norfolk, he showed, and even enforced by his own hand, how such novel work as hoeing should be done.1 He employed from forty to sixty labourers, many of whom carried their training and knowledge to other places, and in this way, as well as by his splendid agricultural results, he stimulated improvement and energetic industry all over the north-east. In Aberdeenshire, as throughout Scotland, the landowners were still the great promoters of progress in the art and practice of agriculture. They pressed it forward at first upon a reluctant population, but ultimately the farmers were enlisted, and in the nineteenth century the reclamation of land from bog and moor has been almost exclusively carried out by them. The distress of 1782-83 carried its lessons home to the farmers, and led to an immediate abatement in their adherence to the old ways, and henceforth stock-raising assumed a new importance in the rural economy of the two counties. Dr Skene Keith was minister of Keithhall at the time of this famine, and taking a retrospect of all that had passed under his observation during the eventful quarter of a century that followed, he remarks that the calamitous season of 1782 compelled such of the farmers as were not ruined by it to abandon their old system of husbandry and introduce turnips and sown grass; while the landed proprietors saw that it was necessary to select good tenants for vacant farms, and either to induce or oblige them to improve the land. From this famine dates the rapid start forward of the new husbandry that was to place Aberdeenshire and Banffshire at the head of beef - producing counties. Hitherto there were not two hundred acres of land put under turnips in any year by the farmers of Aberdeenshire, as distinguished from the proprietors, but in a few years the area devoted to this crop was 20,000 acres. Hitherto, also, the heavy work-oxen, used in teams of ten or twelve for ploughing, had been imported from the Lothians and Fifeshire, but now nearly all the cattle in the county were raised at home, and Aberdeenshire began to have a large export trade. Dealers from the south had been buying a few store cattle from the county for nearly twenty years, but now the output began to assume extensive proportions. Ploughing with these costly teams was gradually abandoned in favour of the improved plough drawn by a pair of horses or of oxen ; but the old lumbering plough and team were still common in Aberdeenshire in 1794, though they had disappeared in other regions of improved agriculture.

The extension of the cultivated area was greatly encouraged by the high prices that prevailed during the long war-period, and the usual arrangement was that the tenant-farmers, for a certain number of years, received the use of the new land they brought under the plough at a nominal or very moderate rent. In many cases the stone fences with which the farms were enclosed and their fields divided, and even the farm buildings, were erected by the farmer, and represented so much sunk capital which he was to recover either from his successor in the tenancy or from the landowner. Thus the security afforded by leases became the basis of land improvement throughout Aberdeenshire, and the work of improvement was energetically taken up by the class whose predecessors had been so slow to move.

These two counties are pre-eminently the counties of small farms. Comparatively few agricultural holdings in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire are so large as to yield a rent of 200 per annum. "Crofts" and farms under ^50 of rent are by far the most numerous class of holdings, and of those above this limit a large majority are under 100. Many of these farms have been formed by consolidation of still smaller holdings, and are a result of the persevering and self-denying industry of men whose recompense was miserably disproportionate to their exertions.

The cattle trade was placed on a greatly improved footing when the new root-crops put an end to the old difficulty about the wintering of cattle, but during the first quarter of the nineteenth century the surplus stock of the two counties was for the most part sent in a comparatively lean state in "droves" to the south of Scotland or to England. In 1810 this surplus numbered about 12,000 animals, and brought in a revenue of nearly 50,000. It was not until 1827, when steam navigation provided direct access to the London market without the " loss of condition" and other drawbacks incidental to droving, that the trade in fat cattle was established on a considerable scale, and years were still to elapse before Aberdeenshire acquired its reputation as purveyor of " prime Scotch" beef to the Metropolis.

Turnip-culture, on which this trade depended so much, was greatly advantaged by the introduction of crushed bones and guano—manures that specially suited Aberdeenshire soils and greatly enhanced the crop. But quite as important an element in the art of beef-production as practised in these counties is the careful attention paid to the quality of the animals and to the special art of cattle-breeding. Another Barclay of Ury— Captain Robert Barclay-Allardice, the famous athlete and son of the agricultural improver already mentioned—formed about the date of the opening of steam navigation a magnificent herd of Durham or Teeswater cattle, from which drafts of breeding-stock were sold off at high prices every year, many of the animals passing into Aberdeenshire. Several of the Aberdeenshire agriculturists began shortly afterwards to give close attention to this subject of cattle-breeding, and in particular Mr William M'Combie of Tillyfour, and the brothers Anthony and Amos Cruickshank—M'Combie experimenting with the native Aberdeenshire black polled or hornless cattle, and the Cruickshanks with the Durham short-horned breed. Through these famous breeders and others a great improvement began to be apparent not only in the symmetry but likewise in the beef-producing qualities of the Aberdeenshire ox. The short-horned and black polled breeds, and first crosses between them, nourished on feeding-stuffs the chief of which were the root-crops supposed to derive special qualities from the soil of Aberdeenshire, were found to produce beef of the best quality in a minimum of time. The north-eastern farmers devoted themselves with pre-eminent success to cattle-breeding and cattle-feeding, the fame of their herds extended far and wide, and no county in the kingdom produced beef commanding so high a price in the Smithfield market. The rapidity of railway transit was another gain to the cattle trade, and latterly much of the beef of Aberdeenshire has been sent to England in the form of dead meat.

Altogether, it is computed, the beef of at least 60,000 cattle leaves the two counties every year as their contribution to the food-supply of the great towns, and chiefly London, yielding a return to the farmers which is roughly estimated at 1,500,000, or little short of twice the agricultural rental. And this is after meeting the greatly increased consumption in the city of Aberdeen, with the residential district of Deeside, and the numerous smaller towns throughout the counties. The stock of cattle in the two counties is 28 for every hundred acres of arable land, whereas in Norfolk the proportion is only xi.5. Cattle-raising and cattle-feeding are the basis of northeastern agriculture, and the chief business of the Aberdeenshire farmer. Large flocks of sheep are kept in summer on the hills not reserved for deer, and are wintered in the low country. The corn crops are oats and barley, very little wheat being grown. But it is by their cattle that the agriculture of the two counties flourishes.

How very modern much of our progress is, may be illustrated by such facts as that not only the electric telegrapn and the railway, but even steam navigation, had its practical origin within the range of living memory. In the early part of the eighteenth century, as we have seen, wheeled vehicles were unknown in Aberdeenshire. Except for the military roads, one of which entered the county by the Cairnwell, and passed by way of Castleton of Braemar, Glengairn, and Corgarff into Banffshire, and another by the Cairn-a-Mounth, Alford, and Huntly, both constructed after the battle of Culloden, roads in the modern sense were almost unknown m the two counties until about the close of the eighteenth century. Yet in 1810 Ur Skene Keith could say that no other county in Great Britain had laid out so much money as Aberdeenshire on roads of all descriptions.1 Within fourteen years 300 miles of turnpike road had been constructed, and " commutation " or " statute labour" roads had been made in all directions from these main thoroughfares. It was in 1765 that the judges of the Circuit Court of Justiciary first travelled to Aberdeen in chaises instead of on horseback, but the first mail-coach from the south did not arrive till 1798, performing the journey from Edinburgh in twenty-one hours, and it was not till 1811 that coaches for the conveyance of passengers were finally placed on the new road between Aberdeen, Huntly, Elgin, and Inverness. With the road came the cart, and an enormous advance in the means of transport; and the Aberdeenshire Canal, designed by Telford, and opened for traffic in 1806, provided water-carriage between the harbour of Aberdeen and the centre of the county at Inverurie. The canal continued in operation, to the great benefit of the district, until the railway was constructed in its track.

After agriculture the most important industry of the two counties is their fisheries. Since the introduction of trawling by steam-vessels, about 1882, Aberdeen has become the chief centre of the Scottish fish-trade. The value of the fish discharged on its quays is three times that of the produce of the sea at any other Scottish port, and almost as great a value accrues to Aberdeenshire and Banffshire from sea-fisheries as to all the rest of Scotland, with its islands. The herring-fishing was prosecuted off the Scottish coasts by the Dutch for centuries before Scottish fishermen could be induced to participate in it except on the most insignificant scale. Much resentment was excited against the strangers, who were accused of despoiling Scotland of the wealth of its seas, and many efforts were made by the Government and local authorities, by means of bounties and otherwise, to stimulate effective competition with the fishermen of the nation whose chief city was said to be founded on herring bones. In 1612 the magistrates of Aberdeen purchased a fully equipped fishing-vessel in Holland, and engaged a Dutch master, who was to take charge of it and indoctrinate the Aberdonians in the catching and curing of fish, but nothing more is heard of the matter; and half a century afterwards we find Gordon of Straloch rebuking his countrymen for their want of enterprise, and pointing reproachfully to the fleets of Dutch busses that were busily at work within sight of the shores of Aberdeenshire.1 Except in the western sea-lochs few herrings were caught by Scottish fishermen before the present century, and Adam Smith tells us that in h;s time it was too common for vessels to be fitted out for the purpose of catching not the fish but the Government bounty on the tonnage of the vessels. The herring fishery was introduced at Peterhead in 1820, when Fraserburgh had just begun to prosecute it on a moderate scale. The first systematic attempt to establish this fishery in Aberdeen took place in 1836, but it was not developed here to any great extent till after 1870. Wick was long the headquarters of the henvig fishery, and the most important fishing town in Scotland; but when, in 1S70, the fishing began generally to be carued on in the deep sea, and large decked vessels took the place of the old-fashioned boats that never went far from the land, the three Aberdeenshire ports, with their large harbours and their advantageous geographical position in relation to the open sea, became the great seats of this fishery, and the resorts, during the season, of boats from all the minor ports and from England, and of large numbers of men and women—chiefly from the Hebrides—for temporary employment in connection with the fishing and curing operations.

Through the herring trade the old commercial connection between the north-east of Scotland and the Baltic is continued, the cured fish being, for the most part, consigned to German and Russian ports. Fraserburgh depends almost exclusively, and Peterhead to a large extent, on the trade in cured herrings ; while the development of the general fish-trade, chiefly in connection with trawling and by means of rapid transport by railway, has in recent years contributed much to the prosperity of Aberdeen. The salmon-fisheries of the Dee, the Don, the Deveron, and the Spey long yielded the article of export for which Aberdeen was principally famous. These fisheries, which have been carried on from time immemorial, are probably as productive as ever, but they have lost their relative importance as a source of wealth.

The granite trade is another characteristic industry of the north-east of Scotland. " Granite is the most valuable mineral in this county," wrote Dr Skene Keith in 1810, "and has brought gold into Aberdeen " : but quarrying of granite even for local use, in common with the cattle trade and the highly developed sea-fisheries, is of comparatively recent origin. For architectural purposes, as in the building of the older churches in Aberdeen—the Cathedral of St Machar, the old Church of St Nicholas, and the Greyfriars' Church—freestone was brought by sea from the Morayshire coast and the Firth of Forth ; and so far as granite was used at all in building, it was taken from the abundant supplies scattered over the surface of the ground in the form of boulders. In 1604 a patent was granted for five years for opening a quarry in the freedom lands of Aberdeen to supply the inhabitants with lintels for doors and windows, but it was not until the period between the two Jacobite rebellions that James Emslie, of Loanhead, initiated systematic quarrying. The superiority of the stones from the Loanhead quarries was so manifest in the buildings erected at this time that quarrying was henceforth an established industry in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, which now began to assume its modem aspect as "the Granite City." Between 1780 and 1790 about six hundred men were employed in the Aberdeen quarries, chiefly in connection with the demand from London for paving-stones. Union Bridge, with its great span of 130 feet and its rise of only 29 feet from the spring of the arch, designed by Telford, and completed in 1803, is a striking memorial of the perfection to which granite working had been carried by that time. Great works of local improvement involving the use of granite— street-making and pier and harbour extension—were carried out on such a scale as to land the town in temporary financial embarrassment in 1817, the works being costly and not immediately remunerative, though the improvements were sound in themselves and for the ultimate benefit of the city. Large blocks of granite from Aberdeen and Peterhead came into demand for engineering works, such as the Bell Rock lighthouse, the foundations of Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge, and generally where great strength and durability were required. Granite polishing, which had its beginnings in the workroom of the lapidary, was begun on a considerable scale for monumental purposes and structural ornamentation about 1820 by Mr Alexander Macdonald, who thus initiated a new industry which was to grow and prosper and to form the basis of an export trade from Aberdeen to all parts of Britain, and to America and the Colonies.

The several textile trades are represented in Aberdeen by woollen, linen, cotton, and jute factories—some of them on a large scale; and the woollen manufacture is also carried on to an important extent at Keith and on the Ugie. Of comb-making the city has an almost complete monopoly, paper-making is carried on at four large establishments on the Don and one on the Dee, and the shipbuilding and engineering trades are likewise firmly rooted. From the variety and multiplicity of its interests, Aberdeen suffers less from depressions of trade than large towns dependent upon a single great industry. It is the headquarters of two banking establishments, of one of the large fire and life insurance offices, and of the railway system of the two counties, while it is the northern terminus of the East and W est Coast railway services from London. Distillation of whisky is extensively carried on in both counties, particularly in Banffshire. Agriculture, however, continues to be the leading industry, and. nowhere is it carried on to better purpose in all that pertains to the raising and feeding of cattle.


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