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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter XVI  - The Commerce and Trade of Biggar


THE Biggar district, in former times, had a number of markets and fairs. Some of these, for many years, have been abandoned. The Scottish Parliament, on the 15th of June 1698, passed an Act in favour of Andrew Brown of Dolphinton, for two free faires to be holden at the town of Dolphinton,’ the one upon the last Wednesday of May yearly, to be called New Whitsunday Fair, and the other upon the 8th of October, to be afterwards named; and also a weekly market upon Tuesday, with the usual privileges, immunities, customs, casualties, and duties. The Dolphinton annual fairs and weekly market, if they were ever established, have long been discontinued.

The Edinburgh True Almanack for the year of our Lord 1692, states that there are two notable fairs at Lamington, within the shire of Lanark, where are to be had good schap horse, neat, sheep, and corns, meal, etc. The first on the 15th of June, with a horserace for a saddle at 40s. value, set out by the laird of Lamington; the second, on the 22d of October yearly, with a weekly market every Thursday.’ The fairs and the market of Lamington have also, for a long period, been abandoned.

Broughton, five miles from Biggar, has from time immemorial had an annual fair. It is, or was, a hiring fair, and was famed for the numerous assemblages of the rural population, male and female, that frequented it from the mountainous region around, and the desperate combats in which the Tweeddale ploughmen and shepherds engaged when under the maddening influence of love and drink. This fair, of late years, has much declined,—in fact, it is now almost extinct. Skirling, two miles distant, has three annual fairs;—the first in May, the second in June, and the third in September.

The June fair of Skirling was long one of the largest markets in Scotland for horses and cattle. It has now much fallen off. A large painting, showing its appearance in the days of its prosperity, by the celebrated artist, James How, a native of Skirling, is now in the possession of Adam Sim, Esq. of Coulter, along with another picture of a similar size, by the same artist, representing a show of stallions on Skirling Green. These pictures, while they give abundant proof of Mr How’s great skill as an animal painter, at the same time show that he had a strong appreciation of the ludicrous and grotesque. They exhibit scenes of great fun and comicality,—scenes which he himself, no doubt, witnessed and enjoyed in his early days, while living under his father’s roof. The Biggar district has produced no painter of greater genius than How. No artist of his day could give a more lifelike representation of the horse, the cow, the sheep, the dog, and other portions of the animal creation. His professional merits raised him to distinction; and they might have made him wealthy, respected, and happy, had they not been counterbalanced by great defects. His Panorama of Waterloo alone, by prudence and proper management, might have placed him in a state of affluence; but he allowed that and other golden opportunities to pass by without yielding him any solid advantage. What money he gained by indefatigable industry and the exercise of his rare talents in one day, he squandered away the next in reckless profusion and the debasement of his noble faculties; and in the end he died in poverty and neglect,— affording another example of the calamitous fate that too frequently befalls the sons of genius.

When Skirling was erected into a free burgh of barony, in 1592, by James VI., in consideratione of ye gude and thankftill service to hir Majesty, and umquhile our dearest mother, by the late Sir James Cockbume of SkraliAg,’ it Wafc provided that it should have a weekly market on Friday, and an annual fair on the 4th of September. The reason assigned for this was the distance of Skirling from the principal burgh of the shire, ‘quhairby they (the inhabitants) cannot goodly repair at the fairs and mercat days of the said burgh for doing of their lawfal affairs, and traffic of goods, corns, and other merchandise.’ It would appear from this, that) at the time, it was thought desirable that the traffic of a county should as much as possible be confined within itself,—an opinion very different from that which now prevails. To what extent the weekly market of Skirling was patronized by the farmers and traffickers of the district, we cannot now say; but it appears, for a long time* to have fallen into disuse.

The fairs or large markets at Biggar are numerous, and some of them have been long established. The first of the year is held on the last Thursday of January, old style, and is usually called Candlemas Fair. The business principally transacted at it is the sale of horses and cattle, and the hiring of servants* The second takes place on the first Thursday of March, and used to be called Seed Thursday, because it6 principal transactions consisted in the disposal of com, potatoes, etc., for seed. The third (air is held on the last Thursday of ApriL It was only instituted a few years ago, but has been attended with success. At this market servants are hired, stallions are shown, and horses, cattle, pigs, etc., are disposed of. The next fair takes place on the third Thursday of July, O. S. This fair, in the charter re-erecting Biggar into a burgh of barony, granted by James VI., in 1588, in favour of John, Lord Fleming, is called St Peter’s, and is appointed to take place on the festival of that saint, on the 29th of June,—fairs in ancient times being very commonly held on the festival of some saint. It was wont to be called Midsummer Fair, and was a great market for the sale of lambs, but it began at length to decline; and, about forty years ago, it was agreed to hold it two weeks later in the year, in the expectation that this would operate as an inducement to the farmers in the adjacent pastoral districts to patronize it again with their flocks. When a place of business begins to fall off, it is no easy matter to restore it to its former state of prosperity. This was fully exemplified in the case of this fair. It is now wholly deserted as a sheep and lamb market; but some business is still done in wool, and reapers for the harvest are engaged It was, down to a recent period, a practice for a foot-race to be run on the evening preceding the fair, immediately after it had been proclaimed by the Baron Bailie at the Cross by tuck of drum. The reward given to the successful competitor was a pair of white gloves. As the expense of the gloves was paid by the lord superior, it is likely that the race was instituted by some of the Flemings to encourage the practice of athletic sports.

The cattle show of Biggar, held on the last Thursday of August, is ' another great agricultural display. In the year 1808, a Farmers1 Society was established at Biggar, the principal objects of which were the discussion of agricultural subjects, the establishment of an agricultural library, and the punishment of depredations on the property of the members. The library was, however, never formed. In 1820, it was resolved to change the name of the Society to that of ‘ The Biggar Fanners’ Club,’ and to extend its design, by having an annual show of live stock and seeds. This show, with the exception of seeds, has accordingly taken place every year since, and has been largely patronized. The Club comprises the names of all the principal proprietors and farmers in the district; and it cannot be questioned that it has, in a great degree, contributed to evoke and keep alive a spirit of wholesome emulation in rearing stock, in cultivating the soil, and improving the products of the dairy. It has caused increased attention to be paid, among other matters, to the breed of horses, for which this district has long been famed. The powerful Clydesdale horse is now held in repute not only in Scotland, but in various other parts of the world. Several fine young stallions reared in the Biggar district, have of late years been exported to New Zealand and Australia. The prices realized for these animals are very considerable. We may specially refer to a very fine specimen, that was recently sold by Mr William Muir of Hardington Mains to Mr D. Innes, Parriora, Canterbury, New Zealand, for the large sum of L.325. The farmers in the Biggar district, as might be expected, very often succeed, at the great shows held under the auspices of the Highland Society, in carrying off some of the chief prizes for the breed, not merely of horses, but of sheep and cows, as well as for the produce of the dairy.

The last fair of the year is held on the last Thursday of October. It is called the 1 Old Fair,' and is a large market for the sale of horses, cattle, and the hiring of servants.

It is evident from the entries in the old record of the Bailie's Court, that sad scenes occasionally took place at the fairs of Biggar. On the 1st November 1723, the Bailie fined James Young, servant to James Anderson, Bridgend of Dolphinton, in the sum of five pounds Scots, and to remain in prison until it was paid, for committing * a blood and battery on Steven Gilles in Biggar Fair.’ On the 9th February 1721, the Bailie fined James Aitken and William Fleming in the sum of L.10 Scots, for refusing to assist in quelling a tumult in the market of Biggar on the last Thursday of January. On the 2d July 1724, the Fiscal arraigned before the Baijie, James Millar, in Biggar, and his spouse, John Rob, servant to Alexander Forsyth, and David Murdoch, son to William Murdoch, officer of Excise, for a riot committed by them on the 1st of July, being Biggar Fair, upon Robert Reid of Broughton Mains.

The Bailie continued this case till next court-day, but the decision is not recorded. On the 2d July 1728, John Rob, son of Thomas Rob in Westraw, was fined in the sum of five pounds Scots, and to remain in prison until it was paid, for fighting and making a disturbance in the fair on the day previous. It was in consequence of such disturbances as these that the Baron’s officer, and one or two assistants, armed with halberts, perambulated the ground during the continuance of the fair.

Their duty was to prevent all tumults and riots, and to apprehend individuals disposed to be outrageous and unruly, lodge them in the Tolbooth, and arraign them before the Baron Bailie. The halberts used on these occasions are still preserved, and a representation of the head of one of them is given in the annexed engraving. We are far from thinking, however, that the fairs of Biggar are more distinguished for disturbances and immoralities than the fairs in other districts. The rustics of Biggar, like those everywhere else, have a high flow of animal spirits, and when they get free from the thraldom in which they are held all the year round, they are apt to be a little hilarious and uproarious; but this is nothing more than might be expected from persons rejoicing in the vigour of youth, and placed in similar circumstances. At the same time, no right thinking man will condemn the efforts recently made to withdraw them, on these occasions, from the consumption of intoxicating drinks. The unseemly exhibitions of swearing, rioting, and fighting, that at times take place, are, in almost every instance, the direct result of the use of these beverages.

The hiring of servants in a public market is also a degrading spectacle. It savours very much of the marts of slavery. Men and women there expose, if not their persons, at least their physical capabilities, to public sale, and are subjected to a scrutiny in some respects similar to that which the slave-merchant gives to the human chattels placed on the auction block. Moral character here goes but a short way, while physical strength is reckoned of higher value, and is in far greater request. It may appear difficult to find a substitute for these huma^ exhibitions,—the rustics themselves may cling to them with the greatest tenacity, like the slave hugging his chains; but the employers of labour, by subjecting themselves to a little temporary inconvenience, and by adopting a proper mode of registration in the towns and chief villages, might, in a short time, change' the whole system of hiring, and obviate the great evils and defects with which the present method is chargeable. At the same time, let servants, like other classes, have their holidays. Incessant bondage and toil are by no means conducive to the physical and moral well-being of mankind. It is good to have seasons of cheerful reunion, when change of scene and innocent recreation give a zest to human existence, and scatter the clouds that are too apt to settle down on the brows of the sons and daughters of toil. Biggar has recently commenced a great movement for the amelioration of the condition of farm servants. The public meetings, and the addresses of Dr Guthrie and others, at two Biggar Fairs, have drawn upon it the eyes of all men. We hope it will not be found wanting, but will persevere in its efforts till the objects which it contemplates have been crowned with success.

At the fairs and markets of Biggar, in the olden time, one of the most notable and gratifying spectacles was the ample array of the products of female industry that was then displayed. Every housewife in the rural districts was a spinner and a manufacturer. Her primary object was to clothe and adorn her own household; but not unfrequently, by diligence and economy, she was able to supply domestic wants, and also to have a considerable surplus to dispose of to others. Hence, the gudewife appeared at the marts of commerce with her lint and her wool, her hanks of yarn and her webs of cloth; and, by the sales then made, she increased the family finances, and received encouragement to enter on new schemes of domestic industry.

Some remains of the ancient implements of female industry and thrift, once so common in the Biggar district, are still to be found. In preparing wool to make a very fine worsted thread, a comb of the following construction was used. This implement has < long been discontinued, and a specimen of it is very rarely to be met with.

The implements of spinning, till within the last hundred years, were the distaff, the spindle, and whorle. These implements, which were remarkably simple, had been in use from the earliest periods of which we have any record. They are mentioned by Homer; and Solomon declares that a virtuous woman ‘seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands; she layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff/ St Catherine, in more recent times, was the patroness of the art of spinning; and its votaries, and the implements which they used, had the 7th of January set a^art to their honour, and hence called *St Distaff’s Day,1 or ‘Rock Day.’ An assemblage of young people for industrial purposes was, on this account, called a ‘Rockin.’ The readers of the poems of Robert Bums will recollect a reference to a meeting of this kind in the opening stanza of his first epistle to Lapraik. We quote from the original manuscript of this epistle, now in tbe possession ,of Adam Sim, Esq.:—

‘On Fasten e’en we had a rockin,
To caw the crack, and weave our stoken,
An’ there was meikle fun and jockin,
Ye need nae doubt;
At length we had a hearty yokin’
At sang about.’

In some districts of the country, the instruments of spinstry were borne in procession before a newly married bride. In an old work we find the following reference to this custom:—‘In olde tyme there was usually carried before the mayde, when she should be married, and come to dwell in hir husbandes house,—a distaffe, charged with fiaxe and a spyndle hanging at it, to the intent that she might be myndefull to lyve by hir labour.’

The whorles, which are commonly made of black stone, are found in abundance in the Biggar district. Like many of the early stone implements, they have had a certain superstitious veneration attached to them, and were ranked among the charms that had power over evil influences. Distaffs are now articles of great rarity. They were not merely composed of perishable material, but, when they were no longer applied to their original purpose, they were specially liable to

injury and destruction, from their shape, which readily suggested their conversion into another useful domestic utensil, viz., a parritch-stick. Distaffs and whorles were wont, in ancient times, to be highly ornamented, and many curious and valuable specimens are carefully preserved.

In a respectable family in tbe neighbourhood of Biggar, a finely carved distaff is still kept, and regarded as a family relic. The distaff, spindle, and whorle here engraved, were the property of one of the oldest families in the village of Coulter, and the initials of one of the members of the family are cut on the top of the distaff.

The yam, after being spun, was formed into hanks by means of a hand-reel, which is represented below with a portion of the yam upon it. When the winding of the thread was in progress, something like the following words were used:—

‘Thou’s no ane, but thou’s ane a' out;
Thou’8 no twae, but thou’s twae a’ out.’

The thread was not full till it had passed in a certain manner round the reel, and so many rounds formed the hesp or hank.

Thursday, ‘dies Jovis,’ is the day expressly mentioned in the original charter constituting Biggar a burgh of barony on which the weekly market of that town was to be held. We are, therefore, surprised to find, that when the General Assembly of the Scottish Kirk fixed on Saturday, the 26th of July 1645, to be observed as a solemn national fast, for the purpose of craving a blessing on the Parliament about to assemble at St Johnstone, and of giving thanks for the victory gained by Fairfax in Northamptonshire, the Presbytery of Biggar, in making arrangements for the fast, decided that, ‘ because Satterday is ye ordinar day of Biggar mercatt, it was recommended to ye baillies of Biggar to discharge ye mercatt for that day.’ Nay, in the charter of 1661, reconstituting Biggar and Kirkintulloch burghs of barony, it is stated that their market days were changed from Sunday to Saturday. However this may be, it is a fact, that the weekly market of Biggar, as well as its annual fairs, have, for a period beyond the memory of any man now living, been always held on Thursday. On market days the farmers, and other portions of the rural community, visit Biggar. Grain, meal, potatoes, and other agricultural produce are disposed of, the news of the district are discussed, the progress of rural labour on the different farms is reported, bank business is transacted, farming implements and household commodities are purchased, and the wants of the inner man are supplied by a due modicum of refreshments in the 'Crown,’ the ‘Commercial,’ or the 'Elphinstone Arms.’

The amount of business done at the fairs and markets of Biggar is considerable. It is, indeed, far beyond what any person who takes a cursory look at the town would suppose. No better proof of this can be given than the fact, that Biggar supports the branches of three different banks, the ‘Commercial,’ the ‘Royal,’ and the ‘National,* besides a Savings’ Bank. Some forty years ago the directors of an Edinburgh Bank applied to the late Mr Robert Johnston, Biggar, to obtain an opinion from him, if Biggar could support a branch of their bank. Mr Johnston supposed that he knew the trade of the district well; but, after all, he was so little aware of its wealth, and the traffic it carried on, that he gave his decision against the establishment of any such institution. The Savings Bank was established in 1832, and was attended with so much success, that the Directors of the Commercial Bank were satisfied that a branch of their establishment might also be opened with advantage. They immediately erected suitable premises, and the branch was opened in the end of 1832, under the management of the late Mr James Purdie. The present manager is Mr Thomas Paul, jun. A branch of the Western Bank of Scotland was opened on the 25th April 1840, and was conducted by Mr John Wyld till September 1848, by Messrs Wyld and Jackson till 1853, and by Mr David Thomson till the suspension of the Bank on the 9th November 1857. A branch of the Royal Bank was established in place of the Western, on the 28th November of that year, and has, to the present time, been conducted by Mr Thomson. A branch of the City of Glasgow Bank was opened in January 1857; and on the partial suspension of that Bank in November of that same year, the business was taken up by the National Bank of Scotland on the 1st of December following. The branch of the National is under the management of Mr Adam Pairman.

The Rev. John Christison, in his Statistical Account of the parish, makes the following statement regarding the retail trade of the town, f Some idea,’ says he, ‘may be formed of the retail trade of Biggar by the following quantities of excisable articles sold during the year ending 5th July 1835: 2608 gallons British spirits, 80 gallons brandy, 136 gallons ginger wine and other shrubs, 88 dozen of foreign wine, 2528 lbs. tea, 1876 lbs. tobacco and snuff.’ The quantity of these articles sold in the shops of Biggar, particularly tea, the annual sale of which exceeds 7000 lbs., is now, 1862, very considerably increased. This has been caused by the prosperous state of agriculture, and an increase in the number of wealthy families resident in the neighbourhood.

The inhabitants of Biggar devote themselves to all the industrial pursuits common in little towns. Its weavers, masons, joiners, shoemakers, And tailors very much predominate, in point of numbers, over the other tradesmen. About thirty years ago, according to the Statistical Account of Scotland, there were no fewer than 210 weavers in the town and parish. The webs, which consisted of stripes, checks, ginghams, druggets, etc., were supplied by manufacturing houses in Glasgow, through the medium of agents. One of the weavers’ agents at Biggar at that time, was Mr James Brown, who deserves to be specially noticed on account of his amiable manners, his Christian deportment, and poetic talents. He was bora at Iibberton, near Carnwath, on the 1st of July 1796. His father, who was miller of Iibberton Mill, was considerably advanced in years at the time of his birth, and died when he was only six years of age. His mother was Grizzel Anderson, a person held in esteem for her kind and amiable disposition. As soon as Mr Brown had acquired sufficient strength, he was apprenticed to a weaver, and after serving the usual period, he removed to Symington, and there wrought for a number of years as a journeyman. He devoted his leisure hours to the cultivation of his mind, or the enjoyment of solitary rambles on the adjacent uplands of the Castlehill and Tinto. He established a club for mutual improvement, which met periodically at his house. He wrote a number of poems and songs of considerable merit, which enjoyed some portion of local celebrity; but he obstinately refused to commit any of them to print In 1823, he obtained a situation in the wareroom of a manufacturer in Glasgow; but this employment not suiting his constitution, he was appointed agent of the firm in Biggar. Here he lived several years; but his health, never robust, gradually gave way. When he saw that the time of his departure was at hand, he desired to be taken to Symington, the scene of his early manhood, and there he died on the 12th September 1836. His manners were rather grave and austere, and his disposition retiring and reserved; but he possessed a kind and benevolent heart, and his belief in the truths of divine revelation was firm and sincere. Several of his productions were published for the first time, two or three years ago, in Rodger’s ‘Scottish Minstrelsy.’

The agents at Biggar also supplied webs to weavers at Symington, Thankerton, Covington, Quothquan, Newbigging, Elsrickle, etc.,—these places containing, perhaps, not less than 150 weavers. The number of webs received from Glasgow weekly, at least from 1824 to 1885, would average about eighty, and the amount of weekly payments would be about L.200. The rate of remuneration was highest in 1812, and a few years subsequently. The weaving of an ell of stripe, 1000 reed, was then paid as high as 8d.; but the rate at length began gradually to decline, so that the same fabric in 1840 was paid as low as 1d. per ell,—a rate at which it was scarcely possible to earn the scantiest subsistence. The supply of work, even at so low a rate, was very limited; and this induced some of the agents, and especially Mr Allan Whitfield, to exert themselves to introduce new fabrics. Their efforts met with partial success, and for some years a considerable amount of heavy work, consisting of cotton warp and woollen weft, was obtained The application of steam-power to weaving, and the erection of large weaving establishments in the west of Scotland, appear, however, to have had a permanently injurious effect on hand-loom weaving in such places as Biggar and its adjacent villages. While we write, 1862, the weaving trade in Biggar is in a most depressed state. The number of weavers in that town at present does not exceed 50, and these are by no means fully employed,—the number of webs from Glasgow being reduced to an average of ten weekly, and the aggregate amount of wages to L.15.

The other branches of industry in Biggar continue in a prosperous state. It is no small proof of the progressive character of the town, that it is now able to support a printing press. From this press issue trade circulars, announcements of sales, public meetings, etc., all conducive to the enterprise and prosperity of the district. The spirited proprietor of this press, Mr David Lockhart, in 1860, laid before the public the first volume ever printed in Biggar. It is entitled, ‘ Tales and Legends of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire.1 This volume contains no inconsiderable portion of Upper Ward history, interlarded, no doubt, with a large amount of fable. The style in which these 4 Tales’ are couched, and the industry of the author in ferreting out old traditions and incidents connected with the locality, are worthy of commendation ; but, upon the whole, the stories rather disappoint the hopes which they are calculated at first to raise. We hail them, nevertheless, with great cordiality, as the first intellectual fruits of the Biggar Press, to be followed, we trust, by many worthy and successful publications.

On the authority of an intelligent statistician, we give a list of the different occupations at Biggar, and the number of persons connected with each:—Weavers’ Agents, 4; Architects, 3; Auctioneer, 1; Bakers, 13; Bankers, 5; Beadles, 3; Besom-maker, 1; Bill-poster, 1; Bird-stuffer, 1; Boot and Shoemakers, 20; Builders, 3; Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer, 1; Carriers, 4; Chimney-sweepers, 2; China, Glass, and Earthen Ware Dealers, 7; Clergymen, 4; Cloggers, 2; Coach and Post Horse Hirers, 3; Coal Agents and Merchants, 2; Coffeehouse Keepers, 2; Contractors, 4; Coopers, 2; Dress and Straw Hat Makers, etc., 26; Druggists, 2; Fleshers, 4; Gardeners, 2; Gasfitters, 2; Glaziers, 3; Grocers, Tea and Spirit Merchants, and Ironmongers, 24; Gravediggers, 2; Horse Dealer, 1; Hawkers, 7; Inn and Hotel Keepers, 7; Jewellers, 2; Joiners, 12; Land-surveyors, 2; Last and Boot-tree Maker, 1; Letter Carrier, 1; Librarians, 5; Machine Makers and Millwrights, 4; Manufacturers, 2; Masons, 21; Midwife, 1; Millers, 2; Nailmakers, 9; Newspaper Agent, Stationer, and Printer, 1; Notary Public, 1; Nursery and Seedsman, 1; Painters, 2; Paper-hangers, 2; Pavement Merchants, 2; Perfumer, Barber, and Hair-dresser, 1; Physicians and Surgeons, 5; Plasterers, 2; Plumbers, 2; Porter and Ale Brewers, 3; Quarriers, 2; Saddlers and Harness-makers, 11; Sawyer, 1; Skinners, 3; Slaters, 4; Smiths, 11; Stationers, 2; Tailors, 24; Teachers, 3; Thatchers, 4; Turner, 1; Umbrella and Parasol Manufacturer, 1; Valuator, 1; Veterinary Surgeon, 1; Victuallers, 2 ; Watch and Clock Makers, 6; Weaver Utensil-makers, 2; Woollen and Linen Drapers, 16.

Biggar was long a depot for lead from the mines at Leadhills. These mines were wrought for some time by James IV. and James V. The latter monarch, at length, granted permission to a company of Germans to work the whole mines of Scotland for forty-three years. In January 1562, John Achisone, Master of the Mint, and John Aslowne, burgess in Edinburgh, obtained a license from Queen Mary ‘to wirk and wyn in the Leid Mynis of Glengoner and Wenlek, sa mekill leid ure as they may gudlie, and to transport and carie furt of this realme to Flanderis, or ony utheris pairtis beyond sey, 20,000 stane wecht of the said ure comptand sexskoir to ye hundreth trone wecht.’ These parties were to deliver to the Queen’s Mint at Edinburgh, forty-five ounces of pure silver for every 1000 stones of lead ore which they carried away. The lead which these persons dug, was conveyed on horses’ backs to Biggar, and thence to Leith, where it was shipped for Flanders. There the silver incorporated with the lead was extracted, by a process with which the Scots were at that time unacquainted. About thirty years afterwards, Thomas Fowlis, goldsmith, Edinburgh, obtained a lease of these lead mines, and assumed as partner a skilful and enterprising English miner named Bewis Buhner. In the records of the Privy Council, it is stated that the broken men of the Border were in the habit of assailing the servants of this mining company while employed in transporting the ore on the backs of horses, and depriving them of 4 their horses, armour, clothing, and hail carriage.’

After the use of carts became common, and the process of smelting the lead ore was carried on at Leadhills and Wanlockhead, the practice was to cart the lead in bars from these places, and deposit it at Biggar, where each mining company had an agent, and then convey it in the same way from Biggar to Leith, principally by carters from Edinburgh and Leith, who took what they called a 'rake of leed,’ when business was slack at home, or when they had occasion to be at Biggar or its neighbourhood with other loading. About the beginning of the present century, the number of bars that were annually deposited* at Biggar, on their way to Leith, ranged from 10^000 to 18,000. Each bar weighed about 120 lbs. Taking the medium number of bars to be 14,000, and each cart to carry 15 bars, upwards of 000 cart-loads of lead would thus each year, on an average, be conveyed to and from the <lep6t at Biggar.

The number of carts constantly coming and going in connection with this traffic, caused no small stir at Biggar, and brought a considerable amount of patronage to the houses of the stablers. The construction of the Caledonian Railway deprived Biggar of the advantages which it derived from this source, to removed the piles of lead bars which for a long period formed a marked featiure in the High Street of the little town.

Besides the transmission of lead, a considerable number of carriers from the south of Scotland passed every week through Biggar on their way to and from the metropolis. Biggar was one of their stages; and on certain nights of the week, ranges of well-laden carts, with a due portion of canine attendants, were to be seen on the street. Biggar, standing on the great highway from the south to Edinburgh, was visited by a constant succession of travellers on foot or horseback, in gig or chariot. Being the capital of a considerable district, extending from Tweedsmuir to Covington, and from Dolphinton to Crawford, its markets and marts of commerce were frequented by a considerable population, and thus its monotony was relieved, and its wealth increased. Biggar, neither in remote ages, with the exciting presence of its feudal barons, nor in more recent times, with its spirit, industry, and traffic, could therefore, with’ any fairness, be called a dull and lifeless community, or was so entirely 'cut off from the great world, and thrown upon its own solitary reading and reflection,’ as some persons have ventured to suppose.


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