DAVID LOCH’S TOUR IN SCOTLAND
IN 1778. By SIR ARTHUR
MITCHELL, K.C.B., M.D., LL.D., FOREIGN SECRETARY.
In 1778, that is, 119 years ago, David Loch wrote a book entitled— A Tour
through most of the Trading Towns and Villages of Scotland; containing
Notes and Observations concerning the Trade, Manufactures, Improvements,
&c., of these Towns and Villages.
Mr Loch made this tour, and wrote an account of it, at the instance of the
Hon. Board of Manufactures. No doubt he was chosen by the Board as a
competent and trustworthy observer. He made his tour with a special
object, that is, his observations were to lie in a particular direction.
Other books by Mr Loch show that this came easily to him, and that he was
well fitted for the task which he undertook.
Tours more or less of this character, made in Scotland during the last,
or early part of the present century, are somewhat numerous, and are often
full of interest and instruction. The tour by Tucker is the earliest and
perhaps the best; but there are several later tours having this special
character, which give much useful and curious information. Generally the
limitation is self imposed—is often, indeed, the outcome unconsciously of
personal tastes and aptitudes. Good observers, however, in some one
direction are usually found to observe well in other direction; and
records of travel by them have often much more than a special interest,
though the particular objects of such travellers may give the colour and
chief value to the story they tell. They desire to see certain things, and
they do see them, when they are to be seen, and their story is mainly a
record of these observations, though other things are also seen and
recorded. The story they write thus becomes an account of how the country,
which they travelled over, stood in regard to some particular matter at
the date of the visit, and so it becomes possible to compare that state
with the corresponding state at a later date, by which changes of much
interest may be disclosed. Mr Loch’s notes, for instance, concerning trade
and manufactures in the small towns and villages of Scotland in 1778
reveal many curious and important changes, which are not generally
He visited and made notes regarding 132 towns and villages, and I have
picked out 60 of these as the subject of the following remarks. I have not
exactly chosen the 60 smallest of the towns and villages, yet this is
nearly the case, and I might so describe them with a close approach to
accuracy. I leave out of consideration all the larger towns, such as
Edinburgh, Leith, Glasgow, Paisley, Greenock, Dundee, Montrose,
Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Aberdeen, Inverness, Hawick, etc. What Mr Loch
says about trade in these larger places shows that a marvellous change has
taken place in them, but my present object is to show the change which has
taken place in the small towns and villages. I also omit many small towns,
for the reason that Mr Loch has scarcely said anything about them.
He makes reference to Fortrose and Cromarty in Ross-shire, but no
reference at all to the towns of Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney, and
Shetland, nor to the towns and villages in the West Highlands and Islands.
Perth, Ayr, and Kilmarnock are perhaps the largest of the 60 towns and
villages which I have selected. I have not excluded them, because some
things about them are interesting, as, for instance, (1) that Perth, 119
years ago, had a silk manufactory, had 600 looms employed in making
silesias and sheeting, had a prosperous shoe-market, and had a trade in
gloves that was famous; (2) that Ayr had 260 looms, of which 60 were
employed in silk manufacture, while a few miles south of it there were
about 190 looms, 55 being "in the silk way"; and (3) that Kilmarnock had
426 looms, of which 240 were employed in weaving silk, and the rest in
making serges, shalloons, duffles, blankets, carpets, and linens, had also
a great manufactory of shoes all for export, carried on a thriving trade
in nightcaps with Holland, and sent its manufactures to all the ports then
open for trade. The lady who started the manufacture of woollens in
Kilmarnock in 1728——Miss Maria Gardiner, "half aunt to the unfortunate
Lord Kilmarnock "——was still alive when Loch made his tour, and we learn
from him that she brought spinners and weavers from Dalkeith to teach the
people of Kilmarnock. It would scarcely be to that town that one would go
now in search of instructors in the arts of spinning and weaving.
In first reading Mr Loch’s book, what most struck me was the change which
has occurred in the small towns of the North-East of Scotland. In every
one of these there was a considerable manufacture and trade in 1778. This
consisted chiefly in weaving and spinning. Elgin, for instance, had about
80 looms at work, Forres 40, Nairn 46, Fochabers 50, Keith 100, Huntly
200, Cullen 120, Portsoy 30, Cromarty 61, Fortrose 32, and so on.
In an appendix to these remarks I give a short note regarding each of the
60 towns and villages, as nearly as possible in Mr Loch’s own words. These
notes show that weaving was far from being the only trade occupation.
Spinning was, perhaps, a still more extensive employment, but it is not so
easy to indicate the extent of the spinning, as it is the extent of the
weaving—the latter being fairly measured by the number of looms employed.
In the whole of the 60 small towns and villages there were, in those times
of Home Industries, 5272 looms at work.
The materials used in weaving and spinning were wool, hemp, flax, silk,
and cotton. Wool appears to have been the material chiefly used—flax and
hemp following. But silk was also much used, as is shown by the fact that
in the small towns, with which I am dealing, there were 754 looms employed
in the manufacture of silk. Much of what was spun was sent south, largely
to Nottingham, as yarn or thread.
The fabrics and objects manufactured were very varied in their
character and designations. In these 60 towns and villages we hear of the
manufacture of osnaburgs, shalloons, serges, duffles, dowlas, silesias,
broad cloths, narrow cloths, blanket; plaids or mauds, carpets, flannels,
lastings, mancoes, calimancoes, nightcaps, stockings by hand and frame,
long lawn, diapers, damask, tykes, checks, plain linen, lunks, napkins,
gauze lawn (flowered and striped), sheeting, inkle, canvas, sacking (for
flour, bisquet, and hop bags, and for tarpaulin), tapes, silk stocking;
silk knee-garters, mitts, breeches pieces, sewing thread, lace, hats,
boots and shoe; nails, spades, soap, candles, and pottery.
These things were not made solely for home consumption. On the contrary,
it is stated that to a very large extent they were exported to Glasgow,
London, Nottingham, Darlington, Ireland, Holland, the West Indies,
Halifax, Quebec, etc. Silk and flax were largely imported, and wool also
to a considerable extent.
An interesting old-world picture is presented by the account of the daily
waggons arriving at Selkirk with combed wool from Darlington, Manchester,
Halifax, and Durham, and being loaded for the return journey with yarn
spun by the people of the little Scottish town. This tells of an extensive
business largely done in the homes of the people. We know, indeed, that it
was very extensive, for we are told by Loch that "the number of people
employed in the different branches of the woollen manufactory, in and
about Haddington, was upwards of 800."
It is interesting to find Cromarty in 1778 with a large manufacture of
sacking, to be spread nearly over the whole kingdom; but it is still more
interesting to find that it had thriving naileries and spade manufactures.
Naileries existed in some of the other small towns, as, for instance, in
Pathhead, while spades and other implements for country use were
extensively made at Sanquhar—"equal to any in Britain."
The lace-making at Renfrew and Hamilton seems to have been on a
considerable scale. At Renfrew it is described as being after the manner
of Mechlin and Brussels. It was carried on by a Mrs Pettau, whose husband
was an early teacher of the art of making flue thread, in a district which
has since become very famous for the thread it produces.
The dead-meat trade at Dalkeith was very extensive in 1778— 100,000 sheep
and 2000 black cattle, on an average, being slaughtered there annually.
It is curious to find a trade in silk stockings and in shoes for the
London market in a little town as far north as Huntly, and we also find
that fine silk knee-garters and mitts were made there, as well as gauze
and lawn—flowered and striped.
Boots and shoes seem to have been made for export in many of the little
towns, as, for instance, in Keith, Huntly, Peterhead, Dunse, Lanark,
Forfar, Perth, and Kilmarnock.
The people of Gullane, Loch says, spin good yarn, and "are roused to
industry by Mr and Mrs Cochran who are resident," but rabbits formed their
chief export. The water, he says, "is soft and good," which raises a
question as to the source of the supply at that time, since in our day it
is notably hard.
The trade carried on in all these little towns and villages, 119 years
ago, is now carried on in our large centres of population. These large
cities or towns have grown vastly in population, and their manufactures
and trade of all kinds have increased even more vastly. On the other hand,
manufacturing, and trade that is not local, have all but ceased in the
little villages. This does not, however, involve their showing a
diminished population. Most of them, in fact, show an increase, though the
increase is very small as compared with that which has taken place in the
large towns. This means that there are, in the small towns and villages of
the North-East of Scotland, for example, to which reference has been made,
more people now than there were in 1778, and they live without the aid of
local industries, and do so, I hope, with greater ease, in more comfort,
and in healthier surroundings. This may or may not be correct, but the
thing that is certainly correct is that, within what may properly he
called a short time, great changes have gradually and silently taken place
in these communities, that these changes are already forgotten, and that
they would probably be quite unknown were it not for some such chance
record as that which we have been considering. It would be futile, I
think, to ask whether there is in these changes a going forward or a going
back. What has happened is in no sense the work of a mysterious evolution,
though it probably exhibits the operation of that law of natural
selection, in which everyone believes, and which tends to the survival of
the strongest. In other words, the small home industries of the small
towns appear to have been killed by competition with the large industries
of the great towns.
EXTRACTS FROM MR LOCH'S TOUR
1. ELGIN.—Eighty looms are "employed in summer on the linen, and in winter
on woolen." "Here are about £15,000 sterling’s worth of yarn sold at
London and Glasgow annually."
2. FORRES.—"There is a deal of yarn spun here for sale. Here are about 40
looms, partly for woolen, and partly for linen. The Glasgow market is
their chief place of sale. There is about £20,000 sterling’s worth of yarn
spun here in one year from Dutch flax."
3. NAIRN.—"There are about 46 looms employed partly on woolen and linen."
4. FOCHABERS. —"About 50 looms employed on piece-work, woollen and linen."
"There is very good thread made here for stockings, most of which goes to
5. KEITH.—"There is a great deal spun here. About 100 looms are employed
in the long lawn way, woolen and coarse linen" "Much is done in the
manufacturing of shoes."
6. HUNTLY.—"There are about 200 looms employed mostly on the long lawns,
and fine linen diapers, and woolen." "About £50,000 sterling’s wort is
annually spun and manufactured here; taking all branches into the
account." "Many shoes are made for sale, which are sent to London."
"William and Alexander Forsyth make good silk stockings, from the coarse
silk, which meets with ready sale. They make from the finest silk,
knee-garters, mitts, and breeches-pieces. Mr Burnet manufactures
brown-thread for the Nottingham market. Mr M’Vey manufactures plain linen,
damask, diaper, and gauze lawn, flowered and striped. George Junken
manufactures plain lawns, twisted, striped, and flowered."
7. CULLEN.—"About 120 looms are employed mostly in coarse linen and long
lawns." "Robert Taylor has 8 frames in the stocking way."
8. Poarsoy.—"Here are about 30 looms on lone lawns, linen, and piece work,
and a considerable thread manufactory for stocking-making, all of which go
to Nottingham." "Mrs Mary Robertson makes sewing-thread, and employs 6
looms on gauze and flowered-lawns." "The importation of flax is
considerable, about 4000 matts being annually brought from Holland to
supply the manufactures at Huntly and the country round."
9. BANFF.—"Here is a very extensive manufacture carried on in the thread
way, for stocking-making, white and brown, almost the whole of which goes
to Nottingham." "George Robertson & Co. make thread to the amount of
£40,000 sterling annually. They keep about 50 flax-dressers, import about
3500 rnatts of Dutch flax annually, pay about £70 sterling a day to
spinners and all the different workpeople in that line." "Here are 28
looms employed in piece goods in the woolen and linen way."
10. PETERHEAD.—"Messrs James and Thomas Arbuthnots, junior, and Company
carry on a considerable manufacture of coarse thin woolen stuffs, serges,
calimancoes, shalloons, etc., to the amount of £50 sterling a-week."
"Shoes are likewise made here for exportation. Messrs Kilgours, at Nether
Kinmundie, manufacture, at an average weekly, 33 pieces of woolen cloth,
of 26 yards each; they may amount in value to about £60 sterling."
11. ELLON.—"Here much is done in the knitting of stockings. About £100
sterling per week is paid by the Aberdeen merchants for this article
alone." "Four looms are employed."
12. CROMARTY.—"A large manufacture for making sacking of the best kind,
for flour sacks, and such other uses." "Here are 61 looms employed all in
making from hemp yarn (for they use no flax) sacking of different fabrics
for flour bags, bisquet bags, wool sacks, hop bags, hammock stuff, and
tarpaulin stuff, and coarse stuffs for packages of every kind." "Here are
two naileries and spade manufactures and both are very well employed."
13. FORTROSE.—"Here there is a deal of linen yarn spun for sale; there are
32 looms employed, about half in the coarse woolen and linen."
14. PERTH.----"A silk manufactory is here established by Mr Gloag, a
sedate, sensible, enterprising man." "The skinners and glovers here are
famous in their several branches of business." "The shoe-market or
manufactory is in a prosperous way." "There are about 600 looms; the half
of which is at present employed in silesias; the other in weaving
sheeting, linen and woolen."
15. DUNKELD.—"There are at present about 100 looms employed on the woolen
and linen branches, and a great deal of yarn spun, great part of which
goes to London unmanufactured." "Here are three tanneries, and a
considerable quantity of shoes are made, for which they have a brisk
16. SELKIRK.—"William Roger employs 8 large looms in the inkle
manufacture, and has a great demand for that commodity. He makes broad and
narrow tapes." "It is a thriving manufacture, and receives great
encouragement from England." "There come down to this place considerable
quantities of combed wool from Darlington, Manchester, Halifax, and
Durham, daily by waggons, which is spun into yarn, and returned by the
same conveyance. The sum paid weekly for spinning this wool may be about
17. PEEBLES.—"Fifty looms employed weaving camblets, shaboons, and such
sort of goods." "Here there are 40 looms employed, mostly in the blankets,
stuffs, coarse cloths, and duffics."
18. DUNSE.—"There are at present 80 looms employed in the winter on the
woolen, and in the summer on the linen manufactures." "There are about 300
pairs of shoes made here weekly for the Edinburgh and Glasgow markets."
19. KELS0.—"Here there are 70 looms employed in the woolen and linen."
"The weavers here make 70 yards of flannel in two weeks on 2 looms
occupied by a man and a boy." "They bring drest flax from Darlington and
other places in Yorkshire, to be spun, then return it by land carriage to
20. JEDBURGH.—"Here there are 56 looms."
21. DRYBURGH.—"There are 11 looms all in the woolen business."
22. MELROSE.—"Here there are about 140 looms—mostly in the woolen."
23. M0FFAT.—"Thomas, John, and Adam Reids at Moffat give an account of a
particular kind of goods, made at this place, which are sold on the
English side, and the demand is so great that it cannot be answered."
"They also manufacture plaids or mauds, and blankets to a great extent, of
which article they made 3000 yards last year. There is another article
they manufacture, called checked serge. It is made into hunting coats, a
light garb for summer wear, and answers very well for children’s cloathes.
They also make lastings, mancoes, flannels, and serges, which are mostly
exported into Holland." "Here are about 50 looms all in the woolen
branches. Serges, shalloons, duffles, blankets, coarse cloths of all
24. DALKEITH.—" The wool brought into Dalkeith in the year 1776 is about
7200 stones, tron weight, value £3240 sterling; of which there is exported
about 6500 stones; so that there remains about 700 stones of said wool to
be manufactured in Dalkeith and its neighbourhood, which is chiefly made
into broadcloths, from 4s. to 14s. per yard; narrow cloths from 1s. 6d. to
6s. per yard; the amount of the value of the whole manufactured woollen
goods is computed to be about £3000 annually. Their chief markets are
Edinburgh and Glasgow, and some to the north and south." "There are
carpets made here of different patterns and pieces." "There are
slaughtered in Dalkeith, at a medium, in one year, 100,000 sheep and lambs
and about 2000 black cattle." "George Hislop, hat maker here, is a
considerable dealer, and makes excellent goods."
25. HADDINGTON.—In 1776 "about 5000 stones of wool, tron weight,
manufactured in Haddington and its neighbourhood, value £2500, chiefly
made into broad cloths, narrow cloths, and blankets." "The value of the
goods, made in and about this place, is computed to about £5000 sterling
annually." "The number of people supposed to be employed in different
branches of the woolen manufactory, in and about Haddington, is reckoned
to be upwards of 800."
26. DUNBAR.—"Mrs Robert Fall employs many people in the spinning of wool,
and in manufacturing it into carpets and other goods." "Sixty looms to
manufacture canvas of all sorts."
27. FALKIRK.—"There are about 120 looms here."
28. LINLITHGOW.—"Messrs Henry Gilfillan & Co. manufacture about 1000
stones (of wool) into carpets annually, sold mostly abroad." "About 48
looms employed in different branches of the woolen manufactory, and 8
looms in the carpet manufactory. There are 9 frames for stocking-makers."
29. KIRKLISTON.—"Alexander Fleming carries on a considerable linen
manufactory, and employs about 20 looms."
30. STIRLING.—"This town has long carried on a very extensive trade, in
manufacturing shalloons and serges, Highland plaids, and carpets," for
which last "demands are great at home, as well as from England, Ireland,
and Holland." "Here are about 160 looms, 30 stocking frames, and 17 carpet
31. CULROSS.—"There are here about 35 looms employed in the linen and
32. PATHHEAD.—"The manufacture of nails is carried on here to a great
extent." "Here there are about 195 looms employed in manufacturing checks,
tykes, napkins, and plain linen, all much in demand."
33. DYSART.—"There are about 130 looms."
34. COLLINGSBURGH.—"There are about 8 looms; a great deal of yarn is spun
in and about this village."
35. KILC0NQUHAR.—"About 30 looms are employed in piece work."
36. ST M0NANCE.—"There are 20 looms, all employed."
37. PITTENWEEM.—"Here there are about 20 looms, and spinning is carried on
38. E. & W. ANSTRUTHER.—"There are about 36 looms in both towns." "A
considerable thread manufactory is carried on. Their thread is much
approved of—all coloured threads."
39. CRAIL.—"A great deal of yarn is spun." "Seventy-four looms in this
town and Kingsbarns "—" mostly in the linen way and osnaburgs."
40. ST ANDREWS.—"Here are about 42 looms, just now all well employed,
mostly in plain coarse linens."
41. AUCHTERMUCHTY.—"A good deal of coarse yarn is spun here; about 80
looms; a constant sale of coarse linens, about 30 pieces a day, 35 inches
wide, and 80 yards long."
42. STRATHMIGLOW.—"There are about 33 looms employed." "A considerable
quantity of ounce threads for the London market, frequently to the amount
of 9000 spyndles in one year?’
43. KINROSS—"About 140 looms employed, partly in thin silesias and partly
in brown linens."
44. SOUTH-FERRY.—"There are about 20 looms—mostly in the linen way."
"There are hard soap and candles made, of good quality."
45. ATHELSTANEFORD.—"David Stewart has 6 looms well employed. He weaves
table linen, raised and plain, equal to any in this country." "There are 6
looms more, much in the same line."
46. PRESTONPANS, AND P0RT-SETON.—"Two potteries—employ above 100 people.
They make all sorts of the stone and flint kinds, both white and yellow,
as is made at Stafford, as good in quality and full as good for the
money." "Here are 20 looms."
47. CARNWATH.—"Thirteen looms." "Napkins are made here, low priced for
48. LANARK.—"Here there is a considerable manufacture of shoes and boots,
mostly for the Glasgow market." "About 120 people employed in this
branch." "Ninety-three looms, mostly in the brown linen way." "There is
likewise a thread manufactory, for making white threads."
49. HAMILTON.—"There are about 110 looms, chiefly employed in working
lunks, that is, linen warp and cotton waft." "The lace manufactory goes on
with success and spirit."
50. RUTHERGLEN.—"Here there are about 130 looms, mostly in the check and
long lawn way."
51. RENFREW.—" Mrs Pettau carries on a lace manufactory, after the manner
of Mechlin and Brussels in Flanders." "Sixty looms are employed in the
silk way, and 40 in long lawns and plain linen."
52. WHITBURN AND BATHGATE.—" There are 27 looms employed." "About the same
number of looms at Bathgate."
53. KILMARNOCK.—"240 looms are employed in weaving silk; 66 in the carpet
way; 40 in the linen branches; 30 for blankets; 30 for serges and
shalloons; and 20 for duffles." "There are 6 frames for making stockings."
"Kilmarnock nightcaps are a good article for the Holland market." "A great
quantity of shoes are manufactured here, all for export." They send their
goods to "the West Indies, Halifax, Quebec, and all the ports that are at
present open fur trade." "The woolen manufacture was introduced by Miss
Maria Gardiner (half aunt to the unfortunate Lord Kilmarnock), who,
observing the indolence of the people of that place, brought spinners and
weavers of carpets from Dalkeith about the year 1728. From that time the
woolen manufacture has been carried to a considerable extent: the lady is
still alive" (1778).
54. IRVINE.—"There are 10 frames for stockings, 45 linen looms, and 40
looms in the silk way."
55. KILWINNING.—"There are at present 99 looms employed in silk, 40 in
linen and woolen.
56. SALTCOATS.—"There are 200 looms employed in the silk manufacture, in
and about this place, and about 40 looms in the linen branch."
57. AYR.—Looms for woollen and linen are about 200, "and those employed in
silk are about 60." "A few miles south of Ayr there are 55 looms in the
silk way." "There are here about 190 looms, with 15 stocking frames."
58. SANQUHAR.——"There are about 30 looms, all employed in the woolen way."
"Here are 5 frames in the stocking way." "A tilt mill is erected here for
making spades, and all such implements for country use, in the iron way,
equal to any in Britain."
59. DUMFRIES.—"There are 21 looms now employed in the linen branch, 2
making carpets, and 30 frames in manufacturing stockings."
60. GULLANE.—"Spin good yarn." People "roused to industry by Mr and Mrs
Cochran, who are resident." The water is "soft and good." Rabbits form the