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The Social and Industrial history of Scotland, from the Union to the present time
Nineteenth Century: 6. Secondary Industries


Modern chemistry has become an essential of many industries. It has not only revealed the marvellous substances and forces inherent in solids, liquids, and gases, but has shown how they can be practically utilised in connection with a large number of industries besides that specifically termed chemical. In this wider sense it should be regarded as a primary industry. But as a specific industry it is not so extensively carried on in Scotland as any of the foregoing and may, therefore, comparatively be treated as a secondary one.

In the narrower sense, it was introduced at Glasgow towards the end of the eighteenth century by Mr Charles Macintosh, who began the manufacture of sugar of lead and chloride of lime, and also of waterproof cloths. In the first year of the nineteenth Messrs Tennant, Knox & Co. originated the factory at St Rollox for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, chloride of lime, soda, soap, etc., which prospered into one of the most extensive chemical works in the world, whose monster chimney, 435^ feet high, is one of the prominent landmarks of the city. These works now form part of the great combination known as the United Alkali Company of Britain, and the more recent works of the Eglinton Chemical Company and the Irvine Chemical Company are also included in this combination. Its chief products are sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, salt cake, bleaching powder. Formerly the alkali works produced large quantities of soda ash (carbonate of soda) and caustic soda by the Leblanc process. In 1876, for instance, about 50,000 tons of common salt were converted in Scotland into these substances. This process was gradually displaced by the Ammonia Soda process, which, however, is now confined to England, and the Scottish works at Glasgow, Irvine, Kirkintilloch, and other places are devoted to

the manufacture of acids of various kinds, as well as sulphitae. Epsom and other salts, sulphates, borax, phosphates, etc.

Ammonia is obtained mainly as a bye-product of other industries, such as gasworks, paraffin oil works, works for the recovery of blast furnace gases, and in recent years the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia has been extensively developed from these sources. "Among the first to take up the subject of the recovery of tar and ammonia from blast furnaces," says Mr Jones in a paper dealing with the origin of the industry in the Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute for 1885, "was Mr William Ferrie, of the Monkland Ironworks. . . . This important problem was (also) taken up in 1879 by Mr John Alexander and Mr A. K. M'Cosh, of the firm of William Baird & Co., and the condensation ideas or principles have been handled by them in a most masterly fashion. The first large scrubber was erected by them at Gartsherrie in 1881, and the second in 1883. Almost simultaneously the subject was attacked by other ironmasters, notably by the Messrs Neilson of the Summerlee Ironworks, and the Messrs Addie of Langloan. . . . Mention should also be made of the names of Mr Henry Aitken, Mr J. Chapman, and Mr Gorman. ... At the Gartsherrie Ironworks, Coatbridge, and the Lugar Ironworks and Muirkirk Ironworks, Ayrshire, the Messrs Baird have erected gigantic plant for carrying out the above principle (the Alexander and M'Cosh process). They have in fact been the pioneers of this industry, and the extraordinary amount of courage and ability which they have shown in finally bringing things to a complete practical success is worthy of the highest admiration."

Fifteen years later the industry had made substantial progress. "In 1885," says Mr Henry Bumby writing in the same journal for 1901, " the recovery of tar and ammonia from the blast furnace was an infant industry just emerging from the region of small scale experiment. At the present time, with one exception, every works in Scotland either has a complete byproduct plant or is erecting one, and all the earlier plants have been considerably enlarged and improved. ... In designing these improvements no one has done more than Mr A. Gillespie, of Glasgow, and the three by-product works recently erected to his designs are admittedly the 'show' plants of the country. . . . The amount of sulphate of ammonia recovered at the different works varies from 20 to 25 lbs per ton of coal used in the furnaces, and the pitch and oil from 150 to 200 lbs.—the variations depending largely on the nature of the coal used."

The progress of the industry may be measured from the fact that during the decade 1889-99 the number of tons annually produced rose from about 40,000 tons in the former year to nearly 73,000 in the latter. In the same period the number of works in which sulphate of ammonia was made increased from 51 to 63. Its value as a manure accounts in part for the growing demand represented by these figures.

The manufacture of dichromates of potassium and sodium, so largely used in the preparation of pigments, such as chrome yellow, has also been carried on in Glasgow for nearly a century. The cyanide process of gold extraction adopted in 1888-89 gave a great impulse to the production of potassium cyanide, which was previously used mainly in photography and electro-plating. The Cassel Gold Extracting Company, the owners of the patents for the new process, built a factory in Glasgow to meet the increasing demand for this salt, and large quantities were made and exported to the Transvaal and other gold producing countries. The Company acquired the exclusive right to use the process devised in 1890 by Mr Beilby, who became one of its directors and its scientific expert, and built an additional factory at Glasgow. The manufacture of ferro-cyanide, which is recovered from crude coal gas, displaced that of alum in the works of the Hurlet and Campsie Alum Company at Lennoxtown, Falkirk, and Hurlet, the supply of alum shale, which had long been the staple manufacture at Campsie, having become exhausted about 1880.

The distillation of wood yields acetic acid, methyl alcohol, acetone, wood tar, and other chemical products, and these products are manufactured at Camlachie Chemical Works, the Cart-vale Chemical Works, Paisley, and elsewhere. Coal tar and blast furnace tar are distilled into naphtha, light oil, creosote oil, heavy oil, and by the end of the nineteenth century the number of tar distilling works in Scotland had increased to 46. From naphtha and light oil, benzine, which is largely used in the manufacture of aniline, and from creosote, carbolic acid, antiseptics, and sheep dips are produced.

The discovery of nitro-glycerine by Sobrero in 1846 was utilised some years later by Alfred Nobel as a liquid explosive in mining. Its defects and dangers as an explosive led to the prohibition of its manufacture in Great Britain, but after further experiments Nobel succeeded in overcoming these drawbacks by the invention of dynamite, the manufacture of which was taken up by Nobel's Explosives Company at Ardeer in Ayrshire. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Company grew into a vast concern. In 1876 its operations were confined to the production of dynamite, nitric acid, and detonators; since then it has added the manufacture of blasting gelatine and its modifications, gelatine dynamite and gelignite, ballistite or smokeless powder and its modification, cordite, picric acid for lyddite, guncotton for cordite, compressed guncotton for torpedo charges, shells, military and naval guns, armour piercing projectiles, etc. Besides Ardeer it possesses three other factories in Scotland—two near Polmont and one at Linlithgow, and the growth of its operations may be gauged from the fact that its scientific staff increased from 5 in 1876 to 53 in 1900, and the number of its workmen from 102 to over 4000.

Compressed and liquified gases are manufactured by the Scottish and Irish Oxygen Company established at Polmadie in 1888. Compressed oxygen is used for the lime light, for brazing and. lead burning, for respiration in case of asphyxia, and in diseases of the lungs and heart. Another product, compressed carbon dioxide, is applied in refrigeration and in the preparation of aerated waters. The production of iodine from kelp, imported from the Hebrides, Ireland, and Norway, showed a marked decrease during the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1846 there were 20 factories in the West of Scotland; in 1900 the number had fallen to 4, which were situated at Falkirk, Clydebank, Kilwinning, and Bonnybridge. The fall in the value of potash salts, in consequence of the working of the deposits at Stanfurt in Germany, and the growing importation of Peruvian iodine were chiefly responsible for this decline.

In Edinburgh several firms devote themselves to the manufacture of fine chemicals. Naturally in the city, which has long been the seat of one of the greatest medical schools of the world, medical chemicals occupy a foremost place. Among these chloroform, which Sir James Simpson was the first practically to apply, is largely produced. Other important products are morphine, caffeine, cocaine, theobromine, strychnine, salicin, capsicin, podophyllin. Surgical dressings, chemical manures (super-phosphates), and fertilisers (fish manures) are also manufactured in considerable quantities. The manufacture of vulcanite and other rubber goods is extensively carried on, whilst gelatine and glue are manufactured at Gorgie and Cramond. Medical chemicals in great variety and fertilisers (including basic slag) are also produced at Glasgow, whilst Paisley takes the lead in the production of starches.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century a marked development took place in the manufacture of paints and colours and the preparation of varnishes. Coal tar dyes came to be largely used in the making of colours; liquid paints, enamels, prepared distemper colours and stains were introduced, and the quality of paints improved with the improvement of grinding machinery. Colours which were formerly rare became more widely available in consequence of the new processes which lowered their price. A similar development is observable during the same period in the soap and glycerine manufacture. Whilst formerly tallow was almost the only fat used in soap making, the use of vegetable and nut oils resulted in the production of a superior quality of soap (quick lathering or self-washing soaps). Another important advance has been the recovery, by means of a simple process, of glycerine as a bye-product of soap works, which is now manufactured in the two forms of crude glycerine, and chemically pure glycerine—the last being mainly used for medical and pharmaceutical purposes.

The dyeing industry received a great impulse from the production from coal tar by Mr W. N. Perkin of a violet colouring matter to which the name of mauve was given. Mr Perkin carried out his experiments in the dyeworks of Messrs Pullar at Perth. A great demand sprang up for this dye until it was superseded by a new violet of a brighter colour. Many other aniline colours followed, all produced from coal tar, and the Perth works of Messrs Pullar and Messrs Campbell were successively enlarged to cope with the demand of this rapidly increasing industry. Perth, with its railway facilities and its abundant water supply from the Tay, was admirably fitted to become the arena of the enterprise of the Pullars and the Campbells, which furnished employment to several thousands of workers. The Perth dyeworks are mainly devoted to job-dyeing which embraces every kind of garment, household requisites from lamp shades to carpets, boots, gloves, etc. Dyeing is a process which requires considerable chemical knowledge and great care in the use of the various acids and alkalis on the part of the worker. Fibres belonging to the vegetable kingdom (cotton, flax, hemp, jute, etc.) have to be treated differently from fibres belonging to the animal kingdom (wool, silks, etc.) On the former acids act injuriously, while alkalis have the same effect on the latter.

"A dye house," says a writer in the Bankers Magazine, in describing the process as carried out in these works, " is divided into sections, each controlled by a foreman, and in each of these sections a separate colour is, generally speaking, dyed. It is quite remarkable how perfectly the dyer strikes the exact shade for each of the innumerable patterns put into his hands. ... It is first of all immersed with other goods for the same colour, and which have been similarly prepared, in a great vat, in which the' necessary dyestuff has been dissolved, and the goods are kept constantly on the move for at least an hour and a half. They are then taken out, washed up, if necessary, and the water extracted from them in a hydro-extractor, from where they are conveyed to the stoves for drying thoroughly. From thence they pass through the hands of the examiners, who, if they find all correct, pass them to the finishers, who iron, press, or calendar the goods, according to what they are, and they are then sent to the warehouse for dispatch to the customer."

The technical training in bleaching and dyeing m Scotland was greatly benefitted by the grant of 10,000 made in 1907 by the Trustees of Mr T. Graham Young, to assist in making provision for the teaching of this subject in connection with the Chair of Technical Chemistry in the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College.

The manufacture of dyes received a great impulse from the interruption of the import from Germany caused by the war. Before 1914 the Germans had acquired a well-deserved supremacy in the production of aniline dyes, and even the strong prejudice against everything German which the war evoked could not contest this supremacy. The German has been quick to apply scientific results and methods to industry, and this is specially apparent in the chemical industry in general and the dye industry in particular. The British Chemical Mission to Germany after the war has frankly recognised the fact, and nothing but harm can result from the fanatic tendency inspired in prejudiced minds by national passion, masquerading in the guise of patriotism, to ignore or belittle it. "Whilst," to quote the summary of the report of the Mission, "preeminent as manufacturers of the so-called heavy chemicals—sulphuric acid, soda, soap, etc.—we hold but a minor position as regards the manufacture of fine chemicals, intermediates and dye stuffs; in particular we have failed to hold and extend the dyestuff industry, although this industry was originated here." At the same time the war quickened the scientific resource as well as the energy of the nation, and one result of the war pressure was a marked advance in the home manufacture of dyestuffs. "Before the war," said the Chairman of the Bradford Dyers' Association at the annual meeting of the Association on the 27th February, 1920, " not 10 per cent, of the aniline dyes used in the United Kingdom were made in this country, and the total weight manufactured would not exceed 2,000 tons a year. We have it on the authority of the Board of Trade Journal of the 5th instant, that the production is now 25,000 tons a year, which is more than 20 per cent, in excess of the total weight of aniline dyes consumed in this country in the years immediately before the war, and I think it may be safely said that the progress made by the colour-making industry since 1914 has been greater than those having real knowledge of the difficulties and the problems involved would have thought possible ... It is true we have not the variety, and that we lack some of the best colours, but, on the other hand, it is beyond question or doubt that in the supply of dyes we in this country are in a much better position than any other country in the world, not excluding Germany." It should be noted, however, that this optimistic conclusion is not altogether shared by the Chemical and Dyestuff Traders' Association, which in a recent memorandum to the Board of Trade (October, 1920) pointed out that the policy of making the United Kingdom independent of external supplies of chemicals and dyestuffs had not been successful in securing either the range, quality, or quantity of the materials supplied by State-aided home enterprise.

Sugar refining made great progress during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century. Greenock became the centre of the industry, which was also started in Glasgow, Port-Glasgow, Leith, and Dundee. In 1812 there were 5 refineries at Greenock; in 1860 the number had increased to 16. There were three at Glasgow, two at Leith, and one at Port-Glasgow. The growth of the industry, from about the middle of the century, is apparent from the rapid rise of the tonnage of raw sugar refined in the Clyde works. In 1857 the number of tons imported was 38,836; in 1862 it passed the 100,000, and in 1867 it stood at 178,013. During the last quarter of the century it showed a marked tendency to decrease. In 1875 the number of refineries in operation at Greenock h^d fallen to 13, whilst those at Glasgow and Port-Glasgow ceased operations. In 1900 the number had fallen to 5. The decrease was not due to lack of enterprise on the part of the manufacturers, but in the main to the bounties granted to foreign refiners who were thereby enabled to sell at a cheaper rate in the British market. The consequence was that whilst the consumption of refined sugar in Great Britain increased from 860,000 tons in 1875, of which all but 100,000 was produced in this country, to 1,489,000 in 1900, nearly one million of this latter quantity was imported from abroad, chiefly from the Continent, and the quantity refined in Britain had dropped by 150,000 tons. The refining process, generally described, consists in the dissolution of the raw sugar in water, the filtration of the liquid first through cotton cloth and then through charcoal, and its concentration into sugar crystals. Various appliances have been invented in the course of the century whereby the various stages of the process have been improved.

Great progress has been made in the production of sweets and the preserving of fruits, meat, and vegetables. Confectionery is largely made in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee. Dundee long took the lead in the manufacture of jams, of which Mr James Keiller was the pioneer in the first half of the nineteenth century. The proximity to the orchards of the Carse of Gowrie explains this early predominance in jam making, to which Mr Keiller ere long added the making of marmalade. The demand for this preserve spread from Dundee to other parts of Scotland and ere long to England and ultimately to foreign lands. The success of the enterprise led to the extension of the industry, not only in Dundee and the adjacent region (Coupar-Angus, New-tyle, and Blairgowrie), but to other centres in Scotland. Fruit preserving led too to a great development of fruit growing in districts suitable for fruit culture, notably in Clydesdale, the Strathearn and Blairgowrie districts of Perthshire, and parts of Stirlingshire. Crieff, Carluke, Glasgow, Edinburgh, as well as Dundee, acquired prominence in the preserving industry, which includes the production of jams and jellies made from a variety of imported as well as home grown fruits.

The centre of the meat preserving industry in Scotland is Aberdeen, where it was introduced by Mr John Moir in 1822 and whence it was extended to Peterhead, Glasgow, and Leith. Nine establishments for preserving provisions were in operation in Scotland about fifty years later, five of which belonged to Aberdeen. In addition to these five there were three engaged in salting meat, and the total output of preserved meat, fish, game, vegetables, etc., from these Aberdeen factories was valued at 221,000 per annum.

Papermaking, already of considerable extent towards the end of the eighteenth century, made rapid progress in the first half of the nineteenth. This progress was accelerated by the repeal of the duty on paper in 1861. The twelve mills in the Edinburgh district in 1773 had increased to twenty-two in 1868 and the total for Scotland in the latter year was fifty-seven. The villages on the Esk and the Water of Leith are still the centre of the industry, which is also carried on at Airdrie, Caldercruix, Paisley, Milngavie, on Tayside at Guard Bridge and Dundee, at Aberdeen, and elsewhere. Rags were long the raw material of the manufacture, and it was not till past the middle of the nineteenth century that esparto grass and wood pulp were utilised. Machinery for reducing the raw material to pulp was invented in Holland about the middle of the eighteenth century and ere long superseded the more primitive method of pounding the fermented rags in large mortars. Many years elapsed, however, before Mr Robert produced a machine for converting the pulp into paper in place of the old tedious manual process. This machine was improved by the Messrs Bertram of Edinburgh, and the machine exhibited by Mr George Bertram in the exhibition of 1862 was adjudged to be incomparably the best hitherto constructed. Further improvements in the machinery for preparing the pulp and producing the finished article have been made, and at Edinburgh several engineering firms are now employed in the production of this machinery.

Edinburgh and district have also long had extensive milling, baking, and brewing industries. There are large flour mills at Haymarket, Stockbridge, and Leith, and the biscuit factories are also a special feature of the city's industrial products. The fact that Midlothian has long been a rich agricultural county and takes first place among the Scottish comities in the production of wheat and barley, though only fifth in that of oats, explains the rise of the milling industry. Its development has, however, depended on the large importation of grain into Leith, which alone suffices to meet the demand of the millers. The extensive brewing industry is due to the supply of water of a specially appropriate quality derived from the strata of the Upper Old Red Sandstone on the southern side of the city and at Duddingston, where quite a cluster of breweries has sprung up in recent years. Brewing is also extensively carried on in the Wellpark Brewery at Glasgow, whose establishment dates from the middle of the eighteenth century, and a speciality of the production in the west is Tennent's Lager and Munich Beers. Breweries are numerous throughout the country, but the tendency during the last twenty years has been to diminish the number of the smaller ones. The small brewery can no longer compete with the large one. In Scotland the number in 1899 was 129; in 1912 it had fallen to 79. In the same period the production fell from 240 million barrels per annum to about 200 millions. The export from Scotland was 136,000 barrels in 1912, or 7 per cent, of the total production.

There has been a marked advance in the distilling of whisky since the middle of the eighteenth century, when about 50,000 bolls of barley produced 504,000 gallons, which at a duty of 7d. per gallon yielded 14,700 revenue. In 1911 the production in the United Kingdom had reached 27,093,197 gallons, which at 14s. 9d. per gallon yielded close on 20 millions of revenue. In 1786 the first distillery was established at Glasgow—the fourth licensed in Scotland. The increased taxation on malt gave rise to smuggling and the illicit still was in operation all over the Highlands. In 1823 there were no less than 1400 prosecutions for such contraventions of the law. Sixty years later the number had fallen to 22 in consequence not only of the enforcement of the law, but of the lowering of the spirit duties. The whisky distilled is of two kinds—malt and grain—according to the method of distilling, and a blend of both is sold. The increase of 3s. 9d. in the duty per gallon in 1909 affected the production and consumption to a considerable extent and lessened the number of distilleries at work, which fell from 159 in 1900 to 124 in 1910. Eighty-eight of these were situated in the counties of Banff and Elgin, Argyle and Inverness. In 1912 the export from the United Kingdom was about 10 million gallons.

The glassmaking industry is carried on at Edinburgh and Glasgow. Whilst in the earlier part of the nineteenth century only bottle glass and flint glass, or crystal, were made in Scotland, the manufacture of plate or fine mirror glass and other varieties was gradually introduced. Though the name flint glass is still in use for crystal, flint has long been superseded by a fine white sand obtained from the forest of Fontainebleau. The industry was much hampered by the heavy excise duties levied on glass, which up to 1845 were 56s. per cwt. for flint glass and 7s. for bottle. With the repeal of these duties in this year it i materially increased and the value of glass exported from Scotland, which was 62,140 in 1S61, had risen to 106,555 in 1867. Table ware formed the bulk of the articles produced and there was comparatively little competition for the British trade from abroad. But cheaper labour and superior facilities in the production of table ware in France, Germany, and Sweden seriously affected the British manufacture during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Continental workmen, moreover, more readily adopted labour saving appliances than their British fellows, and where these have been introduced the latter have not shown a disposition to take full advantage of them. The Holyrood glass works, which were started by Mr Ford about the beginning of the century, maintained a high reputation throughout it. They have, however, recently ceased to exist, but the industry is still carried on by the Messrs Jenkinson at the Norton Park Glass Works, whilst Messrs Millar & Co. developed a far-famed speciality in glass engraving and ornamentation. More recently glass engraving has been largely superseded by etching by means of hydro-fluoric acid, and many improvements in the machines used in the process have been introduced. Mr Ballantine was a pioneer in another branch of the industry—that of glass painting—and was selected by the Fine Arts Commission to execute the windows for the House of Lords. The firm has produced many of the finest specimens of stained glass in Scottish churches and other public buildings. Glasgow has also excelled in the various branches of the industry, especially in the production of all kinds of globes and shades for gas lights, duplex lamps, and electric light. The bevelling and silvering of plate glass are also extensively carried on in the city.

The first pottery in Scotland was established at Glasgow about the middle of the eighteenth century. Later in the century Mr Jamieson discovered a rich bed of clay at Portobello and started a brickwork and pottery, around which grew the village—the nucleus of the widely-known modern watering place. In the beginning of the nineteenth the Verreville Pottery was founded at Glasgow and before the middle of it two more—the Glasgow and the Britannic Potteries—had come into existence. By the year 1868 the number in Scotland was 14, employing fully 5,000 persons. The materials used in the manufacture -of aarthenware are imported from the south of England and consist of clays from Dorset and Devonshire, china clay and Cornish stone from Cornwall, and flints from the chalk cliffs, which after being rolled about in the Channel are thrown up on the French coast near Dieppe and exported to this country in large quantities. These ingredients are mixed in varying proportions according to the ware to be made and reduced by grinding to a thick cream. The mixture then passes through sieves, which retain the sand or grit, and this is thereafter pumped into presses lined with cloth, which retain the clay whilst allowing the water to exude. It is then put through the pug mill—an iron cylinder about 5 feet long, in the centre of which is a shaft with knives attached in spiral fashion—from which the clay emerges thoroughly solidified and of the same consistency. The introduction of the pug mill has greatly lightened the potter's labour in the preparation of the clay, and machinery has in many of the largest potteries done away with the potter's wheel itself, though there are still many articles which can only be made by hand. After being shaped in moulds, according to the article to be made, the clay undergoes the firing or burning process in the "biscuit" kiln. The decoration of the ware is ordinarily done in the " biscuit " state. The designs are first engraved on copper plates, from which they are printed on tissue paper which is applied to the ware and the colour rubbed firmly into the pores. It then undergoes the glazing process, which is completed in the glost kiln. Besides ordinary and ornamental ware a large quantity of sanitary ware is manufactured in the Glasgow potteries, whose output finds an extensive market in America and the Colonies. Stoneware, fire bricks, and building bricks are also extensively manufactured at Garnkirk, Glenboig, Portobello, and other places.


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