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The Scottish Nation

FLAKEFIELD, a surname derived, under peculiar circumstances, from a place of that name in the southern division of the parish of East Killbride, and intimately associated with the rise and progress of a branch of the linen manufacture which has contributed to greatly to the prosperity of the city of Glasgow. The origin of the surname is thus described in a note to the article Kilbride (East) in the Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland, p. 100. Previous to the commencement of the eighteenth century, two young men of the name of Wilson, the one from Flakefield, and the other from the neighbourhood, proceeded to Glasgow, and there commenced business as merchants. The similarity of the name having occasioned frequent mistakes in the way of business, one of them, for the sake of distinguishing himself from the other, was designated by the cognomen of Flakefield, the place of his birth, and the real name soon became obsolete, both the man and his posterity being known by the surname of Flakefield, instead of Wilson. The original bearer of the new name put one of his sons to the weaving trade; but the lad, after having learned the business, enlisted about the year 1670, in the regiment of the Cameronians, and was afterwards draughted into the Scottish guards. During the wars he was sent to the Continent, where he procured a blue and white checked handkerchief, that had been woven in Germany; and at the time a thought struck Flakefield that should it be his good fortune to return to Glasgow, he would make the attempt to manufacture cloth of the same kind. Hi accordingly preserved with great care a fragment sufficient for his purpose; and on being disbanded in 1700, he returned to his native city, with a fixed resolution to accomplish his laudable design. A few spindles of yarn, fit for his purpose, was all that William Flakefield could at that time collect; the white was ill-bleached, and the blue not very dark, but they were nevertheless the best that could be found in Glasgow. About two dozen of handkerchiefs composed the first web, and when the half was woven he cut out the cloth, and took it to the merchants, who at that time traded in salmon, Scottish plaiding, Hollands, and other thick linens. They were pleased with the novelty of the blue and white stripes, and especially with the delicate texture of the cloth, which was thin set in comparison of the Hollands. The new adventurer asked no more for his web than the net price of the materials used, and the ordinary wages of his work; and as this was readily paid him he went home rejoicing that his attempt had not been unsuccessful. This dozen of handkerchiefs the first of the kind ever made in Britain was disposed of in a few hours; and fresh demands poured so rapidly in upon the exulting artist that the remaining half of his little web was bespoken before it was woven. More yarn was procured with all speed; several looms were immediately filled with handkerchiefs of the same pattern; and the demand increased in proportion to the quantity of cloth that was manufactured. The English merchants who resorted to Glasgow for thick linens were highly pleased with the new manufacture, and as they carried a few away with them, these rapidly sold, and the goods met with universal approbation. The number of looms daily increased, and in a few years Glasgow became celebrated for this branch of the linen trade. Variety in patterns and colours was soon introduced; the weavers in Paisley and the adjoining towns engaged in the business, and it soon became both lucrative and extensive. Manufactures having once obtained a footing in Glasgow, others of a more important kind were attracted to the spot. Checks were followed by the blanks or linen cloth for printing; to these were added the muslin, and finally the cotton trade, &c., which have elevated Glasgow to one of the proudest commercial and manufacturing cities in the world. It is painful to record, however, that neither William Flakefield, nor any of his descendants, ever received any reward or mark of approbation for the good services rendered by him, not only to Glasgow, but to the kingdom at large. Flakefield, however, having, during his service in the army, learned to beat the drum, was in his old age promoted to the office of town-drummer, in which situation he continued till his death.

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