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The History of Sanquhar
Chapter X.—Industries

I. Agriculture

AGRICULTURE had, up to the commencement of the reign of Geo. III. in 1760, made little or no progress in Scotland. The cultivators of the soil  We were content to pursue the rude methods of husbandry that had been in vogue for centuries, but the pioneers of an improved system were now beginning to appear. Wight, an intelligent farmer at Ormiston, was engaged by the Commissioners for managing the annexed estates, the extensive estates, that is, which were forfeited to the Crown through the treason of their owners in connection with the rising of ’45, to enquire into the agricultural condition of North Britain and report. His exhaustive report was published in six octavo volumes, and in his preface he remarks—“ While the bulk of our farmers are creeping in the beaten path of miserable husbandry, without knowing better, or even wishing to know better, several men of genius, shaking off the fetters of custom, have traced out new paths for themselves, and have been successful, even beyond expectation ; but their success has hitherto produced but few imitators; so far from it, that among their slovenly neighbours the improvers are reckoned giddy-headed projectors.” This is precisely the attitude taken up even yet by the great bulk of farmers towards every improvement or innovation on the part of the more intelligent and enterprising of their class. We can recall, for example, the deeply-rooted prejudice that prevailed at first against the use of artificial and chemical manures, when these were used for the production of root crops, which now play so important a part in the agriculture of this district, enabling the tenants of arable farms to keep an increased stock of cattle, and bring their surplus stock into a condition fit for the market, while they serve, by providing food for hill-stocks in an emergency of storm during winter, to prevent the recurrence of those disastrous losses which in former times were frequently suffered on purely pastoral farms. The introduction, too, of the reaping and mowing machines was laughed at as a method of reaping crops which might do on smooth level holm land, but which would be found utterly impracticable in such a district as Upper Nithsdale, where the bulk of the land is so uneven on the top; and yet, in spite of the obstinacy of ignorance, on a good harvest day the merry ring of the reaper can be heard in all directions. Necessity, it is true, helped to overcome the stubbornness of farmers—a necessity due to the depopulation of the rural districts, which is accounted for towards the close of Chapter VIII.

The publication of eight volumes of Agricultural Reports by these Commissioners did infinite service to a country that was throwing off its indolence, and shewing some activity. The good work was helped by the establishment in 1784 of “The Highland Society,” now the “Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland,” by which country gentlemen had their attention first turned to the improvement of their own estates; and by its keen interest in all that pertains to agriculture and the improvement of stock, has done, and is doing, an incalculable benefit to not merely the farming class, but to the whole country. Parliament, too, vigorously concurred, by the making of roads in almost every county. From a Parliamentary report of 1821 we learn, that there had been constructed 1200 miles of roads and 1200 bridges, the large sum of £500,000 having been spent on these works.

Further, banking, which had been a monopoly in the hands of the Bank of Scotland, was now extended by the establish-inent, in 1727, of the Royal Bank, and in 1747 of the British Linen Company, originally intended as a manufacturing concern, as its name imports; but, the manufacturing business proving unprofitable, it was changed into a banking company. The first country bank, the Aberdeen Bank, appeared in 174.9, and was followed by one at Ayr in 1763, and another at Dumfries in 1767; but the benefits of these institutions were long delayed, through the refusal of the people to receive the notes of the banks. However, this distrust was in time overcome, and the people gradually awoke to see to what advantage the system of banking could be turned. The total circulation in Scotland, which in 1707 amounted to £920,000 in all, had increased in 1819 to £3,400,000.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Duke of Queensberry was active in the improvement of both Nithsdale and Annandale. Wight, in his report, says—“The good this nobleman has done would fill a volume to relate. At his own expense he opened a communication from Thornhill to Ayrshire, by a great road two and twenty miles long, through a hilly country by Sanquhar, where coal and lime abound. With coal Dumfries town was formerly supplied from England, and the country with lime. Now all is got much cheaper from Sanquhar; encouraging leases are given to the tenants on the Buccleuch estates ; lime is afforded them gratis, as also sometimes grass seeds, and premiums for turnips.” This illustrious improver, as Chalmers designates him, Duke Charles, died in 1778, at the age of eighty. In addition to the main road referred to, which cost the Duke £1500, he also constructed a road to Whitecleuch lime works at a cost of £300, and the road to Wanlockhead at a cost of £600. The lime referred to as abounding at Sanquhar was on Auchengruith farm, where traces of the old works are still visible.

The valley of the Nith in the upper part being rather narrow, there is no great amount of holm land, hence we find that attempts were made to extend the area of cultivation.

The traces of the plough can, therefore, be discerned at the very base of the mountains on each hand, and in some instances well up their sloping sides. There were two reasons to account for this—First, that the crops grown along the bank of the river, at a time when the draining of land had not commenced, were very subject to mildew from the damp fogs which lay along the lower lands; and, again, these were the days of Protection, when the country had to rely on its own resources for food supplies. The consequence was that after a bad harvest there was great scarcity, and bread-stuffs reached almost to famine prices. As a result, therefore, of the adoption of a free trade policy, and the consequent reduction of prices, it was found that the crops grown on these uplands, even when they were not in late seasons rendered unfit for human food, could no longer be grown profitably, and the lands naturally reverted to the purpose of pasturage, for which nature manifestly designed them.

Besides, the raising of straw for fodder was a greater necessity in those days, when there were no green crops. It was not till the beginning of the present century that turnips were grown in this locality. The system was first introduced from the lower parts of the county. Farmers were in a difficulty to obtain the necessary manure. Even then the value of bones, which form the basis of many of the best kinds of artificial manures, was understood, and every place where they had been accustomed to bury dead animals, such as horses and cows, was ransacked to obtain the bones, which were chopped up in the rudest fashion with axes and hammers.

William, the last of the Drumlanrig Douglases, knowing that, through the failure of the male line of his family, the dukedom would at his death pass to Henry, the third Duke of Buccleuch, the heir in right of his grandmother, towards whom he bore no good-will, resolved to do what he could to diminish the value of the estates to his successor. They being strictly entailed, he was not at liberty under the law to mortgage or burden them in the ordinary way, but he hit on what lie probably considered an ingenious expedient to accomplish his end. The farms were let on leases of a definite duration at a yearly rent, representing their annual value, which rent was the whole obligation of the tenant to his landlord, the usual system prevailing at the present day. For this he substituted another, according to which the farmer paid a slump sum down as entry money, which, of course, went into the Duke’s pocket, whereupon he was granted a nineteen years’ lease at a very nominal rent, and on each year’s rent being paid, the nineteen years’ lease was renewed as at that date, so as to secure that, die when he might, his successor should be made to suffer so far as he could make him. The farms were put up for sale at Edinburgh, and the transactions, though manifestly a barefaced evasion of the law, were carried through. An enormous sum was thus realised. On his death, in 1810, he was succeeded, as has been said, by Henry, the third Duke of Buccleuch, who was then a minor, but the management of his Queensberry estates was placed in the hands of a capable chamberlain, the well-known Major Crichton, who continued in office from 1811 to 1843. The legality of the transactions above referred to was challenged, and it was soon ascertained that they were not in conformity with the law of Scotland, and steps were at once taken to put. an end to the arrangements under which the various tenants held their farms. This was what was called among the people of the district “the breaking of the tacks,” and marked a new era in the agriculture of Upper Nithsdale.

The area in cultivation for corn being so much greater then than it is now, the harvest was the great carnival of the year in country districts. The reaping was done by the hook, and on the larger farms there were bands of reapers of from ten to twenty in number, the produce in some cases amounting to five tons of meal. Turnips were at first thinned by the hand, and, when that operation was subsequently done with the hoe by women, who came from the lower end of the county, it excited great interest among the country folks, whose first impression was, when they saw the young plants so roughly knocked about, that the crop would be ruined; but experience soon taught them that, so far from that being the case, the crop throve quite as well afterwards, as if it had been thinned by the hand, and the new system was rapidly adopted as more expeditious than the old. This was during the second decade of the present century. Plots of lint were cultivated on most farms. It was ripe before the corn, and was pulled by the hand. When the crop was late the fibre was coarse, and it was described as “mair tow than lint.” It was tied in sheaves with bands of “spret,” and put up in stooks in the field, whence, after it had stood for a few days, it was taken and plunged into a stagnant pool, being overlaid with boards and weights to keep it under water. This was called the process of “souring.” Having lain for ten days or a fortnight, according to the temperature of the atmosphere, it was taken out and spread in thin rows on dry ground. It was then gathered into big bundles, and sent to the lint mill. These lint mills were scattered over the country, at wide intervals. There was not one in Upper Nithsdale, and the bulk of the lint was sent to Dunscore. The process at the lint mill was the separation of the tow from the lint, and the people employed at these mills were called “hecklers.” The tow and lint were sent home in separate bundles. The lint was spun on the wee wheel, which was driven with the foot. This, with the spinning of woollen yarn on the big wheel, was the principal employment of the women in the winter evenings. The finer qualities were woven into linen for napery, and the commoner sorts into shirting, by linen weavers who worked hand-looms in their own homes. The good housewives took a great pride in the quantity and quality of their napery, and also in their stock of blankets—in having, in short, what was called a bien house.

About the end of the last and the beginning of the present century it was that the draining of the land commenced. These drains were not tile, but stone drains, for there were no tiles then. They were cut about three feet deep, and filled up to within 15 or 18 inches from the surface with stones, those gathered off the land during cultivation being used for this purpose. Stones were also quarried for the same end, and rough gravel carted from the river bed was likewise used. Drains of this kind if carefully done were found most efficient, and some, constructed 60 or 70 years ago, are quite good yet. Another description of drain was cut very narrow at the bottom with a ledge or shoulder on each side, on which the top turf or sod was placed with the green side down, thus forming a tunnel along which the water was carried off. These were called sod drains, and were the kind used in the lower lands under cultivation, but on the hills the drains were then as now—open. Draining of the first-named kind was necessarily a slow and expensive operation, and, unless very carefully done, did not in many cases prove a success. For this reason no great progress was for a time made. The invention of the draining tile, however, and the opening of communication by railway, which effected an improvement in the general trade of the country, gave a fresh stimulus to farmers, and, from 1859 onwards, immense tracts have been rescued from a state of nature and brought into cultivation.

When the use of lime was conjoined with draining wonderful results were produced. The whole land was, in a sense, virgin soil, and when it had been relieved of its excess of moisture aud warmed with a liberal dose of lime, the most abundant crops were produced, and, what was of importance in so high a locality, harvest was reached earlier than formerly. The system became almost universal, and the interval of the summer between seed-time and harvest was largely occupied in carting lime from Corsancone and Close-burn, the back road over Corsancone being still termed the “Lime Road,” though it was in a very different condition then, and many mishaps occurred with the lime carts when the wheels went into a hole. The system of liming was, however, attempted to be carried too far. On its application a second time on the same soil, after an interval of years, the results were disappointing.

In some respects they were worse than disappointing ; they were disastrous. In 1835 and following years, land, which had been limed and cropped year after year in succession, became so loose that it was picked up with the grass and eaten by the sheep, the consequence being rot on a large scale, the third, and, in some instances, the half of an entire stock perishing. The great bulk of the land is pastoral, and many of the farms are large, the rents of several ranging from £500 to £1000, that of Clenries (the ancient Cog) even exceeding the latter sum.

A sudden and rapid rise in the price of agricultural produce took place about forty years ago. It began in 1852 with cheese. In that year, cheese, the normal price of which was 7s per stone of 24 pounds, went up to 14s and 15s, and was re-sold by dealers in some instances at no less than a guinea per stone, or 10|d per lb. wholesale. This extraordinary rise was attributable to the large exports to Australia in connection with the newly-discovered gold fields, and to the activity of the iron and coal industries, following on the opening up of the country by the railways, which were being rapidly extended. It next came the turn of the stock farmers. In 1863, in consequence of the American Civil War, and the resulting scarcity of cotton, wool was greatly enhanced in value, and prices went up with a bound. In 1864, Cheviot washed brought 2s Id to 2s 2d per lb.; blackfaced, unwashed, Is 2d per lb. A corresponding upward movement took place later in the price of sheep, for which there sprang up an enormous demand, owing to the ravages of the cattle plague, by which sheep were not affected. Hill lambs, which had in preceding years averaged, for blackfaced 10s, and for Cheviots 13s 6d, were bought freely at the Sanquhar July market of 1872 at £15 to £17 10s, and from £21 to £23 respectively per score; while wool, which had in the interval fallen to about one-half, again returned to the high level of 1864. The year 1872, therefore, marked the flood tide of the prosperity of stock farmers. These prosperous times continued for several years, but were followed by a period of deep depression, aggravated by severe winters, from which agriculturists are, however, again recovering, the winters being open, and prices, although subject to considerable fluctuations, continuing fairly good.

Such an era of astounding prosperity stimulated the energy and enterprise of what was a naturally shrewd and intelligent body of farmers, and furnished them with abundance of capital. Some, no doubt, were content to hoard up their rapidly amassed wealth, but, generally speaking, a great advance was noticeable in the treatment of the land and the methods of husbandry; while increasing attention was given to the improvement of the breed of cattle, sheep, and horses. On the farms not entirely pastoral, dairy farming is very generally practised, together with the raising of cattle. Originally we find that the cattle in Nithsdale were Galloways, but in process of time the Ayrshire breed acquired a great reputation for milk-producing qualities, and, Sanquhar lying within easy reach of Ayrshire, the Galloways were soon displaced by their more picturesque rivals. Greater attention, as has been said, was given to cattle breeding, and now several of the Duke of Buccleuch’s tenants in Upper Nithsdale stand in the very front rank as breeders both of cattle and sheep. A remarkable improvement is likewise observable in the quality of the horses used for agriculture. These are of the Clydesdale breed, which of late years has attained a great popularity both at home and abroad. Farmers, who are frequently accused of being lacking in the power of cooperation, have at all events combined to some purpose in this direction, by the establishment of an Ayrshire Herd Book and a Clydesdale Stud Book, and by the promotion of agricultural shows, in which the Highland and Agricultural Society worthily takes the lead. The effect of these measures has been, that the cattle of all kinds to be seen on our farms are of an altogether different stamp to what they were in former days. A most profitable trade has been done of late years with buyers from foreign countries and the British Colonies in both cattle and horses. These buyers, bent on the improvement of the native breeds or the introduction of a totally new breed, do not hesitate to give long prices for animals of an approved stamp and of good pedigree, so that not only are almost fabulous prices obtained for individual animals but rates all round have been raised and kept at a higher standard.

In the outburst of energy and enterprise which followed on the great tide of prosperity above mentioned, the tenants on the Queensberry estates were encouraged and aided by their landlord—the late “good Duke,”—who died on April 16, 1884, to the great grief of the whole people on his vast estates. He was worthily represented at this time by his chamberlain the late J. Gilchrist-Clark, Esq. of Speddoch, under whose administration most extensive improvements were made upon the estate. Liberal encouragement was given in the draining of the land, and the farm steadings were improved and equipped in such a complete manner as to excite the envy of farmers from all quarters ; so that at that time, both in respect of the reasonable rents, the splendid accommodation for both man and beast, and the liberal encouragement given in every possible way, the Duke’s tenants came to be regarded as the very aristocracy of Scottish farmers.

As an example of the high quality of the cattle of all kinds on the farms of some of the more enterprising tenants, it may be stated, that, at the displenishing sale of one of this stamp held recently, the sum realised amounted to no less than ten years’ rent of the holding.

II. Mining.

Sanquhar is one of the two places in Dumfriesshire where coal is to be found, the other being Canonbie, near Langholm. The Sanquhar field appears from the map of the geological survey to be in all probability a continuation of the greater Ayrshire field, and reaches from Hall in the west of Kirkconnel parish to a point on the farm of Ryehill, a little east of Sanquhar, where it finally crops out. The total area of the Sanquhar coal-field is nearly 30 square miles. It cannot be definitely fixed when the working of the coal at Sanquhar first began, but it certainly has been conducted for a very lengthened period of time. Reference will be found in the chapter on the Crichton family in connection with Sanquhar Castle to the fact that the lime in the walls bears indubitable proof that coal had been worked in the parish at the time of its building. That carries us back for a period of seven hundred years. Additional proof is forthcoming in the writings of Sir Walter Scott, no mean authority on all such matters of history, for in “ Guy Mannering,” the story of which is laid in the eighteenth century, Dandie Dinmont, observing the repugnance of Bertram to commit himself to Mrs M'Guffog’s sheets, agreed that he had good reason, for said he, “ this bed looks as if a’ the colliers in Sanquhar had been in’t thegither.”

The surface of the ground in the district being of an undulating character, and upthrows and downthrows being an unfortunate characteristic of the field, the coal reveals its presence iu many quarters. It is frequently to be found not far from the surface, and consequently runs out on the face of a cliff or brae. The first attempts at mining were naturally of the simplest and most primitive kind, consisting of a drift or level carried in where the coal thus shewed itself. By this opening, the miners obtained access to the coal, and through it the mineral was drawn out and the water drained off. Iu truth, it was the only opening into the workings. Exam-pies of this method of mining, as it was formerly practised, are to be seen in various directions. A level of this description, called among miners here an “ingaun-e’e,” is to be seen at Brandleys, the coals there being probably sought after for the burning of the lime on Auchengruith, to which reference is made by Chalmers, in “Caledonia,” as having been at that time the principal source of supply of lime for Upper Nithsdale. It is likewise a tradition that, when the burning of lime first began at Corsancone, the kilns were supplied with coal obtained by the same method of working at Lagrae Burn, two miles west of Kirkconnel.

A level has also been driven in from below the old Sanquhar Castle, and further west, at the upper end of the Braeheads, close to the site of the old bridge, for reaching the coal in the ground between the town and the river. In process of time, and through the greater demand for, and consequently increased value of coal, more systematic means were adopted for working it. The proprietors on the north-east side of the town, concluding that the same seam that had been found on the south side extended uuder their properties, commenced to exploit, and the ground lying between the town and the common-land is dotted all over with the traces of disused shafts, each with its heap of debris greater or less. But the visions of wealth which rose in the minds of the many small proprietors who owned this land were doomed to disappointment. The vagaries of the coal here are of a most tantalising character. No sooner was the seam reached, and operations begun with the fairest of prospects, than a hitch occurred, and the coal was lost, or else water was encountered, and the workings were speedily flooded. In most cases, these pits were owned by persons who had no practical knowledge of mining ; in truth, mining engineering was then in its infancy, and they were utterly helpless in the presence of such difficulties. Nor, though they had been gifted with the requisite knowledge, did they possess the necessary capital. Besides, it is clear from what is now known of the character of the seam in this locality that a large outlay of capital would not have been justified. The seam at its best was a poor one, not being over three feet in thickness, and full of steps or hitches. The dreams of wealth which filled the brains of proprietors and exploiters alike proved nothing but dreams, and the result was that these numerous attempts did more to empty than to fill their pockets.

The connection of the Town Council with coal mining will be found described in the municipal chapter. As will be seen therein, a lease of the coal in that portion of the Common lying contiguous to Crawick was granted by the Town Council to Mr M‘Nab of The Holm, and a considerable revenue was derived from this source for a few years, but the workable coal was speedily exhausted, and further operations proving unremunerative, owing to the causes mentioned, they were ultimately abandoned. Of the coal worked by M‘Nab, it is said, in the “Statistical Account,” that “in the seam under the bed of the river, and to some distance on each side, there were thousands of bodies resembling fishes of different kinds, and varying in size, having heads, tails, fins, and scales, lying in all different ways.” These, of course are specimens of the fossilized remains of animals so frequently found in the coal measures. “ Impressions of shells, and of several vegetable substances, are met with, both in the coals and in the metals lying above it.”

Professor Jameson, at page 89 of his “Mineralogy of Dumfriesshire,” says “that a little above Crawick Bridge there are examples of columnar glance coal, which in some places is seen passing into graphite or black lead.”

Better results had been meanwhile obtained, however, in the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, further west, and nearer to Ayrshire. The Duke of Buccleuch granted a lease of the minerals in his lands to the late Mr Barker, Whitehill, by whom operations were carried on in various quarters. He sunk shafts on the lands of Heuksland, which His Grace acquired at the division of the town lands in 1830. and on Lawers Braes, above Crawick Mill, the lease of which the Duke acquired at M'Nab’s death. He worked also at Quarrylands, above Whitehill, at the Libry Moor, and at Damhead, on Knockenjig. At the last-named place, where a pit was sunk, he put on pumps to draw the water from the workings. These pumps were worked by a water-wheel, which in turn was driven by water from the river Nith. The adage that water like fire is a good servant, but a bad master, received abundant illustration here, for, in time of flood, the dam-head, raised to divert the water into the required course, was carried away three times. As often as this occurred, as often was the damage made good ; but the danger which was to prove fatal to the whole undertaking lurked in another and quite a different quarter. One day an old miner, by name James Lachlison, when engaged at work, struck the fatal stroke, the result of which was that an immense flood of water poured into the workings, and ultimately filled the shaft up to the very mouth. This put an effectual stop to all proceedings; the river was left to work its sweet will on the damhead, which it in course of time swept away, and the wide open drain, by which the water, after passing over the wheel, was restored to the river, became the course by which the water overflowing from the pit mouth found its way to the same destination. A singular occurrence took place many years afterwards when the Misses Whigham, who had then become the Duke’s mineral tenants, were sinking the first shaft at Gateside. An old man, David Muir, who resided at Damhead, reported to the manager one morning that his well, which was supplied by this water, was going dry. The manager was alarmed, the gravest fears being entertained that at Gateside they had tapped this same underground water-course, and that similarly disastrous results might ensue as had already been experienced at Damhead. Capital, however, was available, and engineering resources were greater then than in the olden time. Larger pumps were substituted, and greater steam-power provided, the result being that the water was effectually kept in cheek. The manager’s conjecture proved correct, for from that time the workings at Damhead were gradually drained dry, and have so remained ever since.

Prior to the sinking of the first Gateside pit, the coal had been worked at Drumbuie, on the opposite side of the river, for 20 or 30 years, by a day level. So accessible was the coal here, that the cutting of this drift by which it was reached cost only the trifling sum of £5. The seam was only twelve feet below the surface, and the level relieved the whole workings of water. On Drumbuie Holm, lying nearer the river, a pit was subsequently sunk, and an engine provided, in order to catch the same seam which here was thrown down by a step. Several pits had likewise been sunk on the same side of the river at Burnfoot, and these were worked by a Mining Company from Wanlockhead.

The sinking of the first pit on Gateside, already referred to, took place in 184*8, after careful borings had been made. The coal is of a good household type, and consists of one seam of three feet in thickness, lying twenty fathoms from the surface, and another of three feet seven inches, six fathoms lower. The natural dip of the coal in the Sanquhar field is towards the north-east. When this pit was sunk, the Glasgow and South-Western Railway was in process of construction. The railway was opened in 1850. This marked a new era in the coal trade, by the facilities of transit which were thus provided. Before this period a large trade was done in the surrounding district, particularly towards the south, carts having actually come from Lochmaben, Dumfries, and even further down the country. At the pits the coal was sold at 5s per ton, and to meet the demand, C. G. Stuart-Menteath, Esq. of Closeburn, kept at Sanquhar a depot for coal, which he brought in considerable quantity in waggons from his estate of Mansfield, in the parish of New Cumnock, a distance of about eleven miles. The average quantity sold annually at Sanquhar at that time (1841) was about 16,000 tons. This coal traffic was continuous throughout the year, unless at those exceptional times during the winter when the roads were blocked with snow, and, as can readily be understood, contributed not a little to the trade of the town of Sanquhar. The long distances from which many of these carts came caused an over-night rest to be taken, the practice being to leave their homes early in the morning, load at the pit, and draw the coals to Sanquhar, where alone accommodation could be obtained, and there remain till next morning, when the homeward journey was resumed. This trade, though considerable throughout the year, was largely increased at a certain period of the summer. In the interval between the planting of potatoes and the hay-harvest, or between the hay and grain harvests, when there was a lull in out-door farm work, the opportunity was taken by farmers to make repeated journeys to the “coal-heugh,” and lay in a stock of fuel sufficient to carry them through the winter. Further, the volume of trade was increased still more at this season by the carting of smithy coals. It was an old-established custom for country blacksmiths to lay in a whole years supply of coals at this season, and each farmer was expected to assist in carting the supply of coals for the smithy where he got his work done. In those days the country blacksmith’s trade was greater than it is now : the area of cultivation was wider on many farms, more horses had to be kept, and this increased the work of the blacksmith. The quantity of coals, therefore, consumed in some of these country smithies was very considerable, amounting in some instances to forty carts a year. "The occasion, when this addition was made to the daily traffic of the coal-carts, made quite a stir in the old town, which was almost taken possession of. The carts were drawn up in line on each side of the street, and have been known to stretch in a double line from the Town Hall to the Corseburn, which would have formed a single line nearly half-a-mile in length. In another chapter attention is directed to the predatory habits in early times of the tribes who inhabited this border county—habits which were not readily reformed, but were transmitted to their descendants. The presence of this long array of coal-carts at their very doors offered the opportunity of convenient plunder which was too tempting to be resisted. The journey made by these coal-carts being in many cases a long one, the loads were made as large as the capacity of the cart would admit of, and so it was the practice, when the box of the cart was full, to put what are called “setters,” consisting of large lumps of coal laid round the edge of the cart, which kept the smaller coals piled up on the top from rolling off. The same method is employed in loading railway waggons, and is called “trimming.” It was upon the setters, then, that the covetous eyes of these midnight prowlers were cast, and frequently the carts were stripped in a disgraceful manner.

The pit at Gateside was at a little distance on the upper side of the railway, and the coals for transit by rail were run down an incline to the waggons, the loaded hutches drawing the empty ones back. Some years afterwards a new shaft was sunk, a few hundred yards east, and quite close to the railway, the coal being now loaded from the pit bank direct into the waggons. The site of this shaft being in a hollow near Gateside Cleuch, the two seams of coal were found each six fathoms nearer the surface. This pit is still in operation, and affords a good supply of household coal.

Of late years, however, the Gateside seam has shewn signs of being worked out, and boring operations were commenced by Mr M'Connel, the present lessee, between the Bankhead and Gateside pits. The result was highly successful, and proved the presence of a seam of house coal at a little over twenty fathoms, and another of fine splint. Successive bores were put down to prove the extent of the field, and these seams were found to stretch all over the low lands along the north bank of the river. It was thereupon resolved to sink a new shaft at Gateside, close to the railway, and only a little distance east of the present pit, fitted with the best and most modern engineering plant. The first sod was cut in March last, and sinking has gone on day and night since that time, the expectation being that the work will finish in October. The first seam is twenty-six fathoms down, and consists of three feet of house coal of a better quality than any ever previously worked in the Sanquhar district; and at fifty-eight fathoms, there lies the splendid five feet seam of splint coal of the same excellent quality as Bankhead. A powerful winding-engine, of the horizontal coupled pattern, has been erected, and also a compound horizontal tandem-geared pumping engine, capable of raising over one and a half million gallons of water every twenty-four hours.

In the pit already mentioned as having been put down at Drumbuie holm, the coal was found at eleven fathoms, and for years proved productive, but the supply became exhausted. The old river-course referred to in the geological survey was encountered, and the coal there appeared to have been washed away. Boring was then commenced on the opposite side of the river Nith on the farm of Bankhead, in the hope of recovering touch with the same seam. The search was successful; the coal was reached at 33 fathoms, and a shaft was immediately sunk close to the railway. This was in the year 1857. The seam is four feet six inches thick, and is exceptionally fine splint. Its value as a steam-coal, for which the demand was year by year rapidly increasing, owing to the extended use of steam in various forms of industry as well as in the continually enlarging railway system of the country, was early recognised, and a good trade sprang up from various quarters.

A great impetus was given to the trade of this colliery in 1872 co-incident with the improvement of the railway service between England and Scotland, when quick trains were put on the road. Locomotives of an improved description were constructed, designed to do the journey between London and Scotland in a much shorter period of time than hitherto, and further, the system of express trains was being more and more introduced on all railways ; the quality of the coal for the locomotives became, in consequence, a matter of greater moment than ever. The Bankhead coal stood the severest tests, and established itself as second to none in Scotland for raising steam, and was found exceptionally free from “clinkering” on the furnace bars, which, when it occurred, was the occasion of both trouble and delay. All the fast trains on the Glasgow & South-Western Railway arc now coaled from Bankhead; in fact, that company consumes the greater part of the whole output.

Recently the Bankhead coal has been sold for the purpose of gas making. From the first it had been used by the Sanquhar Gas Company, but only for fuel. In course of time, the Company tried it in the retorts, in the hope of improving the quality of coke. The result was eminently satisfactory, for the whole body of the coke was converted into excellent fuel. It was observed at the same time that neither the quantity nor the quality of the gas produced was affected to any appreciable degree, and the possibility of a considerable saving in cost thus came into view. Experiments were made with the Bankhead coal alone, and the results exceeded all anticipation. They shewed that this was a coal containing a fair quantity of gas of good illuminating power, and exceptionally useful, by reason of the very fine coke left after the gas had been extracted. A report was made to the proprietor, who was recommended to have the coal tested by an expert. This was done, and the analysis shewed, as was to be expected, an even higher quantity of gas per ton than that obtained in a small work like Sanquhar Steps were thereupon taken to place the coal on the market, and already a considerable and steadily increasing trade is being done with gas companies.

Since the early part of the century, a pit has likewise been worked on the farm of Nethcrcairn, on the south side of the river, and two miles west of Kirkconnel. Both household and smithy coal are obtained here, but the working of the former has for many years been abandoned, the distance from the railway, and the thin population of the district rendering sales difficult, and particularly after the opening of the other pits in more accessible positions. The smithy coal, which cannot be obtained elsewhere in the neighbourhood, is still worked, but that only at certain seasons, when a few men can put out in a short time as much as will meet the whole years demand.

The following description of the Sanquhar coal field is taken from the Memoirs of the Geological Survey :—

“The district lies wholly within the Silurian uplands. In tracing their outlines we soon learn that the Carboniferous rocks have been deposited in ancient hollows or valleys, which, worn out of the Silurian roeks in paleozoic times, were afterwards filled up with Carboniferous and Permian deposits, and in long-subsequent ages were re-excavated, so as now to present the form of valleys and hollows once more. In the course of this protracted denudation so much of the original Carboniferous and Permian covering has been removed that only fragments of it are now left; while the Silurian floor, on which it was laid down, has been everywhere, and often deeply eroded. Enough, however, remains to show us that what is now the valley of the Nith was also a valley in Carboniferous times, and that somewhere about the site of Kirkconnel lay the head of this valley in the form of a col, from which the ground descended northward, with probably an abrupt slope, into Ayrshire. In proof of this statement, we find that, in ascending the Nith valley, the Carboniferous Limestone series, whieh is so well developed in the Thornhill basin, thins out towards the north, until, along the south-eastern borders of the Sanquhar coal-field, it disappears altogether, and the overlying Coal-Measures come to rest directly on the Lower Silurian roeks. No Carboniferous Limestone beds reappear until we reach the great fault, immediately on the north side of which they come in in force. It is difficult to understand how this should have happened, unless on the supposition that, at the time when the Carboniferous Limestone series was in the aet of deposition, the line of fault was represented at the surface by a steep bank shelving to the north, which formed the limit of the Limestone series on that side, but which, as the whole regions continued to sink, was gradually buried under the continuous sheet of Coal-Measures which stretched through the Sanquhar valley northwards into Ayrshire.

Of the remaining fragments of the Carboniferous deposits once laid down within the Silurian area, the largest and most important forms the Sanquhar coal field. As shown on the map, this area covers a part of the Nith valley, about nine miles long, and from two and a half to four miles broad, with the river flowing down its centre. On the left hank of the Nith the boundary of the coal field is formed by a long and powerful fault, while on the other hand the edge of the field is defined by the line of the out-crop of the lowest bed of the Coal Measures upon the Silurian rocks. At the south-eastern end of the field several small outlying patches of the Carboniferous Limestone series occur. They consist, at the base, of fine conglomerate, covered by sandstones, shales, and thin concretionary fossiliferous limestones. Af Brandleys a portion of the same rocks is seen passing underneath the Coal Measures, whence it may be inferred that only the upper part of the Carboniferous Limestone series is here represented.

The Sanquhar coal field is entirely made up of strata belonging to the true Coal Measures. Although it has not yet been possible to identify many of the coal seams of this field with those in the neighbouring district of New Cumnock, yet, from the general resemblance of the other strata in the two coal-ficlds, there can be little doubt that they have at one time been connected, and therefore that the Sanquhar coal-field is only a prolongation of the Ayrshire Coal Measures.

*[Note.—With reference to the Daugh Coal mentioned in the above table, recent researches made by Mr Russell, manager of the works, have proved the supposed existence of this coal to be an error. This is to be explained by the fact that, in the eastern part of the field, the splint, and in the western part, the ereepie, has been mistaken for this daugh seam. This makes the ninety fathom fault referred to on page 350 only half that throw.]

Oil the north-east side of the field lies a portion of the upper barren red-sandstones, which, here, as in Ayrshire, overlap the older portions of the Carboniferous system. The interval between their deposition and that of the highest part of the underlying coal-measures is further shown by the fact that at one place, near Bankhead, they actually spread over a fault in the coal-measures of ninety fathoms without being themselves disturbed* Yet, that these red sandstones are of Carboniferous, and not of later age, is indicated by the occurrence in them of at least two coal-seams (one of which is two feet thick), and one of black-band ironstone, which are seen in the stream near Kirkland. Overlying the red sandstones at the southeast end of the field are three small outliers of melaphyre, which, from their position and their petrographical character, must be placed on the same horizon with the Permian volcanic rocks of the Carron water, and with the corresponding Permian volcanic rocks of Ayrshire. They are mere fragments of lava flows ; and some of the points of eruption from which they were ejected are still visible in the necks of agglomerate which rise through the coal-field.

Of the faults by which the Sanquhar coal-field is bounded and intersected, by far the largest is that which has let down the eoal-field on the north-east side against the Silurian rocks. From the depth of coal-measures which it throws out at the north-east or deepest part of the field, it must be one of at least 1200 feet. Its most singular feature, perhaps, is the remarkable bend which it makes when, in proceeding to the north-west, it approaches within less than fifty yards of the great boundary fault. Instead of touching that dislocation, it turns off sharply to the left, and runs parallel with it for two miles, the space between the two faults being sometimes not more than twenty yards. The line of the fault is made conspicuous even at the surface from the fact of its having been taken by a massive dolerite dyke which extends along the fault for several miles on both sides of the angle. About a mile and a half beyond the angle, on the north-west side, this dyke cuts across the narrow intervening strip of Silurian strata into the great boundary fault, along which it continues to run until it is lost under the alluvium of the Nith. Parallel, in a general sense, with the fault which has just been described, a number of minor dislocations traverse the coal-field, with the effect of letting down the beds by a series of steps towards the north-east or deepest part of the field. Of these, the largest has been already referred to as having a throw of ninety fathoms. It runs in a N.N.W. direction, and, as shown by the workings in the Bankhead Colliery, brings down the Calmstone coal against the splint coal-seam. Yet, as before remarked, it does not penetrate the overlying red sandstones, the whole of the displaced rock on the up-throw side of the dislocation having been removed by denudation before these strata were deposited.

One distinguishing feature in the Sanquhar coal-field is the faet that a'ong the south-west half of the field the strata arc traversed in a northwesterly direction by at least three narrow dole ritie dykes, which send out intrusive sheets along the coal-scams. The trap itself is mueh decomposed, having the same character as the white-trap so common in the Ayrshire coal-fields. As in Ayrshire, the coals are so altered by it as to be unworkable. In some places they have been converted into beautifully columnar anthracite.


Indications of former river-courses are sometimes found under the drift in the course of mining operations. Thus, in the valley of the Nith, to the west of Kirkconnel, a series of borings showed the existence of a deep trench worn out of the Carboniferous rocks, and filled up with boulder-clay. This trench was probably at one time the water-course of the Nith, whieh has since been forced to cut a gorge for itself out of the rocks, without regaining its old channel. In the coal-workings between Old Kelloside and Drumbuie the splint coal was found to be cut out by boulder-clay at a depth of ten fathoms. But mines were driven through the obstruction, and the coal was regained on the other side of what seems to have been another portion of a river channel. A little to the east of Sanquhar a similar buried water-course was encountered in working the Daugh [probably Splint] coal, and in this instance sand was found to lie between the boulder-clay and the rocks below.

III. Weaving

It has not been found possible to ascertain with any degree of certainty when the weaving industry, which ultimately became for a lengthened period of time the principal employment in the town, first sprang up. In all likelihood, it gradually grew from small beginnings. As was the case in most country districts in Scotland, there had always been a deal of weaving work done, consisting of woollen cloth and blankets. Tho clothing of the people was of rough material, and was prepared in their own dwellings. Communication was difficult, and trade was entirely of a local character, each district being of necessity self-sustaining to a great extent, particularly in the article of clothing. There was, it is true, a tribe of pedlars or packmen, so called because they carried about from house to house on their back their stock-in-trade, consisting of linen and the finer dress materials, which were manufactured in the larger towns or manufactories ; but money was scarce, and few of the working people (and they formed the great bulk of the population) could afford such luxuries. What linen they required was provided by the small plots of lint, which we refer to in the chapter on agriculture as having been grown on many farms at that time. Provision for the clothing of the family was made in every well-managed house, and all the wealth to which a thrifty couple could hope to attain consisted, not in money saved, but in a bien house. Situated in the heart of a pastoral country, there was no difficulty in obtaining the raw material—wool, and small mills for performing those of the processes of manufacture which could not be accomplished by hand were numerous. The wool could be obtained either by weight or in skins or fleeces, most commonly the latter. If on skins, the wool was removed by the use of quick-lime, and the process of preparation for its manufacture began. The wool was first scoured, and urine, being in request as a valuable aid in this process, was carefully stored up. It was then spread out, either on the ground or on a hedge, on a sunny day to be dried. When dry, it was laid past in the loft or an outhouse, and the work of teazing—that is, of separating the fibres with the fingers, leaving it a light, loose mass—was engaged in in the winter evenings. The teazing was a tedious process, but all—men, women, and children— were pressed into the service, and often neighbours gave each other a helping hand. Even those who had been hard at work all day could join in, for it was a light job, and, indeed, no one cared to miss it, for many a merry party met to teaze the gude-wife’s woo’. The winter’s storm might rage without, but, with a good blazing fire of peats on the hearth, crack and joke went round, and the work went on right merrily.

The parties that gathered at night round the fire when the wool was being teazed or spun, and the way in which the evening was spent, is admirably described in the following lines :—

On a winter’s night, my grannam spinning,
To make a web of good Scots linen;
Her stool being placed next the chimley
(For she was auld, and saw right dimly).
My lucky dad, an honest Whig,
Was telling tales of Bothwell Brig ;
He could not miss the attempt,
For he was sitting pu’ing hemp.
My aunt, whom nane dare say has no grace,
Was reading in the Pilgrim’s Progress;
The meikle tasker, Davie Dallas,
Was telling blads of William Wallace;
My mither bade her second son say
What he’d by heart of Davit Lindsay;
Our herd, whom all folks hate that knows him,
Was busy hunting in his bosom.
The bairns and oyes were all within doors;
The youngest of us chewing cinders,
And all the auld anes telling wonders.
—Pennicuick’s Poems, p. 7.

The teazing over, the gudewife must needs hie away on a good dry day to the mill (for the wool must on no account get wet), whence she received it, as it came off the rollers, in what were called “rowings,” ready for the spinning.

The spinning wheel—the big wheel as it was called in contradistinction to the small or “wee wheel”—was an institution in every well-regulated house, and was a conspicuous feature in every bride’s flittin’. No mother worthy of the name would consider her daughter’s outfit complete without a spinning wheel, and so it always occupied the topmost place in the cart which bore away the plenishing for the new home that was to be set up. The spinning, too, like the teazing, was a work relegated to the evenings as a rule, and the bum of the big wheel had a pleasant homely sound. It was the pride of every good housewife to be considered a good spinner, the goodness consisting in producing yarn of an even thickness. This work of spinning was a most healthful exercise, bringing as it did the whole muscles of the body into play, and there was none in which the graces of the female figure were more effectively displayed. Dressed in a clean loose jacket, drawn tightly together at the waist, her hair tied with a bright ribbon behind her head, the bloom of youth and perfect health which mantled her cheek heightened by the supple movement of every limb, a pretty country girl never looked more captivating than when spinning at the wheel. Stooping forward with the low curtsey of a high-bred dame, she joins the thread, and then slowly raises her body to its full height, the wool, held daintily between finger and thumb, is meanwhile, as she steps gently back, drawn out into thread by the left arm, which is brought back with many a graceful sweep and curve till it is extended full length behind the shoulder; the body rests for a moment in a pose of rare beauty, when, bending down with a sudden swoop, she darts forward, and the thread, freed by a sharp jerk from the point of the spindle, is swiftly wound upon it. We doubt not that the first dazzling vision that sent him head over ears in love with his lass was often obtained by the country swain when, peeping timidly through the window, he saw her spinning at the wheel.

When all had been converted into yarn, the next process was another scouring to free it of the oil which had been added to it at the mill, followed by the dyeing—the mysteries of producing the common colours of blue, black, and brown, which were most in favour, being known to all the women folks; and then, after being again carefully dried, it was taken to the weaver, or the weaver was sent foi and received both the yarn and the gude-wife’s explicit directions as to the pattern and description of the cloth wanted. The arrival home of the web had been anticipated, and the tailor had been bespoke for the making-up. Country tailoring work was all done in those days in the people’s homes, and the practice of going from house to house was called, for what reason we cannot learn, “whipping the cat.” The tailor took with him on these expeditions not only the inevitable needle, thread, and wax, but the “la’brod” and the “goose”~the large iron with which the seams were laid smooth—aud these instruments of trade were carried by the apprentice, giving rise to the proverb, “The youngest tailor carries the goose.” He remained about the house till the whole web had been used up, or, at all events, till each male member of the household had been encased in a new suit. A tailor’s wages were Is 6d a day and his food. In this way the clothing of country people was procured at no great outlay in money, and it had this advantage that, if not burnt in the dyeing, the cloth being a’ oo’ gave every satisfaction in the wear. The clothing of the women was likewise, for the most part, of good honest homespun stuff, flannel and drugget petticoats, and dresses of the latter material as well ; the other accessories of female attire being procured either from pedlars, when they came round periodically, as has been said, or at the fairs, where great numbers of this fraternity congregated for the purposes of trading. These bargains were, however, for the most part struck at their own homes. Pedlars were always welcome visitors at country houses, and were a shrewd, wide-awake class. They studied women’s tastes well, and had their packs carefully made up of a hat they knew would take their fancy. Their visits were looked forward to and were always welcome, and the pedlar, whether he might succeed in doing a good stroke of business or not, could always count on hospitable entertainment. Not only did the women folks in particular take a pleasure in the inspection of his wares, which he was careful to spread out in the most tempting fashion, seeking all the while to secure a purchase by a compliment to the lady’s good looks dropped in his most artless yet artful manner, or in whatever other way was most likely to be successful, but the gudeman was always glad, too, to see the pedlar. Living in a quiet and isolated situation, cut off from all the world around him, he gladly welcomed the visit of one who had not only a well-filled pack, but a mind stored with the folklore of the whole wide district which he travelled and the current public news of the country. In days when people’s society was confined to that of their nearest neighbours, before the age of newspapers and railways, the pedlar’s “crack” was the only source from which they could learn what was going on outside the circle of their own immediate surroundings.

The introduction of cotton in the eighteenth century gave a great stimulus to the weaving trade. The new material was applicable to a variety of purposes, and there sprang up a system of agencies through which the cotton yarns were distributed through the country districts to be woven into cloth. The rates which were allowed per ell enabled the weavers to make excellent wages ; the consequence was that the numbers engaged in this industry rapidly increased. In Sanquhar there were from 120 to 150 hand-looms constantly going when the trade was at its best, and besides, a host of women, who were called “pirn-fillers,” were employed in winding the yarn on to “pirns.” Small weaving shops were erected all over the town, containing two, four, or six, but not exceeding eight looms. As one traversed the street, therefore, his ears were filled with the steady click of the shuttle and the whirr of the “ wee wheel.” When times were good, a weaver who was skilful at his work and industrious, could make 25s or 80s a week, and women 6s or 7s at pirn-filling. Boys were apprenticed for 3½ or 4 years, and received for wages the one-half of the proceeds of their work. The weavers were, therefore, the aristocracy of the tradesmen of that time. The work of itself was interesting, and the more elaborate patterns demanded a high degree of skill and care. They were men of high average intelligence, and had their wits sharpened by the frequent discussions which they held on all kinds of topics—political, social, and religious. The conditions under which their work was performed in these small loomshops, where the numbers were just sufficient to form a good talking-circle, and where their tongues were plied with as great diligence as their hands, were favourable to the interchange of ideas. The simpler patterns they could work almost mechanically, leaving their minds perfectly free for the discussion of news, or the debate of whatever question was at the moment agitating the public mind. The lot, truly, of a country weaver was thus, from a working-man’s point of view, a most desirable one. They earned wages that kept themselves and their families in a condition of great comfort, and they had not to endure the grinding toil then borne by the operatives of Lancashire during long, long hours, and under the searching eye of overseers, who were hard taskmasters. Their time was pretty much in their own hands, and they could work long or short hours just as they liked. No startling incident occurred on the street, but instantly the weaver flung down the shuttle, snatched his bonnet, and rushed out, twisting his apron round his waist as he ran. In all the public days and celebrations, which of themselves stirred the blood of the ancient burghers, and afforded food for talk and discussion for days after—the Trades and Council elections, the riding of the marches, the annual celebration of the King’s birthday—in these the weavers bore a prominent part, and in all the horse-play and practical joking with which, in days when police regulations were less stringent, the populace amused themselves. The processions customary on such occasions embraced the incorporated trades—weavers, square-men (masons and joiners), smiths, tailors, and shoemakers— who turned out in great force. Then, the monotony of their daily work received an agreeable variation in harvest time. In days of shearing, before even the scythe, not to speak of the reaping machine, was introduced, a great number of hands were employed, and farmers could draw upon the weavers for a supply of labour. This was a most agreeable change for those whose work at other times was all in-doors, and during the harvest season the weaver laid in a stock of health which kept him going all the rest of the year. A considerable number of them, too, were keen anglers. Their work naturally developed a deftness of hand and delicacy of touch, which stood them in good stead when they plied the gentle art.

The hand-loom weavers all through Scotland were, as everyone knows, keen politicians, and those of Sanquhar were no exception. Through the representation of the burgh in Parliament, they were naturally led to take a strong interest in public affairs, and this interest was sustained by the continued discussions, for which, as we have said, the nature of their avocation afforded exceptional opportunities. Radicals of the Radicals, they were in entire sympathy with every movement for the curtailment of the power of the governing classes, and the extension and development of popular liberties.

Newspapers were scarce, but a few did find their way amongst them, and they were of the most pronounced stamp, the strong writing which they contained serving to fan the flame of their political zeal. Their interest was not confined to their own country, but during the revolutionary periods in France aud other Continental nations they were acquainted with the doings of the French Republican leaders, whose names were familiar in their mouths, but with a pronunciation of a purely phonetic character, to which their owners would never have answered. During the Chartist agitation the weavers were in a state of great ferment. They could talk glibly of the “five points” and of the rights of man in general, and the more fiery spirits among them were in danger of getting into trouble with the authorities. The town was occasionally visited by Chartist lecturers, and meetings were held in one or other of the large loomshops, wrhere addresses of the usual violent character were delivered.

So much for the men, now let us speak of the industry itself. A number were engaged in weaving woollen goods for the country people, aud were called “customer” weavers, but the bulk were employed in working cotton. As already stated, the weavers numbered over 120, and worked in groups of 2, 4, 6, or 8, according to the size of the shop. These shops were built, several of them on the line of the street, others in the gardens attached to their dwellings, and for the most part were well-lighted and airy. The work consisted, at one time in the early part of the century, principally of napkins, called “Policats,” and checks of various colours for dresses. About 1833, shawls called “Bundanes” were woven, silk in the weft and cotton in the warp. Provost Broom was the agent in this class of goods for his brother James, a large manufacturer in Glasgow. Later on, gauzes were introduced, woollen weft and cotton warp, worked very thin for use as light summer dresses. These required great care and delicacy of handling. They were followed by Tartans, some, if not most of them, all wool, but others of an inferior description of cotton warp. Later still, winceys were introduced, in which again Angola yarn was substituted for good home wool, for the competition in trade was already leading the manufacturers, in order to cut each other out in price, to abandon the old-fashioned honest methods, and to substitute baser materials. The warp of the web called the “ chain/’ came wound in the form of a large ball, and the weft sufficient for the working of the web was given out in cuts along with the warp. The weft, of course, went to the pirn-fillers to be wound on to pirns by the wee wheel. These pirn-fillers worked in their own homes. The weavers and they sometimes laid their heads together in order to save part of the weft, and had to be sharply looked after by the agents. Notwithstanding the vigilance of the latter, however, the weaver sometimes had a little piece of cloth to sell privately on his own account, and where the materials for its manufacture had come from nobody knew, of course, but anybody could shrewdly guess.

The weaving trade continued for a long time the most prosperous and well paid in country districts ; but the wit of man was exercised to devise means whereby the rapidly increasing demand for cotton goods, not only for the home, but, likewise for the export trade, could be met, and in 1765 the spinning-jenny was invented, followed a few years later by the power-loom. These inventions were fated to work a complete revolution in the trade, to prove an increasingly formidable rival to hand-loom weaving, and at length to lead to its almost complete extinction. For a good long time the pressure was not felt, the great demand, to which reference has been made, due to the gradual «fld natural development of trade at home, and the increased volume of international commerce sufficing to take up, at remunerative prices, the whole produce of the looms of the country of all kinds. But gradually the new machines came more and more into use: great factories sprang up in the principal manufacturing districts, till they could not only keep pace with the demand, but by the reduction in the cost of manufacture, they undermined the hand-loom weaver’s position to a very serious extent, and cast a black shadow over his future prospects. This applied to the plainer descriptions of goods, but the hand-loom weaver could still hold his ground in the better classes of work, the intricacies of which were beyond the capacity of the power-loom as it then was. It was now, however, only a question of time; ingenious minds Avere working away at the improvement of the machinery, and step after step was gained, each one serving to circumscribe the area of the employment of the hand-loom, until at length the weaver was driven from the field, and compelled either to move to a large town, where jobs for which his previous experience peculiarly fitted him, could be had in the large factories, or to turn his hand to some other employment altogether. The body of weavers, when the collapse came, embraced, of course, people of all ages, and upon the older people who were too old to transplant, and too old to adapt themselves to any other employment, the altered circumstances of their condition fell with crushing force. They had to adopt a style of living, to which, in their earlier days, they had not been accustomed, and their later days were embittered by deep poverty and hardship. The younger men and those in the prime of life clung tenaciously to their native town, and shrank from the pain of severing their life-long associations. The depression was, in a spirit of hopefulness, looked upon as only temporary, and they sustained themselves in the faith of good times that never were to come. Sometimes, when no work was to be obtained at home, things were not quite so bad in other towns, and they would set forth to places at a considerable distance—Cumnock, Lesmahagow, and even Glasgow, and beg for work. Any one who was successful was, when he arrived home with the chain under his arm, regarded with envy by his neighbours. The name—the Calton Close—given to a side street, was derived from the fact that at this period a band of weavers, who had gone to Glasgow and been employed in the Caiton district, returned on the revival of trade and worked together down this close. In their extremity they turned for help to their municipal rulers. The Minutes of the Town Council contain records of applications of this sort, and the manner in which they were dealt with. The finances of the town were not always in a condition to allow of much being done in the way of relief, but the Council shewed a commendable readiness so far as in them lay to mitigate the distress of the weavers. They wisely made this relief subject to a labour test ; in this way preserving to a certain extent the self-respect of the participants, and providing a check upon imposture. The petitioners were offered employment in certain works—draining, road-makiug, &c., on the property of the town, the wage allowed being Is per day. There are certain risks attendant upon relief of the unemployed, and the results are often anything but satisfactory. That is the experience of all the authorities who have had anything to do with duties of that kind, and it was the same here. The work was so different to what the weavers had been used, their soft hands were ill fitted to handle pick and shovel, and, accustomed to being indoors, they could not well rough it outside as an agricultural labourer might, and the wage was small. Repeated applications of the same kind were made at intervals in subsequent years, and were dealt with much in the same way. Meanwhile, the older men were dying out, those who survived were, some of them, aided by their families who had now grown up, whilst others, including a good many of the old pirn-fillers, were compelled to seek parochial relief, and continued for years to swell the roll of paupers. A few still survive, but the weaving industry is practically extinct, only a few of the then young men, now grown somewhat aged, being employed in the two woollen mills at Crawick and Nith-bank, while others are scattered here and there about the centres of manufacturing industry, where the more enterprising of them, who laid themselves out in time to learn the new machines, are making good wages.

Carpet -weaving in this parish was first begun in the end of last century at a place called Factory (hence the name), about fifty yards below the old bridge of Crawick. It consisted only of a few hand-looms in the weavers’ dwelling-houses. As the trade increased-it extended to Crawick Mill, which became the seat of the manufacture. The weaving was on what was known as the draw-boy system, so-called because, while the weaver drove the loom, a boy was employed who worked the pattern by drawing certain cords overhead. At a later date loom-shops were built, containing from eight to twelve looms, and in 1837 the “big shop” was erected to accommodate 32 looms—16 on each of the two storeys; and this was followed next year with a dyehouse. There were no less than 54 looms going when the trade was at its height, the whole, together with the village, being lighted by gas, which was introduced in 1838. The company which was formed consisted of local gentlemen and farmers, among whom were Captain Lorimer of Kirkland, the brothers Wilson of Butknowe and Castlebrae, and James M'Call, the last-named of whom had a practical knowledge of the business, and was manager then and for many years after. The Crawick Mill carpets acquired a high reputation for durability. This, more than elegance of pattern, was the aim of the company, and they did a large trade, not only in the kingdom, but also with foreign countries, principally South America, a large proportion of their total production being shipped to Valparaiso. They had also trade connections with North America and the continent of Europe. At a later date, the partners were—Mr John Halliday, merchant, Sanquhar, and Mr William Williamson, the former tenant of Thirlesholrn, who resided at Factory, Mr M'Call still retaining the management. He ultimately withdrew in 1852, and Mr John Williamson, another merchant in Sanquhar, and for many years Provost of the burgh, succeeded his father in the partnership, Mr M'Call’s place as managing partner being taken by a Mr Sawers. Meanwhile, the company was less prosperous than it had been, and they were not able for lack of capital to introduce the improved machinery which had been invented, the result being that their products failed to command the same market, and to bring as remunerative prices. The relations between Mr Halliday and Mr Sawers were not of the most satisfactory kind, when the death in 1858 of the former, who had for years been the principal partner, occurred. This event caused the collapse of the company. Mr Sawers would fain have carried on the business, and made an offer to Mrs Croom, the only child of the late Mr Halliday, for the whole property of the company— machinery, stock, &c., but it was not accepted. No other person showed a disposition to offer, and ultimately the stock in hand was sent to Glasgow for sale, and the machinery was disposed of to brokers. Thus came to an end the Crawick Mill Carpet Company, which for nearly a hundred years had contributed in no small degree to the prosperity of Sanquhar. Crawick Mill was a clean, tidy little hamlet, pleasantly embosomed on the banks of the Crawick, and sheltered from almost every wind that blew, and there was no happier colony of weavers to be found in any country district in Scotland. They were almost all natives, whose whole life associations were connected with the place.

We have no pleasanter memory than that of the weavers playing quoits, of which they were very fond, on the summer evenings on the “Alley”—a long strip of ground on the banks of the stream behind the village, while their wives, with their clean “mutches,” sat about or sauntered up and down chatting and gossiping, and the bairns were either scrambling along the wooded banks of the Crawick or “paidling” in its clear water, the pleasant babble of the stream, as it rushed over the dam-head, mingling with the voices of the men at their game and the joyous shouts and laughter of the children. The closing of the works cast a deep gloom on every hearth. Such an untoward event had not been apprehended, and it fell like a stunning blow. In truth, it was some time before they could realise that they must leave their old homes for ever, and when the inevitable step had to be taken there was many a sorrowful flitting. The weavers had to seek employment in Kilmarnock, Ayr, and other towns where the carpet industry was pursued, and, as the train passed over the bridge, overlooking the village, and they obtained the last look of their old homes, their hearts were heavy, and their eyes filled with tears. In a very short time, the little village, which had been so long the scene of the throbbing life of a happy little community, was silent and deserted. The circumstances aroused a deep feeling of sympathy in the whole district, and, before the weavers scattered, a few of the more wealthy farmers, having subscribed £10,000 of capital, approached the proprietor—the Duke of Buccleuch—for a lease of the works to a new company, declaring in their memorial that they were actuated by no motive of private gain, but only by a desire to provide employment for the inhabitants, and to prevent their dispersion. The appeal, however, elicited no response, a circumstance which extinguished the last hope of the poor carpet weavers, and caused a feeling of keen disappointment among the whole inhabitants.

A more successful attempt to revive the fortunes of the place was that in 1876, when a proposal was made by Mr John M'Queen to start a woollen factory. It was heartily taken lip by Mr Gilchrist-Clark, Chamberlain to the Duke of Buccleuch, who always showed a warm interest in the prosperity of Sanquhar, and while the old buildings were re-modelled, new premises were erected, which were lighted from the roof, and a water-wheel supplied of four times the power of the old one. Owing, however, to drought in summer and frost in winter, the supply of water to drive the wheel is always precarious, and steam power was supplied. By an ingenious arrangement, whereby both the water wheel and the engine propel the same shaft, the steam is made supplementary only to the water, but the engine is of sufficient power to drive the whole machinery were the water power to be altogether cut off. The works embrace four sets of self-acting mules and nineteen power-looms for the weaving of blankets from 1 to 2£ yards in width. The spinning department contains 1000 spindles, and the output, when working up to full capacity, is from fifty to sixty pairs of blankets of average weight per day. Both home and foreign wool is used in their manufacture. The water of Crawick, being very clear and soft, is admirably adapted for scouring.

Nithbank Mill.—In the year 1884 an extension of the trade of the town was effected by the erection of another woollen factory by Messrs M'Kendrick Brothers, on the top of the Braeheads. The machinery is propelled wholly by steam, the water both for the engine and for other purposes being pumped up from the bed of the river below the works. The building consists of three sheds, embracing a floor space of 90 by 68 feet, and various smaller erections for the different departments of the work. There are two sets of carders, two spinning-jennies of 350 spindles each, and eleven power-looms. The main branch of manufacture is, as at Crawick Mill, blankets ; and, since their erection, the works at Nith-bank have had to be extended, owing to the expansion of Messrs M'Kendrick’s trade.

In the early part of the present century, a considerable trade was done in the weaving, by hand, of stockings and mittens, which were sold in many quarters, and bore the distinctive name of Sanquhar gloves and Sanquhar stockings, earning a deservedly high character for comfort and durability. Both were woven on wires in a .peculiar manner, and were parti-coloured, and of various patterns. If desired, the customer could have his name worked round the wrist of the gloves or the top of the stocking. The colours were, for the most part, simply black and white, the yarn used being very fine. As wovenTthe web was of double thickness, and very soft and “feel.” Duke Charles of Queensberry, who did so much for the locality, gave jointly with the Trustees for the Encouragement of Manufactures, £40 a year, to be distributed to promote stocking-making, and other home industries. Quite recently, the Duke of Buccleuch gave a large order for these gloves for himself and his family. Their superiority over all others for riding and driving was accidentally discovered by Mr Hedley, the famous coursing judge, who had been presented with a pair by a Sanquhar friend. Mr Hedley was more tickled with their appearance than impressed with their utility, till one day he was riding to hounds when rain came on, and the reins kept slipping through his fingers do what he might. In his dilemma he bethought him of the curious Sanquhar gloves which he happened to have in his pocket. These he exchanged for the leather, and, to his surprise, he was able to hold the reins quite firmly, however “ soapy ” they might become. He spoke warmly to his friend of their qualities, and now he never mounts the saddle without having his Sanquhar gloves with him if there be the slightest suspicion of rain. The Sanquhar people are missing an opportunity of developing what would probably prove a large and lucrative trade. Here is just, one of those home industries, the extension of which is now being advocated with the view of checking the depopulation of our country districts, and affording a means of livelihood to the people in their own homes. Were there some local enterprise shewn, the foundations of what would prove an important industry might be laid with the expenditure of very little capital. But if this is to be done, it must be done without delay, as the secret of the manufacture is now confined to a very few. It threatens to become a lost art.

Till about thirty years ago, women, as many as 300 at one time, were employed in the embroidery of muslin, at which good wages were earned, but this style of trimming for ladies’ underclothing, &c., having gone greatly out of fashion, prices were gradually cut down to a very low figure, and latterly the trade died out altogether.

IV. Miscellaneous

Brickmaking.—The making of bricks is an industry which has flourished in this district for centuries. Perhaps the earliest notice of it is to be found in the Earl of Queens-berry’s letter to his factor relative to certain repairs on the Castle at Sanquhar, which will be found at the end of the third chapter. There seems, however, reason to believe that bricks of a rough make were in use here even prior to that date (1G88). Abundance of clay, excellently adapted for the purposes of brick-making, had always been readily accessible in the lands immediately to the north of the town. The character of a great portion of the land on that side, from Ryehill for some miles westward is a stiff clay; but, in the vicinity of Sanquhar, it is of that particular description of which the hardest and most durable bricks can be made. There are still traces of the ancient brickfields here, where work has been carried on from time to time for generations, and the name “Bricklands,” which had been given to this part, was doubtless derived from the brick-making industry. For some time in the first half of this century, no work of the kind was done, but the growing demand for bricks for building purposes, and likewise for draining tiles, in consequence of the extensive introduction, about the year 1850, of the system of draining by tiles, led to the opening in 1852 by Mr Geo. Clennel of a brick and tile work in a part of the field adjoining that previously worked. A large and prosperous trade was done for many years—so long as the draining mania lasted, but latterly the trade fell off, partly through the want of capital to adopt the improved machinery that had meanwhile been introduced. Mr Clennel was succeeded in 1889 by another tenant, Mr James Brodie, who has largely improved and extended the works, which are now in a complete state, and embrace five Newcastle Kilns and a Staffordshire Oven. The improved plant includes a machine for the production of pressed bricks for outside building.

Meanwhile, a lease of the original brick field, which belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, had been obtained by Mr M. M'lver, who proceeded, in the year 1885, to open it up, and to erect the necessary buildings and machinery. The works are similar in size to those above described. Mr M'lver was the inventor of, and the first to introduce, the new process of drying by means of steam, whereby, for the first time, the total “exhaust” of the engine is availed of, and distributed over the entire area of the drying-floor, thus securing an equable heat, putting an end to the great waste caused by over-drying, and saving the entire cost of the numerous fires formerly in use for the purpose. Mr M'lver is lessee of the whole field belonging to the Duke, extending to over eighty acres, the seam of clay being twenty-one feet of surface clay, and a four-and-a-half feet face of blue brick clay in the mine.

Forging.—The forge at Crawick Bridge is an old-established work, and calls first for notice. Though situated in the parish of Kirkconnel, it is on the very border of Sanquhar, and is essentially a Sanquhar industry. It was erected in the year 1774 by John Rigg, who hailed from Dalston, in Cumberland, and was the seqond work of the kind in Scotland, the first being at Duntocher. The immediate cause of a forge being started at Crawick was the demand for shovels in connection with the coal-workings, and it was at the instigation of Mr Barker, then lessee of the coal-pits, that Mr Rigg was induced to remove north. The work has remained iu the hands of the family ever since, the present possessor being the fourth of the name. The machinery is driven by water power, derived from Crawick, a damhead having been constructed opposite the village of Crawick Mill, a little below the other, which affords the water-supply to the corn and woollen mills there. There are two tilt-hammers, besides machines for preparing the handles of the implements manufactured. These consist of solid steel spades and shovels of all kinds, and the firm, as was stated some years ago in the North British Agriculturist, “have justly received a wide celebrity for the excellence of quality, durability, and adaptability to their work ” of the tools turned out from their forge. They are Government contractors, and have exhibited a collection of their manufactures at the show of the Highland and Agricultural Society, for which they were awarded a silver medal. There are fourteen men and boys employed.

The Queensberry Forge was built in the neighbourhood of the railway station, in the year 1874, by William Cotts, who had previously conducted a similar business at Penpont, from 1843 to 1849, and afterwards at Shinnel, in the same locality, till his removal to Sanquhar, when he assumed his two sons as partners, by whom, since his death in 1880, the forge has been carried on. The machinery is driven by steam, and consists of two steam hammers and a tilt-hammer, the number of men and boys employed being thirteen. The same class of tools is manufactured as at Crawick; but, besides, Messrs Cotts are doing an increasing and prosperous trade in various kinds of forgings, such as cart axle-blocks, plough beams and heads, and sock-moulds. This firm also bold a high reputation for the quality of their manufactures.

In addition to the industries above mentioned, there are none in this locality except such as are common to country districts—joiners, mill-wrights, blacksmiths, &c.—unless we mention the shop of Mr Peter Turnbull, who has an engineering plant quite unusual to be found in a country blacksmith’s establishment. Here there are a turning-lathe, a vertical drill, and a combined clipping and punching machine. The work produced consists of hutch-mountings for collieries, wire-fencing, and cart axles, and is extensively carried on. In connection with the last-named, Mr Turnbull, by an ingenious arrangement of his own contriving, finishes the conical ends of axles by automatic action on the lathe, whereby they are turned with a precision unattainable by the hand, the great advantage being that, working with perfect smoothness, they wear much longer than those finished in the usual way.

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