Ploughing and plough men had a number of a traditions associated with them. These include the secret society of the Ploughman’s Word, Plough Sunday, and ploughing matches.
One tradition that was known in some parts of Scotland was the love darg. Darg was the Scots work for work. This was a day’s work done for love, a gesture to show affection and recognition of an agricultural community to one of its members. This could be a farmer who had recently taken on a lease and was needing assistance with his work; it could be a woman who had recently lost her husband and needed work undertaken; it could be to thank a landowner for all his support in a community before he left it. Love dargs could take place for a number of agricultural activities, though threshing and ploughing were especially noted.
In some parts of Scotland love dargs for ploughing were recorded from the mid 1850s until at least the start of the twentieth century and even later. One such area was Kincardineshire. One of the first dargs recorded in the local newspaper, the Stonehaven Gazette, was in February 1852:
“A love darg – Mr Robert Sievewright, millwright, Longhills of Rickarton, having taken a course of cropping of some of the home parks, a number of his neighbours offered to give him a love darg. Accordingly on Wednesday the 28th ult, 12 ploughs appeared on the ground, and soon turned the green lea into a well ploughed field. The ploughmen were regaled with refreshments throughout the day; and in the evening, Mr Sievewright entertained the farmers and their wives to dinner and tea. Under Mr and Mrs Sievewright’s hospitable roof they spent a very comfortable evening.”
This included elements that were to be recorded in later years: the giving, free of charge, of a day’s labour to a neighbour in need; the provision of refreshments throughout the day; the giving of refreshments and sometimes entertainment in the evening after the work was undertaken.
The ploughmen at the love dargs included farmers, though more usually farmer’s sons, and farm servants, in a district where the event was being held.
Some of the dargs could be large. In 1855 one in the Banchory district at Broomhillocks had 37 ploughs. Another in that district had 57 ploughs. In 1856 one at Midtown of Barras had 107 ploughs. While intended to show kindness to a neighbour, they became very competitive. Indeed, some had judges and gave prizes. By the 1890s local businesses sponsored prizes. Classes included the best ploughing, the best start, the best finished, the best harness.
The sociable nature of the dargs is summed up by an account of one at Netherley in March 1867:
“On the afternoon of Saturday last, a number of the farmers in this district sent their ploughs to the number of fifteen to the farm of Mr Alexander Black, Lairhillock, for the purpose of giving him a friendly love-darg in forwarding his ploughing, and as a mark of respect for him as a neighbour. The weather being very suitable, the spirited ploughmen vied with each other who should be foremost in making good work. By six o’clock they had turned over upwards of seven acres in first class style. During the progress of the work, the ploughmen were liberally entertained to refreshments. In the evening, the farmers with several friends met at Lairhillock by invitation, where they partook of the well-known hospitality of Mr and Mrs black. A number of appropriate speeches and toasts were given, and after spending an hour or two together in an exceedingly agreeable manner, the company separated wishing every prosperity and a good crop to Mr Black.”
Did you remember the term love darg? Have you participated in one?
The photographs are of the Easter Ross ploughing match, November 2016.
Adverts for displenishing sales include the particular implements, machines and hand tools used at a particular time. Some of the items that are listed were old, though others, as notices sometimes point out were new. They would also have included implements that might have been allocated to the “hedge back” that were put out for sale to realize some money. They also reflect the type of activities that were being undertaken, including chicken rearing, potato growing, or cheese making.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw a number of noted developments in the mechanization of farming, with the introduction of a greater number of iron and metal implements and machines, new machines, such as mowers and reapers, spinner diggers and potato planters, the greater use of threshing mills, and the increasing use of steam power.
Theses changes are reflected to some extent in the implements and machines that are included in displenishing sale notices. They are particularly helpful for showing the spread of new implements for the harvest as well as new types of ploughs. Conversely, they also show where older technologies were still used – even if they were confined to the hedge back, such as wooden ploughs or wooden harrows.
The following adverts show the implements and machines used on a number of farms in Kincardineshire from the mid 1860s to the early 1890s. What trends in mechanisation do you note?
Brackmuirhill, Dunnottar (advert from Stonehaven journal, 19 October 1865) The implements, consisting of-2 box carts with tops; 1 lying and 1 water cart; 1 double boarded and 1 iron two horse plough; scraper; yokes, swivel trees, and harrows; 1 stone roller, with frame; 1 turnip sowing machine; horse harness; graips, forks and shovels; a threshing mill, fan and other barn furniture; paling and posts; cattle bindings; water cask and spouts; a large meal girnal, a patent milk churn, and a variety of other articles.
West Town of Barras, Kinneff (advert from Stonehaven journal, 19 October 1865) Horse and set harness; 1 cart and top lying cart; 1 two horse wooden plough; 1 drill harrow; 3 harrows; 1 stone roller, turnip sowing machine, fan and barn furniture, metal boiler and dairy utensils, &c; 1 horse threshing mill, 2 horse power, if not previously sold. Paling and posts with wire fencing.
Briggs, parish of Dunnottar (advert from Stonehaven journal, 19 October 1865) Carts; ploughs; harrows; rollers; rollers; turnip sowing machine; threshing mill of two horse power with three levers attached; barn fan and other barn furniture; horse harness &c pony cart and harness almost new; dog cart and harness; a large quantity of larch paling and posts; wooden shed; some household furniture and dairy utensils; and a great variety of other articles.
Gowans, parish of Glenbervie (advert from Stonehaven journal, 19 October 1865 2 box carts and frames; 1 long cart; 2 iron ploughs; 1 double moulded plough; 1 iron turnip scrapers; turnip sower; harrows; shovels; graipes; horse harness; barn fan, and other barn furniture; a large quantity of larch pailing rails and posts; a small quantity of hay, and various other articles, dairy implements, and some household furniture, etc.
Auquhirie, Dunnottar (advert from Stonehaven journal, 24 October 1872) Box and lying carts; water carts; stone and wooden rollers; turnip sowing machine; broadcast sowing machine; iron and wooden single and double boarded ploughs; iron, chain, and drill harrows; horse harness; grubber; meal girnal; turnip cutter; some wooden sheds; paling and posts; some hardwood planking; cornyard sticks; barn and dairy utensils, and a variety of other articles.
Cottonbrae, Fetteresso (advert from Stonehaven journal, 24 October 1872) Box cart; hand water cart on wheels; wooden plough; 1 pair harrows; drill harrow, and iron grubber; turnip sowing machine; paling and posts; also, a quantity of wire; barn fan; bushel measure; graips; spades; riddles; horse harness, &c &c. Also, a threshing mill, unless previously disposed of by private bargain.
Meikle Tulloch, Durris (advert from Stonehaven journal, 24 October 1872) 2 box carts with tops; stone cart; iron and wooden ploughs; turnip sowing machine; iron turnip scraper; iron grubber; stone roller and frame; harrows; box barrow; graips; forks; barn fan; bushel measure, and other implements; horse harness; a quantity of wooden paling, posts, and wire fencing; and a few articles of household plenishing. Also, if not previously disposed of by private bargain, a good threshing mill driven by water power.
Mill of Uras, Dunnottar (advert from Stonehaven journal, 2 November 1882) Implements – 6 box carts with tops, 2 lying carts, 3 brakes iron harrows, 2 grubbers, reaper (Bisset’s, Blairgowroie), broadcast sowing machine, turnip sowing machine, 3 iron single ploughs, 1 four horse plough, drill harrow, 2 double boarded ploughs, 4 stone rollers, stone stathels, horse harness, barn fan and other barn furniture, graips, forks, tramp and shoulder picks, yokes, swiveltrees &c.
Blairs, Fetteresso (advert from Stonehaven journal, 2 November 1882) 4 box carts, 1 ling cart, 3 single ploughs, 2 double ploughs, 2 drill harrows, 2 rollers, 1 grubber, 2 brake iron harrows, 1 brake wooden harrows, 1 brake chain harrows, horse harness, spades, graips and shovels, barn furniture, broad cast sowing machine, turnip sowing machine, 1 reaper.
Candy, Drumlithie (advert from Stonehaven journal, 2 November 1882) Implements – 4 box carts and tops, 2 lying carts, 4 iron two-horse ploughs, 1 iron three horse plough, 2 iron double mould ploughs, iron and wooden harrows, drill harrows, drag harrows, potato digger and grubber, metal and wooden rollers, turnip sowing machine, broadcast corn sowing machine, horse rake, 2 reaping machines, barn fan and barn furniture, barrows, graips, forks, ladders, &c &c.
Upper Wyndings, Fetteresso (advert from Stonehaven journal, 21 May 1891) 2 carts, harvest cart, spring cart, light gig, Bon Accord Reaper and Horse Rake, Oliver Hillside Plough and other ploughs, barn fan and other barn furniture, horse harness, and stable furniture, and other minor implements and tools.
Brunthillock, Portlethen (advert from Stonehaven journal, 21 May 1891) Implements – 1 box cart, 1 long cart, 1 spring cart, 1 brake wooden harrows, 1 brake iron harrows, D. B. plough, single plough, shim plough, turnip sowing machine, barn fan, wooden roller, grubber, spades, shovels, grains, forks, picks, yokes, swingletrees, rakes, horse harness, wire and wooden fencing, a quantity of household furniture and dairy utensils.
West Bendings, Kinneff (advert from Stonehaven journal, 23 October 1891) Implements – 2 box carts with tops, 1 long cart with hakes, turnip sowing machine, reaper (as good as new), 2 turnip scrapers, 2 DB iron and wooden ploughs, 2 iron and 2 wooden single ploughs, grubber, 2 brakes, iron and wooden harrows, wooden roller, 2 turnip cutters, 2 drag rakes, horse harness, quantity of wire and wooden fencing and wire netting, ladders, box barrows, scythes, spades, picks, shovels, graips, forks, and a number of corn yard posts &c.
Broombank, Glenbervie (advert from Stonehaven journal, 23 October 1891) Implements – 4 box carts, 2 long carts, water cart, chain pump, broadcast sowing machine, turnip sowing machine, 2 reapers, 5 single and 3 double boarded ploughs, iron, wooden, and chain harrows, 2 drag harrows, 3 drill harrows, 2 grubbers, oil cake breaker, iron, wooden and stone rollers, horse rake, turnip cutters, weighing machine and weights, corn bruiser, 2 barn fans and other barn furniture, stone stathels, cattle bindings, cart and plough harness, 1 set gig harness, yokes and swiveltrees, box and sack barrows, mangle, cheese presser, scythes, shovels, spades, rakes, ladders, wire fencing and posts, dog cart, and a variety of other articles.
Feathers, Fetteresso (advert from Stonehaven journal, 23 October 1891) Implements-2 box carts with frames, 1 long cart, 2 iron single ploughs, 1 D.B. plough, grubber, 3 brakes iron and wooden harrows, turnip scraper, 4 rollers, reaper (in good order), turnip sowing machine, barn fan and other barn furniture, horse harness, wire and wooden fencing, box barrows, yokes and swingletrees, tramp and shoulder picks, graips, forks, spades, ladders, &c.
Smiddymuir Croft, Dunnottar (advert from Stonehaven journal, 23 October 1891) Reaper and binder with back delivery (by Wood), a very good worker and almost new, 2 reapers in good working order, mower (by Young, Ayr), 3 single ploughs, 2 drill scrapers, 2 turnip scrapers (one of them new), grubbers, pony cart, barrow, barn fan, dairy utensils, cheese press, and other minor implements, turning lathe and sliders, rest to suit the lathe, vices, shears, wrenches, anvils, fore and small hammers, bellows and forging tools, ring bending machine and metal bed, boreing braces, nippers, files, grindstones, spades, graips, forks, axe, ladders, metal pump a large quantity of screw tools, and a superior vertical (boreing) machine (a splendid worker).
Even by the early 1890s progress has been made but we still wee a range of wooden implements, such as those at West Bendings, Kinneff, and Feathers, Fetteresso. There are a still a good number of hand tools around the farms such as tramp and shoulder picks, graips, forks, spades, and ladders. There are few sowing machines and potato spinners. The activities that have the greatest number of implements and machines are ploughing and cultivating as well as barn work.
The photographs were taken at the Strathnairn rally, September 2014.
Since the late eighteenth century there have been many comments made on the value of ploughing matches. An interesting account on their value was published in the Stirling Observer on 17 February 1887. It was published at a time when American ploughs were starting to be introduced and new classes set up for them. The account is worth quoting at length:
“Competition has long been the acknowledged medium by which the relative merits of almost everything has come to be determined; and it is generally recognized as a safe, sure, easy and practicable way of doing it. We find that competition leads and stimulates the greater part of mankind to put forth energies and to arrive at a degree of perfection in whatever they are aiming at, which otherwise would not be attained. It has had its effect on ploughing as on most other things. We are indebted in a great measure to ploughing matches for the uniform good ploughing to be seen in some districts; and also for the almost unexceptionally good working of the ploughs now-a-days. These matches may sometimes have caused a little expense to farmers; but that expense has probably not been ill-incurred of it has been the means of giving the ploughmen an interest in doing their work well; for if good ploughing is better for the crop than bad ploughing, which it is, the farmer has not been altogether without his regard.
Ploughing marches are held for the purpose of encouraging and rewarding by premiums those who excel in the art of turning up the soil in the way best adapted for producing a good crop, and for most effectually keeping down grass and weeds. The ploughing which practical judges approve of is that which is straight, evenly held, well packed, the grass well put in, the seams between the furrows close and clean, the seed bed as deep as possible at the given width of furrow, the furrows so set that when measured the face or socket of furrow will measure about half an inch more than the back or cutter-cut, the finish neat and narrow, and the ridge so ploughed that every furrow meets the eye in proper order. The shape of furrow most approved is about 60 degrees. If cut much more acute the pane will be too thin, the back weak, and the furrows will want that body, and substance necessary to give the ploughing the required solidity. If cut much more rect-angular or square, we lose that depth of seed bed and twine of furrow so much prized in first class plouhing; and the nearer we approach the square, brick-shaped furrow, the plough gradually loses command, the grass is near the top, the furrows sit on edge, and are generally badly closed. The latter is the worst of the two extremes.
The construction of the plough, as well as the skill brought to bear upon setting the irons, has a great deal to do with the quality of the ploughing; and a plough in good trim is always easier drawn and easier held. Ploughing machines have served a good purpose in the past, and they continue to do so. There is no better means by which to perfect new implements, and stir up young ploughmen to emulation. The Highland Society gives annually something like 160 medals to district societies for ploughing competitions, and many of these meetings have been held since the first broke up within the last fortnight. As farm work in most cases is very much in arrear, owing to the prolonged frost, some of the ploughing matches have not been so well attended as usual.
At some of the gatherings-Wishaw, for example-we notice that “delving” matches have this year been introduced. In other cases-as at Kirknewton, Ratho, and Currie ploughing matches-American ploughs have been under trial. Speaking of the last-mentioned match, a report has been sent us, says:- “There were this year three competitions, the committee, in addition to the high-cut and plain competitions, have introduced a competition for American ploughs. There were in all thirty one entries, of which five were for the high-cut and three for American ploughs. The conditions of the match were that each competitor should plough a half-acre in eight hours; the high-cut competitors ploughing an imperial half acre and the plain-cut competitors a Scotch half acre. The match commenced at eight in the morning, and with the exception of the high cut ploughman, who took all their time, finished within half an hour of the specified time. The work was on the whole considered highly satisfactory, particularly in the case of the plain work, besides which the work done with the American plough was considered to be at a disadvantage”. Time is a very material element in such competitions, and if the time allowed-usually at the rate of 10 hours to the imperial acre-were shortened, ploughing matches would be more useful than they are.”
Do you agree with the article?
The photographs were taken at the Easter Ross ploughing match, November 2017.
We have previously mentioned that adverts for farm displenishing sales provide an important source of information on the use of agricultural implements and machines.
A sample of adverts for farm displenishing sales in Aberdeenshire in April 1875 provides a number of insights into farming in the county in that year. The Aberdeen press and journal records at least 5 displenishing sale from farms across the county.
They show old and modern implements and machines. On the old, a set of ox harness was for sale at Downiehills (though ox continued to be used into the twentieth century in the county), and wooden boarded ploughs. On the new, at East Fingask, Meldrum there is a new reaping machine. Milltown of Rora had a hay gatherer. East Fingask, Meldrum had a horse rake.
There are a range of ploughs being used for ploughing and making and working drills. There are both iron and wooden harrows. There are no makers’ names included. There are a smaller number of machines for harvesting crops as well as crop processing machines than there were in the adverts for displenshing sales at this time. There is a significant number of horse harness and carts.
Drum 2 box carts with tops; iron single and double ploughs; turnip sowing machine; turnip scrapers; iron and wooden harrows; iron grubber; and a general assortment of other farming implements. 3 set cart and plough harness; barn fan and other barn furniture, with some household furniture. The implements and harness are in good order, and the greater part lately new.
Milltown of Rora Farming implements – an excellent thrashing mill, put in four years ago; barn fan; hay gatherer; turnip sower; iron grubber; 4 box carts; common and other ploughs; harrows; stone rollers; turnip cutting machine; cart and plough harness; corn bags; box and other barrows; and the usual assortment of other implements, together with a quantity of fencing wire and paling posts.
Downiehills The implements imclude-5 box carts; 3 common ploughs; 1 double-boarded plough; 1 furrow, and 1 shim plough; 2 pairs iron, and 2 pairs wood harrow; one and two horse stone rollers; 4 box barrows; a grubber; a turnip sower; a broadcast sowing machine; 5 sets of horse harness; 1 set ox’ harness; barn fan; bushel measure; water casks; corn bruiser; stone rick stands; stone and wood cheese presser; an assortment of wright’s tools; dairy utensils, and sundry other articles-including the usual smaller implement; also a dog cart, and a set of harness.
Couliehare, Udny Farming implements-4 box carts, with hay tops; 3 iron ploughs; 2 double mould board do; subsoil and shim do; grubbers; rollers; harrows; corn and turnip sowing machines; horse harness; barn fan; weighing machine and weights; meal girnal; sacks; sieves; barrows; graips; spades and water out-door implements.
East Fingask, Meldrum The farming implements consist of – box carts, with tops; long cats; water do; common, double mould, and shim ploughs; stone and metal rollers; turnip sower; broadcast and drill sowing machines; zig zag and rotating harrows; grass seed do; grubbers; horse rake; reaping machine (new); horse harness; patent weighing machine and weights; sacks; sack barrow; riddles; sieves; wire strainer; oil cake breaker; turnip cutting machine; cross-cut saw; mangle; patent churn; kitchen utensils, &c.
The photographs were taken at the Aberdeenshire Farming Museum, August 2016.
Adverts for displenishing sales provide a great detail of information about what farmers and other agriculturists were using in their crop and animal husbandry. They tell us a lot about whether they were using “traditional” ones or had introduced new ones; their range and extent; what types of farming and framing practices were being undertaken; changing use of implements and machines; materials used to make implements and machines; noted makes of particular manufactures.
There had been significant developments in the making of agricultural implements and machines in Scotland from the 1840s to the early 1870s. Agriculture had become increasingly mechanized, for example through the introduction of reaping machines and potato spinners, and powered thrashing machiens, though full mechanization still had a long way to go. Implements and machines had become more efficient. Implements were being increasingly made from iron, though there were still wooden ones around.
A look at the adverts for displenishing sales in Fife, through the Fifeshire Journal, in October 1873 provides a series of snapshots at the implements and machines that were being used in the county at this time. Modern readers may think that they are relatively small in number. They include a good number for ploughing and preparation of the soil for sowing. There are a smaller number for sowing. Another large group are for the processing of gathered crops, for both humans and livestock, such as barn utensils, grinding stones. And of course, there are a good number of carts.
Wester Kellie, parish of Carnabee The whole implements on the farm on the farm, including-coup carts, corn carts, common ploughs, drill ploughs, Tennant’s grubbers, drill grubbers, drill harrows, diamond harrows, Norwegian harrows, common harrows, reaping machine, stone roller, brake, horse rake, turnip sower, beam, scales and weights, ladders, barn utensils, sacks, stathels, graips, spades, a number of wright’s tools, cart and plough harness, &c &c, &c. Also horse power thrashing mill.
Grange, parish of Balmerino The whole implements of husbandry, consisting of 4 coup and 5 corn carts, 5 common and 3 drill ploughs, 5 harrows, 2 Tennant’s grubbers, and 3 drill grubbers, 1 two horse grubber, 1 iron and 1 wooden roller, 2 reaping machines, 1 horse rake, 2 turnip cutters, 1 oil cake crusher, ladders, fanners, cheese press, grinding stone, horse harness, 2 sets gig harness, 4 boilers, dairy utensils, &c.
Cairnfied, near Ladybank Implements – 3 coup and 1 corn cart, 1 cart frame, water barrel on wheels, roller, reaping machine, turnip sowing machine, 2 common, 1 drill, and 2 strip ploughs, Tennant’s grubber, 2 drill grubbers, diamond, chain and common harrows, potato washer, fanners, turnip slicer, corn chest, 2 boilers, 2 metal water troughs, metal liquid manure pump, metal common pump, cheese press, beam, scales, and weights, horse harness, &c. These implements are mostly new. Also, bothy furniture, consisting of beds, table and chairs.
Kinnaird, parish of Kemback 1 gig in good order, 3 Tennant’s grubbers, 3 drill grubbers, 1 drill harrow, 2 strip ploughs, 5 common ploughs, 3 drill ploughs, 2 wooden rollers, 1 cast-metal roller, 5 coup carts, 5 corn carts, 1 water barrel, 1 turnip sowing machine, 3 sets iron harrows, 1 set wooden harrows, 1 horse rake, 2 reaping machines, 1 stone cart, 1 double furrow plough, graips, forks, barn utensils, and a variety of other articles.
Allanhill, parish of St Andrews 4 coup and 2 corn carts; 1 strip, 2 drill, and 4 common ploughs; 1 set circular, 1 set drill, 1 set chain, and 3 ½ sets common harrows; 1 Bental’s, 2 Tennant’s, and 2 Drill Grubbers; 1 iron, 1 stone, and 1 wooden roller; 1 turnip sowing machine; 1 reaping machine; 1 horse and 1 hand rake; 1 wheel, 1 horse meat and 2 hand barrows; 1 turnip cutter; shovels, graips, forks, hoes, ladders; fanners and other barn utensils; sacks; horse harness; dairy utensils; stack stathels and bosses; 3 common boilers; wire nets and fencing; and a variety of other articles.
Gilmerton, near St Andrews 9 carts, with wings, 6 corn carts; 1 water barrel; 1 broadcast sowing machine; 1 horse rake, nearly new; 1 turnip sower (double), by Kemp, Murray & Nicholson, 1 steam engine (4 horse power), with large boiler and other gearing; 1 Norwegian harrow, 1 chain harrow, 1 diagonal harrow, 4 sets open iron harrows; ploughs; drill grubbers; iron and wood rollers; 1 barn fanners with screens, 1 do. Without, 1 mill do. With screens; corn and meal chests; turnip cutter (for cattle or sheep); corn bruiser; cart and plough harness; sacks; steelyard; beams and scales; 2 wheel barrows; dairy utensils; graips; shovels, &c &c.
The photographs were taken at the Highland Folk Museum, May 2017.
The Glasgow Agricultural Society was a major agricultural association in Scotland in the nineteenth century. Its show was a key part of the farming year and attracted considerable attention. The show included an implement department as well as the usual displays of cattle and other livestock.
Accounts of the show reveal the names of some of the key makers of implements and machines for farmers in Glasgow and its hinterland. They also showed what was new and innovative.
An account of the show from 1863, at a time when Scottish agriculture was prospering and the agricultural implement trade was increasing provides some highlight on the trade and the people involved in it. The North British Agriculturist writes:
“The eleventh annual summer Exhibition of the Glasgow Agricultural Society commenced yesterday, in the cattle market. Today the live stock were placed, and the prizes awarded. The Show, on the whole, was equal to that of previous years, although the number of entries, both of implements and live stock, was rather under that of last year; but the general superiority of the implements and animals shown amply compensated for any falling off in the number of exhibitors.
Implements The implements were generally distinguished by simplicity of design, with excellent material and workmanship. Mr Gray, Uddingston, was the only exhibitor of thrashing machines and portable engines. The collection of implements from Uddingston reflect credit on their manufactory. Mr Jack, Ayr, showed mowers and reapers and combined machines, apparently well designed, with the parts carefully adjusted. Messrs Thomas Perry & Son, Glasgow, had an excellent collection-a reaping machine, a haymaker, hoes, harrows, corn-crushers, and straw cutters. Mr A W Dunn, Glasgow, showed the Buck eye combined reaping and mowing machine. Two excellent one horse carts were shown by Mr J. Angus, Parkhead, Glasgow. Mr Bradford, Manchester, exhibited an extensive collection of washing and wringing machines. P. & R. Fleming & Co., had a collection of cheese pressers, milk dishes, &c, and an improved three-toed steel potato hoe. Messrs Gordon & Winter, Ayr, showed an apparatus for the manufacturing of cheese; the milk is heated, and the curd broken up by the machine.
Mr T. Hunter, Maybole, had a very good collection of harrows, &c. Messrs Kemp. Murray & Nicholson, Stirling, showed two excellent reaping machines. Messrs Brown & Young. Stirling, exhibited an improved reaping machine, and a four wheeled dog cart. Messrs Law, Duncan & Co., Shuttleworth, exhibited a good collection of ploughs, grubbers, harrows &c. This firm also showed Hanson’s potato digger. Mr McKerrow, Kilmarnock, had a good collection of grubbers, ploughs &c. Messrs T. Pearson & Co., Glasgow, exhibited corn risk stands, rick covers &c. Mr John Richardson, Carlisle, exhibited his much prized fanners. Messrs Richmond & Chandler. Mancheser, showed a limited collection of chaff cutters, mills, and kneading machines. Mr John Robson, Glasgow, exhibited an extensive collection of troughs, pipes, drain tiles, and other articles constructed of fireclay-the whole excellent in quality. Messrs Gray, Smith & Co., Glasgow, exhibited one stable stall complete, the arrangements of which appeared to be good.
Mr A. Storie, Paisley, had a good collection of ploughs and harrows. Mr Tair, Mearns, showed ploughs and a drill grubber. Messrs J. & T. Young, Ayr, exhibited a guano pulveriser, a reaping machine, a drill drop sowing machine, cheese presses, &c. Mr George Finlayson, Arbroath, exhibited a broadcast sowing machine and a turnip sowing machine, both excellent. Messrs W. D. Young & Co., Glasgow, had a somewhat extensive collection, the principal articles being rick stands, rakes, hurdles, iron fencing, wire netting, &c, The show of implements although somewhat limited, was characterised by gentle usefulness, and most articles were offered at moderate prices.”
Readers will recognize some of the names like Jack of Maybole, P. & R. Fleming, Glasgow, T. Hunter, Maybole, Kemp, Murray & Nichoslon, Stirling, and Gray of Uddingston, all who continued in business until well through the twentieth century.
The photographs of the special display of horse-drawn implements and machines was taken at the Royal Highland Show, June 2019.
One local ploughing match that has been carried on for many years was held at Currie, Midlothian. A match was held in the Currie parish by 1840. By 1866 there was already a Currie Ploughing Society that held an annual match at various locations in the parish. It appeared to be a large match – and also a very competitive one.
Accounts from the Scottish newspaper press give details of the matches, including the winners and the competitiveness of the match. It is interesting to note the names of winners from the same farms, even over a long period of time.
Ploughing match, January 1840 (from the Caledonian mercury) On Friday the 17th inst., thirty three ploughs stated in two fields of lea at Ravelrig, in the parish of Currie, the property of Robert Davidson, Esq, who had very handsomely given to the tenant, Mr Robert Proudfoot, Gorgie Mains, a sum to be awarded as prizes.
The ploughmen in Currie parish have long been held as excelling in their art, and in the present instance their character was well maintained by the remarkable straightness of the furrows, and the close observance to the depth and breadth of the furrow slices, as specified by the Judges. The Judges, Messrs Stevenson, Penman, and Proudfoot, after a very careful inspection of the work, awarded the prizes as follows, viz- North Field – 1st prize, John Glendinning, Currie; 2d J Gardner, Cockburn; 3d William Sommerville, Shothead; 4th James Allan, Harley; 5th Edward Fleming, Riccarton Mains South Field – 1st prize Andrew Anderson, Harley; 2d John Binnie, Cocklaw; 4th James Dunn, Malleny; 5th Thomas Cunningham, Kenleith. The Judges, amd a few of Mr Proudfot’s other friends, afterwards dined at Gorgie Mains, and the party sent a most agreeable evening in discussing various important points connected with the agricultural improvements of the day.
Ploughing match, December 1866 (from the Daily Review) Yesterday, the Currie Ploughing Society’s annual match took place in the Tomb Park, on the estate of Malleny, the property of Captain Scott. The park has been taken on a short lease by Mr A. G. Cunningham, tenant of the adjoining farm of Rosebank; formerly it was part of the home farm of Malleny, and as such came under the cultivation of one of the lords of the manor who was rather celebrated for the attention he gave to practical agriculture. The morning broke fair, and at the time announced for the beginning of the match that there were nearly two score of ploughmen with their ploughs in order, and horse in fine fettle, waiting the signal to start. Shortly after eight o’clock they broke ground, and continued steadily at work till dusk. In the forenoon the sky overcast, and it was feared that an fall of rain was about to spoil the pleasure of the proceedings, but the clouds drive past, and the afternoon turned out clear, calm, and genial. All the competitors wrought in the one field, which is about 40 acres in extent, and is situated between the eastern approach to the mansion house and the Water of Leith. On the west side of the park, along the water side, is a fine level holm in which about twenty five of the ploughs set to work, while an equal number turned out their lots on the terrace above it, near the avenue. The declivity which runs along the middle of the field was left untouched, and formed a fine promenade for the numerous visitors, who thence obtained a fine view of the busy teams on both side of them.
The land formed a very severe test for both men and horses, as it was lea which had lain untouched by the plough for upwards of twenty years. It was very full of moss, and tough to cut. Notwithstanding the difficulties they had to contend with, the ploughmen made on the average good work, the furs being well set up, cleanly cut, at equal distances from each other, and in lines almost perfectly straight. Some of the lots, as was to be expected where the number of competitors was so large, were rather coarsely done, and the furrows more or less crooked. These were the exception, however, and the fame of Currie as a ploughing parish has been well maintained in this competition. At noon, the workers ceased from labour and partook of refreshments, which were liberally provided by Mr Cunningham. Four o’clock was the finishing hour, but several of the ploughs had not got over their ground by that time, while others were finished before it. Each lot extended to about half a Scotch acre. The judges-Mr Ainlie, Hillend; Mr Elder, Bent, West Calder; Mr Stoddart, Glencorse, Penicuik-awarded the prizes as follows:- 1. James Gilbert, ploughman with Mr Jack, Riccarton Mains, 25s, and the Highland Society’s medal. 2. John Ballantine, with Mr Brown, Cockburnhill, 20s. 3. Alex Dunn, with Mr Davidson, Deanpark, 15s. 4. David Somerville, Shothead, a quarter of mutton, presented by Mr James Wales, Currie. 5. John Baillie, with Mr Auld, Buteland, 10s. 6. David Cooper, with Mr Robertson, Harlaw, 5s. 7. James Dickson, with Mr Davidson, Deanpark, a whip, given by Mr West, saddler, Currie. Prizes to ploughmen under 21 years of age 1. Edward Fleming, with Mr Somerville, Shothead, 10s. 2. Donald Bell, with Mr Brown, Currievale, 7s 6d 3. Robert Baldie, with Mr Brown, Cockburnshill, 2s 6d. Special prizes – to the competing ploughman who has the largest number of children alive-A cart of coals, given by Mr Waterston, Currie, was won by James Watt, with Mr Dawson, Warriston.
To the ploughman who has been longest in the services of one master was also gained by Mr James Watt, he having been 25 years and a half with Mr Dawson. Shortly after the ploughing had been concluded Mr Dawson, Warriston, secretary to the society, called the ploughmen together in the vicinity of the field, and handed the principal prizes to the winners. No dissatisfaction with the arrangements, &c, if it was expressed, and hearty cheers were given for the judges, donors of the prizes, &c. About thirty gentlemen, members of the society, afterwards dined together in Mrs Fergusson’s Inn. Mr Rowatt, late of Currievale, presided, while Mr Dawson officiated as croupier. Among those present were Mr Ainslie and Mr Stoddart, judges; Messrs Moffat, Kinleith; Jack, Riccarton Mains; Davidson, Deanpark; Robertson, Harlaw; Cunningham, Rosebank; Herbertson. West; Waterston &c. The usual loyal and patriotic toasts, success to the Currie Parish Ploughing Society, the health of the judges, and other toasts, were drank with all the honours, while the proceedings were enlivened by an occasional song.”
The photographs were taken at the Currie ploughing match in 1986.
In January 1894 Robert G. Garvie announced that he had commenced his new business at Hardgate Iron Works, Aberdeen. Previously, for the last 17 years he had been the managing partner of Ben Reid & Co., Bon Accord Works. The Hardgate Iron Works were, according to him, “entirely new, and will, when finished, be fitted out with machinery of the most approved description.” He also planned to open a warehouse and showrooms at no. 13 Exchange Street.
By the following year Robert G. Garvie was advertising his new patent turnip sowers, a new spring tooth cultivator, chain harrows, drill rollers, pumps, manure distributors and threshing machines.
Readers of this page will be aware of Garvie’s threshing mills. These were both mills on wheels – the travelling mills that went round farms – as well as static ones built into a steading. Having a new threshing mill installed on a farm was a big occasion. Some newspapers even recorded the installation of a new mill at a farm steading. This could be accompanied by a ceremonial threshing of the first sheaf, sometimes by a significant family member, or even a party with neighbours and others.
Newspapers in the Angus and Aberdeen areas recorded the erection of a number of new mills from the end of the First World War onwards. Here are some accounts.
In February 1919 the Aberdeen press and journal recorded the installation of a new threshing plant at Rothienorman: “Mr Legge, Mill of Blackford, Rothienorman, has just installed a new threshing plant. It consists of a small petrol and paraffin engine, 3hp, complete with magnetic, by Messrs Fairbanks and Morse. The mill is 21 inches wide, with semi-high speed drum, patent shakers and blast. There are also elevators for lifting the oats into sacks, fitted by Mr Legge himself. The plant was fitted by Mr Garvie, Aberdeen, and is very neat and efficient in working.”
In October 1925, the Dundee courier recorded the installation of new threshing plant at an Aberfeldy farm: “An interesting event took place at Lundan Farm, Aberfeldy, tenanted by Mr James Thomson, when there was put in motion a new threshing plant that has just been installed by Messrs R. G. Garvie & Sons, Aberdeen. The mill is at 3 feet 6 inches high speed drum, while the shakers are of the double crank pattern. The grain, after passing through the fanners, is carried to the grain loft by an elevator, and the mill is driven by a Fairbanks Morse engine. The mill was found to work most satisfactorily.
In March 1934 the Dundee courier noted the installation of new threshing plant in the Glencarse district: “Up to date threshing plant has just been introduced at Inchyra Manor Farm, Glencarse, occupied by Messrs Alex and Albert Hutton. The straw carrier conveys the straw along the loft to the flakes around the cattle courts, depositing it at intervals during the process, while the chaff is taken by means of a blast to either of the courts, regulation being possible by the turning of a switch. The grain may be conveyed to a new granary or to the corn-room as desired. The machinery is driven by a farm tractor, and last week a stack of seed oats was satisfactorily threshed by the new mill. Only four men were required for the work, and the dressing of the grain was perfect. Mrs Albert Hutton fed the first sheaf.”
In November 1935 the Dundee courier noted that a new mill had been installed in the Auchterran district . It recorded it as an “interesting event”: “An interesting event had taken place in the Auchterran district at Powguild Farm (Mr John Cunningham). In presence of a large number of friends and neighbouring farmers a new threshing mill was installed. A pleasing touch in the ceremony was the part played by Mr David Fair, of Ballinkirk, who was tenant of Powguild 50 years ago. Mr Fair put through the first load. The new plant, which is driven by electric power, was built by Messrs R. G. Garvie & Sons, Aberdeen, and has a high-speed drum screen and straw and grain convergers. After the installation Mr and Mrs Cunningham entertained the company.”
Advertisments in newspapers are great for revealing a wealth of details about businesses that are not always found in other sources of evidence. Accounts of premises for sale, as well as roups, provide detailed lists of the contents of a business. These can provide evidence of the scale and operations of a business. They can also show the manufactures that were being made.
In January 1856 the agricultural implement maker and blacksmith Alexander Young of Monifieth was retiring. He had arranged a public sale of the contents of his premises including his tools and implements that he had made. This shows that he had an extensive list of his manufactures including farm carts, ploughs, harrows, wooden rollers, land rollers, harrows etc – some of the “regular” implements that he was making and supplying for his customers.
The advert is worth quoting at length for the insights it can provide into his business:
“Premises for sale Dundee, Perth and Cupar advertiser, 23 January 1857 Monifieth sale. Extensive dale of agricultural implements, and wrights’ and smithy tools, wood &c There will be sold, by public roup, at Monifieth, on the premises belonging to, and occupied by, Alexander Young, agricultural implement maker and blacksmith there, on Wednesday the 28th and Thursday the 29th January curt, The whole stock in trade, new implements, tools, &c, belonging to Mr Young, who is retiring from the business. The new implements consist of- 6 farm carts-complete; 7 corn and light carts; 1 water cart; 20 iron ploughs; 2 turnip sowing machines; 1 malleable iron land roller; 3 wood rollers; 6 two and three horse grubbers; 4 drill grubbers; 2 land pressers, with 6 presses each; 2 jankers, with wheels, 6 ½ and 5 ½ feet high; 8 brake of harrows; 18 pairs of wheels and axles; 2 pairs of 6-inch broad wheels and axles; 1 weighing machine; 1 gig; 5 sets of polished draught chains; 4 pairs of bellows; and 4 anvils; and a number of wheel barrows. The wood consists of –about 20,000 feet of hardwood plank, well seasoned, from 1 ¼ to 6 inch thick; 70 pairs of cart wheel naves, turned; 300 gang spokes; 80 gang felloes; and A quantity of larch boards and planking.
The smithy and wrights’ tools consist of-smithy tools for eight forges, including bellows. Anvils, vices, turning lathes, hooping beds, punching machine, taps, dyes, and screw plates, beak irons, screwing stocks, iron rack; blowing fan for forges; cast iron troughs; iron beams and scales, &c. Wright’s benches; pump-boring tools; saws; castings, with wheel and pinion and other gearing for wind mill; castings for a corn crusher, &c &c. Also, an excellent threshing mill; barn fanners and furniture; second hand jankers; grubber; grass and turnip machines; carts; wheels and axles; truck and paddock; grocer’s counter; 2 guns; a cow (nearly calving); sow (in pigs); hay; firewood; and other articles. As the sale is extensive it will commence each day at ten o’clock forenoon. The smithy and wrights’ tools will be sold on Wednesday, and the sale of the new implements and wood will commence at twelve o’clock on Thursday Monifieth, 29th Dec. 1856.”
The photographs were taken at the Royal Highland Show, June 2019.
In each of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries we have seen a number of important innovations in the making of ploughs and in ploughing. These included James’ Small’s lightweight metal plough, based on the Rotherham plough, Thomas Pirie’s double furrow plough. There were also a variety of steam ploughing and cultivation systems. From America there were also chilled ploughs, including the Oliver.
One of the Scottish agricultural implement makers, William Wallace of John Wallace and Sons, Glasgow, set out a number of key developments in ploughs in a talk to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Agricultural Discussion Society in early 1892 which was reported in the Linlithgowshire Gazette of 6 February. The company was a key player in importing the new Oliver ploughs, chilled ploughs, into Scotland – an important innovation in ploughing at that time.
The article is worth quoting at length for the developments it records:
“Lecturing on this subject before the Glasgow and West of Scotland Agricultural Discussion Society, Mr Wm Wallace, agricultural implement maker, Graeme Square, Glasgow, said-If there was any implement more than another we have come to look upon as being established as a standard implement, and one that was likely to escape the notice of the restless spirit of the inventor, that implement was our common iron plough, an implement that for nearly half a century had turned the furrows on the surface of mother earth, with such good results and satisfaction to all concerned, that it was not too much to expect that, out of respect for the services it has rendered, it would have been allowed to retain its position unmolested; but it appears our Yankee friends have no respect for ancient history. Whether that is on account of their great anxiety to create a new history completely American or not, I cannot tell; but certainly they have made such radical alterations on the appearance and principle of the plough that, when our common plough and American chilled plough are laid alongside each other, a person not initiated in agricultural matters could hardly suspect that they were to be applied to similar purposes. In the construction of our iron plough, the inventor appears to have centred all his ingenuity in designing a plough with a thorough substantial frame or body, and had little regard to the weight, the ease or simplicity, in which the wearing or duplicate parts could be replaced; and I would just here venture to remark that the frame of our Scotch iron plough, with forged coulter hole, solid sheathe, and double draught lugs, is just about as substantial and excellent a piece of smith work as it is possible to produce; and I question if any other country in the world could turn out such splendid workmanship at the extremely low price it is supplied to our farmers. In fact, I have heard American plough makers declare that they could not produce a similar plough for less than three times the price the plough is sold at in this country.
In designing his chilled plough, the American inventor seems to have gone on entirely opposite lines from the British maker, as the former appears to have expended very little thought on the body or frame of his plough, the beam being simply a straight piece of oak, and the handles oak or ash braced together in the most simple and inexpensive manner. When we come to examine the parts of the plough where wearing parts are attached, it is here we find that the American has applied all his skill, as every part of the plough that is subject to be speedily worn out is fixed in such an easy and simple manner, that they can at once be replaced by an ordinary farm labourer. No doubt the exigency of the American farmer demanded a plough constructed on these lines, as it was all-important to him that he should have a plough that could at once be repaired on the farm, he being so far removed from a manufacturing centre, while the easy access of our farmers to the village blacksmith made the easy repairing of ploughs of little or no consequence, as all the Scotch plough repairs are done by local blacksmiths. It is, however, when we cone to enquire into the merits of the common iron plough v the American chilled plough as labour saving implements, that the latter stands out prominently as the plough best suited for the times we live in; hence the reason it is fast superseding our heavy iron ploughs throughout the world.
The principal points of superiority claimed in the American plough are, first, lightness of plough itself, its weight about 1 1/2cwt, weight of common iron plough fully 2 cwt; second, lightness of draught; third, capability of doing about a half more work; fourth, ease of management. The draught of an American plough, turning furrow on lea land 13 inches broad by 6 inches deep, is 2cwt. Draught of an American plough, turning furrow 10 ½ inches by 7 inches, is 3 ¾ cwt. This draught test was made by Professor Jamieson during the winter of 1884-85 at the experimental farm of Glasterbury, in Aberdeenshire. For the following draught test I am indebted to my friend Mr John Speir, of Newton- American plough in sticky land furrow 13 inches by 8 ½ inches, 25 to 28lbs; iron plough in sticky land, furrow 10 inches by 8 ½ inches, 37 to 42 lbs. In potatoes or sandy soil, American plough, 23 lbs per inch; iron plough, 46lbs per inch; clay stubble land, furrow 9 inches deep, American plough 38 to 42 lbs; iron plough, 46 to 56 lbs; light land, ploughing 3 inches deep, 12 lbs per inch; iron plough, 17lbs. From these tests it is quite safe to assume that the chill plough is at least one-third lighter in draught than the iron plough, ie., chill plough will turn a furrow 14 inches broad by 8 inches or 9 inches deep with two horses, which would necessitate three horses in the common iron plough. Various reasons could be adduced for the light draught of the chilled plough, among these being lightness of plough, and plough so constructed that it cuts the furrow in such a way that it comes loosely on to the mould-board, which is of a concave instead of a convex shape, and furrow is quite naturally thrown over without any pressure or hugging of mould-board, as is done by furrow against mould-board on iron plough. This want of pressure also obviates the lateral thrust on landside, quite a source of increased draught in the iron plough.
The bright polish of chilled mould board is also a most important factor in producing light draught; and it is here that the Oliver chilled plough retains its supremacy over the many imitations that are now made; for, no doubt, a plough with a concave mould-board, unless well chilled and retaining its glassy surface, would add to, instead of decreasing, the draught. The use of a wheel or wheels also tends to lighten and steady the draught, while the ridge-and-furrow system of ploughing, at one tine so common over all Scotland, did not permit of its adoption with such advantages as on level land; but now that eep furrows are all but abolished, the wheels might with very great advantage to both men and horses, be used on our Scotch ploughs. The ease with which a chilled plough can be controlled by an unskilled ploughman is also a point of great importance, when skilled labour is now so valuable. While I think you will agree with me that it is impossible for any plough to be made so as to be universally adopted as the plough suited for all kinds and conditions of soil, still the American plough has been shown to possess advantages which justly allow of its being classed as one of the many laboursaving implements that can, with considerable advantage, be used by the British farmer; and its light draft, and thorough pulverising and breaking up of the furrow, and turning over and completely burying all weeds and surface grass, makes it specially suited for spring and fallow ploughing; and if this plough was not used for any other kind of work, it would well repay the outlay incurred in its purchase, as the spring time, above all other seasons in the year, us a time when farmers’ horses are hard wrought, and farm labourers are fully employed. Surely it is a great boon when a plough can be had that is one-third easier to draw, will do a third more work than common iron plough, and at same time be wrought by any unskilled lad that can handle horses. The result of the introduction of the American chilled plough into this country has been the almost total extinction of the double furrow plough, which was invented by Mr Pirie, Aberdeenshire, about 20 years ago. A large number of these ploughs were made and sold by different makers, and, when first put before the agricultural public, many thought it was a plough likely to come into general use but after a few years’ experience, it was found that, unless for very light land, the draught was too heavy, plough difficult to work and expensive to keep in repair; and the fact that it required a three-horse yoke all militated against it; and at the present time the sale of this plough us very limited.
Before passing from the subject of the plough, I wish to refer shortly to a special pattern of Scotch plough that has been very prominently before the farmer in the west of Scotland at our ploughing matches during the past dozen years or so. I allude to what is known as the “high-cut” plough, but what I, for want of a better or worse name, would call the “labour-giving” plough; as I unhesitatingly firm that this plough has not one redeeming feature to recommend it, unless it be the fact that its work, although it takes from eighteen to twenty-two hours to plough an imperial acre, is invariably awarded the first prize by the judges, and these gentlemen usually are practical agriculturists. The principles of this plough are directly antagonistic to those of the chilled plough, as it is difficult to make, difficult to keep and put in repair, does little work, cutting a furrow 6 inches broad by 8 or 9 inches deep, hard to hold, and can only be handled by a skilled ploughman. Some may feel inclined to blame the plough maker for introducing this plough; but no doubt the inventor, seeing the class of ploughing that judges at matches were gradually drifting into, was simply catering to supply the demand. The blame rests entirely on agricultural societies for consenting to allow prizes to be given to work that took man, horses, and plough twenty hours to plough an acre. In fact, I think the farmer who uses such a plough us hardly entitled to cry out about hard times. Had the rule laid down by the Highland Society, that ten hours be allowed to plough an imperial acre, been strictly adhered to, it would at once have prevented any retrogade movement in the direction indicated.”
The photos of horse ploughing were taken at the Scottish Ploughing Championships 2016, the steam ploughing engines at Fife Vintage Agricultural Machinery Rally, and the tractor ploughing at the Easter Ross ploughing match.