A celebrated plough maker: R. H. N. Sellar, Huntly, Aberdeenshire

Obituaries are a good source of evidence for revealing the lives and interests of a number of the key Scottish agricultural implement makers. They reveal information such as how their careers developed, their training, and their relations with the local communities. 

Detailed obituaries of one of the members of the Sellar family of Huntly were published in a number of local newspapers. Those of Mr R. H. N. Sellar, Huntly, a well-known member of that important family of plough makers are worth quoting at length. 

A lengthy one was published in the Aberdeen daily journal of 31 July 1918:

“We deeply regret to announce the death of Mr R. H. N. Sellar, Vice-Convener of Aberdeenshire, and senior member of the well-known form of Messrs G. Sellar and Son, agricultural implement makers, Huntly and Alloa. The sad event took place at his residence, Battlehill, Huntly, at a quarter to ten o’clock last night. Mr Sellar had not been in robust health for some time, his illness taking a serious turn about three months ago, but after an operation in a nursing home in Glasgow he was able to be removed to Bridge of Allan. After a short residence there he returned north about five weeks ago. He was 58 years of age. Mr Sellar had lived a very active business and public life, and the sincerest sympathy of a very wide circle of friends will go out to his widow and family in their great sorrow.
Mr Robert Hunter Nicol Sellar was the eldest son of the late Mr George Sellar, and was born in Huntly in 1859; the other members of his father’s family still alive being-Miss Sellar, Polwood, Huntly; Mr James Sellar, solicitor, Penang; and Mr John Sellar, who is in business in South Africa. He was educated at the Huntly Parish School, under the late Rev John Macdonald, best known and still remembered as Dominie MacDonald, and afterwards at Aberdeen University. Returning to Huntly to join his father in business, he received a thorough training in all its departments.On the death of his father in 1884 he became head of the firm, and by his personal energy and enterprise extended its ramifications and added to its high reputation in the agricultural world. Implements, designed, patented, and manufactured by the firm, have long enjoyed a high reputation. Indeed, not only in the north, but in the home and colonial markets, and in many countries abroad. “Sellar, Huntly” is a name that stands everywhere for merit. Mr Sellar was also himself personally well known, having travelled extensively to further the interests of his business. About five years ago a considerable part of the Huntly establishment was transferred to Alloa, where a large business was successfully established. The war has brought with it many improvements in agricultural machinery, and the Sellar centres have been prominent in war-time features of the industry.
Besides attending closely to the demands of his business, Mr Sellar found time to play an active and acceptable part in public life, which, in certain spheres, was by no means confined to the district of Huntly and the county, but was of a national character. In his native town he served on the School Board for nearly 30 years, and sat for five years at the Town Council, being elected a Councillor and Baillie in 1898, and retiring in 1903 owing to the pressure of business. His deepest interest undoubtedly lay in the domain of education. Soon after his father’s death, he was elected a member of Huntly School Board, an on the retirement of the late Mr John Wilson, factor, in 1909, he was appointed chairman, a position he occupied to the last. The extension and development of the local schools were greatly due to his personal efforts and initiative; and the handsome Gordon Schools, in their present splendidly equipped state, might almost be said to be a memorial to his educational service to the Huntly district.
In 1898 Mr Sellar entered the Aberdeen County Council as representative of the burgh of Huntly in succession to Colonel W. A. Mellis, but latterly he represented the electoral division of Cairn, Glass, and Huntlt. In 1902 he was appointed Chairman of the Huntly District Committee in succession to Mr John Wilson, and continued in that post until his death. The interest he showed in, and the grip he was able to take of the business which came before the Council gave him an assured position amongst the members, and in July, 1909, following upon the death of Provost Hutcheon, Turriff, he was elected Vice-Convener of the County. The duties of that office, as, indeed, those of every post he was placed in throughout his public career, were discharged with zeal and acceptance, while making himself conversant with all phases of local government, he showed himself invariably to be a man of prescience and broad outlook. Mr Sellar, who was also convener of the Lands Valuation and Finance Committee of the County Council, was elected Chairman of the County Committee on Secondary Education, and also Chairman of the Aberdeen Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers-selections which testify to the confidence of those with whom he was associated. Not without cause was it humorously suggested that the Secondary Eductaion Committee and Mr Sellar were practically synonymous terms, and his energy, tact, and business capacity in dealing with the difficult and complex questions which came before those bodies were readily acknolwledged. He held those offices throughout important periods of educational development, and in each revealed an enthusiasm and foresight worthy of the best educational traditions of the north-eastern area of Scotland. His six years’ tenure of office was marked by the erection of the magnificent new Training Centre at Aberdeen. He was a member of Sir Henry Craik’s Committee which reported upon the salaries of Scottish teachers several months ago. 
The North of Scotland College of Agriculture was another institution in which Mr Sellar rendered useful service. He was one of the original governors, and had been vice-chairman for some years, and was chairman of the Central Studies and Staff Committee, whose work whas much to do with the success of the College throughout the north. He manifested a deep interest in the promotion of the educational side of the various branches of forestry, and in 1911 he was appointed to a Forestry Committee of Inquiry for Scotland. This Committee recommended the purchase of Ballogie was a forest area for the north of Scotland. That the scheme was not gone on with is matter for regret, as the purchase price of the ground would have been more than met by the timber which it has yielded during the past four years.
Amongst Mr Sellar’s most recent appointments was that of chairman of the County of Aberdeen Local Food Control Committee. He was a Justice of the Peace for the County and a Hon Sheriff-Substitute.
A specially warm corner in his heart was reserved by Mr Sellar for Huntly and its institutions, and his untiring, educational services for it have already been alluded to. He was Chairman of the Jubilee Cottage Hospital Managers, and Chairman of the District Nursing Association. He took a keen interest in the welfare of Huntly United Free Church, and or over thirty years had been its treasurer. In politics he was a Moderate Liberal, and held the office of the Huntly Liberal Association.
Mr Sellar leaves a widow and a family of three sons and one daughter, one son-Lieu J. M. Sellae, of the KOSB- having been killed din the war. Mrs Sellar is a daughter of the late Mr Thomson, of Messrs Glegg and Thomson, Aberdeen. The eldest son, Mr Robert Thomson Sellar, after being in Canada for some years gaining business insight, returned home a few months ago, and has been associated with the management of the firm.” 

The Aberdeen press and journal also published a further one on 6 August 1918. This time, the Rev A. S. Laidlaw of Huntly UF Church referred to him: 

“The loss occasioned by the death of Mr Sellar, he said, was very great when they thought of the manifold and distinguished service of which his life was full. He was a pillar of that church, a conspicuous figure of the community, an eminent public servant in the county, and a man of growing importance, even in the national sense. Graces of person were accompanied by intellectual and practical qualities of a very high order; he had a wise and understanding mind; he could think on a large scale and arrive at clear conceptions, and this he knew his own mind and could trust his judgement. It was this characteristic that marked him out for leadership. If he were to compare him with any well-known personage in public life, it would be with Mr Joseph chamberlain. Neither went to councils wit confused, unseeing minds, to pick up some ideas in the course of the debate. The business was mastered, and, naturally, people of less thorough habit of mind could usually do little else but follow.
At the early age of 24 he was called to the his father’s place in the management of the family business, and speedily made his power felt. His grasp, initiative, and organising faculty enabled him to build with splendid success on the foundation already aid. The School Board ws the gateway by which he entered on public service. he developed a strong interest in education, especially in its administrative aspect,and by close study qualified himself to deal with its problems with an expert’s knowledge and authority. His accession to the County Council greatly enlarged his sphere of action nd influence. With the coming of the war the scope of his labours was further enlarged and became more than provincial, even national.
He has no more than fully matured his powers by experience of affairs and knowledge of men. If he had been spared, its seemed clear that he was only coming into his kingdom. If not greater, more conspicuous, service lay before him, and honours would have come. He had the consciousness of power, which was bound to be a spur to ambition; and it is certain that no matter with what body of men he might be called to work his weight would be felt, and high responsibilities would come to him.
All the while he was assiduously developing, and on a large scale, the business of his firm. The transferrence to Alloa was a heavy and courageous undertaking, hard upon which, unfortunately, came the unforeseen complications produced by the outbreak of war.
In his long association with the leader they had lost he recalled only one occasion when a very important decision was reached, which defeated a cherished scheme of his. A smaller man would probably have taken offence, and perhaps withdrawn himself and his support on which a great deal depended, but he accepted the ruling and played a leading part in carrying to completion the plan adopted.
The reference closed with an expression of sympathy for the bereaved family.”


A new implement works at Linlithgow

The development of new implement and machinery works were sometimes recorded in the newspaper press, especially where they were of a significant size. One such new works was built at Linlithgow by A. Newlands and Sons before the outbreak if the First World War. 

The new works were announced by the Linlithgowshire gazette in January 1912. That newspaper noted that: 

“The new works which are being erected at Linlithgow by Messrs Alexander Newlands and Son, the well-known agricultural implement makers and engineers are now approaching completion. The works, which will occupy a considerable portion of ground, are situated in the vicinity of St Magdalene’s. Besides the implement and engineering departments there will be, we understand, a large garage in connection with the works. A new road has been formed by the proprietors leading from the works to the public highway, and it is anticipated that railway siding accommodation will also be provided. “

Work had started on the new works in August 1912. The Linlithgowshire gazette recorded that: 

“Messrs A. Newlands and Sons, engineers and agricultural implement makers, have now had a beginning made with the erection of their new works at St Magdalene’s. The site seems a desirable one, being in convenient proximity to the main line of the N.B. Railway, and also the public highway. The new premises will be more extensive than those formerly occupied by Messrs Newlands, and, as may be expected more up-to-date, to permit of business development in the respective departments. Already good progress has been made with the construction of the new buildings. As we have previously stated, the ground formerly occupied by Messrs Newlines is to be taken over by Nobel’s Explosive Co. Ltd, and will, in due course, be utilised as a pertinent of the Regent Factory. At present a retaining wall is being erected, and a large tank constructed within the ground for the storage of water for the works.” 

By October that year the Linlithgowshire gazette provided a further update on the building works. It noted: 

“The new works which are being erected at Linlithgow by Messrs Alexander Newlines and Son, the well-known agricultural implement makers and engineers, are now approaching completion. The works, which will occupy a considerable portion of ground, are situated in the vicinity of St Magdalane’s. Besides the implement and engineering departments there will be, we understand, a large garage in connection with the works. A new road has been formed by the proprietors leading from the works to the public highway, and it is anticipated that railway siding accommodation will also be provided. It may be expected more up-to-date, to permit of business development in the respective departments. Already good progress has been made with the construction of the new buildings. As we have previously stated, the ground formerly occupied by Messrs Newlands is to be taken over by Nobels’ Explosive Co. Ltd, and will, in due course, be utilised as a pertinent of the Regent Factory. At present a retaining wall is being erected, and a large tank constructed within the ground for the storage of water for the works.”


Revealing company history through obituaries

Obituaries are a source of evidence that can reveal some information about agricultural implement makers and their work. Some also note links between family members and their companies. 

The Wallace family was one of the most noted families of implement makers, with a small number of businesses based in the west of Scotland. There relationship between some of the family members is recorded in the obituary of William Wallace of Ayr, who died in August 1937. An obituary in the Scotsman notes: 

“Mr William Wallace, a well-known agricultural implement maker and inventor, died at his residence, 34 Ashgrove Street, Ayr, yesterday morning. he had been in failing health for some time. He was a son of the late Mr Robert Wallace, implement maker, Whitletts, who put the first two-wheeled reaper on the market in the late ‘sixtes last century. Two sons of the old man were the well-known heads for many years of J. & R. Wallace, The Foundry, Castle-Douglas. It was while he was with his father at Whitletts that the deceased invented the Wallace double-drill plough and manure sower which came to be used all over Britain. he also invented a broadcast manure sower which, like his other invention, proved a great book to farmers. About the year 1902 he became associated with John Wallace & Sons (Ltd), Glasgow, and for a period of about 21 years held the position of manager at Ayr. He was also managing director for a time of John Wallace & Sons, Ayr, and a little over five years ago he started business on his own behalf in Ayr with his son. He is survived by Mrs Wallace, and by a sone and two daughters.”

The company of Robert Wallace, Whittlets, Ayrshire was recorded in the agricultural press in April 1865. By 1900 it was recorded at the Railway Bridge in Whittlets. It undertook the trades of agricultural implement maker, engineer and implement maker and smith. From the early 1880s its specialities were reaping and mowing machines. A decade later it was making manure distributer which it entered into the Highland Society’s trial of manure distributers. Its area of trade was largely the south of Scotland, a fact revealed by its attendance at the Highland Shows in the south of the country, especially in Glasgow, Dumfries, Kelso, Edinburgh and Stirling. 

By 1920 the company had reorganissed to become John Wallace & Sons Ltd, at Railway Bridge, Towhead, Ayr. It changed its name in the mid 1920s to become John Wallace & Sons (Ayr) Ltd. It opened a debit at West Langlands Street, Kilmarnock by 1928. It had a depot at Stranraer in 1944. The company was dissolved in 1985. 

Another of the companies in the obituary is J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright. The company is recorded in the Scottish agricultural press in 1876. It was located at the Castle Douglas Iron Foundry in the town. It was also noted for its reaping and mowing machines in the early 1880s. Into the 1890s its noted productions included turnip cutters, boxed teeth harrows and ploughs. Manure distributors were an important production. 

The company was a key maker of milking machines in Scotland, and renowned for them. The company had ben involved in the early development of milking machines, and was a key company in their development. It was awarded a silver medal for its milking machine by the Royal Agricultural Society of England for its milking machine in 1905. This was a significant achievement for a Scottish agricultural implement an machine maker as few were awarded silver medals. 

The company looked further afield for its business, and exhibited at the Highland Show in each of its eight show districts. Its last Highland Show was in 1952. The company was in receivership in 1988. 

A third company is John Wallace & Sons Ltd, one of the major Scottish implement an machine makers who was well known throughout Scotland, Britain – and indeed the world – was The company was already trading in Glasgow in 18655, from Graham Square. Graham Square was to form the address of the company until the late 1960s. By 1894 it had premises at 7, 9, 10 and from 28 to 38 Graham Square. By 1905 there were also branches at Ayr, Cupar, and Stirling; in 1913 they were recorded as Ayr, Perth, Cupar and Lanark.
The company was a forward looking on: it became a company limited by guarantee in December 1896; it changed its form a number of times during its history. It started to exhibit at the Highland Show in 1867, and attended shows in each of the different show districts, demonstrating its wish to be a company known throughout Scotland. The Highland and Agricultural Society awarded it numerous awards for its manufactures including a medium silver medal for collection (1870, 1875). It also won a number of awards at the Society’s prestigious implement trials, including third prize of £5 for potato digger in 1881, and equal award (with 3 others) for potato digger or lifter in 1911. It also entered a number of the Society’s trials including its trial of mowers in 1882, trial of binders in 1893, turnip lifters in 1895, swathe turners in 1905, potato diggers or lifters in 1909, potato diggers or lifters in 1911, and potato planters in 1914. The company regularly advertised in the Scottish agricultural press from 1864 onwards.

The company also took over the business and patterns of other leading implement makers in the west of Scotland. The included Archibald Forest, award winning plough maker, Uddingston, Lanarkshire; Archibald became the foreman in the plough department of the Wallace works in 1905.
The company had a wide range of trades: from the 1870s they included agricultural implement maker, constructional engineer, contractor, engineer, galvaniser, also iron house and roof constructor, iron door maker, iron and wood building manufacturer, lawn mower maker, and machinery merchant. It made a wide range of manufactures including ploughs, harrows, turnip drills, potato diggers and lifters, reapers and mowers, hay making machinery, and iron buildings. It became a significant agent for a range of implements and machines from the best known and renowned makers in Britain. In 1911 they included Blackstone & Co. Ltd, Stamford, Frost & Wood, Ontario, E. H. Bengal & Co., Heybridge. In 1913 that list also included W. N. Nicholson & Sons Ltd, Newark on Trent, and the Oliver Plow Company, South bend, Indiana.

See what an obituary can reveal! 

The name plates were taken at a number of rallies throughout Scotland.


Who were the Scottish agricultural implement makers in 1969?

The mid to late 1960s saw significant changes in the making of agricultural implements and machines in Scotland as well as their makers. A number of names that had been well known and renowned for many decades, and even from the nineteenth century disappeared from the scene. However, there were still a number of key makers. 

One list from 1969 lists the major Scottish implement makers. It is worth quoting as it shows the makers that were still around at that time: 

Adams Trailers Ltd, Challenger Trailer Works, Mintlaw Station, Aberdeenshire
Adrolic Engineering, Clober Works, Clober Road, Milngavie
Ayrshire Elevator Co. Ltd, Knockintiber, Kilmarnock
D. S. Baddeley Engineering Co. Ltd, 43-45 York Street, Glasgow 
William Bain & Co. (Wire Products) Ltd, Lochrin Works, Coatbridge
Barclay, Ross & Hutchison Ltd, 67 Green, Aberdeen 
W. Begg & Sons, Implement Works, Tarbolton, Mauchline
J. Bisset & Sons Ltd, Blairgowrie, Perthshire 
Lennox M. Blyth, Cintra Engineering Works, Chirnside, Berwickshire
Boswells of Blairgowrie Ltd, Rattray Engineering Works, Rattray, Blairgowrie 

Caterpillar Tractor Co. Ltd, PO Box 162, Glasgow
Chalmers-Edina Co., 37 Water Street, Leith
Contrite Sales Ltd, Garrion, Wishaw, Lanarkshire
Cruikshank & Co. Ltd, Agricultural Dept, PO Box 19, Denny Iron Works, Denny
James A. Cuthbertson Ltd, Station Road, Biggar, Lanarkshire
Dairy Supply Co. Ltd, Cumberland Avenue, London. Also at Edinburgh and Belfast.
James Dickie & Co. (Drop Forgings) Ltd, Victoria Stamping Works, Ayr
W. Dickie & Sons Ltd, Victoria Works, East Kilbride
William Donaldson (Engineers) Ltd, Blackstoun Works, Linwood, Renfrewshire
Drysdale & Co. Ltd, Bon Accord Works, Yoker, Glasgow

Wm Elder & Sons Ltd, Tweedside Works, Berwick on Tweed
Euclid (Great Britain) Ltd, Newhouse Industrial Estate, Motherwell
Farm mechanisation Co. Ltd, South Road, Cupar, Fife
John Fleming & Son, West Linton, Peebleshire
R. G. Garvie & Sons, 2 Canal Road, Aberdeen
Grays of Fetterangus Ltd, Fairbank Works, Fetterangus, Aberdeenshire
Geo. Henderson Ltd, Kelso, Roxburghshire
Hoover Ltd (Industrial Products Department), Cambuslang, Lanarkshire
Hurlford Engineering Co. Ltd, Hurlford, Kilmarnck
John Inglis & Co., Albert Works, 69 Bellsdyke Road, Airdrie
Innes, Walker (Engineering) Ltd, Clyde Works, Brown Street, Paisley 

Alex Jack & Sons Ltd, Maybole, Ayrshire
James Jones & Sons Ltd, PO Box 35 Larbert, Stirlingshire
A. Laurie & Sons (Trailers) Ltd, trailer and motor body builders, Falkirk
Lochfield Garage, Terregles Street, Dumfries
Macdonald Bros, Roseacre Street, Portsoy, Banffshire
James McGowan, Dechmont Welding & Engineering Co., Dalton, Cambuslang
Charles J. Marshall & Co., Chapel Works, Bucksburn, Aberdeen
J. S. Millar & Sons, Annan, Dumfriesshire
A. Milne & Sons (Millwrights) Ltd, 50 Jopp’s Lane, Aberdeen
A. Newlands & Sons Ltd, St Magdalene Engineering Works, Linlithgow
North Eastern Welding Co., Stell Road, Aberdeen
Jack Olding & Co. (Scotland) Ltd, Glencairn Works, Perth
John Oswald & Sons, Brechin, Angus
A. & W. Pollock Ltd, Implement Works,Mauchline, Ayrshire

Reekie Engineering Ltd, Arbroath
W. Reid (Forres) Ltd, Forres
David Ritchie (Implements) Ltd, Whitehills, Forfar
A. M. Russell Ltd, Sinton Works, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh
John Rutherford & Sons Ltd, Home Place, Coldstream, Berwickshire
Ryeside Agricultural & Engineering Works, Dalry, Ayrshire
Scottish Mechanical light Industries Ltd, Scotmec Works, Ayr
George Sellar & Sons Ltd, Kelliebank Works, Alloa
Alexander Shanks & Sons Ltd, Dens Iron Works, Arbroath, Angus
Shearer Bros Ltd, Maybank Works, Balmellie Street, Turriff, Aberdeenshire
Thomas Sherriff & Co. Ltd, West Barns, Dunbar, East Lothian 
Sunbeam Electric Ltd (Agricultural & Hardware Division), East Kilbride, Lanarkshire
Alexander Thomas, Guildtown, Perthshire
Uniroyal Ltd, Castle Mills, Edinburgh
D. M. Wallace & Sons Ltd, Kelso
G. & J. Weir Ltd, Cathcart, Glasgow
John White & Son, Auchtermuchty, Fife
Andrew Young & Son (Engineers) Ltd, 45 Mid Wharf Street, Glasgow.

How many of these names do you recognise?


Implements and machines in Midlothian in 1795

The county agricultural surveys published by the Board of Agriculture between 1795 and 1817 provide detailed accounts of the agriculture, agricultural practices and implements and machines used in each county in Scotland. A number of the surveyors provide especially detailed accounts of the agricultural implements, their history, dissemination and use. george Robertson was one such surveyor. He wote the accounts of Midlothian and Kincardineshire. His account of Midlothian is especially worth quoting for its account of implements used in one of the leading agricultural districts at that time. It states: 

“Implements -Not may years since, these were few in number, and rudely constructed. They have undergone much alteration of late.
The plough formerly used was the Scotch, long and heavy, yet well adapted to the powerful draught of 4 or 6 horses, that were frequently applied. When it was perceived that 2 horses were sufficient for every purpose of tillage, this simple implement was constructed on a lesser scale, but the original proportions still retained. It has since been improved in principle, (made somewhat resembling to the Rotherham Plough) by the late Mr Small at Ford, in this county, who has, on the true mechanical principles, modified the mould-board into such a form of curvature, as to make less resistance to the earth as it is turned up, by which it requires less force to draw, than any other plough known in this county; while the furrow itself is gradually laid over to its proper position. 
The mouldboard, as well as the sheath, is now greatly made of cast-iron, on the inside of which is an inscription, bearing, Mr Small’s name, the name of the founders, (Cooper and barker) and, what is principally intended,-the approbation of the Dalkeith Farmer Society. it is now universal over Scotland, and perhaps were it better known in England, it might come to displace the complicated ploughs with wheels and other trumpery with which agriculture there is at present incumbered; as it is not apt to be put out of order, but simple in the construction, and effective in operation, it is adapted to almost every situation. The chain, connected with the muzzle, by which it is drawn, fixed as far back as the culture, is not essential to the formation, serving merely to strengthen the beam, which may be made stronger of itself at less expense, while the tillage is as accurately performed with ploughs that have none. The price is from 40s to 50s. 

The harrows, of which there are several kinds, is commonly made of four bulls, connected by four slots, generally four feet square, weighing about 48lbs avoirdupois, besides having 20 iron tunes or teeth, of about alb wt. each. Each harrow is always drawn by one horse; three of which are frequently yoked together under one driver. This implement may be improved in principle by altering the arrangement of the tunes. A pair of harrows cost about a guinea. 
Rollers are generally of free-stone, 5 1/2 feet long, 15 inches diameter, weighing, when mounted, about 12cwt drawn by two horses, and cost about two guineas. Every farmer has at least one, for something the grass-lands, to which it is peculiarly adapted; also for breaking the clods of rough land in tillage; in which it is not clear that it is so effective as the ancient clod mallet; for although, in some cases, there may be more work done for the same expense, in general there is less, and not so completely to the purpose, besides giving the whole land, without distinction, the same pressure, whether necessary or not.

Of drilling and hoeing instruments there are many; usually of a plain and effectual construction. The drill-barrow for sowing one row at a time, is a simple machine, adapted to different grains, and small seeds, in any required proportion. A machine of this kind, for sowing several drills at once, and at sich different degree of width as may be wanted, would be a great acquisition, provided it were not too complex. 
It may be proper here to take notice of the weed-hook for cutting thistles, &c among standing corns, which, although but a simple instrument, is perhaps the most perfect of any we have. Notwithstanding, that it is constantly rubbing against the ground, when it is used, yet being concave in the under side, the edges are preserved entire for several years. It costs (without the staff) only 2 1/2d and weighs about 2 oz. It is only made, so far as I know, in East Lothian, here it is to be had in the shops in Haddington. 
The reaping fork, for collecting into sheaves, corns that are cut with the scythe, will probably be adopted more generally, as the practice of mowing corn becomes more common. The prongs are in practice, pushed in below the swathe, raising accurately the straw from the stubble, while the prongs serve the double purpose of retaining the cut corns from scattering backwards; and of forming the size of the sheaf, which is regularly determined when the straw accumulates as high as the top of these prongs.
There can be no question, that with this implement corn can be collected faster and more regularly into sheaves, than merely by hand labour. 

Wheel carriages, employed in husbandry, are only the close-cart, and the corn-cart, both of a light construction; drawn by two horses, and of late by one. The large wains, or heavy four horse wagons, in English husbandry, are reprobated here. Two horses in a cart are commonly loaded with 18 or 20 cwt. One horse draws still more easily 12 cwt; even 24 cwt is frequently put to a single horse, and 30 wt on good road is not uncommon. This cart has lately been much improved: placed on its axle, the bottom at such side projects over the inner head of the naves, as far as nearly to touch the spoke of the wheels; from which acquired breadth, the capacity is enlarged, while the side standards being brought nearer to a perpendicular, are able to sustain more weight. The corn cart, which is only placed occasionally on wheels, for carrying hay, or corn in the straw, is composed of standards, rods, and spars, without deals, but is broader and much longer than the close-cart, that it may hold a more billy load. It costs from 20s to 30s.

Fanners, for cleaning corn, have been in general use here for more than fifty years. They run 12 bolls an hour, and in two operations, or in three at most, the corn is completely cleaned; four people are necessary to attend them, for sifting, riddling &c. Some fanners perform these operations also by which two persons less are required. They cost from 2l to 5l and last 20 or 30 years.
Threshing mills, lately invented, were very soon afterwards introduced into this county. They are now very general, and of various dimensions and construction, wrought by one, or two, or your horses, or by water, which last is the best method of all. One-horse mills a boll in the hour, the others, in that proportion or mor. They cost from 25l to 60l: some perhaps more, particularly when they are made to clean the corn at the same time, which requires more machinery, as well as more space.”

As you can see there were not too many different types of agricultural implements and machines at this time! What a change from today’s mechanised farms! 

The photographs were taken at the Strathnairn Rally, September 2014.


Implement makers retiral notices

The Scottish agricultural press and the provincial press include a number of adverts from implement makers who were retiring or had stopped business for various reasons. As with farms, a number of implement makers held roups or public sales to dispose of their tools and stock in trade. Others transferred their businesses to other willing parties to continue. 

These adverts can be a useful source of information on what happened to a business and as an aspect of business history. The following adverts all reveal aspects of the retrial of a number of implement makers from the mid 1850s onwards. 

“Clearing sale of agricultural implement maker’s stock
Alexander Young, agricultural implement maker at Monifieth, near Dundee, respectfully intimates to his friendsand the public that, having now disposed of his business, he will sell, by public group, in an early day, the whole extensive stock of implements and utensils of trade belonging to him. 
Particulars of the stock, and the day of sale, will be stated in a future advertisement.
Monifieth, 30th October, 1856″
From Dundee, Perth and Cupar advertiser, 14 November 1856 

“William Crichton, blacksmith, Port Elphinstone, in retiring from business, begs leave to return his sincere thanks to his numerous customers for the liberal support they have bestowed on him for the last sixteen years, and that he has now given over his stock-in-trade to Mr Alex Newlands, blacksmith, who he trusts will meet with the same patronage as bestowed on him.
In reference to the above, Alexander Newlands begs to intimate that, in addition to the trade as formerly carried on by his predecessor, Mr William Crichton, he intends carrying in general country work-via, plough and other agricultural implement making, and horse-shoeing, and having been a number of years in the employment of Messrs Sellar & Son, Huntly, with whom he has had great expertise in the above, he trusts, with good workmanship and moderate charges to merit a share of public patronage.
Port Elphinstone. May 30, 1860.”
From Aberdeen journal, 6 June 1860. 

“Important sale of property, founders’ and engineers’ plant and tools
Upset price reduced
The remains, subjects, belonging to Robert Mitchell & Son, Limited, will be exposed for sale, by public group, on Friday the 2nd day of November, at twelve o’clock noon, within the Royal Hotel, Peterhead.
The subjects consist of the yards and workshops, entering from Marischal Street and Tollbooth Wynd, in which the firm carried on the trades of iron founding, engineering, and agricultural implement making. Also, the plant and tools not previously disposed of, consisting of steam engine, cupola, foundry crane, moulding boxes, patterns, steam hammer, planing machine, vertical boring machine, lathes and other tools, per inventory. 
The whole subjects above described will be offered in one lot. Of not so disposed of, the proprerty, yards, workshops, and sheds will be offered in one lot without the tools.
In case there are no offerer for the property in one lot, it will be again exposed in two lots as under-
Lot no. 2A, comprising the yards, foundry, blacksmith’s and engineering shops; and
Lot no 2B, comprising yard, sawmill, and agricultural implement shop. 
Plan of the property, inventory of tools, together with title deeds and articles of sale, may be seen in the hands of Patrick Irvine, solicitor, Peterhead.
The Manager, John Fraser, will supply any information, and show the workshops and tools to intending purchasers.
Peterhead, 12th October 1883.
From Banffshire Journal, 30 October 1883

To engineers, implement makers, iron founders, and iron merchants
In consequence of the death of Mr G. W. Murray, there will be sold, as going concerns, the premises, plant, stock-in-trade, and good-will of the business carried on by Messrs G. W. Murray, engineers, implement makers, and iron founders, Banff Foundry, and Messrs Murray & Blake, iron merchants, Banff. The premises are situated in a good position, and are well adapted for the business of the respective firms. The machinery and plant of G. W. Murray & Co. are specially constructed for the business, and are in good working order. The stock-in-trade of both firms is well-selected, and mostly in good order.
The agricultural implements manufactured by G. W. Murray & Co., are well-known, not only in this country, but in most parts of the world. Excellent connections have been formed, and a large business has been done for many years. Recently a considerable business has been done as to fishing gear, and the fishing industry is very largely prosecuted in the district. A large business is also done in other departments of this firm. Messrs Murray & Blake have for many years done a large business throughout the whole North of Scotland, and are well established.
The premises, plant, and stock may be inspected at any time. 
Further information and conditions of sale may be obtained from Mr Geo. A. Duncan, manager of the works, or Messrs Allan & Soutar, solicitors, Banff, either of whom will receive offers or both businesses, together or separately, as candidates may prefer, up to 23rd September next.
Banff, 20th August 1887.”
Banffshire journal and general advertiser, 6 September 1887 

“Old established agricultural implement manufacturing business for sale
owing to the death of Mr William Anderson, sole partner of the firm of Benjamin Reid & Company, agricultural implement makers, Bon Accord Works, Aberdeen, it has even resolved to offer the works and business of the firm for sale. 
Particulars may be had from Messrs Davidson & Garden, advocates, 245 Union Street, Aberdeen. Agents for the executors, and offers will be received by them up to 30th April.
The highest or any offer may bot be accepted.”
From From Aberdeen press and journal, 7 April 1896. 

“Agricultural implement makers’ business for sale
There will be exposed for sale by public roup, within The Institute, Keith, on Wednesday, the 18th August 1909, at twelve o’clock noon, the business carried on by Messrs Auchinachie & Simpson, agricultural implement makers, Keith, together with the whole stock in trade, machinery, plant and goodwill, also the premises in which the business has been carried on. 
The business has been established for over 60 years, and is now being realised in consequence of the death of Mr John Simpson. It is the only kind in the district, and the present affords an excellent opportunity for anyone desirous of acquiring such a business. 
For particulars apply to Mesrs Mayer & Fraser, Commercial Bank Buildings, Keith; or to the subscribers, in whose hands are the articles of group, and inventory of stock &c.
Kemp & Auchinachie, solicitors, Keith.”
From The Scotsman, 4 August 1909 

Lots of interesting titbits of information!


Implements for tillage in East Lothian in 1805

What implements were used for cultivating crops in East Lothian in 1805? George Somerville, surgeon in Haddington, gives a short account of implements to plough, sow, cultivate and manage crops grown in the county. Only a relatively small number are recorded:

“Till within the last 30 years, the Scotch plough, generally speaking, was the only one in use; it was of large dimensions, and required the strength of four horses to do ordinary work: in not a few instances two more were added. That implement was succeeded by one, constructed something like the Rotherham plough, which was afterwards amended, by the late Mr James Small of Ford.
This plough is provided with a mould board of cast metal, constructed in such a manner as to make less resistance than any other hitherto tried, and is universally drawn by two horses. The price is from 2l 10s to 3l fully mounted.
The harrows commonly used are of two kinds, viz the large brake, worked by two horses, and the common small harrow, worked by one. The brake is so constructed with joints, as to bend, and accommodate its shape to the curvature of the ridges; it is chiefly employed upon strong lands, especially fallows, and upon soft lands, where the furrow is much bound with couch grass, or other root weeds: the small harrows are afterwards used with advantage, and at once complete the pulverisation of the soil, and separate such of the root weeds as have escaped the brake. When the land is clean, and the soil sufficiently reduced, the brake is very seldom used for covering the seed, the common harrow being could fully adequate to that purpose. This implement appears susceptible of considerable improvement; the number of teeth may certainly be increased with advantage, and the direction of the draught so much altered as to give them greater effect, by making more ruts.
Roller. Rolling is practised in the county to a certain extent, both in rediucing the soil before sowing, and upon the young crops, both of corn and grass. When conducted with judgement, the practice is highly useful, and admits of being considerably extended, especially upon all winter crops, after severe winters, and that without any regard to soil, as both loans and clays, after much naked frost, have their cohesion so much broken, as to leave the plants quite loose and almost without any establisment. Rollers are chiefly of stone or wood, and in a few instances of iron. Where wooden rollers are used, they often have a box upon the top for holding stones, for increasing their weight, when it is found necessary. Both wood and stone rollers have a fault, which, when they are used upon growing crops, is considerably felt; in turning short, the motion round the axis is nearly lost, and the implement, by that means, in place of rolling round in the manner it does when drawn straight forward, comes round, in the same manner as if ithad no axis, and in that way both the plants and soil are drawn along with it. This defect is completely remedied, by having the roller in two pieces to move round a common axis; most of the cast iron ones are of rugs construction: In turning, one end of the roller is drawn forward, while the other is ruled backward and the soil and plants left uninjured.
Drilling machines are used chiefly in the sowing of turnips, beans, and pease, and reemployed for this purpose with great advantage. Till within these few years, these machines owed only a single drill at a time, now however, they are so constructed, as to sow three or four at once. For turnips, these large ones answer extremely well, and save much labour; they also answer well for pease and beans, where the land has been previously ridged up, a practice noe becomes very common, especially where the soil is dry and free from couch-grass or other root weeds; but in cases, where beans are ploughed in, which is by far the most common mode, the single machine or common drill barrow, worked by a woman or a boy, is the best, and indeed the only one, rat can be used. The turnip machine has a coulter and roller appended to it, which at once cover the seed, and give a due degree of firmness to the soil. Hitherto the drilling of white crops, in this county, has for its object, chiefly the saving of seed, as the drills are often so close as to admit of little culture. Within these few years, however, the drilling of white corn crops has increased considerably, on the light lands around Dunbar, and it has been found, that by making the intervals such as could admit the use of the Dutch-hoe, great facility has been afforded, for destroying annual weeds.
Implements used during the growth of the crops
The implements used during the growth of the crop, are the horse and hand-hoe, the small and double mould board plough, the Dutch-hoe, and the different kinds of weed hooks.
The horse-hoe or scuffle is so well known as to need no description; that implement is now so constructed, as to be easily accommodated to any width of a drill; it is used more or less in all drill crops.
Hand hoe. The hand-hoe is very generally used, as will be seen, when the different kinds of drill crops come to be noticed, it is differently formed, but every variety of it is so well known as to require no description.
Small plough. The small plough is the same as that used for ordinary tillage, but upon a reduced scale, and is used in giving the first, second, and third ploughings, to turnips, beans, potatoes &c.
Double mould board plough. That implement differs in nothing from the foregoing, except in having temporary mould-board of wood added to the left side, and a double-pointed share or sock; it is employed only in laying up the earth equally to both sides of the drill, after the other ploughings are given, and is considered the finishing operation, unless where hand-weeding and picking may afterwards be thought necessary, for taking out such weeds as grow in the drills amongst the crop, and which cannot be destroyed in any other way. This implement is not much used.
Dutch-hoe. The Dutch horse-hoe, provincially called scraper, is used very generally in cleaning beans or tunnies, and a hand-hoe of the same name is often used in gardens; there cannot be a doubt, that, if the drilling of white crops were more general, the implement would be found very useful.
Weed-hooks. the common weed hook is chiefly used in this county, and is a useful instrument for cutting weeds of a certain description, such as thistles, &c; but, as the former of these, when cut either at an early period of the season, or before much rain falls, are apt to spring up a fresh and produce four or five stems in place of one, they ought, perhaps, in every instance, to be pulled, or, if they are cut, the operation should be done with a chisel, which, if properly used, will cut them below the surface.
This implement, being placed near the root, and pushed downwards at the same time, will cut the plant, at least a couple of inches below the surface, and by going nearer the root, will, if it does not destroy it entirely, at least injure it more than when it is cut an inch or two above the ground.”

The selection of sowing nd cultivating implements were taken at Lanark Auction Market, March 2019.


A Dumfries name: Thomas Turnbull

One of the names long associated with Dumfries was Thomas Turnbull of Castlebank Mills, later the Pleasance Implement Works. He is recorded as being in business from at least the 1880s until at least the mid 1930s. 

Thomas Turnbull undertook a number of trades, as an implement maker, an engineer, and iron founder, a millwright and lately as a millwright and mechanical engineer. 

Thomas’s business made a number of implements and machines as well as selling those from other makers. By the 1920s the company was well-known fro its broadcast sowing machines. It was agent for a number of businesses. In the 1880s they included Harrison, McGregor & Leigh, Lancashire, Alexander Jack & Sons, Maybole, W. N. Nicholson & Son, Newark on Trent, A. Pollock, Mauchline. In 1910 they also included Henry Bamford & Sons, Uttoxeter, Richmond & Chandler, Manchester and James Gordon, Castle Douglas. 

The company largely had its business activities in the south of Scotland. It largely attended the Highland Show in the Dumfries and Edinburgh show districts between 1870 and 1910. It also advertised in the Scottish agricultural press, in the North British Agriculturalist between these years. 

You might still see some implements and machines made or sold by Thomas Turnbull around, especially in southern and south-west Scotland. 

The photrogaphs were taken at the displenishing sale of the Corrieshill Collection, Lanark, March 2019.


Buying a grain and grass seed drill the Sherriff way

If you were a farmer or agriculturist looking to buy a new grain and grass seed drill you could chose one from a number of makers.
From 1816 the most renowned maker was Thomas Sherriff & Co., West Barns, East Lothian. Thomas made a number of sowing machines for crops, including drill crops, as well as associated implements and machinery for them including manure distributors and horse hoes.

Thomas first exhibited at a the Highland Show in 1852. He exhibited a drill sowing machine with land measures attached which he had invented and made. At the first of these shows he exhibited one or a small number of implements. However, Thomas died in 1857. His business was taken over by his enterprising widow, who transformed it into perhaps the most decorated agricultural implement maker in Scotland, winning numerous awards from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

By 1871 the firm of Mrs Thomas Sherriff was making and exhibiting a large assortment of implements. At the 1871 show she exhibited the following ones: 
ten row lever corn drill, with back steerage, made by exhibitor
twelve row lever corn drill with back steerage, made by exhibitor
fourteen row lever corn drill with back steerage, made by exhibitor
twenty row lever corn drill, made by exhibitor (a radical improvement) 
horse hoe for drilled green crops, made by exhibitor (a radical improvement)
broadcast sowing machine for grain and grass seeds, made by exhibitor
broadcast sowing machine for grain and grass seeds, on two wheels, made bye exhibitor (a radical improvement)
broadcast sowing machine, for grain and grass seeds, on 3 travelling wheels, made by exhibitor, a new improvement
three row bean sowing machine, mad by exhibitor
two row turnip and mangold sowing machine, made by exhibitor
three row carrot sowing machine, made by exhibitor 
three row manure distributor, made by exhibitor, radical improvement
turnip cutter, for sheep, attachable to a cart, made by exhibitor.

Mrs Sherriff retired from business on 19 July 1871. In an advert in the North British Agriculturist, she intimated that she had transferred her business to her present manager, Robert Robertson, whom she had authorised to carry on the business. He succeeded to the goodwill, stock in trade and tools of the business, carrying it on in the same premises under the name of themas Sherriff & Co. He continued the business, developing it further, until the mid 1900s when he died.

Further developments in seed sowers we made in following years. In 1924 the company entered a combined corn and seed drill and grass seed sower for the new Implement Award of the Highland Society. It was described as: “The machine is designed to sow 14 rows at 6 in apart; fitted with special steel coulters, which spread the grain 2 in to 2 1/2 in wide in the rows; without this adjustment, when sowing thick-skinneed oats, about 6 bushels per acre, allows the grain to spread out, and gives room for each grain rooted to spread, and gives a more equal sample of grain and straw. A new special tempered steel brush is fitted to each seed delivering pinion, which clears the seed-plate hole of barley awns or other dust, and prevents choking, and blanks in the seed rows. The grass and clover seeds are sown from a separate hopper, which is fitted with our patent steel brush distributor, and sows 28 rows at 3 in apart. The coulters are light steel, and put the seeds in a uniform depth of 1 in; can be varied. With this arrangement, owing to the seeds being all put in an equal depth, prevents the seeds being thrown out during severe weather in the winter months, and shows a saving of from 25 to 50 per cent in seeds. One lever controls the whole machine, lifts the coulters, and puts the sowing mechanism out of action. Does not require to be harrowed after sowing, owing to the light grass-seed coulters acting as a harrow.”

In 1927 the company entered a new combined hoer and cultivator for the new Implement Award of the Highland Society. At the time the company described it in great detail. It noted that it was “for sowing sugar beet, turnips, and other seeds, and hoeing and working same on the flat (or ridge if desired); will also work off land for planting cabbage or other plants, and hoe and work same. The machine is made to do four drills at a time; widths, 18 in, 20 in, 22 in or 24 in apart (standard), but can be made for other widths if wanted. The seed distribution is by our patent tempered steel brush, and will sow any quantity required. A special coulter bar and coulter delivers the seeds, and the coulters are fitted with a special v-shaped wheel following in the track of the coulter, but working independently of same, which presses in the seeds and gives an equal braid. Coulters are also depth regulated to fit various soils. A set of markers are also provided. One man and a pair of light horses required when sowing only. When sowing is finished the seed-box and coulters are removed, and an entirely new principle is adopted for hoeing. A special steel floating frame is fitted below main frame of machine. This frame carries the special channel steel section for the housing of hoes, and with two grooved pulleys in a horizontal position working on a steel pipe in front of machine. This frame is well braced and rigid. On top of main frame of machine an angle-steel frame carrying a seat and operating spindle and hand-wheel is bolted in position. To this spindle is attached a steel flexible wire rope, and operating on the floating frame running on the grooved pulleys. The hoes are fixed to the channel steel, in which notches are cut, into which the stalks of hoes are housed, and held rigid in position by eye-bolts. The stalks are round steel, and can be set to any angle required, and when screwed tight impossible to shift position. When hoeing, a lad sits on frame in front driving the horses, and a man on the seat behind operates the floating frame carrying hoes by the hand-wheel, and can move all the hoes in a parallel line with the plants, and with a root lever can lift the hoes out of the ground, instantly. The operator has a clear view of the plants to be hoed, and can bring the hoes close up to plants without risk of cutting them out. The machine being mounted on three wheels makes it steady on the land 8 or 10 acres per day can be wrought, and easy work for a pair of light horses.”

The company continued to be well recognised for its seed sowers,and the name Sherriff is still to the fore today for the sale of agricultural machinery. Have a look out for Sherriff seed drills around the vintage rallies – there are still a few around today!


A major name in the Lothians of old: William H. Kirkwood, Lothian Bridge, Dalkeith

One of the names that keeps on cropping up over and over again in the farming papers of nineteenth century Scotland is William Kirkwood, agricultural implement maker, Lothian Bridge, Dalkeith, Midlothian.

William first appears in the North British agriculturist in 1856 as an implement maker at Duddingston. He moved from there in late 1865 when he adverts record William Kirkwood, implement maker, Lothian Bridge (late Duddingston). He undertook a number of trades: as agricultural implement maker, smith and as smith and implement maker.

William was a regular exhibitor at the Highland Show. Although he exhibited in the main show districts including Dumfries, Kelso, Stirling, he most regularly exhibit at Edinburgh. He exhibited at that last location in 1859, 1869, 1877, 1893, 1899, and 1907. At the Show he was an award-winning maker, winning numerous prizes. They included:
1857 – award of 2 sovereigns for best sheep fodder rack
1858 – award of 2 sovereigns for best hand stubble or hay rake
1858 – award of 5 sovereigns for best feeding troughs for sheep
1859 – award of L2 for best hand stubble or hay rake
1859 – award of L1 for best feeding troughs for sheep
RHS 1859 – award of L1 for best wheelbarrow of malleable iron
1860 – award of 1 sovereign for best feeding troughs for sheep
1860 – award of 1 sovereign for best wheelbarrow of malleable iron
1860 – commended, hand stubble or hay rake
1861 – award of 3 sovereigns for best machine for pulverising guano etc
1861 – award of 1 sovereign for best feeding troughs for sheep
1861 – award of 2 sovereigns for best sheep fodder rack
1873 – award of medium silver medal for Norwegian harrow

William died in March 1911. His obituary appeared in the Edinburgh evening news on 1 April 1911. It provides some further information about his business and the man at its helm:

“Mr William H. Kirkwood, agricultural implement maker, Lothian Bridge, died suddenly yesterday, after a few days’ illness, at the age of 63 years. Deceased, who was a native of Edinburgh, began his engineering career in the Singer Sewing Machine Works, in the West of Scotland, and on the death of his father, he acquired the engineering business at Lothian Bridge. Mr Kirkwood was particularly successful in the manufacture of ploughs, and gained various awards from the Highland and Agricultural Society, and other societies, for improvements both ploughs and harrows. He took a lively interest in the affairs of the Newtongrange district, was for several years a member of the Parish Council, and was senior elder and session clerk
for Newbattle Parish Church.

Have you seen any implements and machines made by William H. Kirkwood?


Celebrating the Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers of yesteryear