Category Archives: Out and about

Threshing mills in Kincardineshire in 1810

In 1810 George Robertson wrote the General View of the Agriculture of the County of Kincardineshire. It includes a detailed account of the threshing mills used in the county. It is one of the few accounts that provides detailed technical information on mills at this time. George Robertson writes:

“The invention of the mode of threshing corn by machinery is but of recent date; at least the successful application of it to business is confined to modern times. The first threshing mill that was erected in Mid Lothian was by the late Mr Francis Trellis, an Hungarian, about the year 1785 or 1786. Before that time there were not above two or three of them in Scotland, where they were first brought into use, and where they are more generally employed still, than in South Britain. 
At what time threshing mills were introduced into Kincardineshire, I have not been able to find out precisely. But it was not long till they were erected in this county after they were invented. At farthest this took place about the year 1795, within ten years of the time that they were first used in the more southern counties. They are now however getting into very general use in all the larger farms; to which, from the great expense of erection, and the great power required to put them in motion, the application seems to be limited. 
To bring down these machines to the level of the lesser class of farms, frequent attempts have been made to adapt them to the power of one horse. But none that I have heard of have fully succeeded, nor indeed any under a four horse draught. With that number they perform to admiration. And when a greater number, as six or eight, is applied, the effect is proportionally greater. But these last would be more adapted to the purpose of a parish than a single farm. 

In this county there are a few threshing mills that are put in motion by water; and wherever this element can be applied then answer well. There are none driven by steam; though steam engines have everything to recommend them for the purpose, but the expense. Neither are there any that are driven by the wind. Mills of this description might be cheaper in point of cost; but the uncertainty of going, to which they would be liable, is a great drawback attending them. Nor have I heard of any that are wrought by one, or by two horses. The greater number are drawn by four or more horses or oxen in each; and of course are upon a scale of expense of from £140 to £180. Thus the use of threshing machines, though extending yearly, has not yet descended to the moderate means and necessities of the inferior order of farmers, the most numerous class in the shire. 
As this powerful and useful machine has certainly not yet arrived to such a point of perfection as to adapt it to general use, I shall here insert the comparative dimensions of two mills, on a four or six horse power; from which, perhaps some inventive genius may be able to strike out some improvement, so as to reduce, if possible, the expence of erecting, and the force required for impulsion. 
The powers of the threshing machine do not seem to require to be augumented. For either of the mills here to be taken notice of, thresh easily, when put to the full stretch, from eight to ten bolls of wheat or oats, in an hour; more surely is not required on any farm. 

No 1. Erected in 1799. No 2. Erected in 1807 
Outer wheel in diameter 21 feet 21 feet 
Number of teeth in so 306 360 
Pinion of do has of teeth 18 23 
First movement, of course 17 times 15.652
Inner wheel, number of teeth 60 144
Diameter of do 4 ½ feet 6 ½ feet 
Pinion of do. Has of teeth 10 16
Second movement, of course 6 9
Revolutions of the drum, or thresher, for one of the outer wheel, of horse 102 140.868
Diameter of the drum 54 inches 36 
Circumference of do 13.333 feet 9.424 
Length of do 4 ½ feet 4 ½ 
Velocity of do. During the round of the horses and outer wheel 1360 feet 1327 
Velocity of do per second, when the horses go at the rate of 2 ½ miles an hour 61 feet 55
Revolutions do per second 4.575 5.836 
Scutchers on the drum 4 4
Strokes per second 18.3 23.334
Comparative weight of the drums 19.1625 9
Horse gangway in diameter 26 feet 28
Circumferences do 81.7 88
Comparative velocity of the drum to the horse walk  
16.64 15.08

Here it may be observed, that the velocity of No. 2 is considerably less than that of No. 1-Yet in point of execution, as ascertained from experience, it is fully as effective. Hence it may be inferred, that, as velocity may be diminished to a certain extent without detriment to the efficient force, these machines may be so constructed as to have less velocity than is at present through necessity; and this be kept in due motion with a less degree of impelling power. Instead of requiring either 61 feet or 55 of velocity per second as in the preceding examples it may perhaps be fully sufficient for the purpose, to have a velocity of only 45 or 40. 
This opinion is founded on what I have observed in a threshing mill belonging to Mr Driver at Maryton, in the vicinity of Montrose. In this mill, which is put in motion by water, the following are the circumstances. 

1. The water wheel, which us overshot, is 16 feet diameter-has a cast metal wheel, with 144 teeth, affixed in segments on its inner side, and turns round 4 12 times in a minute. 
2. This cast metal wheel works upon a pinion of 32 teeth.
3. On the axle of this pinion there is a wheel of 60 teeth.
4. This wheel works upon a pinion of 22 teeth. 
5. On the axle of this pinion there is a wheel of 64 teeth. 
6. Lastly, this wheel works upon the pinion of the threshing cyliner or drum, which has 14 teeth. The cylinder itself is three feet in diameter. 
From the various combinations of these three different movements, it may be seen, that the threshing cylinder revolves 56 times for one revolution of the great wheel. And as that wheel revolves four times and a half in a minute, hence the cylinder will go round 236 ¼ times in a minute. Hence, also, as the cylinder is nine feet five inches in circumference, the superficies of it travels about 2225 feet in a minute, which is at the rate of only 39 feet 6 inches in a second. It nevertheless threshes from six to eight bolls in an hour. 

Farther, the stream of water which gives motion to this mill, when confined to the mill-led, is twenty-one inches broad and four inches deep, running on nearly a dead level. The water therefore operates on the wheel, not by its velocity, but by its weight. It may be of some importance to enquire, to what this weight may amount. 
It is already mentioned that it is an overshot wheel. The water enters upon iyt about two and a half feet from the perpendicular. But it can have little effect in imparting motion till it reaches as far as over as to take the wheel at an angle of 45 from the horizon. This is on a wheel of 16 feet diameter will be at two thirds of eight feet (the semidiameter) from the centre, or 32 inches inwards from the utmost prolongation of the arms. As the water begins only to have full effect on the wheel at the angle of 45 above the horizon, or centre of the wheel; so it will continue to operate no longer upon it with force than till it reaches to 45 degrees below the horizon or centre. Hence its whole effective range will be 90 degrees, or one quarter of the wheel; and as this will be all contained in the course of 32 inches inwards from the extremity of the wheel, hence the quantity of water altogether, will be equal to 32x21x4 inches, or equal to 2688 cubic inches. Now, as a Scotch pint contains about 103 cubic inches, hence there will be about 26 Scotch pints of water operating at once upon the wheel. And as each pint is ascertained to be 3.7lb weight avoirdupois, of course the whole weight required, will be about 96lbs or six stones weight. This, being ascertained, may lead to more important consequences than merely gratifying curiosity. For, from this it may be inferred, that when such a small original moving power is sufficient for the purpose (and it is not more than two thirds of the power of one horse) some mode may be invented in the draught of those mills put in motion by horses, to make an equally small power produce the effect, instead of employing, as at present, four, six, or eight horses, for the purpose. 
It may be remarked before quitting this subject of implements, that fanners for cleansing corn have been long used in this county. They now cost about £4, and where threshing machines are used, they are very generally attached to them.”

The photos were taken at The Deeside vintage rally, August 2018.


Ploughs and ploughing in Fife in 1800

John Thomson in his General View of the Agriculture of the County of Fife, published in 1800, provides an interesting account of ploughs and ploughing. It shows the diversity of ploughs used in the county:

“The old Scots plough is now almost entirely gone into disuse, and its place supplied by a small light plough, usually with an iron head and a cast mettle mould-board, constructed on such principles as to require less power to draw it, and to perform the work with greater exactness and perfection. Few ploughs, constructed entirely according to the form of Mr Small’s are used in this county. They are thought not to answer well, and therefore not in general estimation. This, however, may be owing, not to any defect in the form of the plough, when properly made, but to the want of skill in our mechanics, who may not be able to execute the work with sufficient exactness.

The plough most commonly in use has no chain; the sheath is of wood, and without curvature; and the mould-board, instead of being hollow, is round. The beam, though sufficiently low behind, is formed with such a curvature as to bring the bridge down to the proper line of draught, and is frequently strengthened with a plate of iron planted on each side, and extending the whole length; or, in place of these, with a plate of iron on the lower side. The part where the coulter passes through it, is fortified with a piece of iron above and below. But a great part of this iron work is unnecessary, as the beam seldom gives way, except at the coulter or sheath; and therefore, if properly secured at these points, there will be little danger of failure.

The hollow mould-board is certainly best for opening up stiff ground, and for ploughing ley, strong clay, or such land as admits of a clean furrow. But when the mould is loose, wet, and apt to fasten to the plough, the round mould-board seems to be prefereable, as it clears itself more easily of the earth, and makes the furrow master.”

The photographs were taken at the Scottish Ploughing Championships, October 2019.


Implements for tillage in East Lothian in 1805

George Somerville, surgeon in Haddington, wrote the General View of the Agriculture of the County of East Lothian for the Board of Agriculture. It was published in 1805. The volume was part of a wider survey of agriculture and general economy of each of the counties in Britain. Each volume was written according to a plan so that the volumes could provide a systematic view on each topic. The plan included the topic “implements and machines”.

Somerville provides some interesting insights into the tillage implements used in East Lothian up until 1805. It is worth quoting at length:

“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 Rotheram plough, which was afterward 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 with two horses, and the common small harrow, worked by one. The brake is so constructed with joints, as to bend, and to 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 pulverization of the soil, and separate such of the root weeds as have escaped the brake. Where the land is clean, and the soil sufficiently reduced, the brake is very seldom used for covering the seed, the common harrow being found fully adequate to that purpose. This implement appears susceptible to 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 practiced in the county to a certain extent, both in reducing 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 loams and clays, after much naked frost, have their cohesion so much broken, as to leave the plants quite loose and almost without any establishment. 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 the purpose of 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 it had 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 this construction: in turning, one end of the roller is drawn forward, while the other is rolled backward, and the soil and plants left uninjured.”

The photographs were taken at the Scottish ploughing championships, East Lothian, 2016.


Moving premises in Stirling: Kemp & Nicholson

A familiar name in Scotland, and indeed across Scotland until 1930 was Kemp & Nicholson of Scottish Central Works, Stirling.

The company conducted business from its premises in Dumbarton Road, Stirling, as Kemp, Murray & Nicholson, in 1858. It had further business activities further east in East Lothian. The North British Agriculturist in November 1858 stated that “Kemp, Murray & Nicholson have removed from their branch establishment, Haddington, to their headquarters in Stirling where they have been in business for the last 10 years and where their business will henceforth be exclusively carried on.” By 1859 the company described itself as agricultural implement manufacturers, though by 1870 it had expanded its range of trades to be joiners, agricultural implement and reaping machine makers and engineers, activities that it became renowned for in the following decades.

In the summer of 1884 the company moved premises to Cow Park in Stirling. It announced the move in the North British Agriculturist, the Scottish national farming paper of the day.
That notice read:

“Notice that Kemp & Nicholson, agricultural engineers, beg to tender thanks for the liberal patronage which they have received during the last thirty-five years, and have pleasure in announcing that they have now removed to the new and more commodious works at Cow Park Siding (adjoining the Goods Station of the North British Railway), and with the increased facilities they now possess, parties favouring them with Orders may rely on having them executed with promptitude and dispatch.
A varied stock of farm implements and machines always on hand and in course of manufacture, including reapers, and mowers, horse rakes, grubbers, harrows, land rollers, turnip sowers, cart wheels and axles, corn dressing machines, oil cake mills, sheep fodder racks. Food cooling barrows, lever turnip slicers, &c. inspection of which is respectfully invited.
Priced catalogues post free on application. Address, Kemp & Nicholson, Implement Works, Stirling, 10 June 1884.”

That newspaper sent one of its journalists to visit the new premises. It published a substantial account:

“Prominence is this week given in our advertising columns to an intimation of the removal of this well-known Stirling firm of implement makes from Dumbarton Road to a spacious new building in what is know known as Cow Park Siding. The plan of their new buildings-covering about an acre-notwithstanding the great magnitude of the business, already gives room for all that can be required for its expansion for many years, while within the area now occupied it gives space for the different branches of trade which the firm takes up. The main building, situated on the north side of the new roadway leading from Shore Road to the north-west, consists of a large oblong building divided by six rows of pillars, but the different sections of which are occupied by various classes of workmen. The building measures 103 by 78 feet within walls, and the “shops” into which it is divided by the pillars have a floorage of 75 by 25 feet each. Ample accommodation is available in the building for allowing all the different classes of work in connection with the manufacture of implements to be carried on simultaneously. On the opposite side of the roadway are situated the engine-tore, and coal-house, in a two-storey block 40 feet by 30 feet. The 14-horse power engine drives all the machinery of the workshops and the fans for the smith’s fires, and the other apartments are furnished with finished work and with the raw material for further work. The works of Messrs Kemp & Nicholson are most conveniently situated for the transit of goods, and when the projected siding to the adjoining railway is completed, their position will be second to none in this respect. At present all the departments of their works are fully occupied, and their trade, which is not one liable to fluctuations, seems to be a happy exception to the slackness generally prevailing.”

That account is one of the very few ones that describe an implement works. The company remained in these premises until it ceased business shortly after the death of Major Kemp Smith in March 1930.


An Ayrshire name of much repute: John Wallace & Sons (Ayr) Ltd

Many readers will be aware of the eminent firm of Scottish agricultural implement makers of John Wallace & Son, of Glasgow. By 1904 the company had a premises at Ayr, at the Agricultural Implement Works, Railway Works, at Townhead. This Ayrshire branch was later to become a company in its own right under the name of John Wallace & Sons (Ayr) Ltd which continued in business until at least 1967; it was not dissolved until 30 August 1985. Its company limited by guarantee status came in 1949.

By 1934 the company had a number of premises in Ayr, and not only at Townhead Works. There were further ones at Smith Street and Station Bridge. In 1928 it had opened premises at Kilmarnock, at West Langlands Street. In 1944 it also had a premises at Stranraer.

In 1938 the company was known for its reapers, mowers and double drillers and manure sowers. It held a number of agencies. In 1942 they included John Deere and Caterpillar. Three years later they included Massey-Harris, Bamfords, Wallace, Oliver, David Brown, Ransomes and R. A. Lister. 1966 these included Ford and Ransomes.


Moving with the times: Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons Ltd, Stow, Midlothian

As well as the larger implement and machine makers in the towns, cities and some larger villages, there were a large number of small businesses scattered throughout rural Scotland which served the farming community with implements and machines or repaired them. They included engineers, millwrights and smiths. Over time, some of them also started to stock a small number of implements and machines from other makers, and acted as local agents, a role that could transform their businesses.

One of these businesses was Thomas Fairgrieve, a millwright, engineer and cycle agent at the Cockholm Works, Stow, Midlothian. By 1914 Thomas was joined by his sons in his business, which became known as Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons.

The business made significant changes to its operating structure in 1938 which led to a change of name to Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons Limited. The company’s memorandum and articles of association provide information about its activities.

These are worth quoting:

“The objects for which the company is established are:
(1) To carry on in Scotland and elsewhere the business of motor, electrical, mechanical, constructional and general engineers and merchants, agents for and dealers (wholesale and retail) in every kind and description of motor and other vehicles and appliances, water and aircraft, and appliances and utensils, accessories, requisites, implements and articles for use in or in connection with such businesses.
(2) To carry on the business of motor garage proprietors, hirers, repairers, carriers of passengers and goods, contractors, general agents and technical constructors in the use of all motor vehicles and their appliances.
(3) To carry on the business of manufacturers of, agents for, dealers in, makers and repairers of all classes of new and second-hand machinery, fittings and apparatus.
(4) To carry on the business of manufacturers of, dealers in, hirers and repairers of wireless apparatus, electrical apparatus and appliances, television apparatus, receiving sets, transmitting sets, and all apparatus for the reception or transmission of wireless wares.

(5) To buy, sell, let on hire, repair, alter, and deal in implement parts, accessories and fittings of all kinds for wireless apparatus and all articles and things referred to in (3) here or used, or capable of being used, or capable of being used in connection with the manufacture, maintenance and working thereof.
(6) To buy, sell, manufacture, repair, hire, deal in oils, and other metals or minerals, machinery, plant, implements, tools, and other material, apparatus, appliances, articles etc.
(7) To carry out the objects of the company as principals, agents, trustees, or otherwise etc.

The company continued to operate until the mid 1970s.

The photographs were taken at the Borders Vintage Rally, Kelso, May 2014.


An evening with the Scottish agricultural implement makers – in 1890

In 1890 the Scottish agricultural implement makers had an industry association – The Scottish Agricultural Engineers’ Association – which looked after their interests. The association held an annual meeting at the time of the Highland Show. The following is an account of its meeting in 1890. It provides information on their activities, membership, as well as progress made in recent decades.

“This Society held its annual meeting in the showyard of the Highland and Agricultural Society at Dundee last week. The annual report was laid before the meeting by the secretary, who reported that the Society had, financially, made good progress during the year. In the election of office-bearers, Mr W. Anderson (of Ben Reid & Co., Aberdeen), was re-appointed president, and Provost Marshall (of Jack & Sons, Maybole), was elected vice-president. A special resolution was passed, expressed regret at the resignation of Mr J. M. McLeod from the office of vice-president. Mr McLeod, who has been so long and honourably connected with the form of Messrs Nicholson & Son, of Newark, retires having been recently appointed secretary of the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, London. He carries with him the good wishes of all the members of the Scottish Agricultural Engineers’ Association, in whose interests he has faithfully laboured since its foundation.

The annual dinner of the Association was held on Tuesday, 29th July, in the Queen’s Hotel, Dundee. About forty gentlemen sat down. The chair was ably occupied by Mr W. Anderson, of Ben Reid & Co., president of the Association, and Mr J. M. McLeod was croupier. Amongst others present were-Mr Wm Wallace (Glasgow), Provost Marshall (Maybole), Mr J, D, Allan (Dunkeld), Mr Duncan (Murray & Blake, Banff), Mr Baxter (Aberdeen Lime Co.), Mr Turnbull (Carnock), Mr Elder (Berwick), Mr Hunter (Maybole), Mr Sinton (Jedburgh), Mr Pollock (Mauchline), Mr Jones (of J. & F. Howard, Bedford), Mr Du Pont (Walter A. Wood, London), Mr Samuel Edwards (Crowley & Co.), Mr W. Mather (Nicholoson & Son), Mr Harrison (Leigh), Mr Woodroffe (Rugeley), Mr Segar (Hornsby & Sons), Mt Barlord, Mr Waide (Leeds), Mr J. D. Sims (Ipswich), Mr Holden (Leigh), Mr Hattersley (Aylesbury Dairy Co.). Mr Thomas Smith (factor on Cluny estates), Mr R. Macdonald (factor on Ailsa estates), Mr C. Anderson, of N.B. Agriculturist.
Following the usual loyal toasts, the Chairman (Mr W. Anderson) proposed “The Scottish Agricultural Engineers’ Association”. He alluded to the fact that he felt popular pleasure in giving this toast, as he had been connected with the Association from its formation, twenty years ago, and during that time he had attended the shows of the Highland and Agricultural Society without a break. He rejoiced to say that the Association had done good work, and he looked forward to greater achievements in the future. The progress and improvement in machinery had been marvelous, and he would take the opportunity of reminding the members that special interest attached to their visit this year to Forfarshire, which was the cradle of that most valuable invention in agricultural machinery – the reaping machine. After a few remarks as to the use that agricultural journalism has rendered to manufacturers of machinery, he threw out the suggestion which, he trusted, would be well received by the members of the press, that the trade in Scotland should have a journal specially devoted to their interests. He felt sure that implement makers would willingly support a monthly periodical which would be exclusively confined to the discussion of matters in which they were interested. In proposing the toast of their Association, he would couple it with the name of Mr McLeod.

Mr Mcleod, in replying, said he did not think he merited the honour of responding to this toast, and presumed that it fell to him to do so merely from his position as croupier. He was always glad to meet so many good friends from all parts of the country; and it always gave him pleasure to be present on these occasions. He then briefly touched on the work of the Association, and took the opportunity of informing the uninitiated that their affairs were continuing to prosper.

Provost Marshall, of Maybole, proposed, “The English Agricultural Engineers’ Association”. He humorously alluded to the respective merits of English and Scotch makers, and rejoiced that they all met together on such occasions in a friendly and brotherly spirit. Mr Samuel Edwards, of John Crowley & Co., briefly replied on behalf of the English manufacturers.
Mr William Wallace, of Glasgow, proposed the important toast of the “Highland” and other Societies”. He strongly deprecated the site which the Society had selected for this year’s show, and trusted their Association would represent the matter to the Society in a forcible manner. He then pointed out the large field open to such a Society as the highland in furthering plans for benefitting the condition of the agricultural labourer, especially in the direction of having proper accommodation for labourers with large families. He coupled with the toast the name of Mr Ranald Macdonald, factor on the Cluny estates, who replied at considerable length, giving interesting details as to the position of the crofters whose families at one time supplied many agricultural labourers for the lowlands.
Mr Woodroffe of Rugeley, in a few witty remarks, proposed “The Ladies”, to which Mr Sims, of Ipswich, replied.

Mr Du Pont, of the firm of Walter A. Wood, in a highly laudatory manner, proposed “The Press”, and pointed out the benefits that such Associations as the Scottish Agricultural Engineers derived from skillfully conducted agricultural journals. Mr C. Anderson, of Messrs C. and R. Anderson, proprietors of the N.B. Agriculturist, briefly returned thanks for the very flattering remarks that had been made, and trusted that in the future they would continue to merit the good opinion they had held in the past.
At intervals throughout the evening Messrs Jones, Marshall, Dupont, Edwards &c, favoured the company with some admirable popular songs and the singing of “Auld lang Syne: concluded a very enjoyable meeting.”

What a meeting!


Ford tractor strikes of the 1970s

The 1970s saw a number of major industrial strikes in Britain. These included Ford.

The Ford strikes of 1973 and 1975 had an impact on the supply of tractors in Midlothian and other parts of Scotland. One the tractor dealers reported the impact on their business in each of these years in their annual accounts which are now in the National Archives of Scotland.

For 1973, they wrote: “During the first half of 1973 trading was very good, but following the Ford plant shut-down for three weeks holiday, and the Ford strike for 5 weeks immediately after, coupled with the strikes at Girling and Lucas factories, the supply of vehicles and spare parts from the factory were cut by approximately 50% with the result that trading in the latter part of the year was not as anticipated.“

In 1975 they wrote” “Following the annual shut down at Ford Motor Co. in August, the supply of new Ford vehicles virtually dried up due to strikes and industrial disputes at the various Ford plants, the result of which was no specific allocation of cars being made to dealerships during the latter part of the year.”

What do you remember about the Ford strikes of the 1970s and their impact on tractor supply?

The photographs were taken at the Deeside Rally, August 2017.


Crichton: an Aberdeenshire family of millwrights

In the mid nineteenth century the name of Crichton was associated with Lonmay, Aberdeenshire. The millwright business of James Crichton grew into a thriving and very successful business. By 1919 James Crichton took the step to re-locate his business to Strichen. He had a number of reasons for doing so. As the Aberdeen weekly journal noted in its columns in June that year:

“Mr James Crichton, millwright, who was compelled to shift the site of his engineering works from Lonmay to Strichen owing to the growth of the business, the lack of accommodation for workmen, and the lack of accommodation for workmen, and the necessity for the works being in a more central position, has now got the works in full swing. As a considerable number of men are employed, this new industry should add to the prosperity of the village”.

By 1919 his business was a well-known one. For the 1921 Highland Show, James advertised his business as a “well-known-maker”, also with “a large selection of the latest and most up-to-date threshers all in motion”. He had agents throughout Scotland, all of whom were well known implement and machine makers or machinery agents: Inverness (James Ferries & Co.), Perthshire and Forfarshire (Ford & Paterson, Broughty Ferry), Glasgow (P. & R. Fleming, 16 Graham Square), Linlithgow and surrounding district (A. Newlands & Sons, Ltd), and the Lothians (W. R. Storie, Kelso). By 1922, the business had a depot at 60 Princes Street, Perth; by 1924, it was located at Horse Cross, Perth.

The business incorporated in 1925 to become Crichton’s (Strichen) Ltd, Strichen, and Perth. However, this change was short-lived, as it was voluntarily wound up from 1927. However, by April 1928 James Crichton had established himself as “James Crichton, engineer, Glasgow Road, Perth”, a name and address that continued to be known until at least 1931.

There were further changes. From 1934 James Crichton appears at as a millwright and engineer in Turriff. In the following year he advertised himself as “James Crichton Turriff … threshing machinery the outcome of 70 years’ experience”. By 1948 the business was referred to as “James Crichton, millwright and engineer, Chapel Street Works, Turriff, Aberdeenshire”. It was to move premises, and by 1953 the works were known as “Station Street Works”. That connection with Perth was not, however, lost. In 1949 the business was looking for business premises in Perth. By that time it had a number of long-service employees, such as William Finnie.

James Crichton died in September 1952. The displenishing sale of the stock and plant at the Station Street Works was held on 17 and 18 March 1953, also marking the closing down of the business. But that was not the end of the business or its name.

William Finnie, who had been the works manager for the last ten years acquired the Station Works and permission to carry on business from these premises as a millwright and engineer under the firm name of “James Crichton”, as well as the right to manufacture and supply spares to “Crichton” threshers. By 1969 the company was advertising as “James Crichton, millwrights, bodybuilders and engineers, Turriff”.
Next time you see a Crichton threshing mill, you will see a long-established part of the Aberdeenshire tradition of threshing mill making.

The photographs were taken at Davit Vintage Rally, September 2019.


A new premises for Ben Reid & Co., Aberdeen

In 1890 Ben Reid & Co., Aberdeen, opened a new premises in Aberdeen to enable it to grow its business and to undertake its work more efficiently and effectively. The North British Agriculturist sent one of its journalists to visit the new factory. It is worth quoting at length for the amount of information it provides on the company and its activities:

“We had the pleasure of recently inspecting the famous Bon Accord Implement Works of the Messrs Ben Reid & Co., Aberdeen. This well-known firm, whose enterprise and excellence of workmanship have made the Bon Accord implements known and highly prized not only in this country, but wherever there are crops to be sown and harvests to be reaped, has for many years consisted solely of two gentlemen-Mr William Anderson and Mr Robert Garvie. The former gentleman is invariably found at the head of the firm’s stand at every agricultural gathering of any consequence in the three kingdoms; while the latter is found with equal regularity at the head of that garrison of industry, where the implements are produced by which the conquests of the firm are year by year extended. Mr William Anderson is the beau ideal of the implement exhibitor, as he is fully equipped not only with the suaviter in modo, but also with the fortiter in re. His naturally genial disposition is mated with a robust confidence in the dignity of his calling, and the very important use which the implement maker renders to the agricultural community. He pushes the sale of his goods on the invulnerable principle of giving good value for a good price; and the cheap-jack who wants to beat down the price, and buy first-class implements at the current rate for scamped work, invariably gets short shrift at his hands. He has always stood boldly out for the exhibitors of implements receiving more generous recognition from the leading agricultural societies than they have hitherto had, and his efforts in this way have been rewarded with considerable success. It is not surprising, therefore, that even his keenest competitors in the same line of business should have united, as one man, to honour him by appointing him president of the Society of Scottish Engineers, a position which he has held for the last three years. His partner, Mr Garvie, is not so well known to the outside public, on account of his sticking so closely to the factory work; but by all who have the pleasure of his acquaintance he is justly esteemed as a high-souled knight of labour, whose ‘scutcheon is graved with numerous honours won on the field of engineering science.

The praise occupied by this firm are splendidly equipped, though by no means so extensive as one would have expected considering the amount of manufactured goods which are turned out every year, and the quantity of timber that has to be stored in order to be thoroughly well dried and seasoned. This apparent deficiency of accommodation, however, is due to the fact that machinery specially designed and specially constructed is here used to a quite unusual extent for the manufacture of the reapers, seed drills, &c. Just as in the latest product of dairy science, the Instantaneous Butte Maker, the new milk us fed in at the one-end and butter-milk come out at the other, or, as in the case of the fabled pig-dressing machines in Chicago, where the pigs are put in at the one end, and the hams, sausages, and bristles done up into brushes come out at the other, so here the wood and steel are fed into the machines and come out, not finished reapers or mowers certainly, but parts which are executed with the nicest mathematical precision, and only require putting together to complete the Bon Accord product. Most of these manufacturing machines, whose use saves time and labour to such an extent, and also ensures that each and every part shall be the exact counterpart of another, have been conceived and produced in the brain of either Mr Anderson or Mr Garvie. The greatest care is taken to ensure that none but wood and steel or iron of the very best quality shall be fed into these manufacturing machines, which, automatically as it were, turn out all the separate parts of the machines produced at the Bon Accord Works. The Bon Accord reapers and mowers, seed drills, and broadcast sowing machines produced by this firm are too well and favourably known to require description outside the Dark Continent. So, too, is their sharpener for reaping-machine blades, which is now justly regarded as an indispensable requisite on every farm. Every scythesman knows how tiresome it is to cut with a blunted blade, but when there was only the old plan of using the file to fall back upon, the ploughman were only too apt, to forget that the cutting with a blunted reaper blade was heavy on the horses as upon the scythesman. By the way, in these days when everything must be brought up to date, it might be a good plan for some enterprising firm like that under notice to bring the Nineteenth Century Art up to date by depicting Old father Time with a self-binder and a chronometer, instead of such out of date appliances as a hook and an hour-glass.

In addition to the purely agricultural implements by which the firm has become so well known, a large business is also done at the Bon Accord works in the production of garden railings and gates. This branch of the business is also conducted in a most exhaustive way, and all kinds of railings and gates are produced, from the humble railing and wicket that encloses the garden of the cottage villa, up to the costly railing and gorgeous gates that form a fitting off-set for the mansion of the peer. So greatly has this part of the business at the Bon Accord works, that a skilled artist is constantly employed in producing and elaborating designs for such railings and gates.

The implement works of Messrs Reid & Co., are the only works of the kind in the Granite city. This is not surprising considering the standing which this firm have acquired in the implement trade. At the same time, the north-east of Scotland is far from being a preserve of theirs any more than the rest of the country is. Indeed, it is probable that their constituents are as numerous in any other part of Scotland as they are in Aberdeenshire, and their foreign trade is also a vast as well as a growing one. Altogether, it may be safely said, alike as regards the quantity and quality of the products turned out by this firm, and the unique position which the partners hold in the estimation of the agricultural public, the Bon Accord works are an institution of which the city of Bon Accord may be justly proud.”

An informative account on a great Aberdeen company!