The firm name of Alexander Jack of Maybole, or Alexander Jack & Sons, Maybole, was well-known throughout Scotland from the 1830s until the early 1970s.
Alexander Jack was first noted in the Scottish agricultural press in 1843 with the name and address Alexander Jack, Sawmill, Auchendrane, Maybole. By the early 1950s he described himself as a wood merchant at Culroy, Maybole.
By the late 1850s Alexander was joined by one son, and later into the early 1860s by another. The name Alexander Jack and Sons was to be known until 1905 when the company incorporated itself and became limited by guarantee as Alexander Jack & Sons Ltd. In 1930 it became the proprietor of another major Ayrshire maker – Thomas Hunter & Sons (Maybole) Ltd.
While the company was always based in Maybole, it opened a branch in Glasgow in the late 1870s. By 1879 its Glasgow premises was at 427 Gallowgate. With the move of the other implement makers to Graham Square, Alexander followed. By 1884 the company of implement makers and wood merchants was based at 20 Graham Square where it remained until at least the Second World War.
The company undertook a range of trades and activities – as agricultural implement makers, cartwrights, railway waggon builders, engineers, timber merchants, steam saw millers, smith and farrier, spring van and lorry builder and wood merchant. It was especially noted for its mowers and reapers, potato diggers and carts. In 1935 it noted how it had been a maker of Scotch carts for over 90 years.
By the 1870s the company also acted as an agent for a range of other makers. In 1875 they included W. N. Nicholson & Son, Newark On Trent, Ransomes, Sims & Head, Orwell Works, Ipswitch, John Williams & Son, Rhyl, Richmond & Chandler, Salford, Manchester, Picksley, Sims & Co. Ltd, Leigh, Lancashire, James Pattison, Hurlet. In 1909 they were International Harvester Co. of Great Britain Ltd, London, Cockshutt Plow Co. Ltd, Brantford, Canada.
The company was a regular advertiser in the Scottish farming press as well as a regular at the Royal Highland Show, where it travelled to all of the show districts. It also frequented major shows in Northern Ireland as well as the Royal Agricultural Society of England. In Scotland it did well at the shows, especially the Highland Show. For example, in 1859 it was awarded a bronze medal for second best sowing machine for turnips as well as other awards for Norwegian harrows, a one row sowing machine for beans. In the early 1870s it was awarded silver medals for its collection of implements and machines. But it was its potato raisers, such as its Caledonian, that won it national awards in England at the Royal Agricultural Society of England trials in 1896. This was a major accolade for a Scottish company against the major English players.
There are still a number of Jack of Maybole implements and machines to be seen around the rally fields.
Earlier in the week we started to look at the exhibition of agricultural implements at the Dumfries Show of the Highland Society from 1830 to 1910. Today, we will look at some of the implements and machines exhibited at that show.
The wide range of implements and machines exhibited at the Dumfries show were sometimes described in detail in reports on the show in the provincial newspapers and the agricultural press. In 1895 the North British Agriculturist commented that James Gordon had ‘an immense variety of ploughs, harrows, mowers, binders, weighing machines, measurers, grinding mills, chaff cutters, meat coolers, corn bins, and churns; in fact almost everything that is wanted on a well-appointed farm.’ Others had a more limited range, or only one type of implement or machine. For example, in 1860 Peter Anderson, Innermessan, Stranraer, had a two horse plough for general purposes.
The implement and machine makers had a range of trades that shaped their manufactures. The largest makers, usually located in foundries, manufactured a range of implements and machines from metal. They included ploughs, implements to prepare the seed bed, sowing machines (having both metal and wood), horse hoes, hay rakes, potato raisers, turnip cutters, sheep fodder racks, feeding troughs, barrows and field gates. Carts were made by general implement makers as well as specialist cartwrights. Other specialist activities included the making of dairy utensils and machinery, threshing mills and a range of barn machinery, including fanners and bruisers, which were made by makers with specific trades. For example, William James Kelly, Dumfries, who exhibited dairy implements at the 1910 show was in 1912 a dairy utensil manufacturer, ironmonger, and a tinplate worker and brazier. Thomas Turnbull, Dumfries, who exhibited a range of implements between 1870 and 1910, including threshing machines, was a millwright as well as a mechanical engineer, engineer and ironfounder and agricultural implement maker.
The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district largely focused on the manufacturing of implements and machines for specific tasks, especially ploughing, cultivating, sowing, and food processing and dairying. This focus is not surprising given the focus of the agriculture of south-west of Scotland on the rearing of livestock and dairying. They therefore manufactured (and exhibited) implements and machines that met the local needs of the farmer and agriculturist. Indeed, there were particular implements and designs of them associated with the region. For example, in 1895 Gavin Callander exhibited ‘two heavy grubbers of the Dumfries pattern’.
There was a distinct relationship between the Dumfries-shire made implements and machines and the county and region they were used in. Some makers expressed this through the trade names of their manufactures. Thomas Turnbull manufactured his ‘Dumfries’ broadcast sower for grain and grass from 1870. James B. A. McKinnell, Dumfries, had a ‘Dumfries’ grubber in 1878. Gordon & Coltart had a two and three horse ‘Dumfries’ grubber and ‘Galloway’ turnip cutter in 1886. In 1910, Eric Nicholson, Annan, made the ‘Annan’ oil engine in a series of four patterns.An important aspect of implement and machine making by exhibitors in the Dumfries show district was the manufacturing of turnip sowers. An analysis of the show catalogues (or Catalogue of Implements, Machines, and Other Articles) for the eight Dumfries shows between 1845 and 1910 reveals that they were exhibited by a total of 91 exhibitors. Those from the Dumfries show district were well represented, though their numbers fluctuated between shows; they had the smallest presence at the 1910 show. Of the 22 exhibitors from that show district, 19 exhibited a turnip sower at one show, while a further two did so at two shows; one exhibited at three shows. Before 1878 all of them exhibited machines that they had made. After that date six of them exhibited ones from other makers: in 1878 James Gordon and James Payne both exhibited machines from G. W. Murray & Co., Banff Foundry, Banff. Some exhibited machines made by local makers. In 1895 and 1910 Gavin Callander, Dumfries, exhibited a machine from James Gordon, Castle Douglas, as did Thomas Turnbull in 1910. In 1910 John Charlton & Sons, Dumfries, had one from Lillie & Co., Berwick on Tweed.
Another area of importance for a number of the implement and machine makers in the Dumfries show district was the making of dairy utensils and machines. They were included on 59 stands at 8 shows between 1845 and 1910. They comprised a wide range of utensils and machines, such as churning machines, curd mills, curd cutters, curd makers, milk pans, milk stirrers, milking pails, milk ripeners, milk coolers, milk cans, butter workers, butter churns (end over end, barrel, disc), whey drainers, cheese vats, cheese presses, refrigerators, measuring cans, and sundry small dairy utensils. The number of stands with them varied greatly from show to show. With the exception of the 1870 show, the Dumfries show district always supplied exhibitors of them to the Dumfries show. Most of these exhibitors exhibited at only one show, though John H. Ferguson, did so at two and John Gray, Stranraer, at three. By 1886 John Gray was ‘well known in the south of Scotland as a manufacturer of dairy requirements’. Most of them made their own utensils though some, including John McKerlie, exhibited ones made by other manufacturers such as D. Noble, Stranraer. In 1878 James Payne sold cheese presses from J. & T. Young, Ayr, a curd cutter from A. Pollock, Mauchline, Ayrshire, and barrel churns from R. Tinkler & Co., Penrith; all were leading makers. In 1910 Robert Armstrong exhibited sundry small dairy utensils and acted as an agent for one of the well-known English dairy and refrigerator makers, R. A. Lister & Co., Dursley.
The manufactures of the implement and machine makers in the Dumfries show district did not provide the full range of implements and machines that were required by the farmer and agriculturist in that show district. Especially as agriculture became increasingly mechanized from the mid nineteenth century onwards, these makers together with other businesses, such as ironmongers, were also selling a range of other implements and machines made by other manufacturers in order to provide a comprehensive range to the farmer and the agriculturist. They were able to become agents for some of the leading makers in England and America, and in doing so, introduced new technologies into the show district, such as chilled ploughs and reapers and mowers.
In 1895 the Glasgow herald summed up the character of the exhibitors in the implement yard of the Highland Show at Dumfries. It stated that:
“Although there are not many manufacturers in the immediate vicinity, makers in all parts of Scotland and England find it to their advantage to exhibit at Dumfries. In this respect its proximity to the Border is a further inducement to Southern firms to place their manufacturers on view.”
The character of the show districts and the geography of the show districts from one another, observed in relation to the Dumfries show district, was also noted in relation to the other show districts throughout Scotland. Large numbers of exhibitors from the Glasgow and Edinburgh show districts were found in their home show districts. For example, in 1882, some 74 of the 201 exhibitors at the Glasgow show were from that show district, while at the Edinburgh Show of 1899 some 24 of the 221 exhibitors were also from that show district. In 1893 some 34 of the 196 exhibitors at the Edinburgh show were from that show district. Other rural districts, notably Stirling, Inverness and Kelso, provided smaller numbers of exhibitors to their home show districts. For example, at the 1883 show at Inverness, some 17 of the 105 exhibitors were from that show district. At the 1900 Stirling show, 18 of the 176 exhibitors were from that show district. Geography was also an important factor for exhibitors from other show districts attending shows. For example, there were small numbers of exhibitors from both Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Inverness show in 1883 and 1911. There were also few exhibitors from Aberdeen at both the Kelso and Dumfries shows. Therefore, the Dumfries show reflected a number of wider patterns of exhibition that were also found in the other show districts.
The Scottish exhibitors were augmented by a growing number of ones from England, especially from 1870 onwards, though their numbers fluctuated from show to show. In Dumfries their number was higher than in most of the other show districts. As one observer noted, Dumfries was, ‘considering its situation and accessibility to implement makers on both sides of the Border’ an ‘attractive show location’. The number of English exhibitors was generally lowest in Inverness and Aberdeen, furthest from the Scottish Border and highest at the most important Scottish shows, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as those on the Scottish border.
While the exhibitors from the Dumfries Show District did not themselves manufacture all of the agricultural implements and machines used by farmers and agriculturists in that show district, they made an important contribution in making particular types of them while also selling ones from other makers throughout Scotland and further afield. An examination of the implements and machines exhibited at the Dumfries Show in 1886 shows the place occupied by these exhibitors in the supply of implements and machines in the Dumfries show district. The implements on the 130 stands (24 were held by exhibitors from the Dumfries show district and a further 64 from England could be classified into 71 different categories or types. Some of these were small, with only one or two exhibitors, though others had large numbers. For example, there were 15 exhibitors of steam engines, 16 exhibitors of root pulpers, slicers and cutters, or the 17 exhibitors of ploughs.
The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district exhibited implements and machines in 45 of the 71 categories. Those from the other show districts in Scotland were represented in 56 categories, while those from England were recorded in 46 of them. The exhibitors from these three provenances – the Dumfries show district, the rest of Scotland, and England – played a number of roles in exhibiting their implements and machines. Some were the only exhibitors of particular types or categories of implements and machines. For example, there was one such exhibitor from the Dumfries show district, 10 for the rest of Scotland and 8 from England. The Dumfries exhibitor specialized in cream separators while the Scottish exhibitors did so in potato planters, rakes for attaching to reapers, rick and stack stands, hay or rick lifters, hay and straw barrows, hay loaders, saddle harrows, turnip thinners and water barrows. The English makers specialized in bone crushers and mills, butter washers and coolers, root washers, horse hoes, scythes, stone breakers, straw trussers, and traction and locomotive engines. The English makers were were-renowned for making these manufactures, and for which there were no makers in Scotland.
The character of the Dumfries show and the exhibitors of implements and machines was shaped by a number of factors. The first was the character of the Dumfries and Galloway region as a rural area with a focus on the rearing of livestock and dairying (before 1900 the show had strong exhibitions of Galloway cattle, there were only small displays of Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorns; it was the home district of the Ayrshire cow). As a rural area, it had a relatively modest manufacturing base, also reflected in the number of agricultural implement and machine makers, whose numbers were much smaller by comparison to other areas of Scotland, especially the Glasgow show district, with its heavy industries. Because of its location, close to the Scottish-English border, it was an important show district for the attendance of English agricultural implement and machine makers; their number was larger than in most of the other show districts, especially from the 1870s onwards.
As a result of these factors, the Dumfries show was characterized as having a small core of local exhibitors within the area of the show district augmented by significant numbers from other parts of Scotland and England. Two show districts each provided significant numbers, Glasgow and Edinburgh with the latter generally having half the number of the former district. The remaining districts in Scotland generally provided around twice the number of exhibitors to that of the Dumfries show district. Exhibitors from England comprised around three or four times the number of ones from the Dumfries show district. These exhibitors together with their exhibits, created a distinct show with its own character.
The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district ranged from small businesses to the most important agricultural implement and machine makers in the district. Some were renowned makers and were also well-known throughout Scotland, as also overseas where their manufactures were used. The basis of their exhibits were manufactures that reflected the character of the agriculture in the show district district. They included ploughs, cultivating implements and machines, turnip sowers and cutters, threshing machines, and dairy implements and machines. Their implements and machines were associated with the region through their trade names and the names of their makers. They were augmented by other manufactures from throughout Scotland and England, especially as agriculture became increasingly mechanized. The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district and their manufactures were therefore part, and a distinct part, of a wider tradition of agricultural implement and machine making throughout Scotland and also Britain, exhibited at the Highland Show.
The photographs were taken at the Dumfries vintage rally, 2014.
The Highland Show or the general show of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, the national agricultural society, was the most important agricultural show in the farming calendar in Scotland. It was the focal point for the agricultural community in the district where it was held, enabling its members and exhibitors from further afield to exhibit their livestock and agricultural implements and machines. Each year until 1960 the show traveled around the country to a different show district, each of which focused on the main agricultural regions. These districts included the Dumfries Show District comprising the counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, or the Dumfries and Galloway region. In the Dumfries show district the show was always held around or close to the town of Dumfries, at the heart of that show district and at ‘the centre of a wide agricultural territory’.
The implement department developed at a fast rate at the Dumfries Show. For Wellwood H. Maxwell, looking back over eight shows at Dumfries between 1830 and 1895, ‘perhaps in no department of the Show has there been a greater change than in that of implements. In the show of 1845 there were but 143 exhibits of implements. In 1895 the number was 2265.’ The rapid expansion of that department was also seen through the development of the ‘motion yard’ where machines were seen at work or in motion. In 1895 one observer commented that it ‘has perhaps made the most conspicuous advance during the past few years’. By 1910 it included some 50 of the 220 stands in the implement yard.
While the number of exhibits in the implement department increased significantly from 1830 until 1910, they also fluctuated between shows. They included the increasing importance of the show for the agricultural community, and the development of and changes to Scottish agriculture, including the increased mechanization of Scottish agriculture, especially from the 1850s and 1860s onwards, the development of the Scottish agricultural implement and machinery industry in these two decades, and the increasing range of manufactures made. By the 1890s larger scale makers of agricultural implements and machines were emerging which also acted as agents to provide a comprehensive range for the farmer and agriculturist. Wider economic conditions also had an impact: the 1860s and 1870s were favourable decades for Scottish agriculture (reflected in the significant increase in the number of implements at the Dumfries show and the large number of exhibits at the 1878 show). After 1879 British agriculture sank into a long-running agricultural depression that continued throughout the 1880s and 1890s, though it was not as severely felt in Scotland (reflected in the significant fluctuations in the number of implements at the Dumfries show). During such adverse economic conditions implement and machine makers were more reluctant to exhibit at the show as there were fewer opportunities of sales. That period of depression was followed by a more favourable period from 1906 until the First World War (and a slight increase in the number of implements exhibited as well as exhibitors).
Wellwood H. Maxwell was clear about the importance of the implement department for the farmer and agriculturist. He saw it as being ‘by far and away the greatest emporium for the display and sale of all sorts of agricultural implements, and particularly of such implements as tend to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of the labour of the farm’. For the 1895 show, he commented on their ‘varied and interesting collection’, also observing that ‘practically everything in the implement and machine way wanted on the farm is to be seen on one or other of the different stands’. In 1903, one reporter writing in the North British Agriculturist considered that ‘practically all classes of farm machinery’ were ‘represented’ in it. Another noted that ‘specimens of all classes of machinery in use on the farm at the present day’ were found. In 1910, there were:
“Close on 2000 exhibits, representing practically every department of commerce catering for those engaged in the cultivation of land or in the breeding of live stock. The requirements of the great landowner, the gentleman farmer, the practical agriculturist, and the small holder are all kept in view, and the shedding in this section are filled with machinery, implements, seeds and their produce, artificial manures, feeding stuffs, veterinary preparations and appliances, and the numerous other articles, seemingly of endless variety, required in the equipment of the modern farm and estate.”
The exhibitors in the implement yard at the Dumfries Show included businesses from that show district. They provided a core of exhibitors at the Dumfries Show. There were always 21 or more of them at a show. They were present in similar numbers at consecutive shows, such as those of 1860, 1870 and 1878 and also 1886 and 1895. However, their role generally declined as the overall number of exhibitors to the show increased, especially after 1860; they declined significantly after 1878.
The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district exhibited at varying numbers of shows in that district. As the show was held every 8 or more years, most only exhibited at one or a small number of them. Before 1870 most of them only exhibited at one show. The first year when they started to exhibit at more than one was 1870. Though the number of these exhibitors fluctuated in following years, there was a tendency for the exhibitors at the 1895 and 1903 shows to also exhibit at later ones. However, only a small number exhibited at three or more shows: there were ten at three shows, four at four shows and four at five shows. The first exhibitors to exhibit at three shows did so in 1860 and continued until 1886. However, it was more usual for them to start at a later date: two started in 1870, another two in 1878, a further one in 1886; four started in 1895. Those that attended four shows first did so in 1878, though more usually from 1886; they continued to exhibit until 1910. Those at five shows exhibited from 1870 until 1903 or 1910.
The most extensive exhibitors who exhibited at three or more shows had a distinct character. They were long-established businesses, also trading for a number of generations. As is revealed in their business names, they included a number of family members, usually a father and son or sons, though also other ones, as in the partnership of J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas. They included some of the best-known businesses in the district. For example, ‘no one was better known in the implement yard shows for many years’ than Thomas Turnbull who ‘never failed to exhibit at the Dumfries local shows’.
Most of the exhibitors from the Dumfries show district only exhibited at the Highland Show when it was held in Dumfries. They included ones that attended three or more shows: Andrew Boyd, Gavin Callander, William Cotts & Sons, James Gordon, Wellwood Herries Maxwell, and John Tweedie. However, some of them also exhibited at the show when it was held in other show districts. These could be shows held consecutively before or after the Dumfries show. Three exhibitors exhibited in this way, though for two of them their first show was not in their home show district. All of these show districts were in the south of Scotland, in the show districts of Perth, Stirling and Edinburgh. A further 11 exhibitors also exhibited in other show districts. These were either neighbouring ones, such as Kelso, or Glasgow, or a nearby one, always located in southern and central Scotland, such as Edinburgh, Stirling or Perth.
The exhibition patterns of the exhibitors demonstrate how they saw their businesses and how they promoted them and their manufactures. Exhibitors that only attended the show in the Dumfries show district focused on these aspects within that geographical area, acting as local businesses with a sphere of influence in the Dumfries and Galloway region. Ones that did so in two show districts had a wider sphere of influence, usually to a neighbouring show district or a nearby one in southern or central Scotland, though this was not always the case. Caldow & McKinnel, Maxwelltown, exhibited in three show districts that extended from the most northern one to the most southern: Inverness, Dumfries and Kelso in 1856, 1860 and 1863. Those that exhibited in six show districts had a much wider sphere of influence throughout most of the country. Ones that exhibited in all of them were national businesses with a national influence and standing. However, this latter type of exhibitor did not emerge until the 1890s.
The exhibitors from the Dumfries show district included the most important agricultural implement and machine makers in that district. James Gordon established his business at Castle Douglas in 1865. In 1893 the North British Agriculturist could state that ‘from his long-established reputation for turning out first-class material, there is hardly a steading of any size in the Galloway district where some of “Gordon’s” implements are not to be found.’ Another of the leading makers was Thomas Turnbull, Dumfries. In 1869 one observer notes that ‘no one was better known amongst the farming community’ than him. By 1918 ‘specimens of his good, sound, and reliable workmanship may be seen all over the county’.
Some of them were renowned for making important innovations and developments in particular implements and machines that came to be more widely used throughout Scotland and further afield. Two were especially important in the development of the milking machine. John Gray, Stranraer, ‘an old-established’ maker in 1910, was considered to be ‘the original inventor of the milking machine’. J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas, was described as ‘pioneers in the invention of the milking machine’. Other machines were also important throughout Scotland. Thomas Turnbull’s ‘turntable broadcast sower’, of 1870 ‘will for all time be best associated with his name in the implement trade and amongst agriculturists’. One observer considered that: There are few counties in Scotland where the sower is not at work. It is extensively used in Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire, Berwickshire, and Ayrshire. Large numbers have been sold into the north, south, and midlands of England, into Ireland, and Wales, and a goodly number shipped to Australia, New Zealand, South African and America. Thomas Payne’s patent adjustable scythe was widely used, with 900 being ‘sent out’ in 1860 alone. Mr Rome’s sheep dipping machine was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and later at the Highland Show in 1854, 1860, 1876 and 1878.
Some of the exhibitors were also award-winning agricultural implement and machine makers. They gained their awards from a range of agricultural societies, usually at their annual shows. They included local societies, such as those at Torthorwald and Ruthwell, county societies including the Union Agricultural Society, as well as ones from further afield, in northern England, such as the East Cumberland Agricultural Society, and the national societies, the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and the Royal Agricultural Society of England. William Cotts & Sons, established by 1860, won two premiums, a bronze medal and one soverign, in 1860 for its tools for cutting field drains from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. James B. A. McKinnel was another award-winner from that society, of a medium silver medal for his collection and his patent turnip drills, in 1870. In that year Thomas Turnbull also won a medium silver medal for his collection at the Highland Show. He won a total of six medals for his turntable broadcast sower, invented in 1870. James Payne, ironmonger, Kirkcudbright, secured three awards for scythes, including his patent adjustable scythe, in 1857, 1859 and 1860. J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas, was awarded a silver medal for its milking machine by the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1905; it was one of a small number of Scottish implement and machine makers to receive a medal from that society. Its manure distributor also won the first prize of the ‘great Newcastle trials of the RASE’, and in 1910 ‘still continues to enjoy that measure of success which such a unique honour implies.’
The status of these local makers was reflected in their presence in the Dumfries showground. The most important ones commanded large stands. In 1895, A. Thomson, Dumfries, had ‘the largest stand of local firms engaged in the implement trade’, while James Gordon, Castle Douglas, ‘is a large exhibitor at the show’. In 1886 ‘Gordon & Coltart, of Castle Douglas and Dumfries, occupy a large space crowded with well-known implements’. Some of them also had comprehensive displays of implements and machines. In 1870 James B. A. McKinnel, Dumfries, exhibited ‘a great variety of farm implements in and out of motion’. In 1886 Gordon & Coltart had ‘a large and varied collection of useful implements’. At that same show, J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas, had ‘a goodly array of farm implements, including many of their own manufacture’. That maker had ‘a large and miscellaneous collection on view. In 1903 it had ‘an interesting assortment of machines’. In 1895, A. Thomson, Dumfries, ‘has a very extensive assortment of all kinds of implements’. In 1903 James Gordon ‘has on view a good collection of machines’. In 1910, John Gray, Stranraer, had ‘an excellent variety of cheese-making utensils for inspection’.
The next instalment will look at further aspects of the exhibition of implements and machines at the Highland Show in the Dumfries Show District.
The photographs were taken at the Dumfries vintage rally, 2014.
There are a few accounts of agricultural implement works in the provincial press in Scotland. These provide details of what the works looked like, the arrangement of the works, activities and sometimes additional information on an implement maker.
One of the best accounts of one of the Perthshire makers is that of J. D. Allan, Murthly, near Dunkeld, renowned for reaping machines and potato diggers. In July 1896 the special correspondent of the Dundee Courier visited the Culthill Works. Here is his account of that visit:
“Leaving the Victoria May Hotel, Stanley, which had been our comfortable and home-like headquarters for a time, we drove out the Blairgowrie road, and, crossing the Tay by the splendid new girder bridge at Caputh, erected a few years ago now, we got into that district of Perthshire known as the Stormont, and soon reached Culthill, where we were to see the workshop and farm of Mr John Allan, of the well-known firm of J. D. Allan & Son, Mr John Allan being the sole partner and representative. Mr Allan is a son of the late Mr Douglas Allan, whose name is as familiar as a household word amongst farmers and ploughmen for the making of high-class light-fraughted ploughs, in which respect the high prestige hitherto attained by the firm is still kept up.
On entering upon the outside premises we were struck with the evidence on every side of the extensive business carried on in timber, the place having the appearance of an American logging yard. The timber grown in the district is famed for its large size and excellent quality, the larch, elm, and ash trees being remarkably fine. Mr Allan purchases the timber mostly on the root from the neighbouring proprietors, and conveys it in the log to Culthill, where it is cut up into planking sized to suit the demand. It is afterwards stored into large, well-ventilated drying sheds until it is properly dried and seasoned, and is then disposed of to the orders of those in the trade, such as cart and wheel wrights, coach builders, town and country joiners, &c, a speciality being made in the turning out of cart and carriage hubs or naves, fellows, and spokes, and all kinds of framing. The ends of the sawn timber in the drying sheds and even the ends of the large unison logs in the outside yard are all thickly coated with a composition of cow dung to prevent splitting or gelling.
The workshops are extensive and comprise a regular blacksmiths’ workshop, for the shoeing of horses, repairing of farm implements, machines, &c, a joiners’ workshop, where all kind of country joiner work is executed, and a very commodious and well-lighted workshop, containing the most modern and ingenious machinery, tools, and other appliances for the making of new farm implements and machines. The machinery is driven by water power supplied by a stream which passes the works, the large overshot water wheel which drives the outside circular saw also supplying the power for the machinery within the works. The water power is for the most part ample, but in case of scarcity a 6-horse power steam engine has been fitted up within the works, which, however, is not required more than three or four days in a year. Mr Allan says that all makers of implements are alive to the fact that it is only by the aid of labour saving, power-driven machines, which will accomplish the maximum amount of work with the minimum expenditure of hand-labour, that such works as his can nowadays be made lucrative. In the large workshops are machines for tenoning the spokes of wheels, and for boring the fellows to suit; shearing and punching machines capable of cutting iron bars 1 inch thick, or punching homes through same; emery grinding machines, which are driven at a very high speed, and are very effective, and also common stone grinding machines; a heavy geared turning-lathe capable of turuing shafts 4 1/2 inches in diameter; circular and band saws; vertical and horizontal drills, the boring tools being an American patent, which ensure the holes made through even the thickest iron or steel plates to be perfectly circular. In the blacksmiths’ department are six forges, the wind for which is supplied by a fan blast making 3000 revolutions a minute. Each forge has its accompanying anvil and hand tools, and in connection with the blacksmith department is an oven for heating wheel tyres, its capacity being four of the heaviest sized tyres at a time. A cool tyre is put in as a hot one is taken out, and this keeps the hands going, and facilitates the work.
Connected with the fitting department are all kinds of modern appliances, such as vices and hand tools, machines for punching out key seats, mandrels, and templates, to ensure the procuring of duplicate parts for any machine when wanted. In front of the works is the large, well-lighted and well-ventilated paint shop full of farm implements, such as farm carts, reaping machines, potato diggers, turnip slicers, &c, in preparation for the Highland Show at Perth. Mr Allan has been remarkably successful with his output of potato diggers, for which he has gained very high repute both at home and abroad. They are specially well known and very highly appreciated in the three sister countries-England, Scotland, and Ireland-a great many going over the Border and across the Channel every year, so much so that difficulty is experienced in keeping up with the orders. At the last trial of potato diggers at the Stirling Highland Show the firm gained the first prize of £15 amongst a lot of 22 entrants, comprising all the leading makers of Great Britain. They also gained first prizes at Glasgow, Coupar Angus, Lincolnshire, and Aberdeen; and silver medals at the kelso Highland, Coupar Angus, Strathearn, Dublin, and Aberdeen, and a handsome massive silver cup. value £10 10s, at Long Sutton in Lincolnshire. The firm further do a good trade in reaping machines, for which they hold several silver medals. For the making of cart wheels and axles the firm is also highly famed, especially for extra strong wheels for wood carting. The fellows are made 4 inches broad, and ringed with steel tyres to suit. These wheels, because of their being made of the very best seasoned wood, and because of the steel tyres being much tougher and harder than iron, are very strong and durable.
Another speciality is the making of turnip-slicing carts. The box is made to hold a load of 15 carts of roots, which, with the horse going at plough speed, it slices and distributes in from ten to twelve minutes. The cart is made with a grated bottom so that earth and grit may fall through. It is used principally for feeding cast ewes on grass land, and for lambs in the spring before the grass comes. Mr Allan’s make of banker carts for transporting large trees is unique. They are fitted with shafts which gives the horse full control over them, and makes them much safer to work than common bankers. They have a high rainbow axle, and two other strong iron bows, the one forward and the other shaft, with a powerful screw on each bow. Chains are attached to the screws, which are put round the trees, and by actuating the screws one man can load a tree weighing 1 1/2 tons with the greatest ease, and with no danger. One of these banker carts will be exhibited at Perth Show.
In addition to the works, Mr Allan farms Cairnsmuir, a farm of 96 acres. The soil is rather poor, but being liberally treated, good crops are produced. Cross cows are kept and mated with an Angus bull, and 7 or 8 calves, mostly blue greys, are produced. They are hand-fed on sweet milk and lined cake, no other condiments being used, and if there is reason for pride in the workshop, there is noels reason for pride in the production of excellent calves. They are kept on till two years of age, and being liberally dealt with all the time, come out splendid specimens. In the spring of 1895 the strikes, when about two years old, were purchased by Mr Morgan of Ardgaith, Glencarse, at nearly £20 each. They were well kept until Hay & Company’s Christmas sale at Perth, where two of them gained first prize for bullocks under three years of age, and were sold for £60 10s the pair. This year the stirks were sold to Mr Gellathly, Drumbachlie, another famous breeder, and doubtless they will be heard of at future shows. Mr Allan purchases annually a lot of grit blackface ewes in the spring. He sells the lambs when weaned, and keeps the ewes to feed. He finds that he can buy grit ewes in the spring for not much money than he can buy black ewes in the fall, and that they pay him much better than any other kind of stock. Mr Allan speaks in the most laudatory terms of the kindness and liberality of his proprietor, Sir Alexander M. McKenzie, Bart, of Delvine, who at great cost erected the extensive workshops, and gave him every possible facility for the carrying on of his large business. Before leaving, we had the pleasure in shaking hands and having a conversation with Mr Allan’s mother, widow of the late Mr Douglas Allan. The old lady was born in February, 1812, and is 84 years of age. She is hale and hearty, and has all her intellectual faculties unimpaired. She lives in a cottage on the preises, and is never happier than when bustling about doing her own household work.”
A contemporary account of Mr J. Douglas Allan in the North British Agriculturists provides some further information on the company and its activities:
“Amongst the whole Scottish implement trade there is no better liked man than Mr J Douglas Allan, of Culthill Works, Dunkeld. To fully appreciate the geniality of his character he must be visited at his works, which are driven by water-power, and are situated on Gourdie Braes, a picturesque slope on the Tay valley, about five miles from the fashionable summer resort of Dunked. Besides being an important maker, Mr Allan has also the advantage of being a practical farmer, occupying a fair-sized holding on the estate of Sir Alexander Muir Mackenzie, the genial baronet of Delvine. The potato digger is the implement by which Mr Allan’s name is best known. He was the first in the country to make those on Hanson’s principle wholly of iron, and shortly after their introduction by him they were generally made all over the country. Mr Allan, however, has succeeded in retaining his reputation for making one of the strongest, lightest draught, and easiest working machines in the market, and with it he succeeded in taking the first prize of £15 offered by the Highland Society at their Stirling meeting in 1881, twenty one diggers competing. At the Royal Society of England’s Newcastle trials in 1887, Mr Allan’s machine was not quite so fortunate, but in the opinion of many who witnessed the trials, it did the best work, and was entitled to a better place than that allotted to it. On the excellence of Mr Allan’s machine we need not dwell, but only quote the common saying throughout the trade. “For a tattie digger Allan is get ill tae beat”. Besides the digger Mr Allan also manufactures carts, reapers, mowers, and other implements, and he also does a very large and regular business in hickory spokes. Mr Allan never misses a Highland Show, where his kindly manner makes him one of the most universally respected men in the yard, whilst his constant attendance in the Perth market has made him one of the best “kent” figures in his county.”
The photographs are of a range of potato diggers at the Fife Vintage Agricultural Machinery Rally, June 2016.
Many of us will be familiar with the travelling mills and threshing contracts that went around farms undertaking the threshing of the grain throughout the year. Some were small businesses with one threshing machine while others were much larger with multiple threshing machines and motive power to take them around the country.
So what tackle did a business need to operate a steam threshing business?
Evidence from displenishing sale notices in newspapers, whether agricultural or provincial, record to a great degree items that were to be sold or rouped. There are a number of sale notices for threshing mill contractors throughout Scotland throughout both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These can provide a significant amount of detail. One contractor, Mangoes Ltd, a company registered in Glasgow, but operated at Niddrie Mill, Portobello, Midlothian, gave up business in 1944, a date when steam contracting was being replaced by other forms of power. The company was a significant sized one with 9 threshing machines and 9 traction engines. It also acted as a motor engineering business. Its displenishing notice in The Scotsman read:
“Highly important sake if steam haulage threshing and baling plant. High class garage equipment, machine tools, land and buildings, including 9 traction engines, 7 and 6HP, boilers insured at from 180 to 120lbs pressure; 9 portable threshing, dressing and finishing machines, by Ruston & Hornsby Ltd, Clayton & Shuttleworth Ltd, and Wm Foster & Co. Ltd, each with No. 4 Hornsby straw trusser; 6 Ruston self-feeding baling presses; Howard self-feeding baling press; 8 living vans, 4 on pneumatics; 20 cwt Morris commercial platform lorry; 10 HP Austin saloon; 7 in centre SA SS and SC hollow-spindle gap bed lathe, by Swift, 7 1/2 ft bed; 20 in Barnes pillar vertical drill; Fortuna power hack saw; DH grinder; 125 HP AC three-phase 50 period 440 volt mootor, revs 960, with starter; van Norman Valve Refacer, volts 250 AC; Black & Decker Vibro-Centric Universal Electric Valve Grinder; Buma Insert and Reseating Tool; Hutto Cylinder Grinder, 2 Black & Decker universal portable electric drills; H and LT battery charging boards; EPCO jack car lift combination; 3 hydraulic jacks; eight 6, 5 and 4 ton bottle jacks; Millennium garage jack; BEN belt driven air compressor, model A2, with receiver; Kismet air tank outfit; Whitworth, gas, BSF, BA screwing tackle in sets (almost new); expanding reamers; hand parallel and taper reamers, Ferodo brake tester, precision crankshaft truing tool; brake living riveter; Britoil Whitworth, SAE and American thread socket spanners, Gedore panel beating set; size 60 Cleco pneumatic riveting hammer (almost new); BOC combined oxyacetylene welding and cuttings et; set of 6 boiler stay taps, 7/8 in, 15-16 in, and 1 in (almost new); Vulcan boiler test pump, with connections; 120 lots valuable garage and engineering tools; 60 lots garage accessories and materials; 60 lots mill, trusser, baler and engine spares, motor, mill and engine oils; living van utensils, army blankets, &c. Also ground and buildings (unless previously sold privately), including garage, store, and large repair shed together with 4 petrol pumps and underground tanks. Area of ground about 1 acre. For further particulars see advertisements in Scotsman tomorrow. At Niddrie Mill, Portobello, Midlothian, on Thursday, 27th July 1944. At 11am prompt. Shirlaw, Allan & Co., auctioneers, Hamilton, have received instructions from Messrs Mangoes Ltd, 266 Gorbals Street, Glasgow, C5, who are giving up their threshing and motor engineering business, to see by auction, as above. On view 3 days prior to sale. Catalogues from auctioneers.”
Shirlaw, Allan & Co., was one of the most important auctioneers of industrial plant and sold a number of sets of threshing mills and steam ploughing tackle. Mangoes was using English tackle from the largest Enghlish makers rather than utilising that from Scottish makers such as Garvie of Aberdeen. It was matching the threshing machine with the traction engine, and it is likely that both were ordered at the same time.
I wonder where the traction engines and threshing mills went to.
The photographs of threshing were taken at the Bon-Accord Steam Fair, June 2017.
In 1950 the Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers continued to include a number of major names as well as new players. They included:
Adrolic Engineering Co. Ltd, Clober Works, Clober Road, Milngavie Balgownie Engineering & Dairy Utensil Supplies, 631-633 George Street, Aberdeen Barclay, Ross & Hutchison Ltd, 67 Green, Aberdeen Robert Begg & Sons, Sharon Street, Dalry William Begg & Sons, plough specialists, Tarbolton, Mauchline J. Bisset & Sons Ltd, Greenbank Works, Blairgowrie B. M. B. Ltd, Hawkhead Road, Paisley James Bowen & Sons Ltd, 45-49 Pitt Street, Edinburgh J. D. Bryan, Culthill Works, Murthly, Perthshire Caledonian Agricultural Co. Ltd, 33-41 Brown Street, Glasgow, and 76-78 Pitt Street, Edinburgh
Cobb of Inverurie, Union Works, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire Thomas Cochran & Co., 148 Sword Street, Glasgow James Crichton, millwright and engineer, Turriff, Aberdeenshire Cruickshank & Co. Ltd, agricultural department, Denny Iron Works, Denny, Stirlingshire James A. Cuthbertson Ltd, agricultural engineers, Biggar, Lanarkshire The Dairy Supply Co. Ltd, 12 Grassmarket, Edinburgh Dairyority Ltd, Old Fafley Mills, Duntocher, Dumbartonshire William Dickie & Sons Ltd, Victoria Implement Works, East Kilbride Fleming & Co. (Machinery), 31 Robertson street, Glasgow P. & R. Fleming & Co., 10 Graham Square, Glasgow and Kelvin Works, Keith Street, Glasgow J. R. Forrester & Co., 5-9 Weir Street, Paisley R. G. Garvie & Sons, 2 Canal Road, Aberdeen Gillies & Henderson Ltd, 59 Bread Street, Edinburgh Eddie T. Y. Gray, Fairbank Works, Fetterangus, Mintlaw Station, Aberdeenshire George Henderson Ltd, 18 Forth Street, Edinburgh and Kelso Foundry, Kelso George Henderson, Catrine Road, Mauchline Hutcheon (Turriff) Ltd, agricultural merchants, Turriff
Alexander Jack & Sons Ltd, Maybole Robert Kay & Son, Stirling Road, Milnathort, Kinross Alexander Laurie & Sons, trailer and motor body builders, Camelon, Falkirk L. O. Tractors Ltd, Coupar Angus, Perthshire James McGowan, Dechmont Welding & Engineering Works, Dalton, Cambuslang Kenneth Mckenzie & Sons, agricultural engineers, Evanton, Ross-shire Mackenzie & Moncur Ltd, Balcarres Street, Edinburgh Marshall & Philp, 179 Union Street, Aberdeen The Mather Dairy Utensils Co. Ltd, 51 Newall Terrace, Dumfries John S. Millar & Son, 91 High Street, Annan A. Newlands & Sons Ltd, agricultural engineers, Linlithgow Thomas Nimmo, Braehead, Fauldhouse, West Lothian A. & W. Pollock, Implement Works, Mauchline
Ramsay & Sons (Forfar) Ltd, 61 West High Street, Forfar, Angus Allan W. Reid (Ayr) Ltd, Main Road, Whitletts, Ayr William Reid & Leys, agricultural implement makers, 8 Hadden Street, Aberdeen Reekie Engineering Co. Ltd, Lochlands Works, Arbroath A. M. Russell Ltd, Sinton Works, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh Ryeside Agricultural and Engineering Works, Dalry, Ayrshire Alexander Scott (Agricultural Engineers) Ltd, Caledonian Implement Works, St Ninians, Stirling A. & J. Scoular Ltd, Main Street, Thornhill, by Stirling Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd, Rosehall, Haddington Scottish Aviation Ltd, Prestwick Airport, Ayrshire Scottish Farm Implements Ltd, Crosshouse, Kilmarnock Scottish Mechanical Light Industries Ltd, Scotmec Works, 42-44 Waggon Road, Ayr George Sellar & Son Ltd, agricultural engineeers, 30 Great Northern Road, Kittybrewster, Aberdeen Alexander Shanks & Sons Ltd, Dens Iron Works, Arbroath Thomas Sinclair, engineer, Main street, Reston, Berwickshire Thomas Sherriff & Co. Ltd, West Barns, Dunbar Smith & Wellstood Ltd, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire
Tullos Ltd, Aberdeen James H. Steele Ltd, “Everything for the farm”, Harrison Road, Edinburgh Stenson & Co., 200-204 Strathmartine Road, Dundee Alexander Strang (Tractors) Ltd, Pipe Street, Portobello, Edinburgh J. & R. Wallace Ltd, The Foundry, Castle Douglas John Wallace & Sons Ltd, 34 Paton Street, Glasgow John Wallace & Sons (Ayr), Towhead works, Smith Street, Ayr Charles Weir Ltd, Townhead Works, Strathaven.
The photographs were taken at a number rallies throughout Scotland.
What were the implements used to sow the grain crop in 1811?
Patrick Graham, writing for the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement, provides a detailed account of the implements and practices to use them in Stirlingshire in 1811. It is worth a read:
“Harrows. In the harrows used in Stirlingshire, there is nothing very peculiar. They are sometimes of three beams or bulls, as they are here called, and sometimes of four. These are joined together with cross bars: in every beam there are five and sometimes six teeth, here are called tines. The teeth are of iron, and have a bevil forward at an angle of about 70 degrees, in order the more effectually to tear up the stiff ground and to root out the weeds. two harrows, drawn by two horses, are joined together in such a manner as that the course of the teeth may coincide as little as possible, and so as to pass over the ground in the most equable way. A heavy harrow, called a break, is sometimes, and ought to be more generally used, for tearing out couch grass, and other obstinate weeds, in summer fallow, or for preparing the ground for barley. It is generally of two pieces and of a triangular form, the teeth very long and stout. The hinder part is furnished with two handles to raise or depress the teeth, as may be necessary. Great attention is required in the person who directs the handles to observe when the teeth os the break are filled with roots; and the horses must be stopped till they are removed. The same operation must be repeated at every turning of the harrow at the end of the rises. The roots are afterwards collected and burned; but, it may be observed, that a more advantageous practice would be to throw them into a heap in some corner of the ground; there the most noxious weeds will ferment, and, in the course of about two years, be converted into valuable manure. The process might be accelerated by the addition of a little lime in a caustic state. This process has actually fallen under the reporter’s notice in Dunbartonshire.
Rollers. The roller is an indispensable instrument in husbandry; and the heavier the roller, the more effectual it is. In no district is the use of the roller more necessary than in the Carses, or clay lands, of Stirlingshire; where, in dry springs, notwithstanding all the efforts of the plough and harrow, in pulverising the soil, the hard consolidated masses of clay, which deform the soil, can be reduced only by the roller. Before the introduction of the roller, it was common n the spring for all the men and women on the farm to be employed for several days in breaking the clods on clay soils, with wooden mallets, or mells, as they are called. But perhaps the most important use of the roller, is the consolidation of the loose soil, which had either been naturally light, or which had been rendered friable and porous by the frosts, which, in this climate, often succeed the seed time. In such soils the seed, which has begun to send forth in fibres in quest of nourishment, finds nothing but open pores destitute of sap and warmth. By the operation of the roller, these pores are filled up; the roots of the vegetables are fixed in the soil; and the moisture necessary to vegetation is prevented from evaporating.
There is another application of the roller which merits attention. The seed time of 1808 was uncommonly early. Oats were sown in a considerable quantity in this district in February, and the whole oat seed was over early in march. Drought, accompanied by very severe frosts, succeeded for several weeks. In light dry field soils, especially in the western parts of Stirlingshire, the ground swelled and became open and porous. Whether from something peculiar to the season, or from the porousness of the soil, the oat-fields became infested with myriads of slid worms, which devoured the tender roots of the grain; rendered the whole acres unproductive; and threatened the ruin of the crop. It was remarked that this devastation was most fatal in grounds that were in the best condition, as in old lets which had been let out in grass. A field of about seven acres, occupied by the reporter in the immediate vicinity of the western district of Stirlingshire, was threatened with the total ion of the crop; so that, at one time, thoughts were entertained of ploughing it down, and sowing it a second time. By the use of the roller, this disagreeable operation was rendered unnecessary. The field was rolled twice; first, to obviate the effects of the frost in heaving up the soil; and then, after the young corn had got up, to destroy the slug worm. This second rolling was given after sunset, and before sunrise; as it was understood that it is during the night that these insects come forth from their lurking places and commit their depredations. In this operation, it is to be presumed that many of them were crushed to death; and what is perhaps of more importance, the earth was consolidated, and the pores, by which they had issued forth, were compressed and shut up. It is sufficient to say, that the operation was completely effectual, and that the ensuing crop was abundant. Rollers of every kind are used in Stirlingshire. Some are of wood, but not the most approved; many are of stone; hollow rollers of cast iron are frequent. Rollers divided into two parts, and fluted rollers are not uncommon.
Drills. Drilling machines are generally used in sowing turnips and beans; and, by their means, the operation is no doubt performed with greater regularity and expedition, and the ground afterwards cleared of weeds with greater facility. Drill husbandry, however, has not been yet introduced into this county upon ne extensive scale. As far as the reporter haas found, it is only practised with regard to potatoes, turnips, and beans; and with respect to beans, he meets with a considerable difference of practice and opinion amongst the most intelligent agriculturists. In the Carses of Gargunnock, the drilling of beans is not found to answe, and is disused. Such, it appears, is the tenacity of the soil, that in horse-hoeing, large masses of compacted clay are torn up,and the crop materially injured. In the Carses to the east of Stirlingshire, and in the rich loans of Kilsyth, beans are generally drilled. The difference between the practice in the Carses of Gargunnock, and in the eastern parts of the county, arises probably from this, that the latter having been longer under the operations of agriculture, the soil has been rendered more friable than that of the former, which has been more lately brought under a proper mode of cultivation.”
The cultivating and sowing machinery were taken at the Fife Vintage Agricultural Machinery Rally, June, 2015.
Steam power played an important role in mechanising Scottish agriculture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, the national agricultural society, recognised the importance of steam power for the farmer and agriculturist, and encouraged its use and development though a range of means, including premiums, competitions and special committee investigations.
It was at the Highland Show that farmers and agriculturists got to see the latest developments in steam power for the farm. The first steam powered exhibit at the show was at the Glasgow Highland Show of 1850. In the “extra implement” class Clayton, Shuttleworth and Co., Lincoln, exhibited a seven horse power portable steam engine for thrashing and other purposes. This would set the purchaser back £209, and if they wanted it felted and cased they would pay a further £8 extra. Richard garrett and Son, Saxmundham, also exhibited a portable steam engine for agricultural purposes for £205.
While the early Highland Shows in the 180s generally had a small number of steam exhibits, their numbers increased significantly as steam power became more widely adopted on Scottish farms. At the 1875 Highland Show held in Glasgow, there were eighteen exhibitors of steam powered engines and machinery. They included some of the major English makers whose names came to dominate the making of traction engines and portable steam engines – William Foster & Co., Wellington Foundry, Lincoln, John Fowler & Co., Steam Plough Works, Leeds and Edinburgh, Richard Hornsby & Sons, Spittlegate Iron Works, Grantham, Marshall, Sons & Co. Ltd, Britannia Iron Works, Gainsborough, and Robey & Co., Lincoln.
But there were also Scottish makers and exhibitors, some of whom were well-known at that time for their steam manufactures. One of them was Alexander Chaplin & Co., Cranstonhill Engine Works, Glasgow, with a portable winding engine. D. Gordon & Co., Newton Works, Ayr, had an eight horse power vertical engine and boiler combined, built on a strong cast-iron foundation, as well as a light two-horse thrashing machine and horse gear. Another from Ayrshire, J. & T. Young, Vulcan Foundry, Ayr, exhibited a five horse power improved horizontal tank steam engine and independent vertical boiler with cross tuber in fire box as well as a patent stone dressing machine. William Young, engineer, Ardrosssan, had a three horse power (nominal) vertical engine and boiler combined suitable for driving, thrashing, churning and other machinery.
Steam power continued to be an important feature of the showyard (especially the “machinery in motion” section) of the Highland Show for a number of following engines. However, from the 1880s steam power had to compete with new forms of power, including gas power, diesel power paraffin power, and electric power, and their increasing use on Scottish farms.
Traction engines continued to be exhibited at the Highland Show until the early 1930s. The last traction engine that John Fowler & Co. (Leeds) Ltd, Leeds, world-famed for its steam ploughing and cultivating engines and tackle, exhibited at the Show was in 1933. This was a 10hp (nominal) traction engine, single cylinder, on rubber-tyres wheels and fitted with front tank and Pickering governors, with a rotary plough, its gyro tiller, of 170hp. By this time a number of the traction engine makers were making diesel powered engines.
A number of traction engines for agricultural use can be seen around the rally fields today.
The photographs from the Bon Accord Steam Fair, 2015, Fife Vintage Rally, 2015, and B. A. Country Fair, 2016, illustrate aspects of agricultural steam from the past.
As we have seen from a number of posts a small number of Scottish implement and machine makers moved their businesses, sometimes over a wide geographical area. This allowed them to grow and develop their businesses, and take hold of new opportunities. Some businesses also opened new premises in other parts of the country.
One business that developed over a number of geographical areas and undertook its work from a number of premisses throughout the country was George Sellar & Son of Huntly. By the early 1910s it was looking for opportunities to develop its business and have further opportunities for iron founding which was essential for increased plough and machinery production.
The local newspaper press charts the development of Sellar’s iron founding premises at Alloa in 1914.
At the end of April 1914 the Daily Record notes that:
“A new industry-At Alloa Dean of Guild Couty plans were passed for the preliminary buildings of a new industry to be started at Longcarse Road, by Messrs G. Sellar & Sons, Huntly, agricultural implement makers, who intend opening a branch establishment. The old Sun Foundry will be reconstructed at a cost of several thousand pounds, and when the work is in full operation, about 200 hands will be employed.”
By the following month the Aberdeen evening express, wrote:
“It isn understood that Messrs George cellar and Son, agricultural engineers, Huntly, have got the transfer of a feu at Alloa, that of the Sun Foundry, in which they intend to start a branch of their works. It has not yet been decided on what scale this new establishment will be carried on, but there is no intention of removing the headquarters of the firm from Huntly, although some department or departments may be affected by this development. Alloa, a seaport on the Forth, is situated close to the Scottish coal and iron fields.”
By October 1916 the firm was advertising itself in the Scottish agricultural press as G. Sellar & Son, head office, Huntly and works, Alloa. The company continued to refer to itself as being of Huntly and Kelliebank Works, Alloa, until well after the Second World War.
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.”
Celebrating the Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers of yesteryear