An Angus millwright: Fitchet of Gighty Burn

There had been an agricultural implement and machine maker at Gighty Burn, Kinnell, Friockheim, Angus, since at least the early 1880s. At that time George & John Fitchett were implement makers, smiths and smiths and farriers, making a new improved broadcast sowing machine. They became well-known for their barn machinery, and installation of that machinery. This included barn machinery. In 1891, it installed at Pitreuchie a system of pulping turnips, cutting hay and straw, and bruising corn or feeding purposes. In 1899 a threshing mill and Campbell oil engine at Wemyss, Forfar, in 1899.

By 1923, the business was described as “a well-established connection in agricultural circles all over Forfarshire and beyond it, and has been carried on by the present proprietor for over 40 years.” It comprised a millwright and blacksmith business, including workshops, smithy, 2 dwelling-houses, with 7 acres of arable land and outhouses. Its plant was described to be “in excellent condition, driven by water and engine power, and lit by electric light, and the premises are commodious and recently renewed”.

The business was put up for sale in April 1923 as a result of the “continued ill-health of the proprietor”. The proprietor, John Fitchet, died in April. Obituaries provide information on the business and its reputation:

“Kinnell (Arbroath guide, 28 April 1923)

Death of Mr J. Fitchet, Gighty Burn

The death occurred on Thursday at Gighty Burn of Mr John Fitchet, agricultural engineer, who was well known to agriculturists throughout the country. The deceased, who was 67 years of age, had been in indifferent health during the past six months. Mr Fitchet was a son of the late Mr Alexander Fitchet, who for the long period of thirty years was huntsman to the late Squire Hay at Letham Grange. Two brothers, George (who died 21 years ago) and John, served an apprenticeship with the late Mr Finlayson, millwright, Gighty Burn. They were then for some time employed at Hartlepool, and when Mr Finlayson retired 45 years ago they acquired the business, which was considerably extended under their management. Messrs Fitchet specialised in the erection of threshing mills, and their workmanship soon gained for them the confidence of farmers throughout and beyond the county. Mr John Fitchet was a familiar figure at the weekly markets, and his genial, kindly presence will be missed by his numerous business friends. Mr Fitchet is survived by a widow, a son, and two daughters.”

(Forfar herald, 4 May 1923)

“The death has occurred at Hatton Mill, near Arbroath, of Mr John F. Fitchett, millwright, who was well known in agricultural circles throughout Forfarshire.

Mr Fitchet, who was 67 years of age, was sole partner of the firm of Messrs G. & J. Fitchet, millwrights and engineers, Gighty Burn. He had been in business for forty years, and many of the threshing mills on farms in the county bear the name of the firm.”

The business was taken over by another millright, Mr John Dargie, son of the late Wm Dargie, Brechin. He placed an advert in the Dundee courier of 4 August 1923 announcing his purchase of the business:


Mr John Dargie, son of the late Wm Dargie, millwright and ironfounder, Brechin, begs to intimate that he has taken over the business of millwrights, blacksmiths, implement makers, and joiners, so long carried on by the late G. & J. Fitchet at Gighty Burn, by Arbroath. The business will be carried on under the firm name of G. & J. Fitchet, and by careful and strict attention. Best materials and workmanship, it is hoped to earn a continuation of the support and confidence so generously extended to this firm in the past.”

Significant changes were made to the business in the next few months, as was announced in the Arbroath guide of 11 August 1923:

“Wm Fitchet, millwright (previously at Gighty Burn), begs to announce his change of address, and also to intimate that he is in a position to overhaul thrashing machinery. By giving strict personal attention to all repairs, he hopes to merit a share of public patronage-Wardmill Foundry, Arbroath, August 6th 1923.”

The business exhibited at the Highland Show of 1924. The Dundee courier noted that the business was a “well-known” one: “the firm have specialised in threshing machinery, and their exhibits include a threshing and dressing mill priced at £190.”

Directories continue to record the business in operation until at least 1928.

The photos were taken at the Aberdeenshire farming museum.