Buying a new threshing mill in the early 1900s

In the early 1900s a number of the local newspapers, especially in Aberdeenshire, reported the erection of new threshing mills on a number of farms as farmers up dated their machinery or moved from using the travelling threshing mill to their own ones.

The erection of this plant was a significant occasion. It marked the introduction of new technology, a substantial investment into the farm and its activities as well as a change in the management of the processing of the grain crop. Farms generally marked this occasion with a social event in which neighbours and others were invited to partake in food and drink, and a congenial evening of activities. They also got to see the new mill at work. The feeding of the first sheaf into the mill was at some farms seen to be an important event. That task was sometimes given to a special member on the farm; it could be a long-standing farm servant or a past tenant.

The accounts in the newspapers provide varying amounts of information about the new mills. Sometimes they record the names of the maker of the mill and the mode of power for the mill (water, engine or tractor).

The following are short accounts from newspapers that record the introduction of new threshing mills onto farms in north east Scotland:

“New threshing mill (Aberdeen press and journal, 7 October 1901)

An interesting event tool place on Saturday at Meikle Tallo, when Mr Adam Gordon Gowans, the tenant there, who succeeded his father in the occupancy of the farm, invited a few friends to the opening of his threshing mill. The engine was supplied by Mr Campbell, Gas Engine Company, Halifax, through his engineer Mr Robert Gray, and the mill by Mr J. & B. Craig, engineers, Lathermuir, Laurencekirk. Starting at 2.45pm and stopping at 3pm, it was found that the average was 10qrs per hour, which, according to experts present, was considered very satisfactory.”

“Alford, New threshing mill (Aberdeen press and journal, 13 December 1901)

There has just been erected at the farm of Carnaveron, Alford (Mr Smith’s), a splendid specimen of the modern threshing mill, the motive power of which is a new model oil engine by Allan Brothers, Aberdeen. The other evening, on the kind invitation of Mr Smith, a number of neighbouring farmers visited Carnaveron to witness the start of the new machinery, including Messrs Leys, Asloun; Beattie, Mill of Fowlis; Dunn, Eninteer; Berry, Guise, Tough; C. McCombie, Tillychetly; Reid, Cairnballoch; Smith, Bridgend, Leochel; Bain, Cairnfield; James Smith, Alford; Thomson, engine proprietor, Alford, &c. The mill was fed by Mr Thomson, and both it and the engine were submitted to severe tests, but both proved most satisfactory in every way. The mill was made by Mr Charles Murray, millwright, Mill of Fowlis, and does great credit to his workmanship. The castings for the mill were made by Mr John Paul, manager in the pattern department of Messrs Barry, Henry & Co’s engineering works, Aberdeen. After the trials, the company were hospitably entertained by Mr and Mrs Smith.”

“(Dundee evening telegraph, 29 September 1903)

Mr Adam, on becoming a tenant of Mains of Murthell, has introduced a new threshing mill and an engine. It was necessary to make large structural alterations to make the steading suitable. The mill was built by the Messrs Craig, Idvies, and is equipped with the most modern appliances. The mill was started last week, when about half an acre was threshed. Everything went very smoothly, and the work was performed in a very efficient manner. Mr Innes, Forfar, supplied the engine, which performed its work equally as successfully. Every one present was highly satisfied with the exhibition. All were liberally supplied with refreshments by Mrs Adam.”

“Northern Scot, 12 March 1904

This season Mr William Allan, the enterprising tenant of the Level, Birnie, has got a new steading, and has recently installed a threshing plant of a most complete kind. On Wednesday last a number of neighbours and friends assembled to witness the plant in operation, and all were delighted with its efficient working, The new threshing mill has been erected by Messrs Shearer Brothers, millwrights, Turriff. It is a splendid machine, with all modern improvements, and threshes usually at the rate of eight quarters an hour, The dressed corn is carried away and deposited in an apartment at right angles to the mill by means of a revolving belt. The threshed straw is taken away from the mill by carriers, by means of which it can be dropped in the straw barn at three different points, thus saving great labour in packing the straw. On the other side of the mill is a chaff blast, by means of which the chaff is blown through a long tube, which goes through the wall, and is deposited in a small department erected outside, Close at hand there is also a corn bruiser supplied by Messrs Shearer, and the whole installation does great credit to that firm. The motive power is supplied by a large 12-brake horse power oil engine, constructed and fitted up by Messrs G. & J. S. Souter, Greyfriars Foundry, Elgin. This engine has two flywheels, and is a powerful, strong-looking machine. Messrs Souter are making a speciality of this type of engine, which has various improvements. It has very sensitive governors, which make it suitable for electric lighting as well as other purposes, and has a special vapouriser, which ensures economy in oil. The engine can be worked with common “Rock Light” oil, which, being cheaper than the higher grades, means a considerable saving. Messrs Souter have recently installed a similar engine at Arndilly. Altogether, Mr Allan is to be congratulated in having such a complete threshing plant and such a commodious and comfortable steading, Mr Allan has proved himself to be an excellent farmer, and his enterprise is worthy of commendation.”

“New threshing mill at Milton of Guthrie (Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review, 23 December 1904)

A new threshing mill was opened on Wednesday at Milton of Guthrie, Friockheim, tenanted by Mr Andrew Guild. The mill was made by Messrs Fitchett, Gighty Burn, and is capable of threshing 10 quarters an hour. It is driven by a 9 ½ horse power oil engine. After a couple of stacks of grain had been threshed and the work minutely examined by those present, it was considered highly satisfactory. The company afterwards partook of refreshments.”