What implements were used for cultivating crops in East Lothian in 1805? George Somerville, surgeon in Haddington, gives a short account of implements to plough, sow, cultivate and manage crops grown in the county. Only a relatively small number are recorded:
“Till within the last 30 years, the Scotch plough, generally speaking, was the only one in use; it was of large dimensions, and required the strength of four horses to do ordinary work: in not a few instances two more were added. That implement was succeeded by one, constructed something like the Rotherham plough, which was afterwards amended, by the late Mr James Small of Ford.
This plough is provided with a mould board of cast metal, constructed in such a manner as to make less resistance than any other hitherto tried, and is universally drawn by two horses. The price is from 2l 10s to 3l fully mounted.
The harrows commonly used are of two kinds, viz the large brake, worked by two horses, and the common small harrow, worked by one. The brake is so constructed with joints, as to bend, and accommodate its shape to the curvature of the ridges; it is chiefly employed upon strong lands, especially fallows, and upon soft lands, where the furrow is much bound with couch grass, or other root weeds: the small harrows are afterwards used with advantage, and at once complete the pulverisation of the soil, and separate such of the root weeds as have escaped the brake. When the land is clean, and the soil sufficiently reduced, the brake is very seldom used for covering the seed, the common harrow being could fully adequate to that purpose. This implement appears susceptible of considerable improvement; the number of teeth may certainly be increased with advantage, and the direction of the draught so much altered as to give them greater effect, by making more ruts.
Roller. Rolling is practised in the county to a certain extent, both in rediucing the soil before sowing, and upon the young crops, both of corn and grass. When conducted with judgement, the practice is highly useful, and admits of being considerably extended, especially upon all winter crops, after severe winters, and that without any regard to soil, as both loans and clays, after much naked frost, have their cohesion so much broken, as to leave the plants quite loose and almost without any establisment. Rollers are chiefly of stone or wood, and in a few instances of iron. Where wooden rollers are used, they often have a box upon the top for holding stones, for increasing their weight, when it is found necessary. Both wood and stone rollers have a fault, which, when they are used upon growing crops, is considerably felt; in turning short, the motion round the axis is nearly lost, and the implement, by that means, in place of rolling round in the manner it does when drawn straight forward, comes round, in the same manner as if ithad no axis, and in that way both the plants and soil are drawn along with it. This defect is completely remedied, by having the roller in two pieces to move round a common axis; most of the cast iron ones are of rugs construction: In turning, one end of the roller is drawn forward, while the other is ruled backward and the soil and plants left uninjured.
Drilling machines are used chiefly in the sowing of turnips, beans, and pease, and reemployed for this purpose with great advantage. Till within these few years, these machines owed only a single drill at a time, now however, they are so constructed, as to sow three or four at once. For turnips, these large ones answer extremely well, and save much labour; they also answer well for pease and beans, where the land has been previously ridged up, a practice noe becomes very common, especially where the soil is dry and free from couch-grass or other root weeds; but in cases, where beans are ploughed in, which is by far the most common mode, the single machine or common drill barrow, worked by a woman or a boy, is the best, and indeed the only one, rat can be used. The turnip machine has a coulter and roller appended to it, which at once cover the seed, and give a due degree of firmness to the soil. Hitherto the drilling of white crops, in this county, has for its object, chiefly the saving of seed, as the drills are often so close as to admit of little culture. Within these few years, however, the drilling of white corn crops has increased considerably, on the light lands around Dunbar, and it has been found, that by making the intervals such as could admit the use of the Dutch-hoe, great facility has been afforded, for destroying annual weeds.
Implements used during the growth of the crops
The implements used during the growth of the crop, are the horse and hand-hoe, the small and double mould board plough, the Dutch-hoe, and the different kinds of weed hooks.
The horse-hoe or scuffle is so well known as to need no description; that implement is now so constructed, as to be easily accommodated to any width of a drill; it is used more or less in all drill crops.
Hand hoe. The hand-hoe is very generally used, as will be seen, when the different kinds of drill crops come to be noticed, it is differently formed, but every variety of it is so well known as to require no description.
Small plough. The small plough is the same as that used for ordinary tillage, but upon a reduced scale, and is used in giving the first, second, and third ploughings, to turnips, beans, potatoes &c.
Double mould board plough. That implement differs in nothing from the foregoing, except in having temporary mould-board of wood added to the left side, and a double-pointed share or sock; it is employed only in laying up the earth equally to both sides of the drill, after the other ploughings are given, and is considered the finishing operation, unless where hand-weeding and picking may afterwards be thought necessary, for taking out such weeds as grow in the drills amongst the crop, and which cannot be destroyed in any other way. This implement is not much used.
Dutch-hoe. The Dutch horse-hoe, provincially called scraper, is used very generally in cleaning beans or tunnies, and a hand-hoe of the same name is often used in gardens; there cannot be a doubt, that, if the drilling of white crops were more general, the implement would be found very useful.
Weed-hooks. the common weed hook is chiefly used in this county, and is a useful instrument for cutting weeds of a certain description, such as thistles, &c; but, as the former of these, when cut either at an early period of the season, or before much rain falls, are apt to spring up a fresh and produce four or five stems in place of one, they ought, perhaps, in every instance, to be pulled, or, if they are cut, the operation should be done with a chisel, which, if properly used, will cut them below the surface.
This implement, being placed near the root, and pushed downwards at the same time, will cut the plant, at least a couple of inches below the surface, and by going nearer the root, will, if it does not destroy it entirely, at least injure it more than when it is cut an inch or two above the ground.”
The selection of sowing nd cultivating implements were taken at Lanark Auction Market, March 2019.