New threshing mills in the east of Scotland in the early 1900s

In the early 1900s a number of the local newspapers, especially in Perthshire and Angus, 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 the east of Scotland:

(Buchan observer, 3 December 1901)

Longside-Mr Clark, farmer, Netherton, Invereddie, Longside, has got a new threshing mill erected driven by an oil engine. This is the first engine of the kind in the district, and it will doubtless be watched with interest by the farmers round about.

(Stonehaven journal, 6 February 1902)

St Cyrus

On Monday, at the farm of West Mathers, on the Lauriston estate, Mr William Blair started a new threshing mill constructed by Messrs William Blair started a new threshing mill constructed by Messrs J. & D. Craig, Luthermuir, and also a new oil engine supplied by Mr D. Laing, St Cyrus, local agent for Messrs Allan Brothers, Spring Grove, Aberdeen. Both mill and engine worked with the utmost satisfaction.

(Arbroath herald, 15 January 1903)


Operations in connection with the rebuilding of the farm steading of Gilchorn (tenanted by Mr James Bell), which was destroyed by firs about a year ago, have just been completed by Messrs Christie & Anderson, builders, Arbroath. The buildings, which have been almost entirely re-modelled, are now made up to modern ideas as regards convenience and compactness. A Campbell oil engine has been introduced, and a new threshing mill, made by Messrs G. & J. Fitchett, Gighty Burn. The mill is provided with a straw carrier, and the other machinery consists of a hay cutter, a bruiser, a grist mill, and cake breaker. On the invitation of Mr bell, the new premises were inspected by a large number of agriculturists the other day. After a general look round, the mill was tried, when it proved itself capable of dressing from twelve to fourteen quarters of grain per hour. The other machinery worked well, and the day’s proceedings were voted a success. The company were entertained by Mr and Mrs Bell, at which Mr J. A. Jarron, Arbikie, gave the health of “Gilchorn” who suitably replied, and in closing proposed the health of the millwrights.

(Aberdeen press and journal, 13 November 1903)

Tarland- new threshing mill-Mr Thomson, who entered on a lease on the Home Farm of Melgum, on the Melgum estate, at Whitsunday, invited a number of the principal agriculturists in the district on Tuesday evening to see the start of a new threshing mill which he has just got completed. The mill is driven by water power, and gave great satisfaction, threshing about 10qrs an hour. The whole work in connection with the making and putting up was executed by Mr David Morrison, Milton of Kildrummy. The company was afterwards hospitably entertained by Mr and Mrs Thomson.

(Dundee courier, 23 March 1904)

Mr Rankine of Cunnoquhie, whose interest in his tenants was reflected in a recent reduction of 20 per cent off the rents in consequence of the bad season, has just added to the equipment of the farm of Cantyhall, tenanted by Mr James Sime, by introducing a new threshing mill, built by Messrs Craig, Idvies, Forfarshire. The mill is driven by horse-power, and has given great satisfaction.

(Dundee evening telegraph, 31 December 1904)

On Thursday Mr and Mrs Ritchie, Barnyards, Tannadyce, entertained a large company of friends on the occasion if starting the new threshing mill with an oil engine.

(Dundee courier, 14 November 1904)

New threshing mill and engine for Claypots Farm

Motive power on the farm is year after year becoming more and more advantageous, while in the matter of stationary threshing machines, corn bruisers, and cake crushers these are so made that by a pulley arrangement from the engine no difficulty is experienced in getting any kind of work accomplished. One of those who has had his steading adapted to the modern ideas is Mr William McEwen, Claypots farm. Some time ago an outbreak of fire occurred at the steading, and the damage done having now been made good, Mr McEwen, taking advantage of what had necessarily to be effected, had a new threshing mill and oil engine introduced. These and other aids to farm work were inaugurated on Saturday, when a company of farmers in the district witnessed the starting. The motive power is an Allan oil engine, made by Allan Bros, Aberdeen, forty or fifty of which have been fitted up on various farms by this firm during the past two years. This latest engine is a 14-brake horse power one, fitted with all the latest improvements, including an arrangement which admits of any class of oil being burned without any alteration of the working parts. The engine is fitted with an easy starting arrangement which brings it within the power of one man to set it agoing, it having a blow lamp for quick heating. The heat can be forced if necessary, but ten minutes to a quarter of an hour is all the time needed to get the power. Speed is regulated by the governors, the oil is fed from the base of the engine-a suction feed-in contradistinction to the gravity system.

The threshing mill, which has been put in by Messrs J. & D. Craig, Idvies Mill, has a four-feet high-speed drum with extra long shakers, while there is an oscillating screen to take off the small seeds before they pass through the dressing tackle, The drums were running with Wolfe’s patent lubricators and grease instead of oil. A stack of oats was put through the mill-a good sample-and those who witnessed the working of both engine and mill were satisfied that such appliances will be more largely introduced in the future.

At the close of the trial Mr McEwen entertained all present to tea, after which Mr Jas Miller, Balgillo, proposed “Success to the Mill”, remarking that the machinery they had seen that day was not only satisfactory, but eminently practical.

(Dundee courier, 31 December 1904)

Starting of new threshing mill

Mr and Mrs Ritchie, Barnyards, entertained a large company of friends on the occasion of starting a new threshing mill, with oil engine, which have recently been introduced at their farm. It is more than a year since Mr Ritchie left Wester Oathlaw to enter upon the farm of Barnyards, on the Tannadice estate. Among those present were the Rev Alex Ritchie, Oathlaw; Messrs William Ritchie, Ordie; David Ritchie, Trumperton; Irons, Whitewells; Findlay, Newmill of Craigessie; Tosh, Wellford; Webster, Parkford; J. Stewart, Newton of Inshewan; John McLaren, jun, Balgillo; J. Wilson, Battledykes; J. Hunter, Easter Balgillo; J. Patterson, Oathaw; Gray, Soutra; D. Skae, Cossacks; Coutts, Newton of Inshewan; Robertson, Blairtfeddan; J. Webster, Meadows; and the following ladies:-Mrs Stewart, Inshewan, Miss Tosh, Wellford; and Miss Arnot, Forfar. Messrs Craig, Idvies Mill,a re the builders, and Mr Innes, Forfar, supplied the oil engine.