New threshing mills on farms in north-east Scotland in the late 1900s

In the late 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:

“Deskford (Banffshire reporter, 21 November 1906)

On Saturday Mr Brodie Taylor, Swailend, invited a few friends to witness the start of a fine new threshing mill which has been fitted up at his farm by Messrs Wright Bros, millwrights, Boyne Mills, Portsoy. The threshing mill is quite a small one, having only a 30-inch high speed drum, and about 10 feet shakers, which are neatly fitted in with a 4-inch crank shaft. The grain is conveyed by elevators to the loft above the mill, and all this, with a fan and barley beater, is driven up to the required speed by a 12-feet undershot water wheel, which seems quite fit to drive the machinery. The grain was selected for the thresh was oats which had been a very heavy crop, and these the mill drew in at a great rate and finished very satisfactorily. Messrs Wright were highly complimented on the finish they had put on such a neat threshing machine.”

“New threshing mill engine near Auchterarder (Dundee courier, 22 November 1907)

The enterprising tenants of Broadfold and a few friends and neighbours had the pleasure of starting a new engine and remodelled threshing-mill, with new riddles and blast attached. Mr Murray, Coupar Angus, had the remodelling of the mill, while Mr Denton represented the firm of Tangye, who supplied the engine. About ten minutes after the lamps were lit work started, and the steady run of the engine was the admiration of all present. Although several tried their hand at the feeding-and the oat sheaves are not the nicest this season-neither engine nor mill flinched in the least, and the work done was entirely satisfactory. The Messrs McIntre are to be congratulated on this last addition to their Broadfold Farm.”

“New threshing mill and oil engine at Gerrichrew (Strathearn herald, 14 December 1907)

Some time ago the tenant of Gerrichrew, Dunira, Mr John McLaren, gave Mr Daniel Douglas, millwright, Auchterarder, an order for one of his latest improved threshing machines, which embraces the maker’s latest improvements. The mill is 3 ft 6 in wide, with high-speed drum. It is also fitted with the maker’s celebrated dressing apparatus. The mill and engine were set to work a few days ago, and gave entire satisfaction to the owner by the excellent work it accomplished. The engine is a 14hp, built by the famous firm of Allan Bros, Aberdeen. Throughout a severe test is wrought with great smoothness, not the slightest vibration being discernible, and those present expressed their admiration at the excellent work done.”

“New threshing mill (Stonehaven journal, 13 February 1908)

Mr David Murray, Muir, celebrated the starting of a new threshing mill and engine on Monday forenoon, when a number of friends and neighbours were invited to witness the proceedings. The contract for the supply of the engine and mill was placed in the hands of Mr William Tavendale, millwright, Laurencekirk. As this was the first mill erected by Mr Tavendale in the district, considerable interest was manifested in its operations. The mill had a fairly severe test, having threshed two stacks of oats and one of barley. Both cereals had been secured in bad condition, in consequence of the rainy harvest. Nevertheless Mr Murray was able to state that the threshing was to his entire satisfaction, and several of the visitors also expressed satisfaction with what they had seen of the working of the mill and engine. The company were entertained by Mr and Mrs Murray and family.”

“New threshing mill (Dundee courier, 7 April 1908)

At Mr R. Brown’s farm of Haugh of Aberuthven, Auchterarder, agriculturists can see threshing made easy direct from the man who forks the sheaves off the carts to the straw barn, some 80 feet distant. The straw is delivered to where there is ample room to hold a day’s threshing, with a little boy doing a bit of tramping, and all this with one active man, who can cut and feed for himself. The mill is a high-speed one, and the finishing is simply perfect, even with a harvest such as the last. The construction is so that the grain can be taken off ready for market either in the granary above or in the low barn. The mill was supplied by Mr D. Murray, engineer, Coupar Angus, and is driven by an Allan oil engine of 11 ½ hp.

“Dunecht (Aberdeen press and journal, 8 February 1909)

A few farmer friends and neighbours were invited on Friday to see the starting of a new threshing mill at Backhill of Glack. The mill was fitted up by Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Tough, Aberdeen, and has all the latest improvements, and is capable of threshing from six to seven quarters per hour. It has given the greatest satisfaction. The company were hospitably entertained by Mr and Mrs Walker.”