Some lesser-known plough makers in Scotland

While there were some well-known plough makers in Scotland there were also others who were only known more locally. Though only locally known, they were nevertheless important, with some of them being renowned for their ploughs. This was noted by the Aberdeen press and journal on 18 February 1913. It noted:

“Many a local blacksmith has fashioned a championship winning plough, and a few county plough-makers have even essayed the gaining of ploughing honours themselves. Mr Sutor, Mintlaw, maker of Champion Oliphant’s plough, is himself an expert “hauder”. Mr Stuart, Dufftown, made the plough which Mr W. Newlands, Botriphnie, Banffshire, held when he, at Morayshire match, in March, 1908, won the championship belt of Scotland outright. Mr Stuart turned farmer, and he has often proved his prowess at holding the plough. Other blacksmiths have occasionally, at small matches, taken a leading prize with a plough fitted up by themselves; but no one in Scotland has perhaps ever achieved a record like that of Mr David Paterson, Alloa, whose name as a plough-maker is far-famed indeed.”

One of the more locally-known plough makers was Christopher Little of Woodhouselees Smithy, Canonbie, Dumfriesshire. Before 1908 his ploughs had won 13 Highland Society medals. He was from a line of plough makers.

Thomson’s weekly news of 15 August 1908 provides an account of him at his diamond wedding at that time.

“Champion plough-maker

Celebrates his diamond wedding

Mr and Mrs Christopher Little, Woodhouselees Smithy, Canonbie, Dumfriesshire, were presented on Friday night with their portraits and a purse of sixty soverigns, the occasion being their diamond wedding and the completion by the husband of over sixty years’ of business at Woodhouselees.

Mr Little has long been one of the best known country blacksmiths in the United Kingdom being noted as a maker of prize ploughs. His ploughs won 13 Highland Society medals; and were sent out to America and Australia. His father and grandfather were also blacksmiths in Canonbie.

After serving his apprenticeship with his father he was in situations in Ewes and Carlisle in 1842 and 1845 at 3s and 6s per week and saved money off these wages. He is still hale and hearty and though in his 83d year he can shoe s horse with as much activity as a young man of twenty. His wife is also a native of Canonbie and before their marriage they attended roadside conventicles at Canonbie immediately after the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843.”

Another important local plough maker was Alexander Cameron, Tullymet, Perthshire. He was described as “Scotland’s champion ploughmaker” at the time of his death in 1911. In the late 1890s as well as being a smith he was also an ironmonger. A decade later he was also an implement maker. He exhibited at the Highland Show when it was in the Perth Show District (1861, 1879, 1887, 1896 and 1904) as well as the Glasgow Show of 1867 and Inverness in 1874. The following is his obituary, published in the Dundee courier of 5 December 1911:

“Scotland’s champion plough maker dies

Mr Alexander Cameron, “Scotland’s champion ploughmaker”, died at Rowan Cottage, Balnamoon, on Sunday, at the age of 87 years.

Mr Cameron retired some four years ago. He was a native of Tullymet, and became tenant of the Tullymet Smithy in 1851. He had no special training in the making of ploughs, but in 1852 he made his first two ploughs. In the same year, at the Middle District of Atholl ploughing match at Dalcapon, where 38 ploughs competed, his ploughs gained champion honours and also the second prize.

This success proved the opening of a brilliant career. In the championship matches, open to the world, and held throughout Scotland, his ploughs received leading honours on 19 occasions out of 21, which is truly a phenomenal record.

At the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1887 his plough gained the gold medal and with the plough exhibited, since owned by Mr John McDonald, Sketewan, over 50 championship medals have been secured.

Mr Cameron is survived by one son and two daughters.”

Another locally important plough maker was Robert Colville of Johnshaven. His ploughs were said to be highly recommended at all district ploughing matches. His importance is noted in his obituary in the Montrose standard of 22 March 1912:


Mr Robert Colville, blacksmith, passed away in his 87th year on Monday. He was a native of the Brechin district, and worked as a blacksmith at Brechin and Fettercairn. He commenced business on his own account at Brotherton Smithy, Benholm, which he carried on for the long period of 35 years. Mr Colville was a first-class workman, and a well-known plough maker, his ploughs being highly recommended at all district ploughing matches. He felt the heavy, farm-blacksmith work rather trying, and came to commence work at Johnshaven village over 30 years ago. He was exact and much respected in his dealings, and was attending to some light duties in the smithy during last week. He is survived by a widow, two sons, and two daughters.”