Spinning down the tattie drills

The tattle spinner was patented By J. Hanson, in 1855. By 1875 there were a number of makers of spinner diggers in Scotland whose names continued to be associated with that machine until well into the twentieth century.

14633386_533959080130730_6966801203334383649_oThey included J. D. Allan & Sons, Culthill, Dunkeld, J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie, James Gordon, Castle Douglas, Andrew Pollock, Machine, Ayrshire (Later A. & W. Pollock), and John Wallace & Sons, Glasgow.

If you were looking for a spinner digger in 1910 you would have been able to purchase one from all of these makers. In addition, you could have purchased one from Alexander Ballach & Sons, Leith, as well as George Sellar & Son, Huntly, Kemp & Nicholson, Stirling, A. Jack & Sons, Maybole, A. Newlands & Son, Linlithgow, and David Wilson, East Linton. They had outstanding reputations as makers of spinners within Scotland, as also across Britain, and for some throughout the world.

14409926_522899371236701_676821173554055210_oA number of these makers entered machines into the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland’s tattie digger trials in 1911. This was the first time that the Society had held a trial that focused on this implement for a good number of years: the earlier trail of 1881 had been a milestone.

Entries to the trial were to be on “entirely new principles, or possess radical improvements on machines now in use.” Each was also to have been exhibited at the Highland Show in inverness in 1911.

The trial, held at Turnhouse, Cramond, Midlothian, on 5 October 1911, was watched by a large number of spectators. The machines included some “novel” and “interesting” features. The machine from John Wallace & Sons had a rotating arm carrying the grapes or tines set at one side of the drill, and the tines were set so that they entered the drill laterally and lifted it up.

14372333_522899224570049_6639003693129113739_oThe judges concluded that the work done by all the machines was “fairly good” and “showed improvement as compared with the results obtained at the last trial.” However, there was no outstanding machine. As a result, equal premiums were awarded to machines from J. D. Allan, A. & W. Pollock, John Wallace & Son and David Wilson.

What the trial achieved was to stimulate the development in tattle diggers and to try to find ways to make diggers more effective. It went down in the annals of the Society’s work to encourage technological innovation.

For further information see “Trial of potato diggers or lifters”, Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, 1911, pp. 383-398. http://archive.rhass.org.uk

The potato diggers were exhibited at the Fife Vintage Agricultural Society’s rally, June 2016.

© 2016 Heather Holmes