Water-powered mills at Glamis

Mill lades were once a common sight around Glamis.
Mill lades were once a common sight around Glamis.

In the account books of the very early days of Glamis mill is an “Accompt of the expense of forming the mill lead to the spinning mill, constructing the mill dam, firing the quarries, quarrying stones, stair steps, pavement and slates, digging the Ark and the foundations of the buildings and much extra work connected therewith.”

This detailed account states that James Smart of Dundee was paid £4:3:5 on 16 May 1608 for “oak to the sluice”. Professional advice was sought far and wide, in connection with the course of the mill dam and lades and advice was given by a Mr Abercromby who came up from Ayrshire to take the levels of the water and received £21 for his pains. Wood for the wheel was brought down from Braemar and Dunkeld and a special iron wheel brought from Dysart in Fife.

Little is known of the individual operatives who worked in the mill in its early days, but by 1851 the majority of the Glamis population were flax spinners or mill workers who had been born in the parish including some elderly inhabitants.

There was general hostility towards working in the mill: “The women spinners were up in arms against the spinning mills and they tell their daughters if they go to the mills they will never get a husband and they tell their sons that they will lose their hands or even their lives”. Frames were standing idle for want of spinners and spinning had come down from 2/0 to 1/6 per spindle, this was the true wrath of the women spinners. Some were threatening to set fire to the mills and put them out of business.

There were other troubles too. “Frost and ice were enemies of the mill and the dam dykes were driven out by ice so that the mills were out of action for weeks, the workers could not be paid, the banks would not discount their bills and the bankers told the masters that flax spinning was a low mean disreputable trade!”

In 1818 Patrick Proctor put the Glamis spinning mill up for lease for 21 years to William Baxter with the annual rental being £362:10/-. Just in time it would transpire, as Patrick Proctor died at Glamis on 4 July 1819 aged 75 after 50 years as factor of Glamis Estate. This was to form the basis of the Baxter mill family dynasty in Dundee over the next century.

In September 1822 some local mills, including Glamis, reduced the heckler’s wages from 3/- to 2/6 per cwt. Not surprisingly this resulted in a strike. The timing was aginst the mill owners as the resourceful strikers were able to sustain themselves by working at the potato harvest, much to the delight of the farmers and on October 19 Mr Baxter was one of the first owners to re-engage the hecklers at the former rate. Finally a good outcome for the puir wee hecklers.

Yours aye,