Ironstone and Granite -book project
Ironstone and Granite- Outline of proposed book by Alistair Livingston 28 October 2014
1.The working title reflects the theme of the book which is an exploration of the divergent histories and economies of the western Lowlands north and south of the Southern Uplands Fault. In the nineteenth century, the presence of ironstone plus coal led to the development of the iron industry in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. In Galloway and Dumfriesshire there was no ironstone and only a few areas with coal. Here the presence of granite and the Southern Uplands shaped the development of what is now the rural South of Scotland.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, agriculture shaped the economy and society of Scotland’s western lowlands - Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Galloway and Dumfriesshire. Then came two industrial revolutions. The first involved the rapid growth then decline of the cotton industry. The second saw the rapid growth and slower decline of the iron industry. The resulting division of the region between an industrialised and urbanised north and a rural and agricultural south has persisted to the present.
While the tragedy of the Highland Clearances has never been forgotten, it was the less dramatic Lowland Clearances which had the deeper impact. Economic migrants from southern Scotland first helped shape and drive the industrial revolution in north-west England before helping the revolution take root in Scotland. However, despite bold plans for canals and iron rail-roads in Galloway and Dumfriesshire, the lack of ironstone and coal saw the southern districts population decline after 1851 while that of the northern districts continued to grow.
The price of economic success was paid by the new working class as they lived and laboured under appalling conditions in the iron companies’ towns and miners’ villages. These new towns and villages bore little resemblance to the planned towns and villages of the Enlightened improvers. By the 1880s, just as steel was beginning to replace iron for shipbuilding and construction, supplies of Scottish ironstone began to run out. The shortfall was made up by imports of iron ore, but from then on the inland location of the iron and steel industry became a disadvantage.
The major nineteenth century changes in the rural south saw sheep farming extend across the uplands and dairy farming, pioneered by Robert Burns in Nithsdale, spread from Ayrshire across the more fertile lowland farms. In the twentieth century it was hoped that the Galloway hydro-electric project in the 1930s and forestry in the 1960s would stimulate rural employment, but they did not.
Looking forward to the twenty-first century, the different histories of both parts of this region have created difficult challenges to overcome. In the north, the passing of the age of industry has left in its wake areas of acute deprivation. In the south, the absence of industry has created different problems as young people move away to be replaced by retired people attracted by a quiet, as in all but lifeless, countryside. Yet if the strength of the Yes vote in Scotland’s former industrial heartlands implies a recognition of the need for change, the strength of the No vote in the south and other rural areas suggests a poverty or failure of the imagination, rooted in the conservatism of rural Scotland.
The value of this comparative study is that can provide a fuller and better understanding of the present by tracing the historical paths through which the political and cultural differences of that present emerged. In particular, how two very similar regions of Scotland were set on different trajectories by the industrial revolution. Although the industrial revolution are now the subject of industrial archaeology, it forged a modern and dynamic Scotland. The contrast with the rural south, a region still shaped by the aspirations of eighteenth century improvers is stark.
Across industrial Scotland, generations of struggle in a hostile and unforgiving environment created a passionate desire for social and economic justice It was this passion rather than nationalism which inspired and informed the grassroots Yes campaign. Those areas of Scotland, like the rural south, which had not undergone the ‘trial by fire’ of industrialisation lack this historical consciousness and so chose to vote No.
2. Chapter One- Introduction
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
[Ozymandias P. Shelley 1818]
In the cold light of dawn as the blue and white sea of saltires ebbed away, the political geography of modern Scotland was revealed on 19 September 2014. Charting the spread of Yes and No votes, the influence of history was also exposed. Not the passionate and romantic history of nationalism, of Bravehearts and Jacobites, but rather a more recent history shaped by the dismal science of political economy. While both nationalist heartlands of the rural north-east and the unionist heartlands of the rural south were united in their cries of ‘No’, the spectre which haunted the Yes campaign was the Victorian age of Industry and Empire. The sun may have set on the industries and the empire which supported them, but they have left Scotland with a pernicious legacy. The wealth which flowed out from the jute mills of Dundee, the shipyards of the Clyde, the great engineering works, the coal mines and iron furnaces of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire has gone, leaving enduring poverty in its wake.
Seventy years after Shelley wrote ‘Ozymandias’, Walter Montgomerie Neilson had a monument erected to celebrate a revolutionary discovery made by his father James Beaumont Neilson in 1828. James Neilson’s discovery was that heating the air blown into iron smelting furnaces dramatically improved their efficiency. Before this discovery, Scotland produced 36 000 tons of pig iron per year. By the time Neilson’s ‘Hot Blast’ monument was erected, this had risen to over 1 million tons per year. However, while there was no shortage of Scottish coal to feed the iron furnaces in 1888, Scottish iron ore was a more limited resource. From 1854 to 1881, annual production was two million tons but by 1890 it fallen to 1 million tons and by 1913 Scotland produced only 592 000 tons of iron ore. So even as Walter Neilson’s monument to his father was being built, the once fierce fires of the mighty iron works were already being damped down, although it would be another hundred years before the closure of the Ravenscraig steel and iron works in 1992 marked the final end of the revolution James Neilson had begun.
A fitting spot for the Neilson monument might have been close to Coatbridge parish church in North Lanarkshire. In 1869 a visitor described the scene.
From the steeple of the parish church, which stands on a considerable eminence, the flames of no fewer than fifty blast furnaces may be seen. In the daytime these flames are pale and unimpressive; but when night comes on, they appear to burn more fiercely, and gradually there is developed in the sky a lurid glow similar to that which hangs over a city when a great conflagration is in progress…There is something grand in even a distant view of the furnaces but the effect is much enhanced when they are approached to within a hundred yards or so. The flames then have a positively fascinating effect. No production of the pyrotechnist can match their wild gyrations. Their form is ever changing, and the variety of their movements is endless.
Now they shoot far upward, and breaking short off, expire among the smoke; again spreading outward, they curl over the lips of the furnace, and dart through the doorways, as if determined to annihilate the bounds within which they are confined; then they sink low into the crater, and come forth with renewed strength in the shape of great tongues of fire, which sway backward and forward, as if seeking with a fierce eagerness something to devour.
However, Neilson’s monument was built 90 miles away on a hill above the village of Ringford in Galloway. To the east and south green fields stretch across the landscape while to the north and west the brown and grey mass of the Galloway Highlands rise up towards Merrick, the highest peak in the Southern Uplands. Like the artists known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’ who followed him, the tranquil rural landscape of Galloway offered Glasgow born James Neilson a very different environment from the sprawling city he knew and the clangour of the industries he helped to create. Quite why Neilson chose Queenshill estate in Galloway to retire to in 1848 is uncertain, but the decision was probably influenced by the belief that he was a descendent of John Neilson of Corsock in Galloway who had been executed as a Covenanter rebel in 1666.
This faint trace of an older past is a reminder that the geological boundary marked by the Southern Uplands Fault, which divided the coal and ironstone possessing districts of Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and upper Nithsdale from Galloway and the rest of Dumfriesshire, was for centuries invisible. The religious culture of seventeenth century Covenanters and the rational culture of eighteenth century Improvers were shared across this region. While tracing James Neilson’s legacy as the ‘father’ of modern Scotland through the revolutionising impact of the iron industry’s explosive growth, this book will also show that what was to become the rural south was no less developed than what was to become the industrial north at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Looking beyond Scotland, the influence of economic migrants from Galloway and Dumfriesshire on the industrial revolution in north-west England will also be revealed. Before the age of iron acted as a magnet to draw the economically dispossessed from Ireland, the Highlands and the rural south to west central Scotland, the cotton industry drew an earlier generation to Liverpool and Manchester. In Liverpool, William Ewart from Troqueer (Dumfries) and John Gladstone from Biggar became leading merchants and their sons became politicians. Two of William Ewart’s sons became Members of Parliament and his godson, John Gladstone’s son William Ewart Gladstone, became a prime minister. In Manchester, John Kennedy, James McConnell, Adam and George Murray, all from Galloway, became leading cotton manufacturers.
Both directly and through marriages these exiled Scots also influenced the economic and political development of Scotland and England. James McConnell’s married Margaret Houldsworth. Her brother Henry built the first steam powered cotton mill in Scotland in Glasgow in 1803 and then diversified into the iron industry at Coltness in Lanarkshire in 1836 and Dalmellington in Ayrshire in 1846. John Kennedy and William Ewart’s brother Peter, who had been Boulton and Watt’s agent in Manchester, promoted the Liverpool and Manchester railway. John Kennedy was one of the three judges at the Rainhill Locomotive trial in 1829 which was won by George and Robert Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’. Peter Ewrat’s nephew Joseph became a leading member of the ‘Liverpool Party’ which drove the development of railway forward by investing in (amongst others) the Caledonian railway which linked west central Scotland with north west England. James McConnell’s son Henry became a leading member of the Anti-Corn Law League while John Kennedy’s daughter Rachel married leading Victorian ‘reformer’ Edwin Chadwick.
Friedrich Engels wrote ‘The Condition of the Working lass in England’ in 1844 after spending two years in Manchester. The extreme and widening gulf between the workers in Manchester and the factory owners led Engels to believe that a revolution even more profound than the French Revolution was imminent in England. The condition of the working class in Scotland’s new iron economy was harsher yet. By 1842 when Engels arrived in Manchester, the cotton industry had been growing and expanding for over 60 years. By 1842 in Scotland, the impact of Neilson’s hot-blast was still confined to north Lanarkshire and was still to be felt in Ayrshire.
Most of the new iron works were constructed on green field sites and the towns which grew up around them- Coatbridge, Airdrie, Wishaw- were company towns. The existing small scale coal mines were unable to meet the huge demand for fuel of the iron furnaces, which also had to be supplied with ironstone and limestone. These new mines and quarries were scattered over the countryside and the iron companies had to build shelters for the miners. These ‘raws’ (rows) were built as quickly and as cheaply as possible. As well as shelter for their workers, the iron companies also had to supply food and basic necessities which they did through company owned stores- which the workers were compelled to use. In what had been rural districts, there was no police force to maintain order, so the iron masters had to create new police districts and meet the costs of doing so.
Taken altogether, the iron companies control over the lives of the workers and their families amounted to a form of ‘industrial feudalism’. When ever the workers went on strike, they were immediately evicted from their company owned homes, denied credit at the company owned stores and had their meetings disrupted by company paid for policemen. In addition, the rising tide of Irish emigration provided the iron companies with an alternative source of labour, sowing the seeds of bitter religious conflict between the workers.
What drove the explosive growth of the Scottish iron industry was the reduction in costs brought about by Neilson’s hot-blast. Before 1830, south Wales was the leading producer of pig iron in the UK. Welsh iron was of good quality but sold at around £6 per ton. By allowing raw coal rather than coke to be used and reducing the quantity of coal required from 8 to 3 tons per ton of iron, the cost of Scottish pig iron fell to £3/ton. At the same time, the total control exercised by the Scottish iron masters over their workers allowed them to ’manage’ the cost of labour. For about 20 years, until the even more efficient Cleveland/ north east England iron industry was developed, the cost advantage of Scottish pig iron generated super profits for the iron companies.
Since iron (later steel) shipbuilding and other internal markets for Scottish pig iron were not yet developed, most of the Scottish iron was exported to other parts of the UK and abroad, for example to the USA . However, the focus on producing cheap pig iron was to become a structural weakness as demand for wrought iron and then steel increased. These problems were exacerbated by the exhaustion of Scottish sources of ironstone. Beyond the production of iron, the reliance of Scotland’s shipbuilding, locomotive building, ‘heavy engineering’ and coal mining industries on export markets through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was another structural weakness.
The southernmost outpost of the iron industry was at Dalmellington in Ayrshire. Here the Damellington Iron Works was in operation from 1848 to 1921 as an offshoot of the Coltness Iron Company. Deep coalmining continued until the 1970s and then opencast mining began in the 1990s. Dalmellington is on the edge of the Southern Uplands Fault. In the 1960s and 70s school and family trips to Ayr provided a dramatic contrast between rural south and industrial north. Within sight of Neilson’s monument, the A 713 from Castle Douglas follows the Galloway Dee through dairy farmland to its junction with the river Ken which flows through an ever narrowing valley to Dalry. The road then rises up past a sequence of dams and hydro-electric power stations built in the 1930s towards the tiny village of Carsphairn in the high moors beneath the Rhinns of Kells. After crossing the watershed the road then drops down through a very narrow glen towards Dalmellington. Into the mid-seventies, steam engines were still at work amongst the mines and the road skirted a huge bing (a waste tip, now gone) opposite the former iron works at Waterside. The road then follows a railway line down the Doon valley to Ayr. In the eighteenth century a network of waggonways carried coal to the harbour where it was exported to Ireland. This export of coal continued into the 1970s supplying power stations in Northern Ireland. Pollution from these power stations then drifted back across the North Channel to fall as acid rain on the Galloway hills.
The population of Galloway and Dumfriesshire peaked in 1851 and then began a gradual decline. The most likely reason for the decline after 1851 was the impact of the railways which reached Dumfries in 1850 and Stranraer in the west in 1861. Before the railways, the region supported many small scale industries-local breweries, local brickworks, grain mills and the like. These local industries were unable to compete with large scale producers distributing their commodities through the rail network. The railway connection also saw the decline in coastal shipping which had linked the region’s agriculture with Whitehaven and Liverpool. However, the speeding up of transport offered by the new railways encouraged a shift in the agricultural economy away from cereal and livestock production to dairy farming. It became possible to send fresh milk from the region north into the growing markets of central Scotland.
While it is interesting to explore the diverging histories of the western lowlands south and north of the Southern Uplands Fault, it is important not to lose sight of other, bigger pictures. One of these bigger pictures is the tendency to focus on the ‘big’ divide between Highland and Lowland Scotland. This tendency can lead to the belief that there are two Scotlands, a rural and traditional north and an urban and industrialised south. This popular perception influences politicians and policy makers and leads to an overlooking or neglect of the rural south (Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders).
At a deeper level of understanding and interpretation of history, the nineteenth century divergence between Galloway and Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire and Ayrshire could be an example of the difference between what Anthony Wrigley calls ‘organic’ and ‘mineral’ economies. According to Wrigley, organic economies are based on renewable and sustainable sources of energy- water and wind power, human and animal labour. Mineral economies substitute coal and oil for renewable and sustainable energy sources. This substitution allowed Britain to become the first region in the world to break free from the limits to growth which all previous organic economies had been subject to. Significantly, eighteenth century and early nineteenth century political economists based their theories on organic economy models, predicting that economic growth would reach its limits in a ‘stationary state’ of minimal or zero growth.
While the development of Dumfries and Galloway, lacking extensive sources of coal, became ‘stationary’ after 1851, the mineral economies of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire continued to grow. The social cost of that growth are obvious, but the ecological costs are only now becoming apparent as the consequences of climate change begin to bite. Although the science of climate change is solid, the need to ‘de-mineralise’ the global economy and actively work towards a stationary state is being resisted. One of questions this book will explore is if the rural south of Scotland is an example of a stationary state and a low-growth future. But if rural south provides an image of the future, where will that leave communities in the urban north which have been blighted by the industrial clearances of the 1980s and 1990s? If there is a duty and necessity to tackle the environmental costs of the mineral economy, the social costs must also be met. But how?
3. Chapter Two -Setting the Scene
This chapter will sketch out the influence of geology and geography on the history of the region up to the eighteenth century. In the pre-industrial period, settlement in the region was influenced by the presence or absence of good quality soils, by communication routes along river valleys and by sea. The settlement patterns and relative wealth of the settlements influenced the pre-modern history of the region, from the Roman period through to the medieval/ feudal era. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the whole region was part of a Gaelic speaking area which historians call ‘Greater Galloway’ and which was not part of Scotland, but as the Bruce, Stewart and Douglas families were granted lands in Dumfriesshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire, the Gaelic speaking area contracted to modern Galloway, controlled by the Balliol family and Carrick, controlled by the Bruce family. The struggle for power between these families influenced the wars of Scottish Independence and continued until the Stewarts triumphed over the Douglasses in 1455. The end of Gaelic in Galloway and Carrick was an unintended consequence of this power struggle.
4..Chapter Three- Towards Enlightenment
The Scottish Reformation became strongly established in he region and its influence shaped the political and religious struggles of the seventeenth century. The Covenanters or ‘Westland Whigs’ resisted Charles I, Charles II and James VII from 1638 to 1688. From 1689 to 1746, the region was strongly anti-Jacobite, particularly in 1715 when opponents of Union of 1707 chose to support George I and the Union rather than see a Jacobite restoration. Since Jacobite propaganda exploited the economic failure of the Union, The ‘Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture’ (founded in 1723) were instrumental in establishing the Board of Trustees for Improvement of Manufactories and Fisheries’ in 1727 as well as promoting agricultural improvements. By developing the linen industry, the Board of Trustees laid the foundations for later industrial development in Scotland. At the same time, through local connections, members of the Society of Improvers experienced the impact of the Galloway Levellers uprising in 1724. This experienced influenced the later process of agricultural improvement in Lowland Scotland so it was more gradual than the Highland Clearances. Great care was taken to ensure that those disposed from the land were offered new accommodation and industrial employment in planned towns and villages across the region. In Dumfries and Galloway alone, 81 new towns and villages were built between 1760 and 1830.
5. Chapter Four- The Age of Improvement
The dramatic philosophical and intellectual advances made by the Scottish Enlightenment were matched on the ground by the physical and economic transformation of the Scottish landscape. Adam Smith was tutor to the 3rd duke of Buccleuch and Smith influenced the duke’s approach to improving his estates in Dumfriesshire and the Borders. In Galloway Lord Kames directed the improvement of one estate and inspired and influenced the improvement of Richard Oswald’s estates in Ayrshire and Galloway. James Steuart, who published a book on political economy nine years before Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’ improved his estate of Coltness in Lanarkshire. Steuart’s son continued to improve Coltness which was admired by English radical William Cobbett in 1832 for its fine crops and excellent herd of dairy cattle. Four years later Coltness was sold to the Houldsworth family who built an iron works there and extracted ironstone and coal from beneath its fertile fields. The significant point to be brought out in this chapter is that the process of agricultural improvement was carried through with equal vigour and success across the whole region.. It will also be noted that neither the political economists of the Scottish Enlightenment nor the improving landowners recognised that iron and coal rather than linen and agriculture would shape Scotland’s future.
6. Chapter Five -Building Tomorrow’s Bridges Today
This chapter will cover the development of the turnpike road system, canals, waggonways and harbours which were part of the process of enlightened improvement. Significantly, although a short section of canal was built in Galloway as early as 1765, further developments which would have linked the coal mines of Dalmellington with Kirkcudbright were never built. Other plans for canals in Dumfriesshire and an ‘iron rail-road’ linking the Sanquhar coal field with Dumfries also failed to materialise. While the network of turnpike roads speed up communications, they were not so useful for the bulk transport of coal. Canals and waggonways (horse-drawn railways) were need to shift coal. The existence of these canals and waggonways was an essential foundation for the rise of the iron industry in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.
7. Chapter Six-King Cotton
Although the industrial revolution has only an indirect impact on Galloway and Dumfriesshire, the region had a significant influence on the industrialisation of north-west England. As first Whitehaven in the later seventeenth century then Liverpool in the eighteenth century developed as ports, trading links were built up with the small ports along the northern shore of the Solway Firth. The economic opportunities offered by Liverpool attracted merchants from the south of Scotland - the Dunbars, Ewarts, Gladstones and Maxwells- who became well established there. The growth of the textile industry in Lancashire attracted other economic migrants, including William Cannan (or Cannon) from the Glenkens in Galloway. Cannan was a carpenter who moved first to Whithaven then Liverpool and finally Chowbent near Bolton where he specialised in making textile machinery. In the 1780s, Cannan recruited apprentices from Galloway who were then able to use their skills in the rapidly developing Manchester cotton industry. Peter Wrat, who’s brother William was a leading Liverpool merchant and partner of John Gladstone (father of William Ewart Gladstone) was Bolton and Watt’s representative and Manchester and the ‘Galloway’ firms of Kennedy and McConnell and A and G Murray pioneered the successful application of steam power to cotton spinning. John Kennedy, the Ewart brothers and the Maxwell brothers were members of the first Liverpool and Manchester railway committee and John Kennedy acted as a judge at the Rainhill locomotive trials in 1829. Two of William Ewart’s sons became members of Parliament and Joseph Ewart MP along with Liverpool merchant Welwood Maxwell was a member of the ‘Liverpool Party’ which pushed the expansion of the rail network forward through their investments in early railways. Galloway born John Ramsay McCulloch was described by Friedrich Engels’ as ‘the English bourgeois’ favourite political economists’ and was a key member of the Political Economy Club which influenced political support for free trade.
8. Chapter Seven - The Iron Age Begins
Apart from charcoal fired iron furnaces built in the Highlands and the Carron iron works established in 1759, the low carbon content of Scottish coal and lack of local demand for iron held back growth of the Scottish iron industry until 1828. In that year James Beaumont Neilson, manager of the Glasgow Gas Works patented his discovery that heating the air blown into iron furnaces dramatically improved their efficiency and allowed raw Scottish coal to be used instead of coke. However the conservatism of existing iron masters, who believed that cold air produced better quality iron, gave the Baird family, who were new entrants to the industry, an advantage. The Bairds had been tenant farmers in Old Monklands parish in Lanarkshire until Alexander Baird took the lease of a coal pit on Airdrie estate in 1816 which his son William ( the eldest of Alexander’s six sons) was sent to manage. The coal pit was close to the Monklands canal which made it easy to transport the coal to Glasgow. The Bairds then took out leases on other coal pits while continuing to farm. The seasonal demand for domestic coal led the Bairds to look for an outlet for their surplus stocks and so they began building an iron furnace at Gartsherrie in 1828 which began production using Neilson’s hot blast in 1830. The pig iron produced was much cheaper than traditionally produced iron and so the Scottish pig iron industry grew very rapidly but with most of the iron produced exported. The background to the Bairds rivals will also be explored, inclduignthe Houldsworths who provide a connection between the Manchester and Glasgow cotton industries, the iron industry and (via marriages) two of the Galloway cotton families. The Houldsworths bought Coltness estate from James Steaurt’s son to get its coal and ironstone and build their iron works.as rrcated agricultural products from Galloway and Dumfriesshire were exported
9. Chapter Eight - The Impact of the Iron Industry
Significantly, the rapid growth of the iron industry required the equally rapid growth of coal and ironstone mining. Coal mining had been a relatively small scale craft industry but the insatiable demands of the new iron furnaces required a dramatic transformation. Thousands of new workers had to be recruited (many from Ireland) and housed, deeper pits had to be dug and linked to the iron works by a network of railways. Competition for ironstone in Lanarkshire saw the Bairds and Houldsworths extend their activities into Ayrshire in the 1840s, then in the 1850s came competition from the more modern and efficient Cleveland iron industry. The industry also had to adapt to changes in demand as wrought iron and then steel were needed for the expanding shipbuilding and railway construction (bridges and rails) industries. Through the nineteenth century periods of growth were followed by slumps in trade to which the iron masters responded by cutting wages. This led to periods of violent industrial unrest which sometimes required troops to suppress. These struggles left a deep impact on the history of Scottish trade unions, especially the miners’ unions and to deep rooted support for the Labour party. A further factor with long term influence was that by the 1870s it was becoming clear that Scottish reserves of ironstone were becoming exhausted. While iron ore from Cumberland and, more importantly, Spain was used to make up the decline in Scottish ironstone, this made the location of the iron furnaces less economically viable. However the cost of relocating the iron industry to coastal locations more suited to the import of iron ore was a deterrent. It can be argued that the seeds of the twentieth century problems and ultimate decline of the Scottish iron industry were already present by the end of the nineteenth century.
10. Chapter Nine- A Stationary State
In contrast to the drama of developments north of the Southern Uplands Fault, the biggest change to the economy of Galloway and Dumfriesshire in the nineteenth century was the shift to dairy farming in the lowlands and the consolidation of sheep farming in the uplands. The shift to dairy farming was stimulated by the westward expansion of the railway network which reached Dumfries in 1850, Castle Douglas by 1859 and Stranraer by 1861. Stranraer was then linked to Glasgow by rail in 1877. Across the region, farms which had been arable farms since for over 600 years were converted to dairy farms. The coastal shipping links with north-west England declined and communications with central Scotland became easier. For the wealthier, the railways opened up the countryside for hunting, shooting and fishing through the purchase of small estates. Although he had inherited Glenlair near Castle Douglas, James Clerk Maxwell was one of these small estate owners and worked on his revolutionary theories of physics while living there between periods at universities in Cambridge, Aberdeen and London. There were steam powered woollen mills in Langholm and Dumfries, but along with scattered areas of granite quarrying, lead, copper and coal mining nineteenth century Galloway and Dumfriesshire was overwhelmingly rural. The rural character of the region is reflected in the paintings of the ‘Glasgow’ artists who visited or settled in Kirkcudbright in the 1890s.
11. Chapter Ten- The Twentieth Century : North
The twentieth century saw the rapid demise of the Scottish pig iron industry. Its rapid growth had been based on the ability to use local ironstone and coal to produce cheap pig iron. The exhaustion of ironstone reserves was just one of several factors which brought about its decline. The pig iron producers had failed to integrate their plants with the production of wrought iron. When wrought iron gave way to steel after 1879, the high phosphor content of Scottish ironstone made it unsuitable for steel production. While there was a strong demand for steel from the Scottish shipbuilding industry, the development of the Scottish steel industry was led by producers of wrought iron and relied on a combination of imported iron ore and recycled scrap iron. More generally, the Scottish coal and heavy engineering industries developed in the nineteenth century relied on export markets built up through a combination of pioneering technological advantage and the expansion of the British Empire. As other regions of the UK and other countries (including former colonies) caught up with Scotland, the problems first faced by the pig iron industry were repeated across a whole range of once successful industries. Attempts to cut labour costs led to recurring strikes and industrial unrest. The problem of industrial decline persuaded the Labour party that action at UK state level was needed and the belief that Scottish Home Rule was a distraction from Scotland’s underlying economic problems. However, nationalisation and a range of state -led economic initiatives were unable to overcome the structural weaknesses of the Scottish economy. In the 1950s both the National Coal Board and British Railways invested heavily in modernisation projects which failed to recognise ‘modern’ developments- the decline in demand for coal and the shift towards road transport. By the 1960s, the wave of ‘industrial clearances’ which culminated in the 1980s and early 90s had already begun as the rail network was drastically pruned and coal mines were closed.
12. Chapter Eleven- The Twentieth Century: South
The decline in Galloway and Dumfriesshire’s population which began in 1851 continued through most of the twentieth century. Dumfries, where woollen mills had been established in the 1860s, gained population and gained new industries- motor manufacturing briefly, then rubber and plastics - in the twentieth century. For the duration of the First World war, a huge munitions manufacturing site was developed between Gretna and Annan. During the Second World War munitions factories were again developed, but dispersed across the region. The region’s second largest town was Stranraer which grew as a ferry port. The coal mines at Cannonbie closed in the 1920s and those around Sanqhar in the 1960s. Lead production at Wanlockhead increased during the First World War but then failed after the war. The Galloway Hydro Electric project was built between 1930 and 1936 in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright but provided little economic benefit to the district. The 1930s also saw a brief flirtation with fascism when the British Union of fascists had 400 members in Galloway and 150 in Dumfriesshire- out of 1000 members in the whole of Scotland. While the creation of the Milk Marketing Board in 1933 sustained dairy farming across the region, after the Second World War, forestry replaced sheep farming in the Galloway uplands. Under the Dr. Beeching’s plan in 1963, the railway lines from Dumfries and Ayr to Stranraer were to be closed, but pressure from Northern Ireland kept the Ayr-Stranraer line open, but the Dumfries-Stranraer line along with the branches to Whithorn and Kirkcudbright closed in 1965. By the end often century, apart from the rubber and plastic factories in Dumfries, the regional economy was based on farming, food-processing, forestry and tourism. Although the regional population had almost returned to 1851 levels, the attraction of the region as a place to retire to combined with the loss of younger people was a cause for concern.
13. Chapter Twelve -Entering the Twenty-first century.
The aim of this chapter will be to reflect on the diverging histories of the north and south of the western Lowlands and wonder if we can learn anything from the histories. Although the pace of change speeded up in the late eighteenth century, the region in 1450 was very different from the region of 1150. Gaelic, which had been the main language in 1150 was virtually extinct by 1450 and what had been ‘Greater Galloway’ was now firmly part of Scotland and Scots was the language of the people.. Over the next 300 years, the feudal structures introduced by David I through grants of land to soldiers and monks disappeared completely. The power of landowners was measured by the rents they could charge not by the number of troops they could muster. The Church had been reformed and lost its lands. By 2050, what features of the recent past will remain and how will climate change be affecting the region?
A related question concerns our ability to plan and manage change. The Scottish Enlightenment was part of the ‘Age of Reason’ when the existing practices of farmers and manufacturers were improved by the application of rationality to traditional knowledge. While the improvement of agriculture followed an expected or predictable trajectory, steadily increasing crop yields and the quality of livestock, the improvement of manufacturing, led to an unexpected industrial revolution. Significantly, this revolution offered the prospect of much larger and more ‘instant’ profits than those offered by agriculture. This led to the triumph of ‘short-term rationality’ over the long view of gradual improvement. The rise and fall of the Scottish iron industry is a large scale example of this problem. On the smaller scale, the obsession of the Portpatrick Railway with creating the shortest route through Galloway at the expense of the company’s longer term profitability is another. In the twentieth century, the ultimate failure of the Ravenscraig steel works in 1992 was already anticipated by the failure to adopt the recommendations of the 1929 Brassert report which recommended constructing a new, fully integrated, steelworks on the Clyde near the Erskine ferry.
The problem of short term economic rationality is our inheritance from the industrial revolution. This conflicts with the immediately preceding rationality of the Scottish Enlightenment and its long term rationality rooted in the concept of ‘improvement’. However, a deeper conflict, one which is only now becoming apparent, is the conflict or tension between economy and ecology. Both words share a Greek root ‘oikos’ meaning house, household, family. In ecology, the household or family is the natural or living world and ecology is the study of the ‘household of nature or the economy of living organisms’. Economy involves the management of one of these households, the human one. Since the 1650s when the term ‘political economy’ was first used, the basic unit of economics has been the national economy. The implications of climate change now mean that ecology and economy are converging. The whole planet is now our household and its management is now our responsibility.
The iron and most of the coal are gone, but there is still oil beneath the North Sea. The oil is being exploited just as rapidly as the iron and coal were, even though science and history tell us it should be conserved.
Was it inevitable that Lanarkshire and Ayrshire’s ironstone reserves would be exploited? Not necessarily. Neilson‘s hot-blast was an accidental discovery and was resisted by most of the existing iron companies. The existing Scottish iron industry was producing enough pig iron to meet the then limited local demand for iron. Although Scottish iron was expensive and of low quality, it was protected from Welsh and English competition by poor transport links. So if there had been a delay in the take up of Neilson’s discovery until Scotland was linked by rail to England and Wales, cheaper English and Welsh iron would have put the Scottish iron works out of business. Without a dynamic Scottish iron industry, the development of iron and then steel shipbuilding on the Clyde would have been more difficult. At the same time, without the need to supply huge quantities of coal to the iron works, the need to rapidly modernise and expand the Scottish coal industry would have been absent. Finally, without a dynamic Victorian iron and coal industry, the growth of population in the western Lowlands would have been much less. Lanarkshire and Ayrshire today would be more like Galloway and Dumfriesshire and Scotland would be a very different country.
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