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Scottish Ports and Towns in the Flax Trade

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   Of the 197 flax, hemp, and jute factories ascertained to be in existence in Scotland in September 1867, 176 of them were situated in the counties of Forfar, Fife, and Perth. This concentration of the trade has, as already shown, taken place in comparatively recent years, and the causes of it are not difficult to discover. The human hand, aided only by the rude appliances of ancient times, can ill compete with modern machinery propelled by steam; and manufacturers in places where circumstances were adverse to the introduction of the tireless agent, naturally found it impossible to succeed in a competition with people more advantageously situated. Hence the spinners and weavers of linen in the outlying districts had to relinquish their wheels and looms, and follow the trade to the absorbing centres, or seek new kinds of employment. The change caused much hardship, and broke up many homes. Not a few of the weavers had been able, in the more prosperous days of the trade in the rural districts, to acquire little freeholds, on which they lived with their families in the midst of happiness and contentment; and it was a sad day when the failing of occupation compelled the sons and daughters to leave the parental roof and go, it might be, many miles away to find a market for their labour. In the long run, the change has been advantageous to a much greater number of persons than those who suffered by it, and now its effects are almost entirely obliterated, if not forgotten.

  The linen industry was Scotland's premier industry in the 18th century and formed the basis for the later cotton, jute, and woollen industries as well. The Scottish members of parliament managed to see off an attempt to impose an export duty on linen and from 1727 it received subsidies of 2,750 a year for six years, resulting in a considerable expansion of the trade. Paisley adopted Dutch methods and became a major centre of production. Glasgow manufactured for the export trade, which doubled between 1725 and 1738. Scottish industrial policy was made by the Board of Trustees for Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland, which sought to build an economy complementary, not competitive, with England. Since England had woollens, this meant linen. Encouraged and subsidized by the Board of Trustees so it could compete with German products, merchant entrepreneurs became dominant in all stages of linen manufacturing and built up the market share of Scottish linens, especially in the American colonial market.




Copyright 2022 Ged Dodd

 aka PeaceHavens Project

 Click here for the terms
of free copy & share &
supporting your Project