Friday, 20 November 2009

The Mineral wealth of Lanarkshire

Coal has been " worked " in Scotland since the twelfth
century. The growing scarcity of wood had already brought
about its use as fuel both in house and in forge by the end of the
sixteenth century. Miners and other colliery workers were
practically serfs, being " thirled " for life by Acts, passed in the
seventeenth century, to the mine in which they worked. A collar
was riveted on to the miner’s neck, stating the name of his mine-
owner. These servile conditions were modified by an Act passed
in 1775, but were not abolished until 1799—that is to say, until
comparatively recent times. The practice of whole families,
women and girls as well as men and boys, working in the pits
continued for long afterwards.

Small mines had been opened in various parts of the Glasgow
district by the beginning of the eighteenth century, particularly
in the vicinity of Airdrie, and ironstone also was mined. The
Carron Company, the progenitor of the Scottish heavy industries,
were located in 1760 near Falkirk, because supplies of coal and of
ironstone were at hand, and, incidentally, because water power
could be obtained from the River Carron for driving the blowing
engines. The company rapidly became famous they had, when
they cast the small cannons, known as carronades, used by
Wellington at Waterloo, as many, as 2000 employees and
inspired other potential manufacturers, notably Colin Dunlop,
who founded the Clyde Ironworks at Tollcross, and William
Dixon, a Northumberland miner, who came to Clydeside in 1770
to seek his fortune, assisted in building the Calder Ironworks, and
in time acquired extensive interests in collieries, blast furnaces
and malleable ironworks. His son, William Dixon (2) founded
Dix0n’s Blazes in 1839.

In 1801 David Mushet, of the Clyde Ironworks, discovered
that a material mined in the district and thrown away as " wild
coal " was really a valuable iron ore. Not much interest, how-
ever, was taken in this " blackband ironstone " until after 1828
J. B. Neilson, manager of the Glasgow Gas Works, while carrying
out experiments at the Clyde Ironworks, discovered how to use
hot instead of cold air for the furnace blast. At first stoves were
used to heat the air but,when in I840 a method was devised for
heating the blast with waste gases from the furnaces, the " hot blast "
method was adopted as the most economical, and was soon being used for
every furnace in Scotland and for most furnaces in England.
From then the heavy industries were extensively developed
in the district—to such an extent, in fact, that Clydeside has since
become, not altogether to its advantage, particularly associated
in the public mind with these heavy industries.

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