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Chapter 12. Manufactures and Other Industries

According to the last census returns, five out of every twelve of the adult population of Kincardineshire were directly engaged in agriculture ; but if we consider those indirectly engaged in it and in its allied occupations, the proportion would be almost doubled. Other industries, then, take a secondary place. In the absence of large towns to attract the rural population, there is not much concentration of labour nor any great development of the factory system, as in Forfarshire.

The first linen-yam mill in Scotland was set up at Bervie in 1790 ; and flax spinning, formerly an important home industry, is still carried on at Bervie, as well as at Gourdon and Johnshaven. Handloom weaving was a widespread occupation in most of the towns and villages till steam power was introduced about 1850, when many weavers found employment on the infant railways. Handloom linens are still made in Laurencekirk, but elsewhere the industry is extinct. Stonehaven has a mill for woollen fabrics and hosiery, and a flourishing factory for fishing-nets.

There are distilleries at Glenury, Fettercairn, and Auchinblae; and a brewery at Laurencekirk. The development of the bicycle and motor-car industry has, in recent years, given employment to an increasing number of skilled workmen in the county. Laurencekirk and Stonehaven are centres for carriage building. The well-wooded valley of the Dee has several sawmills, supplying pit-props for mining districts and timber for box- or case-making in Aberdeen and elsewhere.

A manufacture, long extinct, was the making of a special kind of snuff-box in Laurencekirk. The peculiarity of the box was a concealed hinge and pin, invented by Charles Stiven about 1780.

Kincardineshire has neither coal nor iron ore. In the end of the eighteenth century large quantities of an irregular mineral substance called native iron were, however, found in Fettercairn. Detached pieces of various sizes were turned up by the plough, which were converted into use by heating and hammering in the local smithies. The origin of this metallic substance, which was soon exhausted, was never properly accounted for, although many theories, fantastical and otherwise, were propounded.

Granite is quarried at Cove and Hill of Fare. Formerly this industry seems to have been of more importance in certain parts of the country than it is now. At the beginning of last century, for example, about 600 hands were employed in the Nigg quarries. From these, granite blocks, squared and dressed, were shipped at Aberdeen to pave the London streets. Sandstone is freely distributed over the county, and much of it is utilised for road metal. The quarries of Lauriston, St Cyrus, and Threewells, Bervie, supply excellent building-stone, which is easily wrought.

Another industry, now entirely given up, was limestone burning. The lime from the kilns of Mathers, St Cyrus, was in great demand among farmers. Similar kilns existed in Fordoun, Fettercairn, and Banchory. Parts of old kilns still remain at Clatterin Brigs and Mains of Drumtochty.


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