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History of Montrose
Chapter XV. - Corn Trade, Flour Mills, Starch Manufacturies, Potato Trade

MONTROSE has long been famed as a shipping port for grain. Well situated on the coast of Angus, one of the best corn-growing counties of Scotland, it has a wider sweep of country around from which to draw supplies, and favoured by the converging lines of railway, it has now greater facilities than ever it had before. There is perhaps no better wheat land in England than the low parts of Maryton and Old Montrose, and Borrowfield in the immediate neighbourhood; and all along, and up from the coast road northwards, there is strong corn land. Nothing can surpass Angus oats and barley; so, taking into account the quality of the grain and the ready access for shipment or transit by rail,, the com merchants of Montrose must always carry on a very extensive business. One of them shipped upwards of 20,000 quarters of oats last year, which was nearly four times as much as were exported altogether ten years ago.


There are two Flour Mills in Montrose, the oldest close upon the Backsands, carried on by Mr. William Adams, and the other near the terminus of the railway, of which the partners are Messrs Mackenzie and Reid, who are about to make an addition to it. These two mills grind upwards of 20,000 qrs. of wheat between them in the year.


There are two Starch Works in Montrose, the oldest established by D. Milne & Co., in 1798, and now carried on in Bridge Street by Mr. George Milne, of the third generation, At the above date there were only other two starch works in Scotland, one at Musselburgh and the other at Renfrew. The other is in the Seagate, under the firm of the Montrose Starch Co., formerly carried on by Mr. John Muckart, who converted some old houses there into suitable premises, and thereby much improved the character of the locality. The starch manufactured in Montrose is of very fine quality, and is well known and highy esteemed all over the kingdom. At one time all the flour required for starch was ground by a hand-mill.


The year 1847 was a calamitous year on account of the general failure of the potato crop of 1846 in Scotland, whereby the herring trade was also much affected, for about that time a quantity of herring was sent to Sunderland which could not be sold at any price for want of potatoes, and they were sent back to Montrose. Parcels of potatoes imported that year were considered a great rarity, and some sold as high as 14 a ton. If the importer had planted them, instead of selling any, he would have realized a fortune, for the prices kept well up the next and following years. When they began to recover from the disease, Mr. George Hall began at first in a small way to supply families in town from his farm of Glenskenno, and afterwards to ship them to the London market, in which trade he succeeded a few years so well as to build the large potato store at the Dock, and purchase the estate of Park-connon. The trade continued to be prosperous for a number of years, and the farmers got very high prices—some of them paying their rents from that crop alone; but they were the only gainers in the end, for it is difficult to command the London market, at which prices fluctuate so much, and without some fixed arrangement with farmers about land, the trade could not be extensively carried on. From all that can be learned, no one that ever attempted the trade on a large scale made any thing of it. Caleb Anderson, at the commencement of his prosperous career, did well with it; but he only freighted his ships with potatoes instead of ballast, and entered no farther into it. Potatoes are a perishable cargo too, and are so long on their way by sea, that when they come to a falling market, and are also deteriorated in quality, the sacrifice in price must be ruinous. The farmers are now shipping potatoes on their own account, as the prices are low here. The farmers in Forfarshire were much indebted to Mr. Hall.

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