Probus’ first meeting of the year

Chairman of the Brechin Probus Club Bob Berry opened the meeting and welcomed all in attendance and offered his best wishes to all for 2013.

He announced that Ian Mowatt’s wife had passed away at Christmas time and extended the sympathy and support to Ian from his fellow Probus members.

The chairman then welcomed member Ronald Baird and invited him to give his talk entitled ‘Newton Mill – Water Power’. Ronald began by illustrating the position of four mills along a lade of about one mile in length fed from water from the Cruick burn just west of the B966 at Keithock.

Much researching had revealed little of the history of the mills – who had built them and to what purpose. However it is clear that for much of their useful life the mills were used to prepare flax for weaving. Rural mills had a relatively short life span and in the early 1800s urban mills took much of the work from the small country mills.

The Newton Mills would have been involved in processing, apart from mainly flax and linseed oil, leather, gunpowder, wood, farina, snuff and pease (brose). An interesting reference was the observation of a water fed turbine on the side of one of the mills. This, it was assumed, supplied electricity to Keithock House. No other properties in the immediate location had electricity at this time at the start of the 20th century.

Flax was grown locally and before the mills the harvesting and processing was carried out by hand. This was time consuming and hard work. The mills took out much of the manual effort and industrialisation led to the Weavers revolt at the start of the 19th century. Ronald finished by drawing attention to the fact that the British Linen Bank was formed in 1946 on the back of the flax industry.

There were many questions and much discussion. Geoffrey Rose proposed the vote of thanks.

The chairman reminded the members that the next meeting will be on January 22, when Brenda Simpson will give a talk entitled ‘Meandering Scots Poetry’ and Ian Rae will give a recital of ‘Tam o’ Shanter’.