A little mystery arrived at my doorstep during the 2014 Christmas holidays. Margaret Bright emailed me saying, “I am currently researching my family tree, and I have discovered some connections with Blantyre Mill. Gavin Dalziel was born in Sorn, Ayrshire in 1722 but died in Lanarkshire. His son James was born in Sorn in 1752, but he then moved to Lanarkshire, because, according to his daughters birth certificate of 1781, he was a worker at Blantyre Cotton Mill. I have read that the cotton mill was not constructed until 1785, so I am wondering what his job was, would he have been involved in the construction of the mill? I am also trying to discover if there is a connection between Blantyre and Sorn where there was also a mill built by David Dale, but I think the Sorn mill was later. Would James Dalziel have moved to Blantyre knowing that a mill was about to be built, and would offer him the chance of employment?“
There are so many documented sources detailing the construction of Dales mills at the Clyde as being in 1785, so a possible reference to a mill in 1781, earlier than Dales was very interesting. I first had to check Margaret’s source which was correct. Ancestry sites quickly led me to the certificate. The 1781 birth certificate did indeed list James Dalziel as working at Blantyre Cotton Mills. In answer to Margaret’s question, James could not have possibly been working at David Dales Mills in 1781 as David Dale did not acquire the site until 1784, and was at the time of the mystery working on the construction of New Lanark mills. The Statistical Account of 1791 also stated the mill did not begin to operate until fully constructed in 1787. So, it raised the question. What was on the Blantyre Works Site before David Dale arrived to start building the mill in 1784.
Where indeed was the ‘Blantyre Cotton Works’ reference in 1781?
Historical documents didn’t offer clues. So, it was time to look at the really old maps. Looking at the 1747 Blantyre map, I could zoom in on this area and there, some 40 years before the Dale’s mills started working was an area called “Millhaugh”, i.e “The Mill Land”. Man made buildings on this map are indicated in red, and whilst almost all of future Blantyre is just fields at this time, there are several buildings on the banks of the River Clyde, preceding the Village Works Cotton Mills. A mill is shown not just on Blantyre side, but also on Bothwell side, at the approximate location of the current David Livingstone Bridge. Margaret’s birth certificate confirms that in 1781, there is strong evidence to suggest this smaller cotton mill was being worked on at the banks of the River Clyde during the mid 18th Century, the whole area known as “Millhaugh”. No trace of these old mills remain today and I am proposing that
they were demolished by David Dale to make way for his grand Village Works mills sometime around 1785.
One final thing. I have managed to find two references to Millhaugh in Blantyre.The first taken from the Perth Magazine on 27 August 1773. At a time confirmed before Dales Mills, the report reads “Monday, two lads bathing at Millhaugh Dam, Parish of Blantyre went beyond their depth and unfortunately perished. The father of one of the boys was cutting broom near the spot but was unable to give his son any relief”. This at least confirms the older Millhaugh mills had a dam, spanning the Clyde or part of it which must have been in a similar location to the current weir.
The second reference is less clear. In 1780, there is a cart tax for J Miller of Millhaugh. Now, the Millers are known to have run the Millheugh mills at the Calder. The entry may be incorrect at just one letter of a difference, meant to say Millheugh, rather than Millhaugh. If this is not the case, it raises the question, did John Miller of Millheugh, ALSO own another mill, the buildings at Millhaugh, Blantyre on the River Clyde?!