In June 2015, Blantyre man Jim Cochrane sent me 2 intriguing photos of a coin which his grandfather had found whilst ploughing fields at Calderside Farm. Given Jim’s interesting association with Calderside, it is assumed the coin was found several decades ago. It is 32mm in diameter, around 3mm thick and made of copper. It is pictured here on both sides.
The industrial revolution of the 18th Century brought about the need for a small coin with which workers could be paid. In 1775, the Royal Mint had issued a copper coin which was the subject of much counterfeiting. The poor quality and lack of local supply of the coin meant that by 1786, a Mr Thomas William was considering producing his own coinage to pay his workers.
That coin was struck in 1787 and showed a druids head surrounded by wreaths of oak leaves and acorns. The reverse had a PMC design, a trade token if you like, promising to pay the workers. This was generally used by early miners and we know that Calderside had several ironstone pits of that era. These trade token were very popular for a decade or so, until 1798 when Williams won the contract to supply the treasury and discontinued this mining coin.
Such narrow windows of production are quite rare in coinage. We CAN date this token, found in the field to between 1787 and 1798. Whilst only just slightly over a decade, what a decade this was for Blantyre! Monteith had just bought David Dales new mills at Blantyre. The Village was being established, with housing for the mill workers, including David Livingstone’s famous birthplace Shuttle Row. The Turnpike road leading from High Blantyre was being built diverting traffic from inside the Greenhall estate, to outside of it, and along new roads at Stoneymeadow. General Peter of Crossbasket and General Maxwell of Calderwood had just returned from fighting in the American wars of Independence and both at the time were improving their respective estates. By contrast to that grandeur of the two Generals, there is this little coin. Dropped by a mine worker, perhaps walking on return from work one day at one of the Southern, upper Ironstone pits of Blantyre, losing his wage in a field.
Thanks to Jim Cochrane for sharing the pictures of the coins.