During the 1700’s and perhaps even before, the chief occupation in Blantyre was Agriculture.
The basis of farming in the 18th Century was “runrig” i.e. land divided into strips, carried out by the inhabitants of scattered hamlets, or fermtouns. The ground was arable for the best part and farmed using Scot’s Ploughs.
In the 1791 statistical account, the main crop was noted as being oats, with some barley, wheat, peas, beans and potatoes. Keeping of livestock was rare with not more than 100 sheep in the area. A considerable quantity of rye grass and clover hay was cultivated and taken to Glasgow where it was sold for 5d (2p) a ton.
Large quantities of butter and cheese used to go to the Glasgow markets, but with the opening of the Mills in 1785, there became a growing demand more locally.
By 1835 the ground was still mostly arable but was changing from “runrig” to larger, more compact fields, with 500 acres or so still in pasture or in waste. Tenants rented their land from Lord Blantyre. Their produce was mainly grain, hay and potatoes with very few sheep. However, livestock was by then becoming more common and in 1835 there were around 450 Ayrshire Cows, 250 pigs and 96 horses.
Over a Century later in 1952, the farming statistics were – tillage 649 acres, rotation grass 448 acres, permanent grass 1,087 acres and rough grazings 242 acres. Good herds of dairy cattle were kept and crops grown were primarily potatoes, turnips, oats, barley, rye grass and some wheat. Mechanisation was by then firmly established for milking and cultivation. The Century saw a decline in horses, with only 18 by 1952.
By 1980, some drastic changes had again taken place. Tillage only 29 acres, grass 242 acres and rough grazings 94 acres. Dairy cattle were still kept, with the addition of poultry. Crops of potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, oats and barley were common. Further mechanisation removed the need for horses almost entirely. In 1980, there were only around 34 people employed on Blantyre’s remaining working farms.
I’d love to hear from the current farming community about what kind of livetock are kept now, and what kind of crops are being grown in Blantyre’s remaining working farms in 2016.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul D Veverka (c) 2016
Pictured are crops at Calderside, captured by Jim Brown in this 2010 photo.