Blantyre Dam Case 1839

In 1838, an argument raged between a Mr Wallace who lived downstream of Blantyre and with Messrs Henry Monteith & Co, the owners of Blantyre Mills.

The problem was that Monteith had fully dammed the Clyde, by upgrading the weir and suddenly downstream, where once had hundreds of years of Salmon thriving, were now suddenly all gone. In essence the mill dam had prevented the passage of Salmon on the river. Mr Wallace was clearly not happy and suing.

This important case, brought to the Small Debt Court by Mr Wallace against Monteith & Co was heard on the last Thursday of 1838 and the decision was followed closely by many as it involved a great question of law, for many manufacturers and property owners up and down the country.

Mr Wallace conducted his side of the case, expertly and well prepared without any legal assistance. The Blantyre Mill Company had employed Mr Andrew Mitchell of Glasgow to conduct theirs. The case lasted about 7 hours the first day, and 4 of that to which it was adjourned, during all which time the most perfect order and decorum was preserved. Both sides expertly presenting their case and a crowded court room patiently listening and taking in the detail.

The Sheriff then made his decision, awarding Mr Wallace the full sum claimed, under the name of damages, as also expenses. David had taken on Goliath , and won! The whole case was minuted knowing of its importance perhaps for other claims. The Sheriff awarded £8: 6s:8d damages, with £5:8s:7d expenses, stating that he was convinced the Blantyre Mill Company would adopt the wisest of courses by at once setting about work to alter the Blantyre Works Dam, preventing the need for handing over any damages at all to Mr Wallace. It was an outcome accepted by all. The Sheriff went on to state that he did not see any difficulty arising for the Mill Company in making some sort of erection which would give passage to the salmon and add to the security of their works.

It was thus, that the very first Salmon ladder was arranged for Blantyre. Attached, some 30 years earlier are early plans in 1809 for repairs to the dam, an early version of the current weir.

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