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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Crass Commercial for my book

Penny Rimbaud of Crass finds enlightenment- photo by Tony Drayton
Tony Drayton (Ripped and Torn, Kill Your Pet Puppy) went along to a Punk Waltham Forest event 23 September 2016 which features a recreation of Small Wonder record shop.

Penny Rimbaud of Crass was there and Tony asked if he agreed with my assertion (in the booklet he is holding) that neither Penny nor Crass had much knowledge of anarchism before they started using the circled A symbol. Penny agreed.

Between 1979 and 1981, I spent many hours in Small Wonder, filling in time every Wednesday between finishing work at London Rubber at 4 pm and starting  Engineering evening classes at Waltham Forest College at 6. I became friends with Pete Stennett who ran the shop and a large part of my record collection was bought there then. It is also where I found a copy of Ripped and Torn 17

Pete also had a record label- Small Wonder- and the first release by Crass Feeding the 5000 was on Small Wonder which is why Penny was at the event.

The chapter Penny is reading in the photo is in this post

where I quote this quote by Penny from George Berger's book The Story of Crass

In all honesty I wasn’t aware of anarchism until about year one into Crass …We had got a peace banner to tell people we weren’t interested in kicking shit, and we had put up the circled A banner as something to get the left and right off our backs. It was then that we started getting people asking what we meant by that. I realised that outside of my own libertarian stance , I didn’t know what the fuck it was about. It was then I started looking at what it actually meant in terms of its history. I hadn’t had much interest in it and I can’t say I have now to be honest.

This is confusing since Crass are widely seen as the band that turned rhetoric of the Sex Pistol's Anarchy in the UK into the actuality of anarcho-punk. But if Crass didn't know much about anarchism or have much interest in it, where does that leave anarcho-punk and the popular/ academic accounts of the sub-subculture?

In need of major revision I suggest.

Such a revision will need to look much more closely at the intersection between punk and the more radical elements of the actually existing/ still surviving in the mid/later 1970s English counterculture. This counterculture drew on and absorbed many influences, including anarchism.

To use  posh words, the interaction was a dialectic between counter culture as thesis, punk s antithesis and anarcho-punk as synthesis. In about 1971, a history teacher at my school claimed that  Hegel had influenced Marx in a similar way so that  what Marx took from Hegel was the dialectical process where  feudalism = thesis, capitalism = antithesis and communism = synthesis.

I now know that Hegel never used the 'thesis/antithesis/synthesis' equation,  but would have said that capitalism was the negation of feudalism and that communism was therefore the  'negation of the negation' of feudalism.

The actual German word Hegel used was aufheben which has several, contradictory, meanings. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aufheben

One meaning is 'take a thing to a higher level'. So punk took the counterculture to a higher level and then anarcho-punk took it higher still.

Aufheben can mean preserve and abolish/ keep and cancel. So while punk seemed to abolish the counterculture - 'Never trust a hippy'/ 'We don't wear flares/ 'I hate Pink Floyd'/ Year Zero - it also, via Small Wonder/ Rough Trade/ Better Badges/Crass even Kill Your Pet Puppy which all had countercultural roots and/or influences - preserved aspects of the counterculture which re-emerged in/as  anarcho-punk.

Also see this post which includes the Stonehenge issue of KYPP and the 'festivalization of punk'

Monday, September 19, 2016

WW2 mystery in Castle Douglas UPDATED

Mystery Object

After posting this I spoke to my brother Ian this morning and he said he had asked our father about the mystery object in Lochside Park a few years ago.

Dad told Ian that his father, Jim Livingston, had practiced using it when he was in the Castle Douglas Home Guard in WW2. There was a trench round about it and it was designed to be fired at German tanks/ troops entering town on the Gelston/ Auchencairn road on the far side of the loch.

Ian said dad's description perfectly matched a photo of Home Guard soldiers using a spigot mortar/ Blacker Bombard. Since my father was later in the RAF if it had been an anti-aircraft gun emplacement that is how he would have described it.

Original post...
Most of the local history I have researched has been old history, but this is about events still- just- within living memory.

On 25 September 2016 there will be a showing of six archive films in the town. The first two are about World War 2. I have been asked to join a discussion about the films.

I don’t know much about Castle Douglas in WW2 and when I tried researching online I found very little- apart from a chapter in a book about the 92nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment which was stationed in the town March 1943- April 1944. See Chapter Five of this

This was very helpful since it confirmed that troops were billeted in Nissen huts in Lochside Park during the war. This made me wonder about a mystery object in the park.

After much searching online I found photographs of similar objects in this article- spigot mortar/ Blacker Bombard anti-tank weapons.

Home Guard using spigot mortar

I found the Pillbox Study Group on Facebook, posted one of my photos of the mystery object on their page and got a reply saying it was the base of a spigot mortar/ Blacker Bombard.

I looked to see if it was listed anywhere as a WW2 archaeology feature but could not. However  Dumfries and Galloway Council archaeologist Andrew Nicholson was giving at talk in the town on Sunday 18th September. I  asked him about the spigot mortar base and he said it was actually the base for an anti-aircraft gun…

The 92nd regiment were equipped with mobile 40mm Bofors guns so the mystery object so the mystery object was not used by them. I have found a photograph of a small, fixed anti-aircraft gun base. But it is square and has a circle of bolt holes for firmly fixing it down.

Possible 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun base

Photo found here

For the present then, the object remains a mystery…

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Cattle, cotton and Galloway's cautious capitalists

Manchester cotton mills, built for Kennedy and McConnel from New Galloway 
New Galloway

Aaaaaaaargh. This is the most recent draft of an article I will be putting in for a £500 competition and/ or the local Natural History and Antiquarian Society Transactions.  It is 5973  words long (was 6500), which is about the max limit for such articles. It is a total re-write of an article I wrote 2 or 3 years ago ‘ Some  Dumfries and Galloway Pioneers of the Industrial Revolution’, which tried to cover too much ground by including about 20 such pioneers.

This article focuses on just four- John Kennedy, James McConnel, Adam and George Murray- who became very wealthy cotton spinning capitalists in Manchester between 1790-1840. But although they and their cotton factories made a big impression in Manchester, they are forgotten about in Galloway where they came from.

The article follows on  from my 2009 Galloway Levellers thesis. In the last chapter I looked at what happened after the Levellers Uprising of 1724, at the 1760-1830 era of the Lowland Clearances aka the Age of Improvement. What I pointed out was that ‘lessons had been learned’. This led to the creation of new villages and towns and new industries to provide homes and employment for the people dispossessed by agricultural improvement.

In 1724, Alexander Murray of Cally had the dykes of his cattle parks levelled. When his son James set about improving his lands in the 1760s, he set up a new, planned, town- Gatehouse of Fleet- and leased land in the new town for cotton mills to be built in the late 1780s. But these new cotton mills were water powered and were soon overtaken by steam powered cotton mills.

What I found and noted in my thesis was that a group of young men from New Galloway, 20 miles north of Gatehouse, pioneered the application of steam power to cotton spinning in factories they built in Manchester circa 1800.  This was an unexpected connection between agricultural Galloway and industrial Manchester and one which I had not found in any local histories. On the Manchester / industrial revolution side there was much more since the cotton spinning factories involved were the largest and most important in the town.

Rather than just write a narrative history account of the Galloway/ Manchester connections, I have looked at the background to the success of a group of country lads in the competitive environment of industrial capitalism. I argue that although industrial capitalism was brand new in the 1790s/ early 1800s, capitalist farming had been around since the seventeenth century, stimulated by the rapid growth of London.

To feed London, until the trade was banned in 1667, 50 000 Irish cattle/ year were exported to England. When Irish cattle were banned, a trade in cattle between Galloway and London was developed as substitute for the Ulster cattle which had passed  through Galloway en route to London.

Although only a few landowners in Galloway made cash from cattle, this still marked a significant break with the past. With their cattle bought and sold for English gold, Galloway’s cattle barons grew wealthy and were able to buy up farms to breed and fatten more cattle. By the 1720s, the resulting social/ economic  tensions had been building up for a generation and led to the uprising of the Galloway Levellers. Significantly, some of the cattle enclosures levelled in 1724 had been built 40 years earlier.

Capitalist farming in Scotland is usually see as a late 18th century
phenomenon which first developed in south-east Scotland with Galloway remaining a ‘traditional peasant society’ until almost 1800.  So apart from my research, there are no other sources to back up my claim that capitalist (cattle) farming was present in Galloway from the 1670s. Another of my suggestions is that ‘traditional peasant society’ / the middle ages in Galloway ended in 1455 with the break-up of the 350 year old Lordship of Galloway.
Likewise the first signs of agricultural improvement in Galloway were early, beginning in 1726 when William Craik (1703-1798!) began farming and improving Maxwellfield in Kirkbean parish.

I argue that the Galloway/ Glenkens cotton barons were  therefore the product of an already capitalist/ market based society and economy. This gave them an advantage in the newly emerging industrial capitalism of Manchester where they survived and prospered.

One- John Kennedy- did more than survive and prosper. He also helped shift attitudes in the cotton industry, which had been protectionist in the eighteenth century, towards an embrace of Adam Smith’s economic theories, actively promoted the Liverpool and Manchester railway, rubbed shoulders with Thomas Malthus and Charles Babbage in the British Society for the Advancement of Science and was father in law to Edwin Chadwick, reformer of the Poor Laws and sanitary improver…

What I am not sure is if the article gives  enough of the bigger picture. That while the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars were bloodily re-shaping the political structures of Europe, the ’industrial revolution’ was setting in motion an even more profound set of changes. One part of the changes involved capitalism which intersected with industry to become a world changing system. It was able to do this because the shift to coal as an energy source broke through the ecological constraints which had limited all previous human societies.

All previous human societies had ultimately relied on plant photosynthesis to capture part of the annual flow of energy from the sun  to the earth. Even the early industrial capitalism of cotton mills was still limited by water power, horse-power (using horses walking round and round to provide power) and human power to work the cotton spinning machinery. These were ‘renewable’ sources of energy and so could not be easily/ rapidly expanded.

Coal, on the other hand, was a source of concentrated energy, the product of millions of years of photosynthesis. It was seemingly limitless and so could be the source of apparently unlimited economic growth. This was confusing for political economists, who had expected that growth based, ultimately, on the exploitation of fertile farmlands would reach a ‘stationary state’ beyond which further economic and population growth would become impossible.

Unfortunately, in trying to understand what was happening made a mistake which we are only now recognising. This was the belief that -symbolised by the French Revolution-  the shift from older, static societies to modern dynamic societies was a result of the triumph of reason over superstition. That it was the Enlightenment which paved the way for industrial capitalism, not coal mines. But thanks to global warming driven climate change, we can now see that the world-changing event was the use of fossil fuels as an energy source.

Before this event there were highly mechanised and organised capitalist water-powered cotton spinning mills. But they were isolated, often rural, enclaves of capitalist modernity. Most still are. They did not become centres of growth and expansion. It was only once capitalism plugged itself into energy from coal that it found a way to keep growing. And without economic growth, capitalism cannot exist. No one is going to invest money in producing commodities which are worth the same or less when sold than the  money initially invested. To keep making a profit, the economy/ market has to keep growing at by least 3% per year.  The growth of Britain as an industrial economy is reflected in these coal production figures. By 1952, oil was beginning to replace coal as a fossil fuel source. Britain was also no longer the dominant industrial power it had been in the nineteenth century.

1750 : 5 million tonnes
1800 : 10 million tonnes
1850 : 50 million tonnes
1900 : 250 million tonnes
1913 : 290 million tonnes
1952 : 230 million tonnes

 Midnight again, here is the article.

The Glenkens, Capitalism and Cotton
Alistair Livingston  FSA Scot

Lit by gaslight and powered by steam, by 1815 the cotton spinning mills of Ancoats in Manchester represented technology at the leading edge of the industrial revolution. Side by side on the Rochdale canal, two huge cotton spinning factories dominated Ancoats, each employing over 1000 workers (Kidd, 1993, p.24). Remarkably, the founders of these two mill complexes, partners John Kennedy (1769-1855) and James McConnel (1762-1831), and brothers Adam (1767-1818) and George Murray (1761-1855), all came from Kells parish in the Glenkens district of Galloway. The industrial revolution, which transformed Britain between the 1780s and 1830s, drew many thousands of people from similar rural backgrounds into fast growing towns and cities. Very few, however, were able to succeed and prosper by mastering the technological and economic challenges of these new environments. Why were the Glenkens group able to do so? To answer this question requires an understanding of the social and economic background from which they emerged. A key argument will be that the development of the cattle trade with England led to the early advent of capitalist farming in Galloway. By the later eighteenth century, the social and economic environment of Galloway had been shaped by market forces’for the best part of a century. Although this was a form of agricultural rather than industrial capitalism, it meant that when Kennedy, McConnell and the Murray brothers began their businesses in Manchester, the market place was a familiar rather than alien environment.

From the Glenkens to Manchester   

On 8 February 1827 John Kennedy, a successful Manchester manufacturer, sat down to compose some recollections of his early life for his children. The date was personally significant since it was on 9 February 1784 that Kennedy had left Knocknalling in Kells parish for Chowbent near Leigh in Lancashire to become an apprentice to William Cannan who manufactured carding engines, spinning jennies and water frames. Cannan was also from Kells parish where his father James farmed Sheil and Darsalloch (Reid and Cannon, 1953, p.118). Originally trained as a carpenter, in the 1760s Cannan left the district first for Whitehaven, then Liverpool before finally settling at Chowbent where he became a textile machinery manufacturer. Adam Murray became one of Cannan’s apprentices in 1780 followed by James McConnel of Hannaston (who was Cannan’s nephew) in 1781. George Murray was another of Cannan’s apprentice’s and married Cannan’s daughter Jane.

   After serving their seven year apprenticeships with William Cannan, Kennedy, McConnel and the Murray brothers made the short journey to Manchester where their newly acquired skills were in great demand. The first to complete his apprenticeship was Adam Murray. After three years building up his capital in Chowbent, he moved to Manchester in 1790 where he leased land and premises in Ancoats. Here Adam took up cotton spinning as well as machine making. In 1797 he was joined by his brother George and together they established the firm of A & G Murray. In 1798 the brothers began construction of a purpose built, 8 storey high steam powered cotton mill in Ancoats. The steam power was supplied by Boulton and Watt and the new factory was connected by a short branch to the Rochdale canal (Miller and Wild, 2006, pp. 62-66).

   James McConnel moved to Manchester in 1788. After working briefly for a cotton twist dealer, like Adam Murray, McConnel began his own business. McConnel also began spinning as well as machine making, using two spinning mules he had been unable to sell. McConnel still had these mules in 1791 which, valued at £70, became part of the capital he and John Kennedy contributed to their partnership with the Sandford brothers. In his ‘Early Recollections’, Kennedy (1849, p.17) gave an account of the partnership.

I formed a partnership with Benjamin and William Sandford, who were fustian warehousemen, and James McConnel, and we immediately commenced business as machine makers and mule spinners - I taking the direction of the machine department. Our first shop was in Stable Street or Back Oldham Street and our capital was not more than £600 to £700. Here we made machines for others as well as ourselves, putting up our own mules in any convenient garrets we could find. After some time we removed to a building in Canal Street, called Salvin's Factory - from the name of the owner who occupied a portion of it himself, letting off the remainder to us. Here we continued to the end of our partnership which lasted four years, terminating in 1795.

McConnel and Kennedy then began a new business in 1795 with an initial capital of £1700. Of this, £1632 came from the profits of the previous partnership plus £105 from James McConnell and £33 from John Kennedy (Lee, 1972, p.12). By 1802, McConnell & Kennedy had become prosperous enough to begin construction of their own steam powered cotton mill, on land adjacent to the Murray brothers’ factory.

   Using the records of McConnell & Kennedy, Lee (1972) was able to trace the development of the firm between 1795 and 1840. Most significantly the firm (along with A & G Murray) specialised in the production of fine cotton yarn. This was measured in ‘counts’ based on the number of hanks (840 yards) of yarn spun from one pound weight of raw cotton. While the average count for cotton spinning up until 1833 was only 40,  from their beginnings in 1795 onwards McConnel & Kennedy produced yarn counts ranging from 80 to 250. Up until the early 1830s, the main market for McConnell & Kennedy’s was in Scotland where hand-loom weavers in Glasgow and Paisley concentrated on fine cotton spinning. By 1808 ‘McConnel & Kennedy and their rivals A & G Murray had a powerful hold over the Scottish fine yarn market because of the superior quality of their product.’ (Lee, 1972, p. 27). Lee goes on to suggest that the larger, steam-powered, spinning machinery used by McConnell & Kennedy and A & G Murray ‘enabled Manchester firms to produce better yarn and in greater quantities than their counterparts in Scotland.’

    McConnell & Kennedy also exported to Europe. The ‘most advantageous’ period for these exports (Lee, 1972, p. 67) was during the Napoleonic Wars and the immediate post-war boom when the prices of fine cotton yarn were at their peak. Some of this trade involved the smuggling of cotton yarn into France and areas controlled by the French before 1815. Although this was risky, the profit margins were very high. Other markets supplied by McConnell & Kennedy were in the north of Ireland, Nottinghamshire and the south-west of England. Of these, the Nottingham lace thread market became the most important in the 1830s, replacing Scotland as the firm’s largest market. (Lee, 1972, p.44).

   When John Kennedy retired from the partnership in December 1826 his share of the business was £85 000 (Kennedy, 2016, pp. 213-4). The business, now called McConnel & Company, was continued by James McConnel and his sons Henry and James junior. After James McConnel’s death in 1831, his third son William joined the company. From 1861, when his brothers retired,  William ran the firm on his own. In 1878 his son John took over the business. In 1898 the firm became part of the Fine Cotton Spinners and Doublers Association. This Association initially included 47 separate businesses and over 60 mills. McConnell & Company were one of the largest businesses in the Association. However, after John McConnel retired in 1914, McConnell & Company lost its independent identity as it became more closely integrated within the Association (Lee, 1972, pp.151-3).

    Turning to McConnell & Kennedy’s neighbours and rivals A & G Murray, after Adam Murray died in 1831, George Murray managed the firm until 1854 by which time he was 93. From 1854 to 1878 his sons Benjamin and James ran the firm after which Benjamin’s sons George and John briefly took over until Herbert Dixon became managing director in 1880. Herbert Dixon was instrumental in setting up the Fine Cotton Spinners and Doublers Association which absorbed A & G Murray in 1899 (Miller and Wild, 2006, p.86).

John Kennedy 1769-1855

The most exceptional of this exceptional group was John Kennedy. After joining the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1803, he read several papers to the Society. The first was ‘On the Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade’ in 1815, followed by ‘An Inquiry into the Effects of the Poor Laws’ in 1819, ‘The Influence of Machinery on the Working Classes’ in 1826 and ‘A Brief Memoir of Samuel Crompton with a Description of his Machine Called the Mule and its Subsequent Improvement by Others’ in 1830 (Kennedy, 1849). In addition to these papers, Kennedy also wrote a 30 page booklet On the Exportation of Machinery (Kennedy, 1824).

    In 1822 Kennedy joined the Provisional Committee of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company (Carlson, 1969, p. 49). In 1824, Kennedy was one of four members of the Provisional Committee who examined existing railways and reported in favour of the use of steam locomotives on the proposed railway (Carlson, 1969, p.64). With the railway nearing completion and with his argument for steam traction having prevailed, in 1829, Kennedy was chosen as one of the three judges at the Rainhill Locomotive Trial which was convincingly won by George and Robert Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ (Carlson, 1969, p.219).

   For Wrigley (2016, p.145), the 1829 Rainhill Trials and the opening of the Liverpool Manchester railway in 1830 ‘symbolised the achievement of a definitive release from the constraints that had always limited the growth possibilities in organic economies.’  By ‘organic economies’ Wrigley means all preceding traditional societies which had relied on renewable sources of energy- wood, wind and water- plus animal and human labour human to sustain themselves. In contrast, all modern societies are what Wrigley calls ‘mineral economies’ which rely primarily on fossil fuels- at first coal, then oil and natural gas- as energy sources (Wrigley, 2010).

   The water-powered cotton mills of late eighteenth century Gatehouse of Fleet were, despite their sophisticated use of current technology, still part of Wrigley’s ‘organic economy’. The steam powered cotton mills of McConnel & Kennedy and A & G Murray were part of Wrigley’s ‘mineral economy’. Cotton production in Gatehouse was ultimately limited by the flow of water from Loch Whinyeon above the town. To increase production in a steam-powered cotton mill, all that was required was the purchase of a more powerful steam engine. While a more powerful steam-engine would need more coal, until the later nineteenth century (Jevons, 1865) it appeared that reserves of coal were practically inexhaustible so there would be no physical limits on economic growth.

   In reality, as John Kennedy was very aware, the imperatives of the market economy with its constant cycle of expansion and contraction act as a check on economic growth. The technological improvements he made to his firm’s spinning machines increased the quantity and quality of the cotton yarn they produced but the market could not always smoothly absorb the yarn McConnel & Kennedy produced. In 1812, Kennedy had provided information on English cotton exports to India to the Committee for Free Trade to China and India. This was a campaign against the East India Company’s monopoly led by Kirkman Finlay, Lord Provost of Glasgow, who became an MP in 1812. Finlay was a cotton manufacturer and his firm was suffering from the loss of European markets during the Napoleonic wars, hence his interest in breaking the East India Company’s monopoly on trade with India where he hoped to find an alternative market for his company’s products (Chapman, 1992, p.95).

   Up until the 1820s, Scottish cotton manufacturers including Finlay and Company, provided the main market for McConnel & Kennedy so it was in John Kennedy’s interest to support Kirkman Finlay’s early advocacy of the free market. In 1830, Kennedy was called before the Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company where he gave evidence on the growth of cotton exports from England to India since 1812, based on the figures he had provided to the Committee for Free Trade to China and India in 1812 (Lee, 1972, p.51 and  Select Committee, 1830, pp. 434-439).

   Significantly, both Berg (1980, p.195) and Parthasarathi (2011, p.110) draw attention to a further development found in Kennedy’s 1815 paper ‘On the Rise and Progress of the Cotton Trade’ where he applied Adam Smith’s concept of the division of labour to the origins of the cotton industry. As Parthasarathi notes (2011, p. 111)

The adoption of a Smithian framework to understand the rise of the cotton industry coincided with the growing acceptance in Lancashire of the free trade prescriptions of Smithian political economy. In the final quarter of the eighteenth century, the cotton men of Lancashire were unreceptive to the arguments for free trade and they favoured protection from imports of Indian cloth.

Although in his 1830 paper on Samuel Crompton, Kennedy did observe that eighteenth century manufactures copied ‘fabrics from India which at that time supplied this kingdom with all the finer fabrics’ (Kennedy, 1849, p.70), by then his earlier ‘Smithian’ account of the origins of the British cotton industry had become accepted as fact. That Kennedy was a manufacturer rather than a political economist is likely to have given extra weight to his acceptance of Adam Smith’s economic theories.

   Kennedy was also a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, founded in 1831. In June 1833 he was present at a meeting of the Society in Cambridge when a new Statistical Section was formed by Charles Babbage, Thomas Malthus and others. In September 1833 Kennedy was one of the founders of the Manchester Statistical Society and became vice-president (Cullen, 1975, pp 79 and 108). It was probably through the Manchester Statistical Society that sanitary and poor law reformer Edwin Chadwick met Kennedy since Chadwick drew on the Manchester Society’s work for his privately published Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842). In 1839, Chadwick married Kennedy’s daughter Rachel.

The cattle trade and capitalism

That a group of young men who had left Kells parish in the Glenkens of Galloway as teenagers in the 1780s were able to found businesses in Manchester in the 1790s which survived and prospered for the next hundred years is noteworthy. It is possible that James McConnel, John Kennedy, Adam and George Murray were simply lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the textile machine making skills William Cannan had taught them. Certainly it was very helpful that they were able to build their own spinning machines and were able to adapt their mules to harness the power of steam engines. However, to succeed in the new environment of industrial capitalism required the additional ability to work within a market based economy. If Galloway still had a ‘traditional’ rural economy and society in the 1780s a group of young men from the region would have struggled to survive and prosper in Manchester’s market centred economy.

   Discussing the impact of the agricultural revolution which transformed lowland Scotland in the late eighteenth century, Christopher Smout (1969, p.310) described the situation in Galloway as one

where almost until the end of the century indigenous peasant society went on almost unaffected by change, paying traditional rents to traditional lairds for lands that they held at will but seldom risked losing by dispossession, and that consisted of open, ridged stony fields, wide pools of boggy water and tall thickets of whins. The crisis that ‘produced an almost magical change’ came with sale of the old estate of Baldoon to the Earls of Galloway in 1787: the new owners at once offered the leases to the highest bidders at a public roup in the courthouse at Wigtown…

If Galloway had indeed been a traditional peasant society as late as 1787, it would have been a very difficult challenge for a group of young men from the region to make the successful transition to the very different society and economy of industrial Manchester.

   However, in his discussion of ‘The peasant reaction to rural change’ Smout (1969, p. 326) notes that during the Galloway Levellers uprising of 1724, ‘several hundred armed men broke into the laird of Baldoon’s park and killed fifty-three Irish cattle.’ This park was in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright but as early as 1682 there was a cattle park at Baldoon in Wigtownshire large enough to hold 1000 cattle destined for sale to markets in England. The park and cattle belonged to David Dunbar but in  September 1682, 59 of Dunbar’s Scottish cattle were seized and killed by a magistrate in England who believed that they had been illegally imported from Ireland (Symson, 1823, p. 41). The references to Irish cattle in 1682 and again in 1724 are a significant pointer to the origin of social and economic changes which occurred in Galloway long before 1787.

   During the seventeenth century, London’s population grew from approximately 200 000 in 1600 to 400 000 in 1650 and by 1700 it had reached 575 000, overtaking Paris to become the largest city in Europe (Wrigley, 1978, p. 215). The effects of this growth were felt as far away as north-east England, where London’s demand for coal stimulated mining in the Newcastle area and Ireland, which supplied London with up to 50 000 head of cattle per year in the 1660s. Under pressure from English landowners, the import of Irish cattle into England was banned in January 1667 and similar import ban was passed by the Scottish parliament in March 1667. Before this ban, between May and July 1666, 7287 Irish cattle had passed through Galloway and Dumfriesshire en route to London (Woodward, 1976, p.150). Irish cattle had been taking this route since at least 1627 when the Scottish Privy Council gave permission to the Murrays of Broughton to land cattle from their Irish estates at Portpatrick for sale in England (Haldane, 1997, p.163).

   Since there were no restrictions on the sale of Scottish cattle to England, David Dunbar of Baldoon and other Galloway landowners were able to take advantage of the 1667 ban on Irish cattle and supply London with cattle from their estates. Symson (1824, p. 81) noted that ‘the Earl of Galloway, Sir William Maxwell, Sir Godfrey McCulloch, Sir James Dalrymple and the Laird of Logan and many others’ had followed Dunbar’s example and constructed cattle parks. As well as the Wigtownshire cattle parks, the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds (Reid, 1950, Nos.1265, 3183 and 3184) reveal that by the 1680s there were also cattle parks at Netherlaw in Kirkcudbright parish and Borgue parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

   As well as providing existing landowners in Galloway with a valuable source of income, the late seventeenth century cattle trade with England, like the cotton industry a century later, provided the opportunity for a hill farmer’s son, grandson and great-grandson to prosper. In 1671, Alexander Heron of Minnigaff parish owned the hill farm of Dallashcairn. His son Patrick I (1642-1721) began managing David Dunbar’s Baldoon cattle park in 1682 but after Dunbar’s death in 1686 he began trading in his own right. By 1689 he was able to send 1000 cattle per year to England (Woodward, 1976, p.156) and by 1695, when his father died, Patrick Heron I ‘had stock upon Glenshalloch, Garlarg, Lomashan, Draighmorn, Poldenbuy, Tonderghie, Craigdews, Kirouchtrie, the Lessons, Torwhinock, and Torrshinerack’ in Minnigaff parish. As Peter McKerlie put it in his account of the Heron family’s land holdings (1877, Vol. 4, p. 426) ‘Patrick Heron made a great deal of money in the cattle trade.’ By re-investing their  profits by buying more farms in Minnigaff which were then used to breed and fatten more cattle, Heron, his son Patrick II (1672- 1761) and grandson Patrick III (1701-1761) became wealthy and extensive landowners. However, when  Patrick Heron IV (1736-1803) attempted to diversify into banking by co-founding the Ayr (Douglas and Heron) Bank in 1769, he was less successful and the bank collapsed in 1772 (Checkland, 1975, pp. 124-131).

   Significantly then, despite Smout’s claim (1969, p.325) that the Galloway Levellers’ uprising of 1724 was a response to the development of the cattle trade with England since the Union of 1707, the uprising had its roots in changes which had been taking place in Galloway for over forty years. These changes involved the gradual development of capitalist farming in Galloway in response to London’s growth. Unfortunately, neither Wrigley (1978) nor Wood (2002) extend their analyses of the impact of London’s growth on the emergence of capitalist agriculture in seventeenth century England to Scotland.

   However, although Wrigley here (1978, p. 226) is referring to the situation in Kent and East Anglia in the century before 1650, the post-1667 cattle trade had a similar transformative impact on Galloway.

London was large enough to exercise a great influence on the agriculture of the surrounding counties, causing a rapid spread in market gardening, increasing local specialization, and encouraging wholesalers to move back up the chain of production and exchange to engage directly in the production of food, or to sink capital in the improvement of productive facilities. 

Wood (2002, p.103) as a Marxist historian, summed up the outcome of the changes set in motion by London’s growth very directly: ‘as competitive market forces established themselves, less productive farmers lost their property.’

Support for the argument that cattle farming had become a thoroughly capitalist enterprise by the 1780s is provide by contemporary sources.  William Cuninghame bought Duchrae (now Hensol) estate in Balmaghie in 1786 and provided this description of  Duchrae in 1787 (Crockett, 1904, p. 302).

My Tenants there depends chiefly on grazing bullocks (Irish and Galloway) which they are constantly buying and selling. So often at times some of these do not remain more than two weeks upon the Estate. For instance when I was there, one of the tenants sold a parcel of Galloway Bullocks which had been partly 3 months with him, partly 2 months and partly only a few days, the  whole to be delivered to the purchaser upon the farm the following week. He informed me that Cattle was then in great demand and that he had made great profit by them.

Richard Hodgkinson noted on his visit to the Stewartry in 1800 that the local farmers ‘are perpetually buying in and selling of cattle of all ages and in all states and conditions, at all times of the year whenever  an opportunity offers’ (Wood and Wood, 1992, p. 138). In 1813, Samuel Smith described the cattle trade in Galloway as possessing ‘all the fascinations of the gaming table’ for  local farmers and that this was to the detriment of improvement (Smith, 1810, p. 74).
   If the advent of ‘competitive market forces’ -capitalism- is revealed in farming by less productive farmers losing their lands, then in Galloway by the 1780s the transition from Smout’s traditional ‘indigenous peasant society’ to capitalist agriculture had been underway for at least a century. As a consequence, although the new industrial capitalism of Manchester in the 1790s would have been unfamiliar to John Kennedy and his compatriots, the demands of ‘competitive market forces’ were not. For Kennedy’s business partner James McConnel, these demands were very real.

   In 1455, Barskeoch in Kells parish and its farms, including Drumbuie, was among the lands forfeited to the Crown by William Douglas, 9th earl of Douglas. After passing to the Gordon family, by 1660, the Newall family had possession of Barskeoch and its lands which remained in their possession until 1787. In the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds (Reid, 1950, entries 1052 and 1420) there are two tacks for Drumbuie from the 1670s which give an insight into farming practice of the time since they both require the tenants of Drumbuie to return any cattle pasturing on the west side of Meikle Millyea ‘in the summer half of the year’ to the heft. By 1741, when Samuel McConnel and his son John were the Newalls’ tenants in Hannaston and  the third part of part of Drumbuie, this requirement had been dropped. Samuel and John’s tack was for 19 years, paying £33 sterling rent annually. In 1760, John’s son James took over the tenancy of Hannaston alone for another 19 years, paying £26 sterling annually. However, when the next renewal came in 1779, the annual rent had risen to £52. James struggled with this increase and gave up his tenancy in 1782 ( McConnel, 1861, pp.116-122).

   Writing in the early 1790s, the minister of Dalry parish (Old Statistical Account) noted that about 20 years earlier, Mr. Newall of Barskeoch was ‘probably the first’ in the Glenkens to improve a considerable extent of land with lime. The doubling of the rent of Hannaston  in 1779 would have been part of this early attempt to improve the Newall lands. Unfortunately, the Newalls’ failed to profit from their improvements and in 1787 Barskeoch and its farms were sold to William Forbes of Callendar. It is likely that 19 year old James McConnel’s decision to leave Hannaston in early 1781 to become his uncle William Cannan’s apprentice in Lancashire was influenced by the difficulties his father faced after the rent of Hannaston was doubled in 1779.

   In his later partnership with John Kennedy, James McConnel managed the business side of the firm’s activities while Kennedy concentrated on the technical side. James McConnel II (1861, p.148) described his father’s  approach to business matters as ‘painstaking and persevering rather than acute. He was… thoughtful, prudent and even somewhat timid, rather than impulsive or rash.’ In his summary of McConnel & Kennedy’s approach to business, Lee (1972, pp.149-50) confirms this assessment.

Their guiding principle was caution, always seeking swift payment at a time when sudden trade slumps could throw debtors into bankruptcy, and seeking to pay their debts promptly to gain the price discount offered. They were careful not to trade  more than was necessary with financially insecure firms and let nobody build up large debts at their expense. They were cautious not to speculate wildly and did not invest in buildings or any kind of expansion until they could afford it.

   John Kennedy’s grandfather David, a merchant in New Galloway, had bought Knocknalling in 1740 (McKerlie, 1877, p.96). However, the early death of Kennedy’s father, aged 49 in 1779, left his mother struggling to run the farm. So although Kennedy’s family were owner-occupiers rather than tenant farmers, their situation was little more promising than the McConnel family’s. After their mother’s death in 1801, John Kennedy’s older brother David inherited Knocknalling. After David’s death in 1836, John became owner of Knocknalling where he built a still impressive mansion house.

   Adam and George Murray’s background is more obscure. John Kennedy (1849, p.8) states that the Murray brothers’ father had moved to the Glenkens ‘as a farmer, or greeve upon a large estate, but was unfortunate, so settled finally in New Galloway as a shopkeeper about the time (1768) of my grandfather’s death.’ Since Kennedy also states that his father and the Murray brothers’ father were good friends and that Adam and George sometimes stayed at Knocknalling, his account is probably reliable.

   If so, then all four of the young men who became William Cannan’s apprentices in the 1780s shared a similar background. It was a background of uncertainty as a second wave of agricultural and economic change began to affect Galloway. The first wave, the development of the cattle trade after 1667, had begun the breakdown of ‘traditional’ farming in the region. Then, in 1765, Sir Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw built a short section of canal so that barges could carry shell-marl from Carlingwark Loch up the Dee/Ken river system and into the Glenkens. This development was part of a second wave of change. The focus of the second wave was on the revolutionising of arable farming. This was a much more expensive and involved process than the construction of a few cattle parks.

   In the later seventeenth century, the cattle trade with England was an example of what Ellen Wood (2002) described as ‘the market as opportunity’, of voluntary participation in a profitable activity. By the later eighteenth century what Wood called ‘the market as compulsion’ had become  the driving force behind the second wave of change. Propelled by a combination of population growth, overseas trade and the beginnings of the industrial revolution, the British economy began to grow. This created an increasing demand for food. But to produce food profitably, it was necessary to adopt the commercial farming techniques developed (Wrigley, 1978) to feed London a century earlier. Only existing large landowners or new landowners who had made their fortunes through trade could afford the costs of improvement and only the most efficient tenants could manage to pay the higher rents needed to recoup these costs.

   In the Glenkens William Forbes, who made a huge fortune by putting copper-bottoms on ships belonging to the East India Company and the Royal Navy (McKerlie, 1877, p.431) was able to buy up Earlston estate in Dalry parish as well as the Newalls’ Barskeoch lands. The Newalls had tried and failed to adapt to the ‘market as imperative’ by improving their lands and raising their tenants’ rents, which led to James McConnel’s father giving up his tenancy in 1782. The ‘unfortunate’ father of Adam and George Murray (Kennedy, 1849, p.8) also had to give up his tenancy of a farm. John Kennedy’s account of his childhood  in the 1770s mentions the growing of black oats and the use of a wooden plough to cultivate Knocknalling’s arable fields- both indicators of an unimproved farm. The expense of improving Knocknalling would have been beyond Kennedy’s widowed mother’s resources.

   By the 1780s then, although the full impact of the second wave of agricultural change in Galloway had yet to be felt, William Cannan’s workshop in Lancashire offered James McConnel, the Murray brothers and John Kennedy an attractive alternative to an uncertain future in the Glenkens. But while most of Cannan’s apprentices remained as humble artisans, the Glenkens group did not, leaving an enduring imprint on the industrial infrastructure of Manchester and the development of industrial capitalism.


In 1755 the population of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright was 21 2005. In 1757 the population of Manchester was 17 101. By 1801 the population of the Stewartry had increased to 29 211 but that of Manchester had reached 76 788. The population of the Stewartry peaked in 1851 when it reached  43 121 by which time Manchester had 316 213 inhabitants. The difference in growth rates reflects the difference between the agricultural revolution which transformed the Stewartry and the industrial revolution which transformed Manchester. However, within the Stewartry, growth was concentrated in the more fertile lowland parishes. Between 1755 and 1801, the population of upland Kells parish grew by only 13% while that of lowland Kelton grew by 134%.

    In the summer of 1800, Richard Hodgkinson from Chowbent in Lancashire visited Kells parish where his wife’s Cannan family lived. His wife was William Cannan of Chowbent’s niece. Hodgkinson also visited David Kennedy, John Kennedy’s brother, at Knocknalling. He estimated that Knocknalling was worth £100 a year. In the diary he kept of his visit, Hodgkinson noted the striking difference between the prosperity and fertility of the district between Crossmichael, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse with the ‘barren, craggy, rough and rocky’ lands of the Glenkens to the north (Wood and Wood, 1992, p.136).

   Hodgkinson’s observations reflect the problem of ‘diminishing returns’ which David Ricardo (1815) identified as a limit to traditional, agriculturally based, economic growth. Improving the fertile lands of the lower Stewartry was profitable. To improve the less fertile lands of the Glenkens required greater expenditure for a smaller profit. In the Scottish Highlands, sheep farming emerged as the solution to a similar problem. The uplands of Galloway were also converted to sheep farming in the early nineteenth century. However, in her careful analysis of Ricardo’s development of political economy, Maxine Berg (1980, Chapter 4) shows that by 1821, Ricardo had identified the new manufacturing industries as an alternative route to economic growth and prosperity.

   Ricardo was able to make this intellectual break with eighteenth century political economy by observing the rapid progress of what had yet to be named as an ‘industrial revolution’. By 1780 in the Glenkens, the physical and economic limits of agricultural improvement were being reached. For the Murray brothers, James McConnel and John Kennedy the road to Chowbent offered an alternative route to a more prosperous future. The move from Chowbent to Manchester was a much shorter journey, yet it was one which was to transform not only their lives but also help shape a world changing revolution. This revolution marked a shift (Wrigley, 2016, pp. 1-3) from an agricultural based economy ultimately reliant on the annual flow of energy from the sun captured by plant photosynthesis to an industrial economy based via coal on an accumulated stock of millions of years of plant photosynthesis.

   Historically, both China and Graeco-Roman Europe had access to coal and the technical capacity to build steam engines. What  these cultures lacked was a social and economic driver powerful enough to create an industrial revolution. Capitalism supplied this driver in late eighteenth century Britain. Capital, however, follows success. By their ability to make a success of their businesses, the Murray brothers, James McConnel and John Kennedy played a critical role in developing Manchester’s cotton industry. The growth of the cotton industry stimulated further developments, in particular the Liverpool-Manchester railway which was supported by John Kennedy from its inception. Liverpool and Manchester were connected by rail to Birmingham in 1837 and London in 1838, marking the accomplishment of what Wrigley (2016, p. 147) describes as ‘the English industrial revolution’.

   More correctly, it should be described as the British industrial revolution in recognition of the vital role played by James Watt and his fellow Scots John Kennedy, James McConnell and the Murray brothers. But while Watt is celebrated in Scotland as a pioneer of the industrial revolution, the group of young men who left the Glenkens in the 1780s have been overlooked. Even in Dumfries and Galloway their impressive achievements remain unknown.


Berg, M., 1980. The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy 1815-1848. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Carlson, R., 1969. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Project 1821-1831. Newton Abbot: David & Charles
Chadwick, E,. 1842 Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring  Population and its Means of Improvement. London: Edwin Chadwick.
Chapman, S., 2003. Merchant Enterprise in Britain From the Industrial Revolution to World War  1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Checkland, A., 1975. Scottish Banking A History 1695-1973. Glasgow: Collins.
Cullen, M.,1975. The Statistical Movement in Early Victorian Britain The Foundations of Empirical Social Research. New York: Harvester.
Haldane, J., 1997. The Drove Roads of Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn.
Jevons, S., 1865. The Coal Question : An Enquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation  and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal Mines. London: MacMillan and Co.
Kennedy, J., 1824. On the Exportation of Machinery A Letter Addressed to the Hon. E. G. Stanley M. P. London: Longman, Hurst & Co.
Kennedy, J., 1849. Miscellaneous Papers on Subjects Connected with the Manufactures of Lancashire. Manchester: John Kennedy.
Kennedy, W.,  2016. To Grasp an Opportunity. Aylesbury: ShieldCrest.
Kidd, A., 1993. Manchester. Keele: Keele University Press.
Lee, C., 1972. A Cotton Enterprise 1795- 1840  A History of McConnel & Kennedy Fine Cotton Spinners. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
McConnel, D., 1861. Facts and Traditions Collected for a Family Record. Edinburgh: David McConnel.
McKerlie, P., 1870-1879. History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway. Five Volumes. Edinburgh: William Paterson.
Miller, I and Wild, C., 2007. A & G Murray and the Cotton Mills of Ancoats. Lancaster: Oxford Archaeology North.
Parthsarathi, P., 2011.Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Reid, R and Cannon, D., 1952-3. The Cannan Family in Galloway. Transactions DGNHAS. Third Series, 31, pp 79-120.
Reid, R., 1939. Kirkcudbright Sheriff  Court Deeds 1623-1674. Edinburgh: Marquis of Bute.
Reid, R., 1950. Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1675-1700. Edinburgh: Marquis of Bute.
Ricardo, D., 1815.  An Essay on the Influence of the low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock. London: John Murray.
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Wood, E., 2002. The Origins of Capitalism A Longer View. London: Verso.
Wood, F. and Wood, K. eds., 1992. A Lancashire Gentleman The Letters and Journals of Richard Hodgkinson 1763-1847. Stroud: Sutton.
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Wrigley, E., 2016. The Path to Sustained Growth England’s Transition from an Organic  Economy to an Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Living with an Alien Invasion

Signal Crayfish populations in local area.

The front page of my local paper was dramatic this week. We are being invaded by an alien species.

Dramatic, but not as dramatic as the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001 when 750 000 cattle from 1500 farms in Galloway and Dumfries were slaughtered and burnt. The Army had to be called in to help.

I have written a timeline for the alien invasion. It has been going for 20 years.

Signal Crayfish in Dumfries and Galloway

Since 1996, when first discovered, an initially small population of American Signal Crayfish has increased to become a major problem. Proposals for eradication were made in 2004 but not acted upon. By 2009, the numbers in Loch Ken, the epicentre of the problem, had grown to the extent that the removal of 700 000 signal crayfish over three months made little impact. 

A three year programme of trapping on Loch Ken was suggested in 2009, but not acted upon. By 2014 signal crayfish had spread to two reservoirs, one 15 km and the other 25 km from Loch Ken. The smaller of the reervoirs will be drained later this month in an attempt to eliminate the crayfish. There are no plans to eliminate crayfish from the other one.

Loch Ken is a popular visitor destination for coarse fishing, sailing, water skiing, canoeing and windsurfing. To prevent the spread of signal crayfish from the loch a ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ biosecurity campaign is in place. However, any attempt to strictly enforce bio- security would risk deterring visitors and conflict with the promotion of the natural heritage value of the area.

There is therefore a major conflict of interest developing between the need to halt the spread of signal crayfish beyond Loch Ken and the impossibility of eradicating or even controlling the millions of signal crayfish in the loch.

1.The North American Signal Crayfish was introduced to the UK in 1976 . It was farmed to produce crayfish for restaurants. It was first recorded in Dumfries and Galloway in 1996 in tributaries of the Ken/Dee river system. By 1999 it had reached Loch Ken. 

2. 1 In 2004 Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned a report ‘Strategy for the containment and possible eradication of American signal
crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) in the River Dee catchment and Skyre Burn’. (The Skyreburn flows into the Fleet estuary near Gatehouse of Fleet.)

2.2 In 2004 SNP MSP  Richard Lockhead asked a question (S2W-11046) in the Scottish Parliament about signal crayfish. Lewis MacDonald replied 27 October 2004- 

“Scottish Natural Heritage has taken steps to deal with the signal crayfish issue in Scotland. As well as helping to fund eradication programmes, it has also commissioned a research report entitled, Preparation and Implementation of a Strategy for the Containment of American Signal Crayfish in the River Dee Catchment, Kirkcudbrightshire. SNH is also involved in the development of publicity materials for this species, which are designed to educate the public about the dangers of translocating signal crayfish to other waters.”

4. In 2009, as part of her PhD research, Zara Gladman monitored the impact of trapping approximately 650 000 signal crayfish in Loch Ken. [Note: Dr Gladman has explained she carried out a before and after study, not the main trapping exercise] http://theses.gla.ac.uk/3977/ 
Following this research a further three year trapping programme was recommended, but this did not happen.

“It was recommended that the trapping programme continue on Loch Ken for a further three years with part justification that the initial research had suggested that a heavy trapping programme may have a significant impact on the crayfish population. However, no further action has been taken on this recommendation.”

5. 1 In 2014  SNP MSP Joan McAlpine asked  a question (S4W-20621) about signal crayfish in Lochrutton  and the Lochfoor Burn near Dumfries.

Paul Wheelhouse replied

 “I am advised by Scottish Natural Heritage that they have not yet identified an effective method for the eradication of North American signal crayfish in water bodies such as Lochrutton and the Lochfoot Burn, albeit this is an objective the Scottish Government is keen to pursue if at all possible. The Fisheries Trusts and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are working together to raise awareness of appropriate biosecurity measures that water users can take to avoid spreading the species, and other freshwater invasive species, to other parts of the catchment or to other parts of Scotland. This includes launching a number of biosecurity campaigns across Dumfries and Galloway this spring and summer to raise awareness of invasive non-native species, including the Check Clean Dry and Be Plant Wise initiatives across the region. All campaigns are being co-ordinated by SEPA with support from a variety of partner organisations such as Police Scotland, the Galloway Fisheries Trust, the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust, the River Annan Trust, Dumfries and Galloway Council Ranger Service, Solway Firth Partnership and Scottish Natural Heritage. These campaigns will be supported by the distribution of thousands of leaflets, identification guides, posters and signs across the region.” 

5. 2 In 2015 there was a Petition, PE 1558, to the Scottish Parliament which called  on the Parliament ‘to urge the Scottish Government to amend the existing licencing regime to allow for the commercial trapping of American Signal Crayfish in Scotland.’ This call was rejected. However, in May 2015 Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency produced a lengthy response to the Petition.

This included an action plan for the signal crayfish problem in Buittle (Dalbeattie) Reservoir which is part of the Urr catchment.

6. On 4 August 2016, the Galloway News revealed that Buittle Reservoir will be drained later in the month in an attempt to eliminate signal crayfish.

7. Between 2017and 2021, as part of the Galloway Glens Landscape Heritage project, a Loch Ken Fisheries Survey will be carried out. The survey will include  identifying the extent of the loch’s signal crayfish population. This survey was proposed in the 2015 SNH/SEPA response to Petition 1558. 

Complicating Factor.

The EU Water Framework Directive of 2000 (2000/60/EC) required river systems to be brought up to ‘good ecological and chemical quality’ by 2015. However, ‘heavily modified water bodies’ were only required to achieve ‘good ecological potential’ by 2015. A 2002 case study identified the Dee/Ken river system as a heavily modified water body.

The main reason for this designation was the effects of the 1929 Galloway Water Power Company Act. This led to the construction of a hydro-electric scheme, completed 1935, which affected the Doon (Ayrshire), Ken and Dee (Galloway) river systems and their catchments.

The 80 year old hydro-electric scheme restricts the migration of salmon upstream. Modifications could be carried out to improve the system for salmon, but they would be expensive. The Water Framework Directive allows the benefits - in this case renewable energy- of heavily modified water bodies to be taken into account. 

‘Appendices to the 2015 update to the river basin management plan for the Solway Tweed river basin district’ - Appendix 8.1, p. 51, explains the current situation.

Where restoring the water bodies to good ecological status would significantly compromise the benefits Scotland obtains from their modifications, we have designated them as heavily modified water bodies. Instead of good ecological status, our goal for these water bodies is to achieve good ecological potential. Good ecological potential is the ecological quality that can be achieved without a significant adverse impact on the benefits served by the modifications, including benefits to environmental interests, such as wildlife conservation.

In other words, even if it was possible to eradicate signal crayfish from the Ken/Dee river system, it would still only achieve ‘good ecological potential’ because it would remain a heavily modified water body. Likewise, an extensive programme of trapping, as proposed in 2009, might reduce the numbers of signal crayfish in Loch Ken, but the costs would be excessive for a heavily modified water body.

On the other hand, Loch Ken is a highly popular visitor destination for coarse fishing, sailing, wind-surfing, water-skiing and canoeing. All of these activities have the potential to allow the spread of signal crayfish to other locations. Loch Ken has been targeted by notices and information about the UK wide ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign which is designed to limit the spread of invasive non- native species. http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/ 

However, while the Loch Ken Management Committee agree that biosecurity is important, they do not want create a message that the loch is ‘closed for business’ which would discourage visitors. During the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis, access to the countryside in Dumfries and Galloway was effectively banned which had a major negative impact on tourism.

Monday, August 01, 2016

In Search of Space-the Hawkwind Log

August 1972. Silver Machine by Hawkwind had been released 8 June and by July it had reached number 3 in the UK charts. I didn’t buy the single, but I remember going to visit my school friend Iain MacDonald at the Kings Arms Hotel in Castle Douglas which his parents then owned. I was still a glam fan, listening to T Rex and Bowie and Slade. But Iain had the first Black Sabbath album, Aqualung by Jethro Tull and In Search of Space by Hawkwind, recorded in 1971. A few weeks later Iain sold the Hawkwind album to me for £2.50. He played the Sabbath and Tull albums and then the Hawkwind one.

While it was playing I read the 24 page Hawkwind Logbook which came with the album. Without exaggeration it was a life changing moment. I had just started reading science fiction. J G Ballard’s short story ’The Terminal Beach’ in an sf short story collection is the one I recall most vividly, an account of a typical Ballard subject wandering among the ruins of a nuclear test site on a Pacific island. I may or may not have already started reading Michael Moorcock’s pulp fictions.

What blew my not quite 14 year old mind away was the combination of the psychedelic space rock music on In Search of Space and the Bob Calvert/ Barney Bubbles text and images of the Hawkwind logbook. The entries in the log, all dated, mix past, present and future. It begins with part of Michael Moorcock’s ‘The Black Corridor’, and goes on to include a whole range of alternative/counterculture references, from the magical and mystical to the political and ecological, filtered through acid inspired science fiction.

 It is not possible to pick out individual entries in the Log to illustrate. The Log plus music are a totality, a complete and complex ‘situation’ which is too information rich to be compressed. What the complex totality did for me was inspire an interest in the alternative/counterculture which has lasted 44 years. It even influenced my understanding of punk. In the extremely hot summer of 1976 I visited London and wandered around the Notting Hill/ Ladbroke Grove haunts of Hawkwind. When White Riot by the Clash was released in 1977, I was able to connect its references to the 1976 Notting Hill carnival riot to a place I knew and so realise the contemporary relevance of punk - which I might otherwise have missed.

And finally… here is what I encountered all the years ago - the music and the text/images. Enjoy

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The railway that went the wrong way

Caledonian train on Portpatrick railway circa 1880 near Gatehouse station- 6 miles from the town it served

The railway that went the wrong way

The British and Irish Grand Junction Railway was proposed in April 1856 and approved by Parliament in August 1857 as the Portpatrick Railway. But as early as August 1856 it was argued that Cairnryan near Stranraer not Portpatrick should be the line’s terminus. It was also argued between 1856 and 1858 that the line should be routed via Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright.

Neither of these proposals were accepted and the railway was built to a port only suitable for sailing ships following the route of a stage coach road surveyed by Thomas Telford in 1809. By 1864, only two years after the line reached Portpatrick, the railway was running at a loss. It was leased to the Caledonian Railway which developed Stranraer as a successful ferry port.

Stranraer’s success was based on long distance traffic but the railway failed to stimulate the local economy. In 1851, the population of Galloway was 86 510. By 1961 it had fallen to 57 984. The lack of local traffic on the railway that went the wrong way made its closure in 1965 almost inevitable. Note: a petition for re-opening can be signed here

Dr Beeching
In June 1965, the railway between Dumfries and Stranraer and a branch line from Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright were closed. A freight only branch from Newton Stewart to Wigtown and Whithorn had been closed the year before.

The closure of these lines had been proposed in the 1963 report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ by Dr Richard Beeching. Beeching’s argument was that competition from the road network since 1952 meant that large parts of Britain’s Victorian railway network were no longer economically viable.

From 'The Reshaping of British Railways, 1963

Pressure from businessmen and politicians in Northern Ireland kept the line from Ayr to Stranraer open for overnight/sleeper services to and from London. This service was seen as vital for Northern Ireland in the days before air travel became the preferred option.

The early use of roll-on/ roll-off vehicle ferries on the Stranraer/Larne route, despite the tragic loss of the Princess Victoria in 1953 (built in 1947),  helped to draw traffic away from the railway and onto the A 75 and A 77 roads. Unfortunately this exacerbated a problem which had been identified even before the railway was built.

The Short-Sea Crossing
The Portpatrick Railway, as the company which built the  line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer and Portpatrick was called was planned as a strategic route to take advantage of the 21 mile short-sea crossing from Portpatrick to Donaghadee in Ireland. From 1662 until 1849, Portpatrick had been the port used by the Royal Mail service to Ireland. By 1838, 8000 to 10 000 letters per day were passing through Portpatrick. Scottish mail was carried by daily by coach from Glasgow and the English mails by coach from Dumfries.

But in 1850 the railway network reached Holyhead in Wales with a 22 hour steamer service to Kingstown ( Dún Laoghaire) for Dublin. This then became the preferred Royal Mail route to Ireland and the Portpatrick- Donaghadee route was dropped.

But in 1856, the UK Treasury hinted that if Portpatrick and Donaghadee were to be connected to the British and Irish rail networks, then they would once more become the main Royal Mail ports for the Irish mail service.

The Short Railway Route
The Portpatrick Railway was planned to achieve this financially lucrative objective. Its main promoters, lord Dalrymple, heir to the earl of Stair and William Dunbar of Mochrum, had little interest in local traffic and so civil engineer Benjamin Blythe came up with the shortest possible route between Castle Douglas and Portpatrick.

The original plan involved a direct line from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a freight branch but this was overturned at a meeting of shareholders held in Newtown Stewart in September 1856 (H Thorne, ‘Rails to Portpatrick’, 1976, p.4).

The original route of the railway between Glenluce and Portpatrick
would have followed the 'New Intended Road' shown on this 1821 map.

Unfortunately, the  Portpatrick company refused to budge on another part of Benjamin Blyth’s proposed route. This took the railway north from Castle Douglas to Parton and then west through the Galloway hills to Creetown. An alternative route, which would have taken the railway via Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown was rejected in 1857. A similar route which would have taken in Kirkcudbright as well was rejected in 1858.

The sensible argument that the alternative route would increase local traffic on the route and make it more financially viable were loftily dismissed on the grounds that the Portpatrick was a national rather than a local railway.

Alternative route as proposed 1856

Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser
21 January 1857. Part of surveyors report on alternative route.

Alternative route as proposed and rejected in 1858

The line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer was opened in 1861 at a cost of £290 000. Although work had begun on the last 7 miles to Portpatrick in 1858, the work was not completed until 1862, at a cost of £70 000. The delay was due to the government, having spent £500 000 on improvements to Portpatrick harbour, being unwilling to commit to further work.

In 1864, despite the railway reaching Portpatrick and Donaghadee also having a rail link, the Postmaster General informed the Treasury that the Holyhead route would keep the Royal Mail contract ‘for the foreseeable future’. (MacHaffie, ‘Portpatrick to Donghadee’, 2001p. 65)

The Portpatrick company had gambled -and lost. In 1864, the Portpatrick Railway leased its track and rolling stock to the Caledonia Railway for 21 years. In 1868 the Portpatrick harbour branch was closed. Under Caledonia management, Stranraer was developed as a successful ferry port. When the lease expired in 1885, the Portpatrick was taken over by a partnership of the Caledonian, Glasgow and South Western, London and North Western and Midland railway companies. In 1923 the London Midland and Scottish railway absorbed the Portpatrick and other railways in south-west Scotland. After nationalisation in 1948, British Railways took over until closure in 1965.

The history of the Dumfries to Stranraer line and its branches has been the subject of three books:
David Smith ‘The Little Railways of South-West Scotland’ (1967)
H D Thorne ‘Rails to Portpatrick’ (1976)
C E J Fryer ‘The Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railways’ (1991).

Fraser G MacHaffie ‘Portpatrick to Donaghadee -The Original Short Sea Crossing’ (2001) provides vital background information missing from the railway focused books.

The Cairnryan Railway?
Today, both P & O and Stena ferries are based at Cairnryan. Remarkably,
MacHaffie reveals that even as the Portpatrick Railway company was being formed in the summer of 1856, the steamer Semaphore arrived at Cairnryan on 11 August 1856 with members of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and leading Belfast businessmen. This group met members of the railway company committee and suggested to them that Cairnryan should become the departure point for Belfast and the proposed railway’s destination. The railway company replied that the line to Portpatrick had to be built first before other possibilities could be explored. (MacHaffie, p. 62)

MacHaffie also describes successive, failed, attempts to improve the harbour at Portpatrick, from John Smeaton’s plans drawn up in 1768 to Thomas Telford’s proposals in 1809 and John Rennie’s more detailed plan drawn up in 1819.

Beginning in 1821, work on Rennie’s plan continued until 1836, but after storm damage in 1839, it was left unfinished. As MacHaffie notes
It is doubtful if Portpatrick Harbour, even if completed could have done the job. It was designed with sailing ships in mind and we must question John Rennie’s claims, as late as 1842, that the original plans required no modification to accommodate steamships. (p. 31)
Rennie made the claims at Parliamentary Select Committee hearing where Captain George Evans of the Royal Navy said attempts to make the harbour safe were ‘a useless expense, just the same as throwing the money in the sea’.

By 1856, it should have been clear to lord Dalrymple, William Dunbar and others involved in promoting the Portpatrick Railway that Stranraer or Cairnryan were the future and Portpatrick was the past. 

Telford’s Shortest Road
Unfortunately their focus on the past carried over into the route chosen for the railway. In 1809, as well as making recommendations for the improvement of Portpatrick harbour, Thomas Telford also sketched out the route of a road from Gretna Portpatrick which would be 15 miles shorter than the existing Old Miltary Road, constructed in 1764/5. In 1811, John Rennie made a more detailed survey of part of Telford’s proposed road. In 1821, John Ainslie showed the route of the proposed road on his map of Southern Scotland. The map can be seen here.

Ainslie’s map shows the proposed road cutting across the head of Luce Bay directly from Glenluce to Portpatrick. It also shows the road running inland from Creetown towards Parton and on to the pick up the route of the present day A 75 at Auchenreoch Loch.

As discussed above, Thorne (1976, p.4) noted, the original route of the Portpatrick Railway would also have run direct from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a branch line. But what neither Thorne nor Smith and Fryer realised in their accounts of the Portpatrick Railway was that the Creetown to Parton section of the route also followed the Telford/Rennie road as shown by Ainslie.

'Intended Road' John Ainslie, 1821

Route of railway as built 1861

This is Rennie’s 1811 description of the road route, which precisely matches the Portpatrick Railway route.

The new Road is proposed to depart from the Road leading from Newton Stewart to Cree Town about three quarters of a mile west of the latter place, and from thence it proceeds up the vale of the Money Pool Burn to Drumore. The highest part of the ground in this district is about 462 feet above the Newton, Stewart Road, and is about six miles distant from it the rise is very regular, and in no place will it be greater than one foot in 35 ; but generally the rise is not half of that quantity. 
 A new Road is now making in this direction, and indeed a great part of it has already been made. It has however been badly laid out, and will require to be altered in several places. 
From this summit, the Road descends gently to Drumore east of which it crosses the great Fleet River, and then ascends up a vale to the ridge of high ground between thence and the little Fleet, the highest part of which is 428 feet, and no part is the rise more than one in 39. From the Little Fleet, the line of Road runs to Loch Skerrow and skirting the south side of that Loch, it descends gradually to Stroan Loch: the steepest part is about one in 38.

The line of Road must necessarily cross the Dee, near the place where it comes out of the Loch, and in this place a Bridge will be required, where the Dee is small; and Mr. Morrison informs me that the situation is favourable. From this place, Mr. Morrison has surveyed two lines, the one to pass down the Vale of the Dee and cross Loch Kenn at the Boat or Ferry of Roan; the other, to recross the Dee at Newbridge, and pass down the South side of the Vale to Loup Eye, and there to cross Loch Kenn. 

At the former place the water of Loch Kenn is deep, but the channel is much narrower than at Loup Eye : it cannot be conveniently Crossed, unless by a Bridge of one Arch, which will require to be 180 feet span; this can easily be done economically by a cast-iron arch, and even with such an arch the expense will be great, amounting, as per annexed Estimate, to £ 14,201. This is far beyond what I expected it would cost; but much of the expense arises from the badness of the foundations, all of which will require to be piled…

So when E and B Blyth of Edinburgh were drawing up their plans for the Portpatrick Railway between June and September 1856 they used Ainslie’s 1821 map and simply copied from it, making the new railway follow the route of a road first proposed 49 years earlier by Thomas Telford. 

What might have been
If the opponents of the Portpatrick Railway’s route had known this, it would have strengthen their case for taking the railway via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse to Creetown rather than by Crossmichael, Parton and the Galloway hills.  Furthermore if Stranraer / Cairnryan not Portpatrick had been chosen as the terminus of the route the overall cost of the new railway would have been dramatically reduced.

A Lochryan Railway, routed via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse as well as Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas, would have placed the most populous and prosperous parts of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on a main line of communication between England and Ireland. This would have added extra income from local traffic to the railway and promoted the growth Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse.

Potentially then, by the 1960s, the economic and social value of the railway would have been significant enough for it to successfully resist the sharp edge of Dr Beeching’s axe.