Of Agriculture, Trade, Diseases, Poor, State of Religion, Sepulchral Monuments, &c., Part I., pp.180-190.

[History of Rutherglen Contents]

INSURMOUNTABLE obstacles, both from the soil and climate, will always obstruct agricultural improvements in this parish. Nearly three-fourths of the arable land is composed of a stiff clayey soil, generally incumbent on till, a substance greatly unfavourable for vegetation: it is likewise, in most place, very much exposed to under-water, and is commonly known by the terms cold and sour.1 Many things highly unfavourable to the progress of agriculture naturally arise from such a soil. The season is far advanced before the ground is sufficiently dry to admit the plough: the seed, after being sown, sometimes rots before it has time to vegetate; and not unfrequently the surface of the ground, after seed-time, cakes to such a degree of hardness, especially in a great drought after heavy rain, that the tender blade cannot get through. In this case the incrustation might be reduced by the harrow; but this method, so far as I know, is not practised. The only preventive against this evil, is to give the land what is called a rough mould, that is, breaking it, in time of harrowing, into pieces about the bigness of a hen’s egg.

THE unfavourable state of the soil is, in some measure, owing to the climate, which, in the exposed situation of Kilbride, is cold and wet. The frost sets in very early in Autumn, and continues late in Spring. The ploughing season usually begins about the middle of March, and the seed is commonly sown about the second week of April. 

BESIDES the soil and climate, there are other circumstances which greatly retard the progress of agriculture. The roads, in general, are in a bad condition: and the farmer complains that he cannot find a sufficient quantity of proper manure. But rooted prejudices in favour of old customs is, perhaps, of all others the greatest obstruction. 

THE grievance arising from the soil may, in a considerable degree, be removed by drains, properly directed through the wet land. To this the farmer has every inducement from favourable declivities in almost every field in the parish. But unhappily very little attention is paid to this mode of improvement. Most of the lands about Kittochside must, however, be excepted. About 20 years ago [1773], John Reid of Castlehill, Esq; began to drain his lands. His ditches are about 20 inches wide, and 36 deep. In the bottom he makes a drain with two rows of stones laid parallel to one another, at the distance of about 3 inches, and as much in height: over these he places another row, taking care to lay the stones in such a way that they cannot easily be misplaced. All the stones are gathered from the land. These, being of a roundish shape, he prefers to flags, set on edge either perpendicularly, or in a triangular position. Above this concealed drain he throws a layer of small stones, and covers the whole with earth so deep as to admit the plough. Experience hath taught him that drains made, as above described, answer the purpose extremely well; and of these he is not sparing. In one field, not exceeding 5 acres, the drains are so numerous that 2000-cart-load of stones were not more than sufficient for making them. The expences, howwever, (which were estimated at four-pence per fall) were nearly repaid by the additional increase of the first year’s crop. The advantages arising from this practice are so obvious, that most of his neighbours are now following his example. It may justly be remarked, that the parish can never admit of any high degree of improvement, unless a great part of it is gone over in a similar manner. 

THE evils arising from bad roads are now, in some measure, removed, by the generous assistance and extensive influence of the Torrance family. Two turnpike roads were, in 1791, drawn through the parish; the one leading from Glasgow to London, by Muirkirk, Dumfries, Carlisle, &c. and the other from Ayrshire to Edinburgh, by Eaglesham, Blantyre, Hamilton, &c. In consequence of this, the statute work, which is now chiefly converted into money, will be laid out on private roads. 

BUT a long course of time will probably elapse before the other obstacles are removed. The want of proper manure is, no doubt, a great hinderance to the progress of agriculture. Although the parish abounds with lime, which fertilizes the whole country round, yet that useful material is thought to be lost when laid on the lands in Kilbride. It is imagined that lime is of no service, but rather a hurt, to land incumbent on limestone. This, without all question, is ill-founded. It is likewise said, and indeed with some degree of truth, that when lime is thrown upon clay ground of a wet spouty nature, it sinks too far below the surface, and is lost: and that, if the ground is strong enough to suspend it, the fertilizing particles are carried away by heavy rains. Both these objections will be effectually removed by properly draining the land. 

PREJUDICES in favours of old customs obstinately oppose improvements in agriculture. The old method of croping land continues in not a few places. According to this, the farm is divided into Croft, and Outfield land. The method for a clay soil is, to divide the croft into three parts, to be cropt every year according to the following succession. 1. Oats; 2. pease or beans; 3. bear, laid down with all the dung raised on the farm; and the ground prepared by two ploughings, the first in March, and the second in May. The outfield land, which receives no dung, is laid out in two divisions, each of which, in rotation, is cropt two years with oats; and pastured two, with natural grass. – The method for a light soil is, to divide the croft into four parts, and to crop as follows. 1. Oats; 2. pease or beans; 3. pasture; 4. bear, laid down with dung. the outfield land is divided into two parts, each cropt with oats two years, and pastured three. 

THIS old method is going out of practice. The most approved one substituted in its place is, to divide the farm, without the distinction of croft and outfield, into nine parts, which are laid under the following rotation. 

THE first and second years, oats: third, barley: fourth and fifth, hay: and the remaining four, pasture. 

ALL the dung produced on the farm is laid down for the barley, along with which the grasses are sown. Beans or pease are frequently substituted in place of oats, the first year, especially in a stiff soil; and oats in place of barley, the third year, the barley crop being precarious. When lime is used, it is commonly spread hot on the ground, about mid-summer, in the third or fourth year of pasture. One defect, in the above method, seems to be a total want of summer-fallow. This is owing to a common notion, that the land, is exposed to new surfaces, during Summer, is much injured. Wheat is objected to, because it is greatly exposed, in Winter and Spring, to frequent frosts, and heavy rains. Not a few allow the ground to lie under natural grass, from a belief, that rye-grass purges the land. This objection will be removed by sowing, along with rye, a proper quantity of clover, and other plants; whose broad leaves cover the surface of the ground, and thereby hinder the rays of the sun from scorching it. The greatest part of the soil of Kilbride, if left without artificial grasses, is a long time, after ploughing, before it acquires a good sward; and when it does, the natural grasses are not all of the best kind. Carexes, rushes, mosses, &c. bear a considerable proportion to the poas, clovers, plantains, and some other indigenous plants that are good for pasture. It must, however, be observed, that almost all the soils in the parish naturally produce several excellent vetches, as the Vicia Cracca, tufted vetch; V. Sepium, bush vetch; Lathyrus Pratensis, yellow vetchling, &c. This species of the Lathyrus, which, in some places, is now in high repute among the cultivated leguminous plants, grows in great perfection, not only in the stiffest soil in the parish, but likewise in the till that is thrown out of the lime-quarries, even almost as soon as it is pulverized. The roots spread themselves very copiously in the earth, and penetrates the stiffest clay; for which reason it may be called the fertilizer of untoward soils. These circumstances, for nature is the parent of agricultural improvements, should induce farmers to pay attention to this wholesome plant. 

LINT is cultivated in almost every farm, for the use of the family; but the quantity is small; the crops precarious; and the quality, in general, bad. 

NO plant is in greater cultivation and use than the Potatoe. To fatten cows with this root, is a practice that has of late got into the parish; and in this the farmer believes he finds his profit. 

A few trials have been made to raise Turnips, but, for want of success, the practice has been discontinued. 

FROM the present state of the soil, and the rains it is calculated to produce, it is easy to perceive, that the more highly improved instruments of agriculture will be of small utility. the common Scots plough, or the Roman plough, as it is here sometimes called, is in general use; and is always wrought with four horses. A trial was lately made on Bakewell’s small wheel plough; but the height of the ridges and the stiff soil were irresistible obstacles to its utility. Other implements of husbandry are nearly in the same state here as in the west of Scotland. There was not, about 70 years ago, a wheel Cart in the parish, and very few sledges. The roads were so bad as not easily to admit of either. Lime, coals, &c. were carried on horseback; and a few stone weight constituted a load. The first cart in the parish was, soon after it was made, employed in carrying a few coals from Cambuslang. Crowds of people went out to see the wonderful machine: they looked on with surprise, and returned home with astonishment. 

THE farmers have, of late, paid particular attention to the management of milk cows, the offspring of an excellent breed introduced into the parish, about 40 years ago, by the late Patrick Graham of Limekilns, Esq; This worthy gentleman procured the first of the breed from a bull that belonged to the late Colin Rae of Little Govan, Esq; but the cows were of the common indigenous kind. The bull was originally of the breed that has long been reared in the parishes of Dunlop and Stewartoun, and which is now known by the name of the Ayrshire breed. With respect to its origin the common account is, that, about a century ago [1673], the farmers in Dunlop were at great pains to improve the original breed of the country, by paying strict attention to the marks which their experience had led them to make of a good milk cow. Proceeding agreeably to a well known fact that takes place in some tribes of quadrupeds, namely, that the breed improves, or degenerates, according to the good or bad qualities of the male, they singled out, and carefully reared the most promising bull-calves. the consequence was, that the breed improved daily, and is now unequalled by any in Scotland. The marks of a good milk cow are the following: The body is commonly of a brown colour, the face and belly white: the horns small and equally curved inward, and slightly tipped with black: the head little, and the mouth small: the legs short, and the belly big: the veins on the belly large size, having the mammæ inclining a little outward: some few are Mull-eared, that is, having the ears notched at the top: the weight is commonly from 18 to 24 stone, Tron. Cows possessed of these properties, and fed in the rich pastures of Dunlop, Stewartoun, and some other places in the county of Ayr, yield, per diem, at an average, each 12 pints of milk, Scots measure. The milk is peculiarly rich, and is mostly made into sweet milk cheese, which, for toasting, is surpassed by none in the world. The superior quality of the milk is, no doubt, owing partly to the fine pasture on which the fields are closely mantled over, consist principally of the Anthoxanthum Odoratum, sweet scented vernal grass; Holcus Lanatus, meadow soft grass; Cynosurus Cristatus, crested dog-tail grass; Poa Trivialis, common meadow grass; Bellis Perennis, daisy, or gowan; Trifolium Repens, white clover; Lathyrus Pratensis, yellow vetch; and a small mixture of the Ranunculus Repens, creeping crowfoot, or crowtoes; Achillea Millefolium, yarrow, or hundered leaved grass; Plantago Lanceolata, ribwort; and some other plants not rejected by cows. The fields are, early in Spring, covered with a beautiful verdure. this continues till about the end of May, when the gowan covers them with a snowy whiteness. The flowers of this plant, equally with the leaves, are greedily devoured by cows; and are believed to produce, in abundance, milk of a most exquisitely fine quality. The gowan is followed by the white clover; successive crops of which continue till the end of the season. Even in Winter, the ground being kept dry, the verdure is uncommon. The grasses are seldom allowed to rise high, but they are extremely close, and continue succulent all the year round. the farmer is at pains to promote the luxuriant growth of these excellent grasses. The succession of crops is, in general, the following. 1. Oats; 2. oats; 3. oats, laid down with rye and a little soft grass: next year hay; and then 7 or 8 years pasture, of which the last crop is reckoned the best. The crops of oats are commonly very heavy. As the land is dry it is never poached by the cattle. From 16 to 22 milk cows are generally kept on a plough of land; the milk of each cow producing, at an average, 20 stone wt. of cheese, or 10 stone of butter, yearly. The land rents from 15, to 20 shillings per acre. 

THE produce in Kilbride is not so great. The grass, in general, is too coarse, and scanty; and the ground too wet, for the cows to yield more than an ordinary quantity of milk. From 8 to 12 cows are generally kept on a plough of land, and the milk produced is mostly made into sweet milk cheese, which, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, is sold under the name of Dunlop cheese. Each farm produces, at an average, about 100 stone weight yearly. The annual product, therefore, may amount to about 11100 stone weight, which, at 7s. per stone, comes nearly to 4000l.

1  The term sour is, in Scotland, usually applied to a cold, and wet soil; and conveys the idea of viscidity, which, in some cases, is a concomitant of fermentation. In this sense it is far from being improper.

One thought on “Of Agriculture, Trade, Diseases, Poor, State of Religion, Sepulchral Monuments, &c., Part I., pp.180-190.

  1. Very very interesting Jenny.

    The farmer next to us spent a lot of money two years ago trying to bring a field back into production.

    He drained it, limed it, ploughed and planted. He got a reasonable hay harvest last summer.

    However, with winter the grass stops growing and the rushes (threshes) are back almost all over the field.

    They are a curse here.

    We gets lots of goverment boddies going about involved in the protection of geese, newets, other insects and flowers. When you ask about rushes, they are not interested.

    We can’t eat protected species and we cant afford to fight rushes without goverment help.

    For central Scotland, its bewildering how bad the soil is and there is no goverment motivation to help improve it.

    I’ll send you a photo of “rushes galore” hundreds of acres of the stuff less that 20 minutes from Glasgow 35 from Edinburgh. Oh, its owned by England’s rspb.

    I experimented on a rush on the lawn. Grass seed killed it. Grass seed costs money so applying it to hundreds of acres would be very costly.

    I believe that in the 1800’s farmers harvested the threshes as bedding. Don’t know why that practice stopped?


    ⁣Sent from Blue ​

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