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Meg O’ The Mill

It was Burns Night last night, so it seemed appropriate to start this week’s blog with a poem by Robert Burns himself:

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O ken ye what Meg o’ the Mill has gotten? 
An’ ken ye what Meg o’ the Mill has gotten? 
She gotten a coof wi’ a claute o’ siller, 
And broken the heart o’ the barley Miller!

The Miller was strappin, the Miller was ruddy, 
A heart like a lord, and a hue like a lady. 
The laird was a widdifu’, bleerit knurl –
She’s left the guid fellow, and taen the churl!

The Miller, he hecht her a heart leal and loving, 
The laird did address her wi’ matter more moving; 
A fine pacing-horse wi’ a clear chained bridle, 
A whip by her side, and a bonie side-saddle!

O, wae on the siller – it is sae prevailing! 
And wae on the love that is fixed on a mailen! 
A tocher’s nae word in a true lover’s parl, 
But gie me my love and a fig for the warl!

So Meg O’ the Mill broke the heart of the good Miller and instead chose the rascally laird; the good fellow was now only left with his mill. This poem was written in 1793, but if the miller had been living 100 years later he could have consoled himself by buying some new machinery as the roller mill revolution swept the world. Scotland was not immune to this ‘revolution’ and many mills there converted to this new roller mill system.

One such example was the Riverside Milling Company Ltd. in Glasgow. In March 1910, The Miller published a report from when they visited the mill after the new installations by Henry Simon Ltd., whose company history is now available on the website, had taken place.

The mill was located next to a railway siding and had an intake plant of 30 tons per hour. After viewing the intake plant and the cleaning department, with a 40 sacks per hour ‘Simon’ washer, stoner and whizzer, the visitors moved onto the mill itself. Here they viewed more newly installed Simon machinery over all five floors, including 41 centrifugals, 14 double “Reform” purifiers and two 4-roller mills with rolls 60 x 10.

The plant itself had been designed by Robert Brown Creak. He had started working for Henry Simon Ltd. around 1887, now, in 1910, he had just been promoted to head of the flour-milling department. The design for Riverside Milling Company would have been one of, if not the first, plant he had been solely responsible for designing. He would have been anxious to hear the verdict of the visitors from The Miller and would have been relieved to hear their complementary comments. Indeed, they wished to ‘congratulate the Riverside Milling Company on the fine mill they have secured, and which we feel sure has a successful future before it’. He may have been new to his position but Mr. Creak had clearly benefitted from his 23 years of experience with the firm and with machinery ‘built at Messrs. Simon’s own works in Lancashire’, he could hardly fail.

So mills in Scotland converted to the new roller system and benefitted from the expertise of manufacturers such as Henry Simon Ltd. Alas, if only the poor broken-hearted miller could have seen such a mill, his heart may not have been so sore!

Source:‘Riverside Milling Company Ld.’, The Miller (March 7, 1910) in the Duffield Family Collection.