During the Industrial Revolution, Blairgowrie & Rattray was a bustling centre of the textile industry, first spinning flax, then jute and latterly rayon.
The town was already a centre of the hand-spinning industry before the arrival of the mechanised jute and flax mills powered by the Ericht and the Lornty Burn from the late eighteenth century and today, the master craftsman and weaver Ashleigh Slater continues this ancient craft from his studio in the centre of the town.
You can hear Ashleigh talking about his work in the short film below.
And you can hear the Jute Mill Song, by Mary Brooksbank, sung by Aileen Ogilvie below.
Mary was an extraordinary women who worked in the Mills of Dundee all her life. A socialist, trade unionist and active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, she spent three periods in prison as a result of her campaigning activities. She is remembered today as a prominent figure in Dundee’s labour movement, founding the Working Women Guild to fight for better health and services in Dundee. A musician and poet too, The Jute Mill song became her most famous.
Oh dear me, the muhlls gaen fest
The puir wee shufters cannae get a rest Shuftin boabbins coorse and fine
They fairly mak ye work for yer ten an nine.
Oh dear me, I wish the day wis done
Rinnin up an doon the pass isnae ony fun Shuftin, piecin, spinnin, warp, weft and twine Tae feed and cled ma bairnie affen ten and nine.
Oh dear me, the world’s ill divided
Them that works the hardest are aye wi least provided But I maun bide contented, dark days or fine
But there’s no much pleasure livin affen ten an nine.