MITCHELL Ian PDF Print E-mail

Ian Mitchell  - Working In The Iron Foundry, Castle Douglas  - A Look at 47 years service.
(Sadly Ian died in 2007)

I remember the date well, It was the 6th of March, 1936 that I first started work at J & R Wallace's Foundry in Cotton Street, Castle Douglas. There was no suitable public transport in those days to get one to work at 7.45 so the only way was to cycle. If the wind wasn't too fresh I could cycle the eight miles in under half an hour. Then home again at 5.30. As apprentices we had five years to serve, starting off at 7s 1d per week and rising by half-a-crown (2s 6d) each year.

Everybody joined the foundry either as apprentice turner & fitters: wheelwrights; or moulders. The holidays were two and a half days per year, without-out pay! We didn't even have Christmas Day off in those days, but then that was common for many other jobs in Scotland. We always took a packed lunch because quite often we would be away from the foundry installing or repairing equipment. The foundry men, sometimes there were as many as 60 or 70 men, would always have an hour for lunch because some of the local men would go quite a long way home to get their dinner. During one such lunch hour one of the workmen tried out his camera on us and took the picture below. I am in the centre at the top. Others in the picture cycled in from Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbright, and from all over the Stewartry. One man came from Kirkinner but it was too far to cycle daily so he lodged in town.

The foundry was established in 1876 and specialised in farming equipment. In 1908 it won a Gold Medal at the Royal Show in Newcastle for designing a mechanical manure distributor, and was the first company in the world to produce a successful pulsating milking machine. This was installed on farms throughout Britain and I remember fitting one in a farm near Rugby when a neighbouring farmer came over to watch. He was so interested that he ordered one from us and we went to his farm to get the necessary measurements. Another time I was on holiday down in Devon and the management wrote to me asking me to repair an installation on a farm at Blandford. Luckily a relative in the area had the necessary tools for me to do the job, and I was given an extra weeks' holiday for giving up my time. The milking machines would be sent on to the farms in advance then we would travel by rail with our tools, to install them.

The firm was very successful with the milking machine and we exported 40 pulsators a week to Bendix in Denmark. The foundry was able to make casting for all the various parts needed for these and other farming equipment and the wheelwrights used to make water-driven wheels to drive machines. There is still one under the pavement outside the old bakery in Auchencairn, and another at Screel House which is an overhead driven wheel.

Eventually competition from Europe made our manufacture uneconomical and the foundry was turned into agencies for various firms, Massey-Ferguson, etc. It finally closed down about ten years ago and the Co-operative bought it for their new store.

A night out in the old days usually meant a trip to Castle Douglas to Billy Slaters' Cinema, which is now the King's Arms' Car Park. Later the Palace opened on Academy Street so we then had a choice. Once a fortnight in season we would go to watch Queen of the South who were in the First Division then. The highlight was when they beat Rangers 1-0. Before I left the company I was their Salesman and the photograph below shows (1. to r.) Mr J Wallace, Sam Wilson and myself. Sam has just bought this tractor from us.