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Scottish Cloth

The manufacture of cloth from flax is of very ancient date, and towards the close of the 16th century Scottish linen cloths were largely exported to foreign countries, as well as to England. Regulations in regard to the manufacture were passed in 1641 and 1661. In a petition presented to the privy council in 1684, complaining of the severe treatment of Scotsmen selling linen in England, it was stated that 12,000 persons were engaged in the manufacture.

Through the intercession of the secretary of state with the king these restrictions were removed. Further to encourage the trade it was enacted in 1686 that the bodies of all persons, excepting poor tenants and cotters, should be buried in plain linen only, spun and made within the kingdom. The act was renewed in 1693 and 1695, and in the former year another act was passed prohibiting the export of lint and permitting its import free of duty.

At the time of the Union the annual amount of linen cloth manufactured in Scotland is supposed to have been about i,5oo,ooo yards. The Union gave a considerable impetus to the manufacture, as did also the establishment of the Board of Manufactures in 1727, which applied an annual sum of 2650 pounds to its encouragement, and in 1729 established a colony of French Protestants in Edinburgh, on the site of the present Picardy Place, to teach the spinning and weaving of cambric.

From the 1st of November 1727 to the 1st of November 1728 the amount of linen cloth stamped was 2,183,978 yds, valued at £103,312, but for the year ending the 1st of November 1822, when the regulations as to the inspection and stamping of linen ceased, it had increased to 36,268,530 yds, valued at £1,396,296.

The counties in which the manufacture was most largely carried on were Forfar, Perth, Fife and Aberdeen, but Renfrew, Lanark, Edinburgh and Ayr were also extensively associated with it. Dundee is the principal seat of the coarser fabrics, Dunfermline of the table and other finer linens, while Paisley is widely known for its sewing threads. The allied industry of jute was the staple industry of Dundee. In 189o the number employed in the linen industry was 34,222, which had declined in 1901 to 23,570. In 1890 the operatives in the jute and hemp industry numbered 39,885, and in 1901 they were (including workers in canvas, sacking, sailcloth, rope, twine, mats, cocoa fibre) 46,550.

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