Thomas Wilson

(retired surveyor for midlothian, visited mills professionally)

2002/115 Thomas Wilson interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 29/11/2002

Mr Wilson is a retired surveyor for Midlothian Council, he visited the mills on the Water of Leith professionally until the mid 1980s

This interview contains a lengthy description of plans of mills on the Water of Leith.

000 Trainee in Dunbarton who moved to Midlothian. Served in the forces and made senior valuer in Midlothian. Area valuer then depute assessor.

023 First introduction to the mills was living in Currie and the smell of the esparto grass boiling. Orientate yourself by the mill chimney. Houses owned by the mill. Mill engineer bought mill houses after the mill close. 6 houses in Kinleith grounds.

064 Blinkbonny village was populated by workers from the papermill and the quarry. Harlaw Road had mill houses such as Piano Row.

085 No sound coming off the mill. Chimney high at Kinleith and came up from down in the valley.

106 Assessor fixes ratable value. Dealt with houses, businesses etc. Valuing the right to shoot, University property. 1955 mill housing. Jurisdiction. Mill started to modernise. EFTA; Sweden could produce cheaper.

162 Britain moved to woodpulp too late. Did not have integrated process. Machines were ratable.

198 Checked buildings, esparto sheds were 80ft high. Mills valued on cost to replace. Allowances for evaluation. Investment in mills came too late.

232 Average person working there not that aware of the decline. Family will put up with the bad times. International company will cut their losses and get out. Kinleith owned by Inveresk and they decided to keep the Fife mill.

270 Going round Woodhall on the day they found out it was closing. Workers thought they were asset stripping. Unpleasant as workers had found out at 11am that they were going to close. Cost of raw material was high. Difficult to compete with Germany.

303 Engineers aware of problems because people would ask them to speed up machines and increase efficiency. Galloways at Bavelaw Burn. Had bore holes and they were ratable. 2 or 3 bore holes: chalky ground and chalky water.

329 Woodhall wanted reduction in valuation. Took water from the river. Waste products went into sewer. Seafield charged for waste, took samples and mill charged. Court cases about charges; assessor was successful. Once a valuation fixed can only be a change if a material set of circumstances changed the value.

360 Purification plants, float wash machine shook everything and took back solid matter into the papermaking process.

377 Involved in Kinleith after the closure, bought by Stevie Dalton who let out the industrial area. Chimney demolished, could see it slowly coming down.

407 Chimney red brick, very prominent. Railway to Balerno which ran past mill. Sidings into the mill. Balerno High School was the railway depot.

420 Showing plans of the mill at Juniper Green showing the narrow site. Mass of different types of buildings. Public right of way. Salle was overhanging the river. Machine was on 2 stories. Distribution separate and difficult access to the mill.

461 Lorries back into troughs where wheelbarrows could load things into. Difficult with forklift trucks. Close to boundary with Edinburgh. Steam turbine generated too much energy so they sold it to the electricity board.

506 No other mills were as restricted geographically as Woodhall. Plane of Kinleith showing hairpin bends. Demolition of Kinleith and break up into industrial units all owned by Stevie Dalton, scrap merchant.

542 Balerno Bank Mill buildings that still exist. Terraced row of flats. Description of area around Balerno Bank.

572 Smith and Saunders motor and coal business used to be located at railway station but moved into mill building.

579 Plan of Woodhall with disused railway and chimney.

612 To assess a mill length of time: 2 days to assess Woodhall but this was once measurement of everything had been done once.

649 Temperature at mill, snow on ground so glasses steamed up when you went into machine house. Never wore protective clothing.

671 Dirty job, wore walking boots and a parka. Man he worked with wore a boiler suit and would take it off when he went for lunch.

696 Frost was good time to survey as it was not muddy. Papermaking room boiling but esparto sheds were not heated.

723 Mill houses at entrance of mill at Balerno Bank

734 Woodhall plan to build loading bay. Cottages to be demolished. Dimensions of mill. Application for change of use of building. Discontinued loading bays.

849 Surviving information from assessors office. Site went along railway and access was difficult. Site plan for warehouse.

872 Plan of new boilerhouse at Woodhall. Veitch's nursery and market garden. Building at Woodhall short of space.

897 Warehouse and mill separate.

900 When Woodhall closed end of an industry. People chose to stay in the mill for a long time.

919 Community spirit round the mill. Newtongrange pit village, very socially structured. Managers and owners lived on site or well away. When moved to Currie in 1962 was an incomer. Social activities; no clubs but would go to same pub. Gala days not a mill thing when he started. Balerno still had a gala; shoed horses in the street.

968 Survey of Hermiston village during Suez Crisis; farm workers in war and still in the reservists. Tithed houses and wives still worked the fields getting the harvest in.

983 Changes; roundabout at Riccarton and farmhouse. Itinerant labour.

986 End

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