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May 27th 1817

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Ewen Cameron, inventor

In the second half of the 18th Century the practice of flax growing had become widely established in Scotland and with it the art of spinning and weaving. Originally the spinning was performed with the rock or distaff but gradually wheels were introduced and the production of lint yarn became a flourishing industry. When Thomas Pennant visited Scotland he remarked that “at four fairs of the year held at Kenmore above £1,600 of yarn is sold out of Breadalbane. The yarn is bought by persons who attend the fairs for that purpose and sell it again in Perth, Glasgow and other places, where it is manufactured into cloth.” 

The increase of this industry in the Highlands was helped by the enterprise of a remarkable Breadalbane native, Ewen Cameron, who invented a new machine for scutching flax which not only saved labour but produced a better product than the old hand process. He travelled all over the Highlands and is thought to have constructed about eighty mills; one at Inverar in Glenlyon was still working in 1870 and employed eleven people. Ewen also designed spinning wheels and jack-reels and helped to popularise their use among the people of Breadalbane.

Finally, he designed the first mill for shelling barley north of the Forth. This was an operation that had previously been carried out by hand in the clach-chrotain or mortar stone. His invention created so much interest that people came from all over Breadalbane to watch the new machine in action.

Ewen Cameron, who lived in Lawers, Lochtayside died in 1817 at the very ripe old age of 112.

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