| THOMSON AND FOWLER'S POTTERIES, ETC.
These great manufacturers, for they were great in their day,
commenced business as a firm about 1750, and their works extended
almost from Ayre's Wynd on the west, to and including a considerable
portion of the present soap works on the east, and for years
gave employment to some forty or fifty men and boys. The whiteware
made here, among other items, included cups and saucers, plates,
bowls, bottles, greybeards, etc.; and while this was in full
swing, they opened in addition, along where Camperdown Villas
now stand, a very extensive brick, tile, can and drain-pipe
manufactory, and carried on their very extensive businesses
up to the beginning of the 19th century. But the stramash
came at length. Thomson had become security for Laidlaw, who
owned salt and sulphur works towards the west end of the village,
for the sum of £2000. Laidlaw came down with a crash,
and Thomson was compelled to pay up; but though he was quite
hale and healthy, the transaction so preyed upon his mind
that he took to bed and never got up again.
Watson succeeded to these great and flourishing businesses,
but they shortly after began to decay and were ultimately
given up some years previous to the middle of last century.
Rombach and Cubie's potteries closed about the end of the
Another of these old salt works, situated towards the east
end of the village, which had increased to a great extent
about the middle of the eighteenth century, gradually began
to drop off towards the end of the century making the more
common articles of commerce, and set up over its entrance
the much more imposing sign "Chemical Works: " This
got rapidly into a very extensive business. The goods manufactured
here included sulphate of soda, sulphuric, nitric, and muriatic
acids, and at one time these works in the height of their
prosperity gave employment to upwards of half a hundred men.
The first quarter of last century beheld the closing of the
gates as a chemical manufactory.
THE FRENCH INVASION SCARE.
During the early part of last century, while Napoleon was
threatening a visit to our shores and everybody were bent
defending their homes and hearths, the sailors and fishermen
here also formed themselves into a volunteer company. There
was a little compulsion in it, because the " pressgang"
were abroad, and all who did not volunteer with goodwill had
to go against their will, but all who joined the volunteer
" pykemen " or " coastguardmen " were
supplied with a government certificate insuring them against
being " pressed. " There are several of these certificates
still in the village; our gallant "pykemen, " however,
never happened to have a brush with the French.
" The quantity of soap used in a country is a guage of
its wealth and civilisation. "—BARON VON LIEBIG.
Situate in High Street and extending south to Kirk Street
are the soap works of Messrs. James Mellis and Company, founded
shortly after the stirring times of the '45, and so now making
their acquaintance with a third century. Their story tells
like a romance.
So much has soap become one of " the common things of
life " that we fail to appreciate what a boon it is.
The ancients, feeling the need of something more even than
"pure snow water, " tried "anointing with oil"
and " washing with nitre and much sope, " which
was probably some alkaline earth; and, strange to say, it
is a union of these ingredients that goes to make the soap
of to-day. Pliny writing early in the first century tells
us that the best article then known was made from the suet
of goats and beechwood ashes; and, crude though this product
must have been, there was no great improvement in the materials
or manufacture till the seventeenth century. Various reasons
are given for the slow progress made in this country. Monopolies
were granted to favourites, however incompetent, — to "
His Majesty's daily servitor, " for instance, —and no
wonder we read that there was much complaint of the quality
and the price. In these advanced times we are more free from
state monopolies, and we fail to understand legislation that
would tax a man for letting light into his house or for washing
grime from his body or clothing. But it was only in 1853 that
an excise duty, equal to the value of the article itself,
was taken off soap ! The removal of this hampering restriction
gave a great impetus to the trade, and new materials and unfettered
methods came quickly into use. This liberty the late Mr James
Mellis was not slow to put to advantage, and the results of
his _ great practical knowledge and his matured plans are
still seen in the