Origins & History

Heritage & Museum

Clan Court & Household

University Press


Golfing Delights


Court Records

Picture Gallery

Manor of Milton Malsor
East Lodge Prestonpans
Laird of Glencairn

Shop Online

News & Email

Site News

Prestonpans and Vicinity

Cover Contents 1 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
28 30 32 33 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 64
66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 81 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 100 102
104 106 108 110 112 114 116 118 120 122 124 126 128 130 132 134 136 138 140 142
144 146 148 150 152 154 156 158 160 162 164 166 168 170 172 174 176 177 178 180
182 184 186 188 190 192 194 196 198 200 201 202 204 206 208 209 210 212 214 216
218 220 222 224 226 228 229 230 232 234 236 238 240 242 244 246 248 249 250 252
254 256 257 258 259 260 261                          

full of water. Now the work began. One of the men, laying hold of the wand at the open end, would raise it, when down went the bucket into the water at the other end. The full bucket was then raised high enough to reach his companion, who stood ready to catch and empty it into a wooden water course, through which it would run straight into the pan. The single pan, like the three-fold one already described, required to be thrice filled and thrice boiled down before a cargo of salt worth lifting could be produced. Each boiling occupied about four hours, and only one casting of salt could be taken in twenty-four hours. Up to this date the salter was paid at the rate of from 16s. to 18s. per week, with free house, coal, and salt.
In the year 1810 the late Hugh Francis Cadell made a sweeping reformation in the system hitherto pursued at Cockenzie. The old pan of 14 by 7 feet he considered by far too small, and erected a new set at 18 feet by 9. Instead of heating, as hitherto, from the sole, he introduced the brander, or furnace, beneath them. Hence the name of brander pans.
The " bucket-and-wand " was now also thrown aside, and the force pump, with its latest improvements, introduced, which proved an immense saving of labour. From this date the weekly wage System ceased, and the men were put on piecework; as. per box or cwt. was the price paid the men for the salt they turned out. Off this they had to provide and keep up a few tools, purchase all the fuel for the boiling of the pans, and provide the bullocks' blood for the purifying of the salt. The master upheld the pans, pumping gear, &c. At this period the duty on salt was 16s. per cwt.; the men, as already shown, got 2s, and the master sold it for 30s. per cwt. A few of the evils which the men had to contend with, and which at times caused not a little heartburning among them, were: —On the salt being drawn and boxed, if the salt-grieve was not at hand to let them at once get it stored in the girnal, it, being new and warm, was sure to subside, and as sure as it came to the girnal door below the level of the wood, he condemned it. The salter had to return it to the pan, refill his box, and get it passed. If the salt-grieve chanced to be in a querulous mood, he would thrust his " measuring stick" down through the box of salt, and if, through this treatment, it subsided a little, it was condemned. If the men set their box down too rashly when placing it to get measured, and it then subsided, it was condemned. If on going into the salt house after all had been passed and stored he found a few dark specks among the salt, he condemned according to his discretion, and the men were compelled to carry the salt back to the pan and reboil it. The drippings of the salt-boxes— oil of salt, it is called—were all gathered up and disposed of at the " secret" or chemical works.
The carriers who, in those days, purchased salt, as a rule paid all in copper coin, which shey brought with them in strong leather bags. Nor did they count it out by pennies, but poured it out by measure. A wooden cup, supposed to hold two shillings of this coin, was the gauge. Out of this same cup the men were paid their wages. A Copper measuring cup is still to be seen at Cockenzie.
Owing to the heavy duty payable on salt, it was, during these many years, anything but a cheap commodity, and smuggling was carried on extensively. The makers were allowed free salt, and never went home without carrying in their loose clothing a quantity of it. Their wives would then sally forth with creels on their backs, as if to sell fish, while in reality it was to dispose of the salt carried home by their husbands. Occasionally the salt grieve would have cause to complain of little salt being brought to the girnal. He would make a raid on the salt works by night, to inquire of the sailers what had become of their latest drawing. " Ah, " would be the rejoinder, " that auld jade the blude-wife (an old woman who went about seeking blood for the use of the sailers) has again deceived us. She must have got ' fou' yesterday, and brought away swine's blude instead of bullock's; and, ye ken, the saut winna purify if there's ony grease in it; and, ye ken, ye winna pass it if there be ony impurities in it; so there's our latest drawing in the pan before ye boiling over again "—while all the time the latest drawing would be snug in a boat rowing fast up the Firth for disposal in Leith or Edinburgh.
Sandy Hewit of Cockenzie is said to have been one of the most accomplished salt smugglers that ever plied the trade at Cockenzie. Sandy played a great part in the boat loads that were rowed up the Forth, and did a roaring trade on his " own hook " besides. He could baffle both gauger and salt-grieve with the greatest ease, and many a load went out of the salt work before they detected his secret. A bag full of salt would be standing in a corner ready for despatch, when his eye would catch a glimpse of the gauger on his stealthy way over to him. Outside he would go then, and send his assistant in. "Now, " he would say to his man, " the bag is ready, the air-hole (an opening in the roof) is open; as soon as his (the gauger's)
Back to top