In the Heart of the Community
Since 1784, Knockando's Woolmill's story has been woven deeply into the fabric of its surroundings in North-East Scotland. Local folk brought in fleece from their flock, to be spun and woven into products bought and used by local people. This put William and Ann Grant, the first recorded tenants of the mill and its croft, at the heart of the working community. Poverty and lack of regular employment drove many of their less fortunate neighbours from their homes in search of employment in the towns and cities, and often overseas.
The Grant family were valuable and hard-working tenants of the croft and the Mill, providing important local employment.
Adapt and Adopt
By the 1820's, a new generation of the family had expanded their cottage industry. The Woolmill and its croft provided the family with enough income for daily life and to sustain their business, despite the precarious nature of subsistence living in such an isolated site, with few transportation links.
The Muckle Spate
On August 4, 1829, a catastrophe struck Knockando when one of the most severe British floods in recent times, known locally as the Muckle Spate, devastated a swathe of the north east of Scotland from Inverness to Montrose. Surging rivers and burns wrecked homes and livelihoods. Water thundered down the Knockando burn, ripping apart the carding mill upstream from the Woolmill.
Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, a local laird and author, recorded the desolation: "The whole wood was gone; the carding mill had disappeared, the Miller's house was in ruins, and the banks below were strewed with pales, gates, bridges, rafts, engines, wool, yarn, and half-woven webs, all utterly destroyed." His book An account of the Great Floods in Morayshire in 1829 in the Province of Moray and adjoining Districts was published in 1830.
The Woolmill, however was sufficiently spared and even benefitted from the disaster by taking on the carding work that had formerly been the business of the lost carding mill.
"The like o' which, sin' Noah's flood, The warl' never saw"
When the Muckle Spate struck Strachan, a small settlement much like Knockando though many miles South East, David Grant was just a child. Later in life he described the impact of the flood in a poem.
Being some memorials o' the Muckle Spate in auchteen twenty-nine, as the same exhibited itself' I' the Howe o Feugh to the Ben and imagination o' an indwaller i' the Parish o' Stra'an.
An' then for fouran'twenty hoors,
There followed a doonfa'
The like o' which, sin' Noah's flood,
The warl' never saw
The thunner rum'lt roon the hills,
The howes were in a soom,
We thocht the warl', owergaen wi' age,
Drew near the crack o' doom
The Feugh cam' rairin' doon fae Birse,
An' swept the laughs o' Stra'an;
Horse, pigs, an' kye were droont I' Dye,
An' sheep by scores in A'an.
An' yarn reels, an' spinnin' wheels,
An' bowies, cogs, and caups,
An' tables, chairs, an' cutty steels,
On one anither's taps;
The dyster, like a drookit rat,
Escapit fae Dalsack,
Wi' naething save his harn sark
Upon his dreepin' back.
He saved his life, an' little mair
By perfect speed o' fit
But lost his shop an' a' his claith,
His bowies, pots, an' lit.
The Cairdin' Mill at Haugh o' Stra'an,
The eelie pigs an' woo',
Were ruint, smasht, or sweelt awa',
Alang wi' Cairdy's coo.
Fat wye the Cairder an' the wife,
Wi' little'ns twa or three.
Got aff wi' life, I dinna ken,
Ah, winna tell a lee;