Oldhamstocks | Economy

Industry | Agriculture | Forestry

Tourism: holiday accommodation is now very limited in the parish.


There has never been any heavy industry in the parish and this was still true in 2000. There is a bottled water enterprise, Scottish Border Springs, at Woollands, making commercial use of the springs. Several small businesses operate from homes: decorators and other trades; Arleo, repairers of saddle rugs and tack at Bilsdean; and an artist/designer at Dunglass Mill where there is also a small publishing business.

When Robert Henry retired in the 1950s, the village lost its blacksmith and smiddy. In 2000 there were no weavers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors or saddlers. After the school closed in 1970, the building was converted by the council for use as crafts workshops. The first tenants were weavers and a woodworker, but since 1983 the school and schoolhouse have been occupied by a pipe organ builder. The buildings were purchased in 1989 but after the old school was damaged by fire in March 2000, it was decided to expand the business and to re-locate its workshops to a new site on Blackcastle Hill.


In 1948, almost all of the jobs in the parish were in, or closely associated with, agriculture: farmers (eleven), shepherds (seven) and farm workers (26). Of 20 woodcutters and sawmillers, only two were permanent residents. There were two joiners, a mason, a blacksmith and a general labourer. The roads gave work to two men, the railway to one. There was only one seaman and small cobbles no longer sailed from Bilsdean. Dunglass estate gave employment to three gardeners, two gamekeepers and four other workers.

In 1945, there were twelve farm holdings varying in size from 200 to 2000 acres including Springfield, Oldhamstocks Mains, Lawfield, Middle Monynut, Fernylea, Birnieknowes, Stottencleuch, Cocklaw, Luckieshiel and Nether Monynut. Dunglass Home Farm was added in 1950 and Woollands in 1960. Below the 600-foot level farms were mainly arable and above it, mainly pasture. Only two of the farms were fully arable, producing barley and potatoes on light red soils. Some of the farms reared lambs and calves, but sheep rearing was mainly on the hills above the village. A large poultry farm occupied the sides of the ravine south of the village.

Several generations of farm worker families continued to find local employment but younger members, especially girls, migrated to better-paying jobs in the towns. Agriculture started to flourish again in the 1950s, especially on the lower farms. Mechanisation and the use of squad labour at harvest-time meant that the parish as whole did not benefit through employment as it had in the past. There were no local sales of stock since animals were transported mainly by rail to auction sales.

In 2000, the hill farms – Middle Monynut, Stottencleuch, Luckieshiel, Nether Monynut – remained stock rearing farms, much as they have always been. There were also cattle and sheep at Springfield and Lawfield but sheep only at Fernylea. Woollands (in addition to its bottled spring water operation) had begun to grow organic oats and potatoes. Other local crops included spring (malting) barley and winter barley. Perhaps the most significant change was that some fields were let to merchants for growing specific crops, such as potatoes and wheat at Birnieknowes and Springfield. Drysdales, whose huge plant was at Old Cambus quarry, also rented land – about 20% of the arable – on the same two farms to grow swedes and brussel sprouts.

From about 1940, Mrs Yule was a land girl, working as a stockwoman at Cocklaw Farm. She got a pound more than the others because of her responsibilities. The work was hard, in all weathers and for long hours. She did the job of an ‘orra man’, driving a horse and cart and was answerable to both the grieve and the shepherd. She carted loads of turnips and other crops, fed grain to the cattle and made frequent trips to the smithy to have the horses shod or to have various implements sharpened. Her favourite horse was a Clydesdale and she also had a lighter van horse and a heavy hunter. The number of hunting horses kept by farmers was supposed to be reduced during the war but they were shunted around the farms to evade the attention of inspectors.

Those recruited to help with the harvest at Cocklaw included girls from Edinburgh, agricultural students on leave from the army and Irishmen. The city girls stayed in a caravan on the farm and

emerged each morning with full makeup and long painted fingernails and weren’t up to the long hard work in all weathers.

Italian and German prisoners of war were brought to Oldhamstocks Mains from nearby camps – but in the name of harmony, at different times.

As the war ended Mrs Yule retired from farm work but continued to help out by shawing turnips and at harvest times. Tractors had replaced horses. Her husband Jim had been the grieve at Cocklaw and then at Oldhamstocks Mains. Later, when Willie Christison took over the farm, Jim became a stockman looking after cattle and pigs. He continued working half time after reaching pension age.

Most people were elderly but those who had jobs, worked locally. There were two rabbit catchers in the village and an assistant rabbit catcher.


Land registry records indicate that in 1987, Dunglass estate woods comprised nine plantations including 41.92ha at Dunglass. The plantations have been managed under agreements with the Forestry Commission and remain the only ones in the parish apart from a few shelterbelts. In 1992 Dunglass estate was given an award by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland because assessors were impressed by the vigour of growth in the face of salt-bearing winds off the North Sea. A privately owned sawmill operated near Dunglass Mill until it was destroyed by fire in the late 1980s.