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The Lost Mill of New Aberdour

Local Resident Bob Watson identifies location of the New Aberdour Mill and Milltown where local tweeds were "waulked' or fulled. In a recent discussion of the renovations at the Knockando Wooolmill in Knockando, Moray in Scotland, Mr. Watson revealed a little history that has slowly been lost from the memory of the younger generation including a key manufacturing site.

The site, similar to the Knockando Woollen Mill produced tweed and wool goods for the local population. The key feature of the site was a mill to waulk or full the wool. This is a key step on wool production either for tweed, blanket, or even kilt manufacturing. Waulking or fulling describes the process to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and to make it thicker through scouring, pounding and manipulating the wool. Wool was stretched on hooks called tenterhooks which gave rise to the saying "being on Tenterhooks" or being in suspense.

In New Aberdour, this site became a critical stage in the production of wool garments including tweeds. The location of the site informs us not only of the history, but also how life existed in the 20th century in the north-east of Scotland. More interestingly, it shows us the disconnect of modern life in regards to "fast fashion" and quality. For example, Today, bespoke hand tailored Scottish wool garments can cost hundreds of pounds whereas the author regretfully remembers a time when he was embarrassed to wear home manufactured clothing.

Few know however that New Aberdour had its own Mill at one point much less its location. Local resident Bob Watson related:

"Just over the back of [Old Chapel], down in the Dour Burn Den, you can still see the ruin of a Waulk Mill (or at least you could when I fished for brown trout there when I was a boy). As you will know, a Waulk Mill was where woollen cloth was taken to be 'waulked', i.e., washed, pounded and stretched to make it thicker stronger and more water resistant. That's why the farm next to the property is known as the 'Mull Toon' (Mill Town), which formed party of the ancient settlement of Aberdour. When I was a boy, you could still see a water reserve dam at the road junction near Corrine's property, just down from the old Aberdour School (now converted into a garage for the new house there). That water reservoir would have been used to augment the water driving the waulk mill water wheel, when necessary. Cloth must have been woven locally at one time, here. I don't know if this was a throwback to those days, but, again when I was a boy, woolen garments were made directly across Gordon Lane opposite the back of the Commercial Hotel (Dower). A home built by my son-in-law's grandfather, who owned the hotel at one time, was built over the site of that former woolen garment business. Gordon's uncle James Harper now owns that property.
I doubt that any of the younger folk in the village know of the former existence of a Waulk Mill in the nearby vicinity.

New Aberdour, which both bordered and lay on the old Baird estate, has a unique history that is a microcosm of Scottish history. The presence of a woolen mill shows the unique place the area held in both fashion, agriculture, and everyday life. What today is the garment of the wealthy and well-dressed was once the clothing of ancestors of the village of New Aberdour.

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My great great great grandfather, a miller, was living there with his wife and family in 1851. Very interesting to read an article attached to their lives

Alison Angus

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