Monday, November 17, 2014

Scottish Weighing Machine History Rekindled



John White and Son Ltd. (UK) - Novel new use for century old technology.

A Fife couple who run a well-known UK company have visited a remote and beautiful part of Scotland’s west coast to explore some of their own industrial history and craftsmanship. Edwin and Tio White, of Auchtermuchty’s John White & Son (Weighing Machines) Ltd, travelled to Inverie on the Knoydart Estate to see a weighbridge made by the company more than a century ago.

Incredibly the machine – originally used for weighing cart loads of coal brought by boat from Mallaig – might now be the UK’s oldest working weighbridge. These days its industrial use has long gone –but it has found a novel and amusing new lease of life weighing groups of walkers exploring Knoydart.

In an amazing coincidence the fascinating story of the weighbridge was rekindled when one of the couple’s own former employees from Auchtermuchty came across it while on holiday.

The story is taken up by Edwin, who said that Inverie can only be reached by sea or a walk of many miles over difficult terrain.

“The two wheel cart weighbridge was sold to the estate in the late 1890’s or early 1900’s so that everyone living there, depending on their role and status, could be given the correct amount of coal. The coal came in by boat across Loch Nevis, and one of the locals was able to show us a lovely drawing of a puffer beached for unloading. Amazingly this all came about a few years ago when ex-employee Bob Kennedy was walking on the estate and spotted the weighbridge.

He scraped away the grass and on closer examination was astonished to discover that was made by John White & Son. It wasn’t in use, but he told the locals what it was and where it came from, and they contacted us.

We were able to identify the weighbridge in an old catalogue. It must have been quite a job to get it to Inverie and install it. It is flush to the ground, but has never been flooded or lifted for any repairs.


Edwin white with Tommy McManmon.

Now the local community, who own most of the estate, have taken on the weighbridge, and cleaned it up. One resident gives it regular doses of lubricating oil, and it is working very well. The estate ranger Tommy McManmon uses it during guided walks. It can take up to about three tons, and they often have the whole walking party standing on it. On one occasion they had about 30 adults and children crammed on the plate. It’s a great memory for visitors.

For us, seeing the weighbridge still working after more than a century in such a fabulous setting was extraordinary, unforgettable, and quite emotional.”

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