By the 1820s Kilbarchan was well established as a weaving community with over 800 looms in the village. Most weavers worked in silk and cotton to produce long shawls and square shawls, many in a fine, patterned gauze fabrics. The weavers were self-employed doing contract work for Paisley and Glasgow Manufacturing Houses. These manufacturing houses employed local weaving agents, to engage the weavers. The weaving agents, usually local men (or women), were well versed in the technical skills required in the weaving trade and must have been skilled hand loom weavers prior to becoming weaving agents.
One of these agents in Kilbarchan was Robert Climie. He lived in Church Street with his wife and family and worked as the weaving agent for John Miller and Sons, shawl manufacturers in Paisley. Robert Climie’s business correspondence with Thomas Patten of John Miller and Sons in 1828 still exists. The correspondence, which gives detailed information of the work and responsibilities of a weaving agent, was discovered in the 1990s in the loft Mount Pleasant, a house to the north of the village, where Robert’s surviving family lived after his death.
Robert’s first responsibility was to appoint weavers for particular pieces of work. He had then to arrange delivery to the weaver of the dyed coils of yarn to be woven, and his ‘weaver’s ticket’ which was a contract between the weaver and the manufacturer for a specific piece of work. On occasion, a considerable number of weavers were required. In March, 1828, Robert was instructed to find ‘half a hundred weavers’ for ‘shades and spots’.
Robert was also required settle any disputes between the weaver and the manufacturer. One dispute over rate of payment involved a weaver, James Stewart, who was ‘rather reluctant to engage’ because he had expected a higher rate for his work. Another dispute occurred when Jo. Scobie complained about the quality of yarn supplied to him by the manufacturer. Diplomacy and tact was required to resolve these situations. Robert Climie was also required to check the weaver’ work and rectify any errors before arranging for carriers to transport the woven webs back to Paisley.
Futher detailed information on the documents on Robert Climie’s work as a weaving agent is available in the Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan
© 2013 Helen Calcluth