Carsphairn Archive

Drainer

In the 1881 census there were four drainers in the community. Their job was to cut drains to improve the land and their main tools were draining spades.

Photo_18.JPG

David McMath, seen in the photograph inside Loch Doon Castle, was firstly a leadminer, a drainer and then a gamekeeper.

Anton McMillan was another drainer, a man who was well known for his work, immense strength and strange habits. He was born in 1813 and died at Bridgend in 1894 - see box below.

Old Worthy
One of the notable characters of Carsphairn Fair was Anton McMillan. He was reared by the Ken and was a tall, strong man with very broad shoulders. A regular attender at the Fair, he showed unusual skill at putting the shot - a big iron ball like an old cannon ball - and no competitor could come near his distance at putting it.

He worked as a drainer and lived alone at a house at the leadmines. He would let no woman clean his house but got a neighbour to bake for him and wash his shirts. He worked hard and made money, then he took contracts, and had about twenty men employed draining for him on the outlying farms. He paid them very poorly as he hated to part with money.

He often wore a plaid and in the corner of it he carried boiled potatoes to his work. He placed them along the drain side a certain distance apart so when he worked up to a potato he ate it without having to stop working till he left for home at night.

He was fond of a dram and one night coming home late from the "Greenhead" public house he fell into a dangerous hole among the machinery at the mines and was seriously hurt. For a day or two the neighbours missed him so they knocked at his door and he cried "Ye'll hae tae knock in the door for I'm in my bed an' canna rise". A doctor was brought from Dalmellington and a woman, "Babbie McKay", who nursed in the village, attended him for a long time. When he recovered she proposed to return home and told him she was going to bid the neighbours goodbye. When she returned to his house to take her leave of him she found he had put her bundle of clothes on the doorstep and the door locked.

A gentleman who took an interest in him ordered a meal for him at the Salutation Inn and notified Anton when to go for it. The landlord set out a fine meal and to give the table a good appearance put down a whole leg of mutton. He looked later to see how Anton was getting on and found he had the whole leg eaten and was chewing on the bone.

One day he had his horse and cart laden to go to his work on the hill and the horse got stuck in a bog and couldn't get out. He loosed the horse, and getting in between the shafts himself pulled out the cart. "Aye Maggie", he said to the horse, "nae wunner ye couldna' get it oot for it took me a' my time"

He had a brother in Moniaive who was even stronger. He had some ground and kept a cuddy. It would stray into the garden and, one day, enraged, he ran at the cuddy, lifted him and threw him over the paling. Someone asked him how he lifted the cuddy and he replied, "It wasn't the lift that was worst, it was getting the grup".

When Anton became too old to work he came to live in a small house at Bridgend. He kept it clean and if anyone visited him and sat on his chair he took it to the burn and washed it. The neighbours watched to see if he would wash it after a visit from the minister; it was washed just the same. Being a great draughts player he invited other good players for a game, but if he was beaten they were never asked back.

He took ill and thought he was dying so he burned his money in case anyone would get it. He lived for a year after that and died alone. The policeman opened his door and found him lying dead on the floor and his cupboards were bare. The gentleman who gave him the meal in the inn came from Glasgow to the funeral and paid all his expenses such was his interest in the old worthy. "