Balloch Community Woodlands Creetown

An Anecdotal Account of Sawmills in the ‘30s and ‘40s

From a Willie John Farrell letter:

There is anecdotal evidence that there was a sawmill located adjacent to Balloch Bridge and near the ponds in the 1930s and ‘40s.  Local man Willie John Farrell tells what he remembers of this time: 

‘Tree felling started around 1940 by James Davidson and his family, who lived on-site with other workers, the horsemen and families in wooden huts.  Work would start at 7am with half an hour for lunch and finished at 5pm (noon on a Saturday) with Sundays free.  Tea was brewed in syrup tins over the fire where there was no danger of fire spreading. 

There were a great number of squirrels in the wood at this time and they used to steal the bread from lunch bags.  Unfortunately this was a risky business and many squirrel drays were killed when the trees were felled.  Axes and cut saws were used to fell the trees since chain saws were not yet invented, with two men pulling the saws backwards and forwards at the base of the tree.

The sawmill used a 10 HP engine wood burner and drove three saws.  Trees were brought in to the sawmill by two horses using pole wagons with the horses also stabled near the ponds. 

A horse was drowned on one occasion in Balloch Burn when a part of the bank gave way and the wagon and horse fell into a deep pool.  On another occasion a spark from the sawmill chimney set fire to dry bracken and destroyed a number of wooden huts. 

A section of sawn wood was used to lay down a tram way for the extraction of the wood from the forest.  Two wooden bridges also had to be built across the Balloch Burn simply by laying down heavy strong trees and covering them with sod.  Since the ground was too soft for the horses the men had to push small wagons along the tramway as far as the council road where the trees could be loaded onto lorries using a hand crank derrick crane. 

The trees were then transported to Creetown Station and taken to the Clydesdale Ship Building works for ship construction for the war effort.  The whole job took roughly 3 to 3 and a half years and approximately 20 men were employed.’