By Kennedy McConnell


(The original version was included in a book titled ‘Kilfinan History’, which was published by the Ardlamont Preservation Society in 1984. Two other articles on the same subject appeared in the ‘Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society Newsletter’ in 1987 and 1994. To see images taken on site - Click here - or read a brief account of Kennedy McConnell)

Family History

Genealogy is a fascinating hobby. It can also be very frustrating. I began tracing my family tree in 1960, which was long before Scottish records were computerised. Since then I have spent many enjoyable hours tracking my ancestors. The results have been variable. Some lines of enquiry have yielded surprising results. For example, I was astonished to discover that Argyll was once famous for its high-grade black gunpowder. For over eighty years the manufacture of gunpowder was a thriving industry in the county. My interest in this era was aroused in 1964 while I was researching the Argyll branch of my wife’s family tree. Her great grandfather was Archibald Morrison. He was a Manager in the family firm of Morrison & Mason, which was formed in Glasgow in 1876. They became successful builders in the West of Scotland. Among their Glasgow contracts were the Municipal Buildings, the Art Gallery and the Princess Theatres.

During 1855, Archibald Morrison came to Millhouse, in the parish of Kilfinan, to supervise an extension to the Gunpowder Works there. Before the contract was completed, he had courted and married Mary Taylor, the daughter of a crofting family from Deargbruach Farm, on the east side of Loch Fyne. Their marriage in Tighnabruaich Parish Church was conducted by Rev. Joseph Stark in December 1856. Both the bride and bridegroom were aged eighteen years. Their first child, William, was born at Rothesay in June 1858. Although the family moved back to Glasgow, William spent his boyhood holidays with his Taylor grandparents at their croft on Loch Fyne. For many years, he brought his family back every summer to a cottage situated on Stillaig farm, near the original croft. For over a century Archibald and Mary’s descendants have kept the Argyll connection alive and looked upon Stillaig Farm as their second home.

Statistical Account

The Argyll gunpowder industry consisted of four manufacturing plants, which were known locally as ‘powder mills’. These were located at Furnace (near Inveraray), Glen Lean (near Dunoon), Melfort (near Kilmelford) and Millhouse (near Tighnabruaich). The Melfort Works closed in 1874, followed by Furnace in 1883 and Glen Lean in 1903. The following account is concerned with the Kames Gunpowder Works at Millhouse and Kames, where production commenced in 1839 and continued until 1921. This industry is mentioned in the New Statistical Account of Scotland. The section on Kilfinan Parish, which was compiled by the Rev. Joseph Stark in April 1843, states that this was the only manufactory in the parish. He also records that it had been in full production since the end of the year 1839. His report states that there were eleven Inns scattered throughout the Parish but ‘ a traveller could scarcely get a decent bed or a comfortable breakfast in the best of them.’ The total population was only 1820, and Gaelic was the language generally spoken. The Rev. Stark also noted that there were few instances of longevity. However, he concluded that this was not due to the climate, which was ‘abundantly wholesome’, but resulted from excessive addiction to drinking. This problem was mainly due to a prevalent but ruinous contraband trade with the Isle of Man.

He also comments on the persistence of another ‘pernicious’ practice. This custom demanded that all babies be baptised on the first or second day after birth. In many cases, the newborn child was carried up to eight miles, even during the worst winter weather in December and January. The result was that many infants were sacrificed to this ‘phantom of superstition’. In this context, I heard of a narrow escape by one baby boy. He was being carried over the hills by the men of the family to be christened at Kilbride Church. Their journey was made more pleasant by frequent stops for liquid refreshment. The women had gone ahead and were waiting impatiently at the Church. The inebriated men arrived eventually, but without the baby. He had been left lying in the heather. After a frantic search, he was found unharmed. The baby survived the ordeal.

Another entry in the same Statistical Account is by the Rev. M. McKay, from the Presbytery of Dunoon. His report states that the only manufactory, ‘if it may be properly so designated’, is a gunpowder mill or works, erected a few years since in the Parish of Kilmun, at Glen Lean, by Robert Sheriff, Esq. He also claims that the quality of gunpowder manufactured there is equal to any produced in Scotland or England.

Local Knowledge

The industrial history of the Kames/Millhouse Gunpowder Works has been well documented by several amateur and professional researchers. Consequently, my investigation has concentrated on the people who worked there, or had some connection with it. So far, I have collected over 500 names from a variety of sources. These employees and their occupations are listed in an index, which is appended. I am grateful to all who have contributed. Also, I have been helped greatly by discussions with several local residents. However, the most rewarding source was interviews with six villagers who had actually worked in the Powder Mill. These discussions took place during my summer holidays in Tighnabruaich from 1975 though to 1979. Their individual recollections were both fascinating and informative. The two ladies were Mrs. Catherine Whyte (m.s. MacIntosh) and Mrs. Mary Turner (m.s. Currie). Both had worked in the Packing Department. They recalled the various stages of packing the powder into bags and barrels or boxes, ready for dispatch. The bags were sewn on site. As a safety precaution, all the girls had to wear navy blue overalls with caps to match. They were not allowed any metal hairpins. For the same reason, their shoes were soled with copper nails. They had to provide their own sandwiches, plus soap and towels for their ablutions. One small tub of hot water per person was available. Over twenty girls were employed at different periods in the Packing Department. One of them placed a letter in a shipment being exported to New Zealand. She was delighted to receive a reply, but her father stopped any further correspondence. Catherine recalled that her father-in-law, Archibald Whyte, had one of his eyes removed after it was damaged by a particle of gunpowder.

The four men who helped me greatly were:- James Tracey McNeill, John Turner, (Gunpowder Workers), Dougald Duncan Weir (Cooper) and Neil Whyte (Office). They had a clear recollection of their years in the Powder Mill and were pleased to talk about them. All the process workers had to wear moleskin trousers without pockets. Like the girls in the Packing House, they were issued with special boots soled with copper nails. Before starting each shift, they were searched thoroughly. Pipe smokers were allowed to chew tobacco. Despite the obvious danger to themselves and their workmates, some men hid clay pipes and matches in the joints of the boundary wall. I have seen some of the crevices used for this foolhardy practice. James McNeill recalled how one worker received a nasty burn on his arm when particles of gunpowder caught fire. All implements were made from brass, bronze, copper or wood. Shovels were wooden and riddles had copper mesh. Many employees walked several miles to and from Millhouse daily, including Catherine. Those who came from crofts devoid of road access carried candles in jam jars to light their way across the hills in winter.

Sea Transport

The essential ingredients of black gunpowder are saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur. The percentage of each of these ingredients varied slightly, according to the end use of the product. A typical mixture was: Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate) = 70%, Charcoal = 15% and Sulphur = 15%. The main requirements for the location of a gunpowder works were:- (a) remote from towns or cities to minimise damage from explosions, (b) access to the sea for receipt of raw materials and dispatch of finished products, (c) reliable water supply to drive the machinery and (d) availability of male and female workforce. The villages of Millhouse and Kames satisfied all these criteria.

The Kames Gunpowder Company, which was taken over by Curtis and Harvey in 1876, had its own pier at Kames, on the Kyles of Bute, where supplies of these raw materials were unloaded. In the early days, some of these incoming cargoes were carried by sailing ships. However, in later years the trade was taken over by "puffers", bearing names such as Moonlight, Starlight, Skylight and Twilight. These coastal vessels were powered by a coal-fired, non-condensing, steam engine. After the steam had activated the piston in the single cylinder, it was exhausted up the funnel. When combined with the black smoke from the coal furnace, these repeated "puffs" gave the ships their famous name.

Situated adjacent to the Black Quay, as it was known locally, stood the buildings where the saltpetre was refined ready for subsequent processing at Millhouse. From 1900 onwards, the Foreman in charge was John Nimmo. A headstone in Kilbride Churchyard confirms that he died in September 1935, aged 69 years. Among the men he supervised were Charles Black, Maitland Black, Duncan Carswell, Archibald McBride, Neil McGilp, James McIntyre and Duncan Whyte. The Mill Manager lived in a house overlooking the refinery. His name was Joseph Dalton and he had his own horse and carriage, the coachman being E Walmsley. Another headstone in Kilbride Churchyard states that Joseph died in August 1906. The next Mill Manager was Arthur Dunford who was succeeded by the last holder of the post, Neil Gillies.

Much of the gunpowder made at Millhouse was exported overseas, so deep sea sailing vessels had to be used. These ships arrived carrying ballast of coal. One was Western Lass from Cornwall. The schooners anchored near the Bute shore where they were moored to a large buoy. All these ships had to fly a red flag. The cargoes of gunpowder barrels and boxes had to be ferried out from the pier at Kames in small boats. I discussed this operation with one villager who recalled being involved in these transfers. He claimed that schooners were used for shipping the gunpowder because they were built entirely from wood. Some of these ships had intriguing names such as Antagonist, Lady Gertrude Cochran and Rebecca Catherine Pritchard. One coastal steamer, aptly named Guy Fawkes, was operated by the Gunpowder Company to handle goods and services. This vessel was built by Napier and Crichton of Glasgow and launched in May 1849. The first Captain was Duncan McCallum. In December 1864 the Guy Fawkes sank after a collision with a larger ship off Greenock. Duncan MacFarlane was the only crew member to be saved. The four who drowned were, Archibald Campbell, Dugald McKellar, Hugh McKenzie and Alexander Thomson.

Processing Stages

The conversion of the raw materials into gunpowder required ten separate processing stages. Each of these was accommodated in a specially constructed building known as a "house". A detailed description of these processes is outwith the scope of this article, but the names used to identify the various houses were:- Mixing, Incorporation, Breaking-down, Pressing, Corning, Dusting, Glazing, Stoving, Heading-up and Packing. These processing houses were widely dispersed throughout the grounds to minimise the risk of an explosion spreading from one building to another. Trees were planted in the intervening spaces for the same reason. Horse drawn bogeys were used to convey the goods around the works and these ran on a small gauge railway system. The horses were stabled in a field which is now the Cladhamhuilinn Cemetery.

(Readers who wish more information on gunpowder processing should contact the Gunpowder Mills Study Group. The Newsletter Editor is Wayne Cocroft, c/o English Heritage, Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, CB2 2BU. E-mail address is: Wayne.Cocroft@english-

Land Transport

Supplies for the Mill, including the refined saltpetre, were transported to Kames by horse drawn carts or purpose made wagons. The wheel rims were made of brass to minimise the risk of sparks. The barrels of gunpowder were transported by the same means from Millhouse to the original magazine. A trace horse was used to help pull the loads up the steep incline to reach the top of the hill between Kames and Millhouse. This traffic followed a private route known as the ‘green road’, which at that time was a more direct route than the public highway. This road climbed up to the present Golf Course before descending into Millhouse. During the Second World War, all the inhabitants of the Ardlamont peninsula were evacuated. The area was then used for training soldiers in amphibious landings. The concrete Tank Landing Strip, which was located at Blair’s Ferry, is still visible.

Some of the carters who were engaged in this traffic are identified in the index. The carters were typical of the work force in general, because several members, and even generations, of the same family were employed. A larger magazine was built about 1860. It was situated close to the top of the hill overlooking the Works. The walls were about two feet thick and the building was surrounded by a high stone wall. Although this magazine was damaged by a fire in the early 1970s, sections of the building and the wall have survived to become a prominent landmark.

Water and Steam Power

The production machinery was driven by water power. The large volume of water required was drawn mainly from Ascog Loch. This source was augmented by two purpose made reservoirs. These were known as the High Dams. The burn which flowed out of Ascog Loch was diverted towards the Works. Sluice gates controlled the volume. The water supply was carried by two large fireclay pipes buried underneath the road at Millhouse cross roads. These pipes are still in place. They have a wall thickness of two inches and their diameter is eighteen inches. During one of my visits to Stillaig in 1985, I found a Hydram pump which straddled the burn a few yards below the twin pipes. This sturdy and ingenious device was used to supply water to the local schoolhouse and several houses and shops. These were situated on the road from Millhouse to Portavadie, which is where the Kyles of Bute merge with Loch Fyne. Further investigation revealed that the Hydram had been manufactured in 1914 by John Blake of Accrington. It was supplied to the Kames Powder Mill by the Millhouse Feuars’ Water Supply Committee. This model was designed to be driven by a water supply of 5 gallons per minute with a head of 4 feet. Under these conditions, the Hydram could pump 250 gallons per 24 hours to a height of 30 feet.

A network of channels or lades distributed the water from Ascog to the various Processing Houses before it was discharged into the Craignafeich Burn. The ‘waterman’ was Donald McNichol, followed later by John Miller. Some of the lades passed under the roadway at Millhouse. A young girl who was playing there fell into one of these lades and was carried under the road. She emerged unscathed at the other side and lived to be an old lady. After this episode she was always known locally as the ‘water hen’.

During the First World War, the High and Low Mills were converted to steam power. The processing machinery was driven by continuous cables which were supported on towers. Although steam power increased production, the engines required about twelve cart loads or ‘rakes’ of coal per day which had to be transported from Kames pier.

Working Conditions

The Mill operated 24 hours per day from Monday to Saturday, but closed on Sunday. Production stopped at 10 p.m. on Saturday. Several residents of Millhouse village still remember the "eerie silence" they felt when the noise of the machinery stopped. Process employees worked 57 hours per week. From Monday to Friday, the working day was 10 hours, excluding 30 minutes for breakfast and one hour for lunch. Saturday hours totalled seven. The Press House worked day shift only in winter due to lack of daylight. Operators were paid same wage summer and winter. Men who were late for the 06.00 shift were not allowed to start work until after the breakfast break at 09.00 hours. The process employees worked on a 12 hours shift cycle. Prior to the First World War the weekly wage varied from 18 to 21 shillings per week, according to occupation. These levels increased gradually to reach 45 shillings by 1921. They were much higher than could be earned locally as farm labourers, etc. Absence from work meant loss of earnings. Most employees were members of the Shepherds Friendly Society, which paid sickness benefit. Trade Union representation was introduced near the end of the First World War. Neil Whyte was Secretary/Treasurer. Baillie George Kerr was the Union Secretary in Glasgow. The first increase negotiated was for ‘Danger Money’. The Occupation Abstract from the 1871 Census for the County of Argyll shows 190 males and 10 females were employed in the Gunpowder Industry. Another surprising statistic is that six boys and one girl between the ages of five and ten years were employed. There were also eighteen boys and six girls under fifteen. This seems to reflect the lack of protective employment legislation at that time.

Fatal Explosions

Despite the layout precautions described above and the enforcement of stringent safety precautions, the danger of explosion was an ever-present threat. Some of the more serious explosions resulted in loss of life. All implements, such as hammers, were made from copper to avoid striking sparks. One of my souvenirs is a copper hammerhead which weighs about 3 lbs.

In 1842 two workmen were killed. Their names have not yet been traced. Another explosion in 1846 caused the deaths of five men. Only one of the victims has been identified so far. A headstone in the graveyard at Kilbride Church has been erected to the memory of Colin McLachlan who was killed in the August 1846 disaster. Perhaps some reader will be able to supply the missing names. Another major explosion occurred in December 1863 when seven workmen were killed. On that occasion a Corning House was exploded by a flash of lightning during a severe storm. The gale carried fragments from the burning wreck to several other Process Houses, each of which exploded in turn. The shock waves were felt as far away as Dunoon and Rothesay. The injured were tended by Dr. Fletcher and the Guy Fawkes was despatched to Rothesay for Dr. McLachlan. Those killed were: Michael Bourke, Donald Crawford, Hugh Hunter, Colin McEwan, Alexander McNichol, William Pike, and John Slater.

An explosion in September 1866 caused the death of James Mitchell. The Death Certificate was certified by Neil Fletcher, Surgeon.

The next major accident took place in March 1870 when four men and a boy died. Those killed were named as John Carswell, Alexander McGlashan, Duncan McPherson and Hugh Alexander Stewart. The boy was George Smith. He was thirteen years of age. The Works Manager at that time was William Sealy who was appointed in 1865.

In September 1891, Alexander Dykes was badly burned in an explosion. Dr. McMillan arranged for him to be taken to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, where he died a few days later.


The final tragedy occurred while the machinery was being dismantled in 1922. A spark was struck while a chisel was being used to slacken nuts in the High Mill Corning house. Once it was ignited, the gunpowder ran down a wooden post like a fuse and ignited more powder lodging in the machine base. The resultant flash set fire to John McGilp’s clothes. Two other workmen, John Turner and Neil McGilp, threw him into the water channel to extinguish the flames. John was taken to Dunoon Hospital. He was later transferred to Greenock Infirmary where he died on 16th September 1922. He was buried in Kilbride Cemetery, where there is a family headstone. Apart from the fatal accidents, several other employees are known to have sustained injuries while working in the mill, namely: Edward Hill, William Turner, Alexander Weir and Archibald Whyte.

During one of these explosions, a large cast iron gear wheel was shattered by the force of the blast. Several large segments were propelled through the air towards Ardlamont. One piece was partially buried in a field about two miles from the Mill. With the help of a friend, I succeeded in digging it out for closer examination. The weight was 100 lbs. The calculated diameter of the wheel was 12 feet. The width was 4 inches and number of teeth was 230.

Testing procedure

Situated in the field behind the Manager’s house was a testing mortar, which was known locally as the cannon. It was securely bolted to a solid foundation and the barrel has a fixed elevation of 45 degrees. Malcolm Millar, who arranged for the Dolphin Bell to be transferred to the Cemetery entrance, has been trying to up-lift the cannon. His plan is to have it mounted on a cairn alongside the bell. This has proved to be a formidable challenge. The six inch bore cannon is bolted to a four inch thick steel plate, which is crescent shaped and measures seven feet in diameter. The cannon was used to test samples from every batch of gunpowder. The projectiles were cylindrical with dome shaped ends. Their weight was 65 lbs. There was a hole drilled at both ends. I was shown one of these by a shepherd who lived in Millhouse. A measured sample was tested by firing the projectile into a sand mound placed about 50 yards along the range. D.D. Weir remembered that part of his job was to collect and return each projectile after firing. They were still too hot too handle, so he used a purpose designed bogey, which was fitted with two prongs. These fitted into two holes in the projectiles, which were then reused after cleaning. Samples that failed to fire the projectile past a given length were rejected. One of the projectiles is still jammed in the mouth of the cannon.


Dolphin Bell

Starting, stopping and meal times were signalled by a bronze bell, which was mounted on a wooden column in the front garden of the Manager’s house. This was known as the Dolphin Bell because of the shape of the ornamental support. The bell was rung by pulling a wire attached to the top. Malcolm Millar, who owns Stillaig Farm, decided that the Dolphin Bell should be reconditioned and resited at the entrance to the Cladhamhuilinn Cemetery. This commendable project was completed in the autumn of 2000. Two plaques bearing the following inscriptions are mounted on the new wooden support:-

This Timekeeping Bell was in use at Millhouse Gunpowder Works from about 1839 until the closure in 1921. It was renovated in 2000 and

resited with the permission of the Weir family. Erected in commemoration of the employees of the Kames Gunpowder Company who were killed in explosions at the Millhouse Works.

1846: Colin McLachlan

1863: Michael Bourke

Donald Crawford

Hugh Hunter

Colin McEwan

Alexander McNichol

William Pike

John Sinclair

1866: James Mitchell

1870: John Carswell

Alexander McGlashan

Duncan McPherson

George Smith

Hugh Stewart

1891: Alexander Dykes

1922: John McGilp

Also the Crew Members of the Works Steamer ‘Guy Fawkes’

who were drowned when the ship was sunk in 1864

Archibald Campbell

Duncan McKellar

Hugh McKenzie

Alexander Thomson

Dwelling Houses

Some employees and their families resided in a tenement block in Kames called Shore Cottage, although it was known locally as the Barracks. Neil Whyte lived there. During our discussion, he produced a copy of the strict rules imposed on the tenants.


  1. That the Tenants in the lower flat shall take alternate weeks of sweeping out every day and washing twice a week (say Wednesday and Saturday), the Lobbies and Door Steps, and keeping the Ground about the Building clear of dirt and as tidy as possible.
  2. The Tenants in the upper flat shall each take alternate weeks of sweeping every day, and washing at least twice a week (say Wednesday and Saturday), their Stairs, and to clean their Staircase Windows at least every second week. No Mats or Carpets to be shaken over Staircase Windows.
  3. That all Ashes carried to the Ashpit will be taken in the morning or evening or when there are no Clothes on the Green, so that there may be no nuisance to neighbours – said Ashes to be put carefully in the Pit and not left outside.
  4. That each Tenant will get the Washing House and Green in rotation, one day beginning with Monday, second Tuesday, and so on according to the list given.
  5. Clothes Ropes are not allowed to be tied to anything but the Green Posts provided for the purpose, and no Clothes to be hung outside elsewhere than on the Ropes.
  6. Hot Clothes, or any Tin or Iron Watering Can, Tub or any Vessel, are on no account to be placed on the Grass, the rust soiling any Clothes being bleached.
  7. That each will carefully clean out the Washing House and Boiler when done, so that no complaint will be necessary from the following party.
  8. That the Path to the Washing House and Green be always used when going or returning there, and the Gate of the latter always kept closed. Children not to be allowed into the Bleaching Green upon any pretence, or to climb the wall on front of houses.
  9. That Privies shall be thoroughly cleaned out regularly once a fortnight, each Tenant in his turn seeing to this being done to the one used by his House. No pigs or poultry to be kept about the ground.

Some of the other employees lived in company-owned houses in Millhouse. The gable walls facing the Mill did not have windows, because they would be blown out by the blast from explosions. Most of these houses have been renovated and are still inhabited. A manuscript list dated 1894 shows the allocation of the twelve garden plots as follows: Donald McNichol, waterman; Donald Weir, engine keeper; Walter Brown, millkeeper; John McVicar, works carter; John McNichol, corning; Robert McLean, millkeeper; Archibald McNichol, millkeeper; Charles Millar, engineer; Neil Whyte, saltpetre factory; Alexander Baxter, dusting; and James Brown, pressing. Plot 13 was designated as the washing green.

The Valuation Roll for the year 1913/14 lists the following tenants at Millhouse: Robert McLean, powdermaker; John Turner, watchman; Robert Livingstone, powdermaker; Archibald Turner, powdermaker; Henry Docherty, powdermaker; John McNeil, powdermaker; Matthew West, pensioner; Alexander Turner, powdermaker; John McGilp, cooper; Archibald Whyte and Archibald Scott, powdermakers; David Young, engine man; Robert McCallum, cooper; Walter Brown, powdermaker; Thomas Pirie, cooper; Neil Whyte, stablekeeper; Allan McTaggart, millwright; Hugh McFarlane, carpenter; Edward Hill, bellman; Archibald Paterson, powdermaker; Laclan McNeill and Joseph Denn, foremen; and Duncan McEwen, pensioner.

When the powder mill finally closed in 1921, the sum of 2,000 was allocated for redundancy payments. This was a generous gesture by the employers, since such payments were not compulsory at that time. All the employees received gratuities based upon their occupation and service, the recipients being:-

  • 1/5 years: Marcy McBride and Mary Young, packing; Archibald Stewart and Arthur Wright, labourers; John Turner Jr., pellets; P McTaggart, trucks; Nell

McGilp Jr., mills; and James Mackie, engineer

  • 5/10 years: Alex Stewart and James McNeill, composition; Maitland Black and David Allan, saltpetre

  • 10/15 years: Lizzie Young, packing; Donald Turner, heading; Dugald Weir, trucks; Neil Whyte Jr., wharf; Charles Black, saltpetre; Neil McGilp Jr., mills

  • 15/20 years: D Carswell Jr., and Edward West, trucks; R Livingstone, corning; J Paterson, carpenter; D Carswell Sr., saltpetre; Edward Hill, mess room; James McQueen, engines; and A E Knox, office

  • 20/30 years: W Salisbury, watchman; A Gemmill, timekeeper; Archibald Paterson, mills; Neil Whyte, stables; Peter McPherson and D McNeill, carters; E Walmsley, coachman; J McGilp Jr., store; Alex Turner

  • 30/40 years: Archibald Turner, composition; John Whyte, mills; J McGilp Sr., magazine; Robert Turner and Alex Campbell Sr., carters; Hugh McFarlane, carpenter; Duncan McCallum and David Young, press; and James Mcintosh, cooper

  • 40/50 years: J McPherson and Archibald Millar, mills; Donald Weir, glazing; Archibald Scott, packing; N McGilp Sr., saltpetre; Dugald McCallum, carter; J McVicar, pensioner

  • Foremen: 30/40 years: John Nimmo, saltpetre

40/50 years: John Turner, gunpowder; Robert McCallum, cooperage

The level of production was run down gradually. The loss of so many jobs was a severe blow to Kames, Millhouse and the surrounding district. Alternative employment was very scarce and some of the workmen had to leave the area to find suitable jobs. Others had to accept whatever kind of work was available locally. Some missed the redundancy payments by leaving before Mill finally closed.

Since becoming involved with the history of the Millhouse powder mill and the saltpetre refinery at Kames, I have accumulated a large amount of miscellaneous information. A selection of these papers has been deposited with the Argyll Archives Office at Lochgilphead and with the District Library Headquarters at Dunoon. Unfortunately, much of the history has been lost forever, but my objective is to compile an index of the people who were employed in the Powder Mill at any stage. Such a register will be potentially valuable to future genealogists.





G = Gunpowder Maker S = Saltpetre Maker


David Allan (S)


David Ballantyne (G), Andrew Barclay (G & Storekeeper), Alexander Baxter (G), Archibald Baxter (G), Daniel Baxter (G), David Baxter (G & Magazine Keeper), Hugh Baxter (Labourer), John Baxter (G), John Baxter (Engine Driver), John Baxter (Engine Driver), Joseph Baxter (Cooper:App.), Neil Baxter (Cooper:App.), Edward Beckingham (Labourer), George Beckingham (Labourer), Daniel Bell (Cooper), Joseph Benn (Engine Driver Foreman), Alexander Black (G), Archibald Black (Engine Driver), Archibald Black (Labourer), Charles Black (S), Donald Black (G), John Black (Cooper), Maitland Black (S), William Blair (Labourer), Lawrence Blake (Engineer), James Bolton (G), James Bolton (G), James Bolton (Engineer), James Bolton (Engineer), James Bolton (Engine Driver), John Bolton (Engine Driver), Michael Bourke (G), Michael Bourtree (G), David Brannigan (Engineer), William Brett (G), Angus Brown (Labourer), Duncan Brown (Joiner), Duncan Brown (Joiner), James Brown (S), James Brown (G), John Brown (Joiner:App.), Walter Brown (Carter/Mill Keeper), William Brown (Engine Driver), William Brown (G), Henry Brumblett (G)


Archibald Cameron (Labourer), Alexander Campbell (Carter), Donald Campbell (Carter), Duncan Campbell (G), John Campbell (G), Neil Campbell (Mechanic), Neil Campbell (Carter), Alexander Carmichael (Carter), Alexander Carmichael (G), Archibald Carmichael (Millkeeper), Daniel Carmichael (G), Donald Carmichael (G), William Carmichael (Cooper), Duncan Carswell Snr. (S), Duncan Carswell Jnr (G), John Carswell (G), Daniel Cavanagh (Cooper), James Chalmers (Chemist), John Christie (Clerk), Edward Clarke (Labourer), William Colvin (G), Owen Commosky (S), James Conachy (G), John Cowan (Blacksmith:App.), John Cowan (Carter), Donald Crawford (G), George Crabb (Labourer), John Crawford (G), Alexander Crombie (G), James Cuthbertson (Cooper)


Joseph Dalton (Manager), Leyshon Davies (Assistant Manager), Benjamin Dawson (Cooper), Thomas Dawson (G), Henry Docherty (G), Alexander Douglas (Labourer), Dugald Douglas (Cooper), John Douglas (G), Alexander Dow (Cooper), Arthur Dunford (Manager), Alexander Dykes (Millwright), Alexander Dykes (G), Alexander Dykes (G), Henry Dykes (Sawyer/Labourer), William Dykes (G)


Alfred Edwards (Cooper:App.), Charles Edwards (Millkeeper), James Edwards (G), James Edwards (G), John Edwards (Jappaner), John Edwards (G)



Alfred Feen (G), Duncan Ferguson (G), Duncan Ferguson (S), Peter Ferguson (Blacksmith:App.), John Fletcher (G), Joseph Forrester (Cooper), Alexander Fraser (Carter), Archibald Fraser (G), John Froggart (G)


George Garden (G), William Garfield (Cooper:App.), William Garfield (G), A Gemmill (Timekeeper), Duncan Gillies (G), Duncan Gillies (G), John Gillies (G), John Gillies (Carter), John Gillies (Carter), Neil Gillies (Manager), Robert Goddard (G), John Gray (S)


Peter Harkness (Labourer), Henry Harley (G), John Headridge (Carter), Robert Henderson (G), Patrick Henry (S), Edward Hill (G/Bellman), John Hill (G), Thomas Hillyear (Cooper), Thomas Holman (G), Hugh Hunter (G)


Andrew Jack (Message Boy), John Jack (Cooper), Peter Johnstone (S)


David Kennedy (G), Donald Kennedy (G), John Kennedy (Carter), Alexander Kerr (G), Peter Kerr (S), Peter Kerr (S), A Knox (Office Worker)


John Laird (Boiler Stoker), Archibald Lamont (G), Colin (Coll) Lamont (G), Coll Lamong (Watchman), Joseph Lamont (Blacksmith), Peter Lamont (S/Carter), William Lamont (Carter), James Lang (G), Joseph Lester (G), Archibald Livingstone (Cooper:App.), Douglas Livingstone (Cooper:App.), John Livingstone (G), Robert Livingstone (G)


Hector McAllister (G), Archibald McAlpine (G), Archibald McAlpine (Labourer), John McAlpine (Carter), Robert McAlpine (Carter), Alexander McArthur (G), Archibald McArthur (G), Hector McArthur (G), James McBier (Chemist), Alexander McBride (G), Archibald McBride (G), Archibald McBride (S), John McBride (G), John McBride (Carter), Peter McBride (G), Peter McBride (G), Peter McBride (Carter), John McCall (Charcoal Maker), Alexander McCallum (Charcoal Maker), Alexander McCallum (Engine Driver), Alexander McCallum (Blacksmith), Alexander McCallum (Blacksmith), Alexander McCallum (G), Archibald McCallum (Cooper), Archibald McCallum (Cooper), Archibald McCallum (S), Archibald McCallum (Cooper), Colin McCallum (Blacksmith), Donald McCallum (G), Donald McCallum (Blacksmith), Dugald McCallum (Cooper), Dugald McCallum (Carter), Duncan McCallum (S), Duncan McCallum (Hoop Bender), Duncan McCallum (G), Hector McCallum (Joiner), Hugh McCallum (Blacksmith), Hugh McCallum (Blacksmith), Hugh McCallum (Blacksmith), Hugh McCallum (G), John McCallum (Partner), John McCallum (G), Norman McCallum (Blacksmith), Peter McCallum (Joiner:App.), Robert McCallum (Cooper Foreman), John McConachy (Engine Driver), William McCorkindale (Labourer), Donald McDonald (Labourer), Hector McDonald (Carter), Dugald McDugald (G), Colin McEwan (G), Duncan McEwan (G), Donald McFadyen (Cooper), Hugh McFadyen (G), Alexander McFarlane (Cooper), Hugh McFarlane (Carpenter), Malcolm McFarlane (Cooper), Archibald McGilp (Carpenter), J McGilp Jnr. (Store), John McGilp (Charcoal Burner), John McGilp Snr. (Cooper), John McGilp (Magazine Keeper), Neil McGilp Sen., (S), Neil McGilp Jnr., (G), Neil McGilp (G), Alexander McGlashan (G), Hugh McGlashan (G), George McGregor (G), Hugh McGregor (G), Walter McGregor (G), William McIndoe (Engine Fitter), Alexander McIntosh (S), Alexander McIntosh (Engine Driver), Duncan McIntosh (S), James McIntosh (Cooper), John McIntosh (G), Malcolm McIntosh (G), Thomas McIntosh (G), Thomas McIntosh (Cooper), Duncan McIntyre (Engine Driver), Duncan McIntyre (Blacksmith), James McIntyre (S), John McIntyre (G), Peter McIntyre (G), Alexander Mackay (G), Duncan McKellar (Carter), John McKellar (Carter), John McKellar (Carter), Robert McKellar (Carter), Donald McKenzie (G), Hector McKenzie (G), James McKenzie (Mate), James Mackie (Engineer), Alexander McLachlan (G), Archibald McLachlan (G), Archibald McLachlan (G), Charles McLachlan (Cooper), Colin McLachlan (G), Colin McLachlan (Engine Driver), Donald McLachlan (G), Donald McLachlan (G), Dugald McLachlan (G), Hector McLachlan (G) James McLachlan (Carter), John McLachlan (S), Donald McLean (Watchman), John McLean (G), Robert McLean (G), Thomas McMillan (Storekeeper), Donald McNeill (Carter), Dugald McNeil (Carter), Duncan McNeil (G), Duncan McNeil (Carter), Duncan McNeil (Cooper), James McNeil (G), John McNeil (G), Lachlan McNeil (G/Foreman), Michael McNeil (S), Michael McNeil (S), Peter McNeil (Message Boy), William McNeil (G), William McNeil (G), Dugald McNeill (General Labourer), John McNichol (Cooper), Alexander McNicol (G), Archibald McNicol (G), Donald McNicol (G/Waterman), Donald McNicol (Cooper), Donald McNicol (G), Donald McNicol (Labourer), John McNicol (G), Murdoch McNicol (G), Stewart McNicol (Joiner), Duncan McPherson (G), James McPherson (G), John McPherson (G), Peter McPherson (Carter), Donald McQueen (G), James McQueen (Engine Driver), William McQueen (G), William McQueen (Labourer), Allan McTaggart (Millwright), John McTaggart (G), Malcolm McTaggart (G), P McTaggart (Trucks), Peter McTaggart (G), Colin McVean (S), John McVicar (Carter)


Alexander Martin (Watchman), Archibald Martin (S), Archibald Martin (G) Joseph Matthews (Cooper), John Mellis (Engineer), Archibald Miller (G), Charles Millar (Millwright), John Millar (Carter), John Millar (G), Neil Millar (G), William Millar (G), William Millar (S), William Millar (G), Archibald Miller (G), Charles Miller (Engineer), John Miller (Carter), John Miller (Waterman), John Miller (G), Thomas Miller (Gardener), Archibald Mitchell (G), Archibald Mitchell (G), James Mitchell (G), James Mitchell (G), John Mitchell (G), John Mitchell (G), Peter Mitchell (G), Ronald Mitchell (G), Alexander Morrison (Cooper), Daniel Morrison (G), Donald Morrison (Engine Driver), John Morrison (Cooper), Nathan Muir (G), John Munn (Watchman), Alexander Munro (G), Hugh Munro (Engineer), John Murdoch (G)


John Nimmo (S/Foreman)


Alfred Olding (Millwright), George Olding (Joiner), William Olding Snr. (Millwright), William Olding Jnr. (Cooper), William Olding (G), William Olding (G), William Olding (Labourer), John Orr (Clerk)


Archibald Paterson (G), J Paterson (Carpenter), John Paterson (Joiner), John Pearce (G), Thomas Pearce (G), William Pearce (Engine Driver), Joseph Perry (G), James Phillips (G), William Pike (G), Thomas Pirie (Cooper)


Alexander Rowand (Partner)


William Salisbury Snr. (G), William Salisbury Jnr. (G), William Salisbury (Watchman), Archibald Scott (G/Packer), Barlow Scott (Jappaner), Barlow Scott (G), Thomas Scott (Japanner), Thomas Scott (Cooper), William Scott (Cooper), Charles Sealy (Blacksmith:App.), Henry Sealy (Engine Fitter), William Sealy (Manager), William Sealy (Sub-Manager), Duncan Sinclair (Millwright), Henry Sinclair (G), John Sinclair (G), John Sinclair (G), William Sinclair (Timekeeper), James Singleton (G), Joseph Slater (G), William Slater (Cooper), George Smith (G), George Smith (Mason), George Smith (Shoemaker), John D Smith (Cooper), Peter Smith (G), Thomas Spaling (Cooper), William Stay (G), Alexander Stewart (G), Archibald Stewart (G), Archibald Stewart (G), Colin Stewart (G), Hugh Stewart (G), James Stewart (Labourer), Charles Sutton (G), Charles Sutton (Japanner)


Alexander Taylor (G), George Teague (Labourer), Alexander Thomson (G), John Thomson (G), William Townley (Japanner), William Townley (G), John Trainer (G), William Tran(?)(Carter), Alexander Turner (G), Alexander Turner (G), Alexander Turner (G), Alexander Turner (G), Alexander Turner (G), Archibald Turner (G), Donald Turner (Heading), Donald Turner (G), Duncan Turner (Engine Keeper), John Turner (G), John Turner (Engineer), John Turner (G/Foreman), John Turner (G), John Turner (Watchman), Neil Turner (Carter), Robert Turner (S), Robert Turner (G), Robert Turner (Carter), William Turner (G)


E Walmsley (Coachman), Isaac Warden (Blacksmith), John Warden (Japan Boy), William Warden (Japan Boy), John Wark (Office Clerk), Alexander Weir (G), Donald Weir (Engine Driver), Donald Weir (Glazing), Donald Weir (Engineer), Dugald Weir (Trucks), Dugald Weir (Cooper), John Weir (Cooper), Neil Weir (Cooper), Neil Weir (G), Peter Weir (Carter), Alfred West (Cooper), Charles West (Cooper), Edward West (Trucks), Edward West (G), Matthew West (S/Japanner), Forrest Whinstone (Engine Fitter), Alexander Whyte (Carter), Archibald Whyte (G), Archibald Whyte (Foreman), Archibald Whyte (Labourer), Donald Whyte (Carter), Duncan Whyte (S), Duncan Whyte (G), Duncan Whyte (Carter), John Whyte (G), John Whyte (Carter), John Whyte (G), Neil Whyte (S/Stable Keeper), Neil Whyte (Wharfman), Neil Whyte (Office Clerk), James Wilkinson (G), Harry Winston (Chemist), Arthur Wright (G), Arthur Wright (Labourer), Charles Wylie (G)


Archibald Young (Carter), David Young (Joiner), David Young (Engine Driver), David Young (G), William Young (Carter)




Christina Baxter (Packer), Margaret Baxter (Packer), Agnes Brown (Packer), Mary Brown (Packer)


Mona Campbell (Packer), Mary Currie (Packer)


Jessie McAllister (Laboratory), Catherine McBride (Washerwoman), Mary McBride (Packer), Mary McBride (Packer), Margaret McCall (Packer), Mary McCall (Packer), Mary McCallum (Bag Maker), Ann McEwen (Shop Assistant), Mary McInnes (Packer), Agnes McIntyre (Packer), Catherine McIntyre (Packer)


Christina Martin (Packer), Mary Martin (Packer), Christina Mitchell (Packer), Eliza Morrison (Packer), Jessie Morrison (Packer)


Ann Paterson (Bag Maker)


Cicely Smith (Powder Maker), Catherine Stewart (Packer)


Christina Turner (Packer)


Catherine Whyte (Packer)


Eliza Young (Packer), Mary Young (Packer)

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Since these articles were first published, I have received many requests for help from family historians searching for their ‘gunpowder’ ancestors. I have been able to offer some help in most cases. In the meantime, I wish to record my sincere gratitude to the many people who have provided information and assistance in the preparation of this history. Kennedy McConnell passed away on 20th April 2008, aged 87.

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