It is difficult to believe today, but Scotland was once a world leader in industries as diverse as shipbuilding, the construction of railway locomotives, the production of iron and steel, and the manufacture of jute. Meanwhile, in the early 1900s some 150,000 people were employed in Scotland's coal mines: yet today no deep mined coal is extracted here at all.
Many books have been written about the industries whose development kept Scotland at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and turned it into a powerhouse of the British Empire. As far as we are aware, no one has previously tried to look at all of "Scotland's Lost Industries", and Michael Meighan is to be congratulated on the vast amount of research that has clearly gone into producing this fascinating, and slightly sad, book. If you want an overview of the story of Scotland's industrial decline, then look no further.
Though "overview" does not really do full justice to what has been achieved here. Yes, anyone seeking to cover the story of Scotland's steel industry in eight pages (and tobacco and cigarettes in the next eight) is inevitably going to have to rely on a fairly broad brush: but the author has not shied away from fascinating snippets and human stories. It is intriguing to read, for example, in the section on Scotland's explosives industry, that one factory shipped some of its gunpowder output to the West Calder Co-Op (now in West Lothian), where it was sold over the counter in bags to shale oil and coal miners, who were expected to provide (and store at home) the explosives needed for their trade. Elsewhere we read of the Madelvic Motor Carriage Company, founded in Granton near Leith in 1898: whose vehicles had five wheels, four to run on, and one, powered by an electric motor, to provide the traction. Which is perhaps why the company went bust in 1899 and none of us have ever heard of it. Until now.
The book is divided into sections on manufacturing industry; the extractive industries; the textile industries; and "Scotland and the Sea", and each of these is further divided into chapters on specific industries, providing what seems to us to be a very comprehensive coverage.