The Mill Fire at Salen, 1854
By John Dye

The report below comprises transcribed handwritten material from the office of the Procurator Fiscal of Tobermory, currently held at the Argyll Archives, Lochgilphead.

The pirn mill, which turned out larch and birch bobbins for Mr Clark in Glasgow, was burnt completely in a fire. The manager was away at the time and the foreman had gone to Glasgow, leaving just three boy workers and Mrs Torrance, the housekeeper at the Mill.

It seems that suspicion lay with the boys, who had been melting lead over a small fire. Poor Agnes Torrance lost practically all her belongings and Mr Clark suffered too, because the buildings which he had erected were not insured.

The document is quite long and is broken into four chapters. Click on the Chapter Headings immediately below to move around the document.

CHAPTER ONE
AGNES TORRANCE TELLS OF THE FIRE AND HOW SHE LOST EVERYTHING

CHAPTER TWO
THOMAS DONALD, ONE OF THE THREE PIRN MILL BOY WORKMEN, RECALLS THE NIGHT IN QUESTION

CHAPTER THREE
THE OTHER TWO BOY WORKMEN CORROBERATE THOMAS'S STORY AS DO THE TWO OTHER YOUNGER BOYS

CHAPTER FOUR
DUGALD MACNAUGHTON, INNKEEPER NEARBY, DESCRIBES HOW HE SAW THE FIRE GET HOLD AND WILLIAM DAVIDSON THE MANAGER EXPLAINS THAT HE WAS AWAY AT THE TIME; THE CHARRED REMAINS WERE LATER VIEWED BY ALLAN CAMERON

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Agnes Torrance Aged 45, widow and housekeeper to the manager

Thomas Donald One of the three boys working at the pirn mill

Robert Stewart The second boy working at the mill

James Colquhoun The third boy

Samuel MacNaughton A younger boy aged 11, playing with the others

James Maclachlan Another younger boy, aged 13, also at the mill

Other parts were played by William Davidson, manager of the mill, who was away at Druimsallie at the time, as was Duncan MacLean, the foreman. The owner of the mill was John Clark Junior of Mile End, Glasgow, who had a lease from the Trustees of the estate of Sir James Milles Riddell, Bart.

Folk in Salen (two houses) and Tarbert (very few people resident), comprising Dugald MacNaughton, Mary MacNaughton and Widow Maclachlan were also referred to at the hearing, together with the boys James and John Livingstone and, finally Allan Cameron, Sheriff Officer in Tobermory.

CHAPTER ONE
AGNES TORRANCE TELLS OF THE FIRE AND HOW SHE LOST EVERYTHING

Nine witnesses gave evidence, the most important being Agness Torrance, who lived over the mill

Compeared Mrs Agnes Torrance a widow residing at Salen in the parish of Ardnamurchan and shire of Argyll who says:

I am 45 years of age - I am housekeeper to Mr Wm. Davidson, the Manager of the Bobbin Manufactory at Salen, the property of Mr John Clark Junior, Manufacturer, Mile-end, Glasgow.

The dwelling house is immediately above the mill and is entered by an outside stair at the back. The dwelling house is divided into two, - the one end having a kitchen, a bedroom occupied by myself and some other small places for lumber. The other, or south end, is divided into four apartments, a parlour and three bedrooms. All neatly furnished. There is a fireplace in the parlour and one of the bedrooms on that end. There is also fire places in the kitchen and bedroom in the other, or north, end. In the centre at the stair head there is a milk house and pantry. The light to all the rooms was by skylights from the roof and by windows from the gables.

The wheel of the mill was next [to] the gable on the south side - the parlour side. A large pole ran up thro' the roof from the mill, into the parlour, as a support for the trows or waterway. The end of the pole was in the corner of the gable at the south side.

Having described her residential quarters, she then spoke of the water-wheel and the works below, which comprised a saw-shop and a machine-shop

The mill itself is divided into two apartments: the one apartment on the north side, and immediately under the kitchen is called the Saw Shop. A number of saw tables and circular saws and benches are fitted up in it. A partition wall of stone and lime separates this shop from the Machine Shop in the other end (south) of the building. This Machine Shop is directly under the parlour and three bedrooms before described. Three bobbin machines are fixed in this shop and various other pieces of mechanisms suited to the trade which I can't describe. There were a number of wooden boxes or bunkers for receiving pirns as they fell from the machines lying in this shop. There were also a number of other loose articles lying about. There was a fireplace in this shop; near to it was kept a wooden press fixed to the gable in which oils and other articles for the use of the mill were placed. Next to this press and in the corner was the pole running into the parlour and thro' the roof before referred to for the support of the trows. A door on the west side of the building led into the Machine Shop. The Machine Shop by two doors in the partition communicated with the Saw Shop, and there was also a door in the north gable into the Saw Shop.

She followed this by describing a store next door for larch for the bobbins (or birch, according to a later witness) and a cottage used as living quarters by the three boy workers

The whole mill was lighted with large glass windows which opened for air to the workmen. At the north end, or rather, attached to the north end, of the mill was a wooden shed having a wooden roof containing two stacks of squared larch of the size suited to be converted into bobbins. One of these stacks was piled against the gable. The other stack was in the opposite end of the shed, sufficient room for a person to pass with a barrow being left between. On the outside of the shed was another pile or stock of cut wood. This pile was unprotected.

Behind and on the east side of the mill there was a wooden cottage having a wooden roof covered with tarred canvas to protect it from the water. This cottage is situated quite close to the mill, a passage of a few feet only being between them. The cottage sat on higher ground than the mill and in consequence, tho' a much smaller building, its roof was nearly on a level with the top of the side walls of the mill. The outside stair leading to the dwelling house and before referred to was made of wood. The cottage was occupied chiefly as sleeping apartments for the boys engaged at work in the mill.

The water-wheel had not been working of late because of the dry summer weather

The mill, for want of a sufficient supply of water, has not been regularly wrought(?) for some time back. The manager, Mr Davidson, for a week or ten days has been at Drimnasallie near Locheil superintending the cutting of wood. The mill was in the charge of the foreman Duncan McLean during Mr Davidson's absence.

On Monday 17th July 1854 the mill was not at work, and the day was chiefly occupied by Maclean and the only others employed viz. the three boys Thomas Donald, Robert Stewart and James Colquhoun, in cleaning out the mill, both Saw and Machine shops and in packing the made pirns or bobbins into bags. This was completed in the evening.

On the following day Tuesday 18th July 1854, the Steamer 'Maid of Lorn' came into Salen from Glasgow early in the forenoon. The above hands were employed shipping on board the steamer the bobbins which had been made the day before. The whole were put on board and the steamer sailed for Glasgow about 2 p.m. Duncan McLean went with her, by leave, as he said, from Mr Davidson. The mill was thus left in charge of the three boys before named. Mr Davidson was absent at Drimnasallie.

Having packed the pirns for shipping, the boys were left alone at the mill because Duncan McLean, the foreman went with the boat to Glasgow

During the afternoon the boys Donald and Stewart were employed by me working in the garden. In the evening I heard noise in the mill as of boys. I thought they were swinging with one of the leather bands between two of the pirn machines. I did not go in to see who was there or what they were about. This discontinued about 8 p.m. At nine p.m., the three boys, Stewart, Donald and Colquhoun went into the wooden cottage to bed. About that time I went out for the purpose of milking the cow and enclosing the pigs. I passed the north end of the mill and I then observed that the door was standing open. After I had milked the cow I went to the house by the same road and left it there. I went out again, went into the mill and gathered two or three pieces of bark and chips for the purpose of kindling the fire on the following morning. I did not go into the Machine Shop but I looked into it and saw nothing wrong. I left with the impression that all was right. I saw no appearance whatever of fire in the grate. I went out and afterwards locked the door. I went out by the gable door from the Saw Shop after locking it and put the key thro' and broken pane of the joining window and left it on the inside sill. I then went round the building and tried the door on the west side leading to the Machine Shop and found it to secured - it appeared to have been secured inside. This was about half past nine.

After locking up, Agnes read her Bible and felt lonely

I went direct up the stairs and on getting into the house secured the door inside. After that I went into the parlour and read my bible as long as I could see, I think about half an hour. There was nobody in the house [but] me at all. After I had read the bible I sat for some time looking out of the end window and a feeling came over me of loneliness. I rose and left the parlour and shut the door. I looked into all the bedrooms on that side of the house and shut all the doors of them. I then went into the kitchen and sat down at the fire. There was a stick on the fire which I turned and sat at it for about half an hour and until it burned down. There was no fire in any part of the dwelling house except in the kitchen and I had not even a candle lighted until I rose from the kitchen fire to go to bed. I am quite sure of this. By the clock in the lobby as I passed it I observed it was 20 minutes past 10. I sat about half an hour in the kitchen and then went into my bedroom which communicates with it. So far as I can think this would be about 11 p.m. I lighted a candle to shew me to bed. I remained up in the bedroom only during the short period I took to undress. I then put out the candle and went into bed.

She went to bed just before half past ten and was restless until falling into a fitful slumber, awakening at about one o'clock in some alarm

I did not fall asleep as usual and became restless. The cat which I had left in the kitchen began to cry piteously and after laying for an hour I rose and went into the kitchen to see if I could find it, but after searching I did not succeed. I thought that it had got itself confined in some of the presses the doors of which I opened. I did not go into any other apartments and I neither found a smell nor did I see any smoke at this time. I went again to bed, the cat still continuing to cry but not so much as formerly. I was still restless in bed and sleep appeared to have deserted me. I at last fell into a doze, not a sound sleep, and was awakened by the fall or breaking of glass or a noise which very much resembled this. I felt oppressed with a weight and I started out of bed and went into the kitchen. I found it filled with smoke. I don't think from the appearance of the night that this could be later than 1 o'clock. I ran from the kitchen immediately and opened the door and went out naked as I rose from my bed.

She found the mill was on fire, so awoke the three boys and sent for help from her neighbour, Dugald MacNaughton

The smoke filled the lobby and I had difficulty in getting the door opened. On getting out I saw a gleam of light as of a flame passing over the roof of the house. I ran to the cottage and knocked up the three lads. Donald, Colquhoun and Stewart and informed them that the mill was afire and to run immediately and inform Dugald MacNaughton, who lives in the immediate neighbourhood.

I looked into the Machine Shop and saw that it was filled with smoke and I think at the far corner near the fireplace I observed a blaze but from the state of agitation in which I was at the time I can't state this positively. I also saw a flame rise above the roof immediately above the parlour and run along the ridge.

She ran into her smoky rooms and gathered up some undergarments and bedcoverings

After this I ran into the house under an impulse to save some of my clothing, as I was naked. The flame and smoke met me at the door. I put my hand on my mouth and pressed forward into the bedroom I had just left. It was completely filled with smoke. I snatched at a chair and brought with me of clothing as much as came with me. I also grasped at some of the bedclothes and ran. The whole south end of the building was in flames and I got our with difficulty. On getting outside I found that I had succeeded in bringing with me only my underclothes, a bed covering and a pair of blankets.

The fire had consumed absolutely everything

The wind at the time was blowing strong from the south-west and in less than half and hour after I got up the whole roof was in a flame and the portion of it above the parlour which apparently had first taken fire had fallen in. The only party who came was Dugald McNaughton and his brother, no males except them are resident near the mill. The water was turned on but it had no effect as it fell only on the wheel. Indeed it was impossible to stay the flames. The whole roof soon fell in and in a very short time afterwards the ceiling also gave way. Some sparks from the fire fell on the wooden cottage at the side of the mill and it also caught fire and was destroyed. The shed at the north end also caught fire in the same way and it and the stacks of bobbins were also destroyed.

I went to the house of Dugald MacNaughton and when I reached it, after seeing the work of destruction nearly completed it was three a.m.

Agnes had lost all her belongings

Next morning on going to the spot, nothing but the walls of the mill was standing. Everything wood about it was destroyed. The Machinery was all damaged and part of it, the saws and benches, entirely destroyed. Not a vestige of the wooden cottage or shed at the end of the mill remained. The whole furniture in the dwelling house was destroyed and I have lost my little all. I had £11 in cash in the house and it has gone. My whole clothing and any little articles belonging to me have shared in the general conflagration. The only articles saved from the wooden cottage was the beds and bedding which the boys effected. Everything in the shape of wood was so dry that there was no time almost for doing anything - the flames took effect so hurriedly and the burning went on with such rapidity.

I can give no idea as to how the fire originated. I saw nothing wrong before going to bed. I am quite satisfied that it did not begin in the dwelling house. The first part of the building which gave way was the roof immediately above the parlour and there was no fire in that room or in that end for a week, not so much as a candle. It must have originated in the workshop - I made enquiry at the boys Stewart, David and Colquhoun about what was going on in the mill on the previous evening and whether a fire had been kindled. They denied a fire and said they and three or four other boys including Samuel MacNaughton were swinging themselves on one of the leathern wheel bands.

She had no idea how the fire started, but Dugald McNaughton later said it might have been the boys, who had lit a small fire and were melting lead earlier

Subsequently I found out by McNaughton that a fire had been kindled there and that they were employed melting lead. This led me to suppose that sparks may have got from that fire among the saw dust and that the press near the fire, and subsequently the pole supporting the trows had thereby become ignited and hence the conflagration. I can form no other idea than this. I believe the building was not insured but I merely heard that reported.

It was quite improbable for anyone to get into the dwelling house after I locked and barred the door before retiring to rest. I think it is possible, however, that entrance could have been got to the mill without much difficulty. I was not left in charge of the premises nor did MacLean before he went off say anything to me concerning them. I locked up the mill simply because I knew the three boys were in bed and left the key in the inside of the window sill next the door. This I understood was the customary place for keeping the key, that so it might be at hand in the morning for the first workman that would make his appearance. I did not examine the windows and some of them may have been open.

There are only two houses at Salen besides the mill. The one occupied by Dugald McNaughton and the other by Mrs Mary MacNaughton, a widow, and family. The nearest houses to the place is Tarbert, about 1½ miles distant and there are very few people resident there. The mill was destroyed before a person could have communicated with them and brought them to the spot.

CHAPTER TWO
THOMAS DONALD, ONE OF THE THREE PIRN MILL BOY WORKMEN, RECALLS THE NIGHT IN QUESTION

He helped to label the sacks of finished pirns for loading on the Maid of Lorn, bound for Glasgow later that day

Compeared Thomas Donald, a Workman at the Mill at Salen in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll, aged 15 years:

Mr Davidson is the Manager of the Mill, Duncan Maclean is the Foreman. On Monday last, 17th July 1854, the Mill was not at work. Mr Davidson was absent at Druimsallie superintending the cutting of timber.

That day, Maclean, Robert Stewart, James Colquhoun and myself were employed clearing up & cleaning out the Mill. The whole bobbins were put into sacks and tied and everything loose in the shape of wood was taken out. The sacks containing the Bobbins were left in the Mill.

On Tuesday 18th July 1854 we were employed in the forenoon in putting these Bobbins on Board the Steamer 'Maid of Lorn' for the purpose of their being taken to Glasgow. I tied the addresses on the Bags. Maclean the foreman sailed that day in the afternoon with the steamer for Glasgow without saying anything about who was to look after the Mill. The doors of the Mill were not locked nor were they secured in any other way by him before he left. After the steamer sailed, having nothing to do we erected a swing with one of the leather straps between two of the pirn machines & amused ourselves by enjoying a swing. We were joined by Samuel MacNaughten, John Maclachlan, John Livingstone & James Livingstone, boys all younger than myself. They also engaged in the swing. We went about 5 p.m.

After the steamer had sailed, Thomas Donald played in the mill on a makeshift swing and watched the other boys form a lead weight for young Samuel MacNaughton

I left the Mill along with Stewart shortly afterwards and went to work in the garden. I was going out and in to the Mill to see what was going on and taking a share in the pleasure of the swing. I saw John Maclachlan put some chips of wood on the fire and kindle it. There were some embers in the grate which caused the sticks to burn. That fire had been there during the day and there was always a little left in the grate. Maclachlan got the chips of wood abut the door. There was no wood inside at all. Maclachlan melted some lead in a pot which he took from the press and poured the molten lead into a hole in the floor. It was intended for a sink for Samuel MacNaughten. After it cooled, the sink was beat out with a hammer by I think James Colquhoun. The fire afterwards died out. No more wood was put on it and it was never large. I left the Mill at or about 7 p.m. along with all the others and mentioned & I was not again in the Mill that night. I saw Maclachlan make his water on the fire and afterwards having no shoes on his feet I saw him put one of them into the grate. I did not try the fire myself but I observed no sign of life in it. I went to bed along with Colquhoun and Stewart in the Wooden Cottage at 9 p.m.

Having gone to bed at about 9 o'clock, he was awoken in the small hours by Mrs Torrance who said the mill was on fire

During the night we were put up by Mrs Torrance who told us to get out of bed immediately as the Mill was on fire. We all started out of bed & I ran and informed Dugald McNaughten and he rose also. The hour when we were knocked up was ½ past 12 or rather better. The flames were going on over the building when we got out & the whole roof was in a blaze. I saw no fire in the Mill or lower part of the building at this time at all and had I not been afraid I could have gone into it. After Dugald MacNaughten came the water was set on but it fell only on the large wheel at the south gable of the building. The wind was blowing from the South West at the time a pretty strong breeze. We could do nothing to save the building as we could not approach near to it for the flames. The roof shortly after we got up fell in and in a very little time afterwards, the loft also gave way. The wooden cottage in which we slept also took fire and was burned down. The roof was covered with tar cloth and the sparks from the Mill lighted on it and ignited the building. It burned so quickly that I had time only to save the bedclothes & beds in the cottage. There was a wooden shed at the north end of the Mill containing two stacks of square larch/birch (could be either) which also took fire and was burned in the same way. The breeze was strong and the fire burned with great rapidity. We were quite powerless before it and could do nothing.

I can't say anything about the origin of the fire and I don't think it began in the Mill for the reason first that no blaze was visible there at the time we were knocked up and secondly because the roof gave way before the loft. All which is truth.

I did not see any of the boys smoking in the Mill nor did I see any of them with pipes in their possession. They had opportunities for this without my seeing it when I was in the garden.

CHAPTER THREE
THE OTHER TWO BOY WORKMEN CORROBERATE THOMAS'S STORY AS DO TWO OF THE OTHER YOUNGER BOYS

James Colquhoun

Compeared James Colquhoun, Workman at Salen Mill in the parish of Ardnamurchan & shire of Argyll who says:

I am 16 years of age. I concur in the Statement of Thomas Donald in toto, which is truth.

Robert Stewart

Compeared Robert Stewart, Workman at the Salen Mill in the parish of Ardnamurchan and shire of Argyll who says:

I concur with Thomas Donald in his Statement and adds:

I went into the Mill entering by the door of the Machine house about ½ past 8 p.m. I locked the door inside & crossed the room and went out by a side window which was open and which I closed behind me. There was no appearance whatever of fire in the grate or in any part of the room that I could perceive. I did not go into the Saw Shop, nor did I observe whether the door leading from the outside into it was shut - all of which is truth.

Samuel MacNaughten (sic)

Compeared Samuel MacNaughten, Son of and residing with Mary Macnaughten, a widow, residing at Salen in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll, who says:

I am about 11 years of age. My mother's house is situated a very short distance from the Mill at Salen. On Tuesday last I was at the quay when the Steamer Maid of Lorn sailed for Glasgow. I saw that Duncan Maclean, the Foreman in the Mill, went away by her. I saw a number of bags of bobbins put on board which I knew were brought down from the Mill. After the steamer sailed and in the afternoon I went into the Mill along with a boy named John McLachlan. We found the three Mill boys, Thomas Donald, Robert Stewart and James Colquhoun there. They were in the Machine Shop. Bye and Bye we were joined by two other boys of the names of John & (blank) Livingstone. We was all swinging, taking turn about with one of the leathern wheel bands suspended from the top of two of the Pirn Machines. Two of the Mill boys left us, viz Thomas Donald and Robert Stewart, and went away. The rest remained going out & in to the Machine Shop.

I did not observe any fire in the fireplace while we were swinging but about 6 p.m. John McLachlan put some sticks in the grate and I saw that he kindled a fire from some embers which were in the grate. On the fire he put a small pot which he took from the press and in it melted some lead which was made into a 'Sink' for me. McLachlan said he got the lead from his father. I am quite sure I did not give it to him. After the lead was melted it was poured into a hole in the ground and was beat out with a hammer by James Colquhoun after it was cold. I don't remember where the pot was placed after the lead was poured out of it. Maclachlan lighted a pipe with a piece of wood from the fire and he & John Livingstone smoked it in the Machine House. None of the others smoked. While the lead was being melted the Wooden Bunkers were brought near the fire and used as seats. I was the last to leave the building & the fire was then out, at least I did not see any appearance of it in the grate. It was originally a very small fire and scarecely yielded a blaze. I did not observe any of the boys put water on it.

It was about 8 o'clock when we all left the Mill. The door was drawn to when we went out but not locked. The Mill, both Saw Shop and Machine Shop was completely clear. I saw no wood in it at all. The article used for the fire was two or three chips of wood found by McLachlan under one of the benches in the Saw Shop. After leaving the Mill I went direct home and was not again in it that night. Next morning after getting up the Mill and Wooden Cottage were in ruins. They had been destroyed during the night by fire. I told Mrs Torrance the Housekeeper what I have stated in this declaration, all which is truth.

John Maclachlan

John Maclachlan, Son of and residing with Widow Donald Maclachlan at Tarbert in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll who says:

I am 13 years of age. I was in the Mill at Salen on the afternoon of Tuesday 18th July 1854 along with Samuel MacNaughten and I concur with him in his Statement, with this exception:

that it was him who asked me to kindle the fire and gave me the lead to melt for making a sink. I am quite sure I did not light a pipe to smoke when I was in the Mill, nor did I see any other person use a pipe. I took the pot for melting the lead out of a press near the fireplace and after finishing with it I took it outside & put it into cold water and kept it till it was quite cool, then put it back into the press. There was nothing on or in it that would ignite any inflammable material, I'm sure of this. Before leaving the Mill the fire was near out and to make sure I made water on it and afterwards inserted one of my bare feet into the grate & I felt it was quite out.

We all left the Mill about or a little before 8 p.m. and I went straight home. I was not near it again that night. Next day I heard that it and the Wooden Cottage had been burned to the ground during night. I went and saw that it was so, nothing but the side walls & end being left standing. Everything in the shape of wood in & about the Mill was burnt. All which I declare to be true.

CHAPTER FOUR
DUGALD MACNAUGHTON, INNKEEPER NEARBY, DESCRIBES HOW HE SAW THE FIRE GET HOLD AND WILLIAM DAVIDSON THE MANAGER EXPLAINS THAT HE WAS AWAY AT THE TIME; THE CHARRED REMAINS WERE LATER VIEWED BY ALLAN CAMERON

Dugald McNaughton tells how he was called from his bed after midnight, but the buildings were well alight and he could do nothing

Compeared Dugald McNaughten, Innkeeper residing at Salen in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll, who says:

I am 50 years of age. My house is the nearest house to the Mill at Salen. I think there is a distance of about 60 yards between the two. On Tuesday evening the 18th Instant, I passed the Mill about dusk and it was then apparently all right. I did not go into it. On the following morning, viz Wednesday 19th July 1854, I was knocked out of bed by one of the Mill boys who informed me that that building was in flames. This was exactly at 1 o'clock a.m.

I dressed & went out immediately and saw the flame coursing over the roof of the house, on nearing it I got the water set on but it fell chiefly on the wheel and did no good. There was no one there but the three Mill boys, Donald, Stewart and Colquhoun, and it was impossible to stay in the flames. The whole roof shortly after I reached fell in and sank down upon the loft. That loft soon afterwards also gave way and fell to the ground. During the progress of the fire the Wooden Cottage near the Mill caught fire & burned down quickly to the ground. The roof of that cottage was covered with tar cloth and sparks falling from the Mill lighting on it, soon, with the strong breeze of wind blowing at the time, set it into a blaze. The Wooden Shed at the end of the Mill took fire in the same way and was burned to the ground.

No efforts of those present were of any use and I may say the flames had undisputed sway. It was impossible to do anything as there were no ladders at hand and even had they been there, the small quantity of water we would have been enabled to throw upon the building would have done no good. I have no idea as to how the fire originated but I have never seen the work of destruction more complete. Everything that could burn is burnt and the walls of the building at present standing are rent and entirely useless. This is truth.

William Davidson, the manager, explains how the mill cost £400 to build and was on land leased from Riddell

Compeared William Davidson, Manager of the Bobbin Manufactory at Salen in the parish of Ardnamurchan and Shire of Argyll who says:

I am 46 years of age. The Mill & buildings at Salen were the property of John Clark junior, manufacturer, Mile-end, Glasgow. They are leased from Sir James Milles Riddell of Ardnamurchan and Suinart, Baronet, and the lease expires at Martinmas next. The buildings were erected at the expense of Mr Clark and £400 was stipulated in the lease to be paid to him therefore at his removal by the proprietor Sir James Riddell.

It was intended to transfer the bobbin works to another site on Tobermory, but as this was not in place yet, negotiatiations to extend the Salen lease for a further year were in hand

Mr Clark recently bought a steading in Tobermory for the purpose of transferring the work there during the ensuing autumn. Sir James' Estate is under Trust and tho' the purchase above referred to had been made, negotiations were pending between Mr Clark & Mr Charles Murray Barstow, accountant in Edinburgh, for a lease for another year of the Mill at Salen. Mr Barstow is Trustee on Sir James' estate. The bargain was not concluded who' there was a likelihood it would soon be.

Davidson had been away on business at Druimsallie, when the fire occurred

I have been resident at Druimsallie (also referred to as Drimnasallie - JD) for the last 10 days and left the works at Salen in charge of Duncan Maclean the foreman. I was superintending the cutting of wood. Maclean has been unwell for some time and as there was not sufficient water to drive the work I gave him permission by letter to go to Glasgow per 'Maid of Lorn' which left Salen on Tuesday last, for the benefit of his health.

Yesterday I received intelligence by Express that the Mill had been destroyed by fire on Wednesday morning. I started immediately for this and have made enquiries into the matter. I find that some boys had been in the Mill on Tuesday afternoon after Maclean left & had kindled a fire. I am of the opinion that a spark from it had got among the sawdust and attached itself to the Wooden Pole supporting the Trows and thus destroyed the building. The loss to Mr Clark will be heavy as neither the Building nor machinery were insured and the claim upon Sir James is lost. I can conceive of no other way than that alone mentioned for the origin of the fire. Mrs Torrance was a very careful person and I don't think it could have originated in the dwelling house under her charge. I cannot put a figure on the loss sustained but it must be very heavy. All which is truth.

Allan Cameron accompanied the Procurator Fiscal of Tobermory to Salen two days after the fire and undertook a careful investigation

Compeared Allan Cameron, Sherriff Officer in Tobermory in the united parishes of Kilninian and Kilmore, Island of Mull & Shire of Argyll, who says:

I am 31 years of age. I accompanied the P.F. to Salen and was present with him there on Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd July 1804.

I made on both days a minute and careful examination of the premises. Nothing but the walls of the Mill and the Iron Machinery were left. The walls and Gables of the building from the action of the heat were rent and presented a very dilapidated appearance. A large wooden beam extending from the one gable to the other & which rested on the partition in the centre of the building apparently intended to support the loft was laying horizontally and nearly burnt to a cinder. A wooden pole in the south-west corner in the inside of the building apparently intended as a support for the trows was standing but also very much burnt. All the other wood work in the premises was destroyed. The wooden cottage which I knew stood near the Mill was totally destroyed and nothing remains of it but ashes.

The mill and outbuildings were totally destroyed and there was no evidence as to how the fire started

On the north end of the Mill I observed two poles which apparently were used as supports to a wooden shed which had also been burnt. The ground at and around the place was scorched an blackened and I observed a large number of nails laying in the ground which had recently been used in the construction of the Shed. I made a careful search for the key which Mrs Torrance said she had left on the inside sill of the Gable Window but without success. I could find nothing in the course of my Examination that could lead me to form an idea of the origin of the fire. The ground around the building was hard and no footprints were discernible. No inflammable material was to be seen. All which is truth.