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Cromarty Mains Farm Cottages
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Cromarty Mains Farm Cottages

Cromarty Mains Farm Cottages about 1918. My Great Grandfather Kenneth Sutherland (Shepherd) standing outside his house with his Daughters Mary (tallest) and Williamina (middle height), smallest child not known. any information on this family please get in tough as I'm researching my family tree. Kenneth and the family resided here until his death in 1957.
Picture added on 01 January 2012 at 12:16
Anyone got any idea what the large barrels outside each house are for?
Added by Sandy Thomson on 07 January 2012
Probably collection of rain water.
Added by Anon on 08 January 2012
Well, yes - I did think of that. But these cottages were built in 1879. I would have thought there would have been a piped water supply by that time - even if it was only a shared standpipe.
Added by Sandy Thomson on 09 January 2012
Not sure, but that looks like coal at the bottom of the first barrel.
Added by Sue florence on 17 January 2012
Well spotted Sue! I think you're right. Weirdest-looking coal bunkers I've ever seen.
Added by Sandy Thomson on 18 January 2012
If you look closely you can see they are made of steel rivetted at each end and positioned below the downpipe. Rain water wasn't used as drinking water but for general purpose use.
Anonymous comment added on 19 January 2012
"Weirdest-looking coal bunkers I've ever seen."

Quite sensible, really. The problem with rectangular ones is that the coal gets stuck in the corners. The cylindrical ones mean that the tendency for the coal would be to fall down to the bottom for easy shovelling.
Added by Colin Dunn on 19 January 2012
Don't you think you are taking the coal line a bit too far? These are hot riveted barrels similar to a boiler of that era. Many rainwater tanks were made from flagstone so these were pucker indeed.
Anonymous comment added on 19 January 2012
This is only a wild guess, but I remember seeing a similar picture in the "Farmers Weekly" which was described as an agricultural seed bin. This apparently was quite common outside farm cottages (circa 1920) before storage methods changed. As Sue now says they are obviously used here as coal bunkers.
Added by Alex Grant on 19 January 2012
Coal bunkers would be right as farm cottages in these days did not usually have much in the way of sheds. 10 bags of coal were given to workers as part of thier wages.
Added by Eric Mciver on 20 January 2012
If they were rainwater barrels, wouldn't it have made more sense to position them at the rear of the houses? Sorry - I am convinced they are being used here for coal.
Added by Sandy Thomson on 20 January 2012
Water or Coal? I come down on the rainwater answer. it was collected as 'soft' water,which was used to fill a clothes washing boiler, fired with wood logs. I used to deliver coal to the Mains, when my Dad had the Coal Business in the 50's. The containers were gone by then, so I offloaded to sheds at the rear of houses.Richard Brooke was farmer insitu. He was preceeded by Jasper Chapman, who moved to Udale. Duncan MacPherson succeeded Richard.

Added by Clem Watson on 25 January 2012
My father Bert Mackenzie, who worked for Duncan MacPherson at the Mains, then at Muirhead Farm, assures me that they would have been used originally to collect rainwater, before the houses had piped water. As Clem has said, the water collected was heated up and used for general purposes like clothes washing, or having a bath!
Added by Alison Skitt (nee Mackenzie) on 12 February 2012
I suppose this debate could go on and on, without any conclusion, but as "Anonymous" made reference to earlier on these are well constructed barrels, certainly unlike any water butts of that era circa 1920. There is no evidence of any tap connection/or previous, and as there is very obviously a chute at the bottom, I cannot see how this barrel was manufactured for rainwater collection.
Added by Alex Grant on 12 February 2012
Hi Alex. They were not specially made for water collection, but a useful vessel for the purpose, obtained from e.g. disused marine boilers! Our discharge coal tubs, half ton capacity, were after the coal ship era, used by a Cawdor farmer for grain storage. Many well made artifacts can always be used in another role. Some enterprising crofters have kept coal in a bath before now! Water was siphoned from the containers with a gentle 'sook', thence to a pail. Nae sweat.
Added by Clem Watson on 13 February 2012
I'm beginning to regret having started this hare running! Let me see if I can stop it in its tracks. The 'Ross-shire Journal' of 5/12/1879 describes the new houses as 'model cottages, with all the latest conveniences.' I reckon this implies a piped water supply, possibly to a communal standpipe. However, this would be hard spring water - useless for washing clothes. It was common, therefore, in the 19th century for even large houses to collect rainwater from the roof (sometimes going into a tank in a basement) for washing purposes. I'm guessing that these tanks were used for this purpose by some inhabitants, but that the house nearest the photographer preferred to use theirs for a coal bunker. Phew!
Added by Sandy Thomson on 13 February 2012
The house where the gentleman and his daughters are standing at looks like the one I'm staying in.
Added by James on 06 January 2018
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