Monday 29 September 2014

Scottish Gold by Alfred Lock 1882

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This excerpt is from Gold, its occurrence and extraction, 1882, by Alfred G. Lock.
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Scotland. The most complete and scientific account of the gold- 
fields of Scotland is given by Dr. Lauder Lindsay, who, while visiting, in 
1861, the auriferous districts of the province of Otago, New Zealand, 
was much struck with the similarity, as respects physical geography and 
geology, between that country and many parts of Scotland. It occurred 
to him that, in so far as the physical conformation obtained, and the
same geological structure existed in many parts of Scotland, there 
should be a co-equal diffusion of gold as respects at least its area, and 
he proposed to himself to determine how far this suggestion or belief 
would be borne out by actual investigation. Since that period, he has 
given all the attention that opportunity permitted to the subject of the 
diffusion of gold in Scotland, both as regards its area and quantity. In 
1863, he paid a special visit to the Leadhills district, which, some 
centuries ago, yielded to systematic working upwards of half a million's 
worth of gold, and which, regarded by the test of its then productiveness, 
is fairly entitled to the appellation of a " gold-field." In order to com- 
pare the Scottish gold and gold-rocks with those of other auriferous 
countries, he made a special examination of the International Exhibition 
of 1862, and of all the museums accessible to him in Britain, Australia, 
and New Zealand. His general results or conclusions are : 

1. That gold is much more extensively or generally diffused in Scot- 
land than has been supposed. 

2. That the area of diffusion, and the extent to which it occurs, can 
only be determined ty systematic investigation, equivalent at least to 
the " prospecting " of gold-diggers. 

3. That hitherto, and with certain limited and local exceptions, there 
has been no such systematic prospecting in Scotland ; and 

4. That there are indications, if they do not always amount to 
proofs, of the existence in Scotland both of auriferous quartzites that 
is, of gold in situ and of auriferous " drifts," using the term " drift " in 
its most comprehensive sense. 

Before making general observations on the Scottish gold-fields, or 
comparing them, as regards their richness or extent, with those of other 
auriferous countries, which are better known, Dr. Lindsay gives briefly 
the principal results of his observations and inquiries at and concerning 
what he denominates the Crawford or Leadhills " gold-fields "; the whole 
of that moorland and hill region of the southern highlands Upper 
Clydesdale the southern extremity of Lanarkshire, variously known as 
Crawford, Crawford Moor, or Crawford-Lindsay, which includes the dis- 
trict now known as the Leadhills, and forms the watershed of the 4 great 
southern rivers (the Clyde, Nith, Tweed, and Annan), has repeatedly, and 
in various ways, proved to be more or less auriferous. Calvert prospected 
the whole Leadhills district, and found gold in every gully and valley. 

Griffin also prospected the whole district with the similar result, that 
he found gold in dust or grains " everywhere." But long prior to their 
modern system of prospecting, some of the Leadhills valleys were the 
scene of the far-famed alluvial washings under Sir Bevis Bulmer in 
1578-92, and it was from the produce of such washings that the Scottish 
Regalia were fashioned in 1 542, and Kings James IV. and V.'s celebrated 
bonnet-pieces coined. Bulmer's chief washings are said to have been in 
the valley of the Elvan, and he is also represented as having washed the 
whole bed of the Glengonner water. But vestiges of ancient " diggins," 
precisely similar to those of Otago, are to be met with in many parts of 
the Leadhills district. For instance, Lindsay found the haugh or " flat " 
on the banks of the Glengonner water above Abington and immediately 
below Glencaple Burn, covered with a series of quartz-like mounds, 
exactly resembling those with which he was familiar in the famous 
Gabriel's Gully at Tuapeka in Otago, and which are said really to mark 
the site, or one of the sites, of Bulmer's celebrated workings. It was the 
gold-prospecting in this district, it is said, that led to the discovery of 
the lead, which has proved so much more permanent a source of 
prosperity to the district, to which it has, moreover, given its distinctive 
modern name of late years ; and at present gold is systematically 
collected by the Leadhills miners chiefly in certain localities, viz. in 
the Windgate or Windygate Burn, in Langcleuch Burn, in Bellgall Burn, 
in the whole course of the Elvan and Glengonner from the Clyde to 
their source. 

The gold occurs chiefly in the gravelly clay, locally known as " till," 
as this coats the flanks of all the Leadhills valleys ; but it is also to 
be found in the shingle, gravels, or clays of the stream-beds. Several 
of the miners have considerable reputation as skilful and successful 
gold-finders, and their practised eyes are constantly finding gold in both 
localities, the hill-sides and the stream-beds. This gold is invariably 
known as " drift " or "alluvial " gold. There is no present local evidence 
of the existence of auriferous quartzites. But in 1803, the late Prof. 
Traill of Edinburgh found gold in a vein of quartz in situ at Wanlock- 
head. All the gold belonging to this district which Lindsay has seen is 
of a granular or nuggety character, and quite comparable with the usual 
produce of Otago, or other auriferous countries. Some of the nuggets 
found in former times, and preserved in the cabinets of local proprietors, 
are of considerable size and value. The cabinet of the late Lord 
Hopetoun contains two one of them weighing 2 Ib. 3 oz. = 27 oz., or 
12,960 gr., which at the current price of gold in Australia, 4/. per oz., is 
worth io8/., collected, it is said, about 1502, prior to the systematic 
workings of Bulmer ; the other, weighing I oz. 10 dwt., or 720 gr. The 
first would appear to be by far the largest mass of native gold ever 
found in Scotland. Since, however, systematic gold workings on a large 
scale were discontinued, the size of the Leadhills nuggets has been much 
smaller, the largest seldom now exceeding 2 or 3 gr., though they are 
frequently found of that size. Just previous to Lindsay's visit in the 
autumn of 1863, a nugget of 30 gr. had been found, and another single 
nugget, whose weight he failed to ascertain, sold for 25.?. at Abington. 
More generally the gold occurs here as rough granules, coarser and 
larger than those constituting what could properly be called " dust," and 
of this considerable quantities are frequently collected in limited periods 
for special purposes, such as marriage gifts or jewellery, to or for the 
local proprietors. Thus, in a fortnight in 1862, 975 gr. were collected 
for the Countess of Hopetoun, and on another occasion 600 gr. in 6 
weeks by 30 men at spare hours, 1 5 working in the forenoon, and the 
other half in the afternoon. About Abington, in 1858, similar quantities 
were collected under similar circumstances, to furnish marriage jewellery 
for Lady Colebrooke. Between May and October 1863, three miners in 
the intervals of leisure from their usual work, collected for Dr. Lindsay 
33 g r< > which they found in the "till," about 40 yd. above the bed of the 
stream, half-way down the Langcleuch Burn, between Leadhills and 
Elvanfoot : their charge was 2Os., that is, at the rate of about I5/. 
per oz., or ^d. per gr. During the last 5 years, the price of crude gold 
in Australia and New Zealand has averaged 3/. \js. 6d. to 4/. per oz., so 
that the Scottish diggers obtained for their produce nearly 4 times as 
much as the New Zealand or Australian diggers got for theirs. The price 
appears at first sight to be extremely and disproportionally high ; but the 
cases are by no means parallel ; for in the case of the Leadhills gold, 
the collection is made to meet demands for cabinet specimens, or for 
jewellery materials, under circumstances quite exceptional. The Lead- 
hills miners collect their gold mostly to order ; it is thus at once disposed 
of, and hence gold is seldom to be found there for sale, or only in 
very small quantities. On one occasion Lindsay was offered a sample 
of 140 to 1 60 gr. for 5/., that is, at the rate at which he purchased his 
smaller sample, but the miners rarely have so much in their possession 
unsold. In the summer of 1862, by way of holiday work, the miners 
frequently collected quantities of 1 5 to 54 gr. The able-bodied Lead- 
hills miner never, however, gives up his usual labour, at which he earns 
I5.y. per week, for the more precarious gains to be derived from gold- 
finding. To gold-seeking he devotes only his spare hours, his holiday 
time, or his periods of sickness or debility. The director of the mines at 
Leadhills has such an opinion of the abundance of the gold, the facility 
with which it may be collected, and the probable remunerativeness of 
the gold-working, that with a favourable lease of the ground, he and 
many others would at once combine to commence systematic operations. 
Other local authorities are, however, much less sanguine of profitable 
results from working the gold on a larger scale, or by whatever 
means, though there is unanimity of opinion as to the general prevalence 
of gold, and its easy accessibility, throughout the district. 

The method of collecting gold by washing at Leadhills is essentially 
that employed in the early history of gold-diggings in all auriferous 
countries ; but there can be no doubt that collection would be facilitated, 
the produce increased, and the remunerativeness of the operation 
improved by the application of the most modern machinery now used 
in countries where gold-mining has long been a settled industry. 

The Scottish gold-fields may be divided geographically or topo- 
graphically into three the Northern, Central, and Southern. 

1. The Northern comprises the greater part of the counties of 
Sutherland, Ross, Inverness, and Argyle, north of the Caledonian Canal. 
It occupies the longitudinal axis of the northern peninsula of Scotland, 
is second in size only to the central area, and has yet almost entirely to 
be explored. 

2. The Central lies between the Caledonian Canal and the valley of 
the Tay ; includes a great part of the shires of Inverness (southern half), 
Aberdeen, Banff, Kincardine, Perth, Forfar, Argyle, Stirling, and Dum- 
barton. It is far the largest of the 3 areas. Like the Southern gold- 
field, it forms a transverse belt across Scotland, and much of it remains 
to be explored. 

The Southern comprises great part of Dumfries, Kircudbright, Wig- 
town, Ayr, Selkirk, Peebles, and Lanarkshire, and includes more par- 
ticularly parts of the districts of Nithsdale, Annandale, Eskdale, 
Ettrickdale, Tweeddale, and Clydesdale, and the Lammermuirs (in Had- 
dington and Berwick). It is the smallest of the 3 areas, but it is the 
best known, and, so far as ascertained, the richest. 

Geologically, the area of these 3 great gold-fields is that occupied in 
Scotland by the Lower Silurian strata and their drifts. These strata are 
divisible, however, only into 2 great groups, viz, the Southern, corre- 
sponding to the Southern gold-field as above delineated, characterized by 
the greywackes of the Southern ; and the Northern, comprising that 
above described as the Northern and Central gold-fields, characterized 
by the micaceous schists of the Grampians. 

At many localities throughout the area which Dr. Lindsay assigns 
to the Scottish gold-fields, actual finds of gold have been made in recent 
or former times, and this is one of the strongest arguments for their 
thorough exploration. Of such gold-finds, the following will suffice as 
illustrations : 

I. Northern Gold-field. 

i. Sutherlandshire. Helmsdale water. A nugget found here in 
former times weighed 10 dwt, or 240 gr. 

II. Central Gold-field. 

1. Perthshire. (A.) Breadalbane, area of Loch Tay, and head-waters 
of the Tay. A nugget found in former times weighed 2 oz., or 960 gr. 
Sir James Simpson was shown a specimen of gold, with its matrix 
(quartz), by the late Marquis of Breadalbane, from Lyndrum. In 1861, 
Prof. Tennent of London found gold in quartz, associated with iron- 
pyrites, at Taymouth. 

(B.) Upper Strathearn, area of Loch Earn, and the head-waters of the 
Earn. Glen Lednoch (Ritchie) ; streams falling from the north into 
Loch Earn (Ritchie) ; Ardvoirlich, south side of Loch Earn. 

(C.) Glenalmond (Mercer) ; Glenquoich and other valleys of the 

2. Forfarshire. Clova district, areas of Angus, Edzell, and Glenesk. 

3. Aberdeenshire, area of the Dee, Braemar, Invercauld, coast about 
Aberdeen, and in the sea-sand. 

In New Zealand, and other auriferous countries, gold is very com- 
monly associated with magnetic-iron sand, containing or not, titanium 
and other minerals, or with iron sulphides. It is of interest to know 
that the sands of the Dee, which consist mainly of the debris of granite 
and gneiss, contain considerable quantities of magnetic-iron sand and 
iserine, with which are associated smaller amounts of titanium, uranium, 
and arsenic. The gneiss of Braemar often contains much magnetite in 
place of mica (Nicol), while iron or oxides or sulphides are common in 
all the schists and granite of Aberdeenshire (Nicol). 

4. Argyleshire. Dunoon. 

III. Southern Gold-field. 

1. Head-waters of the Clyde, including the Ech, Crawford Moor or 
Leadhills district ; Elvan water, Glengonner, Glencaple, Winloch, Short 
Cleuch, Lamington Burn. 

2. Head-waters of the Tweed ; Manor water, which flows north to 
the Tweed ; Meggat water, which flows south to St. Mary's Loch ; other 
feeders of the Yarrow and Glengaber. 

There are traces of prospecting and digging in former days in Meggat 
water valley, similar to those which occur in Leadhills. In the British 
Museum, Lindsay saw two specimens of Tweeddale gold, the one 
nuggety, and in quartz, a very rich sample, the other granular rather 
than nuggety. Griffin prospected St. Mary's Loch district, and found 
gold in dust or granules everywhere. 

3. Head-waters of the Annan, Moffatdale ; streams falling into 
Moffat water; Hartfell range, about Dobbs Linn, several small finds of 
gold were made in the summer of 1863, and one small nugget, weighing 
about 6 gr., was exhibited in Moffat (Scotsman, Aug. 10, 1863). 

Speaking in greater detail of the Fifeshire gold-diggings of 1852, 
Dr. Lauder Lindsay says the Lomond gold-digging mania occurred in 
May 1852, and lasted about a month. There was a daily average of 300 
diggers at least 5000 to 6000 in all. Many of them were goal and iron 
miners, who were earning 1 5.$-. per week or upwards, and who had thrown 
up their employment to embark in the alluring lottery of gold-seeking. 
The excitement extended over an area of 20 miles, including the 
opposite shores of the Forth and Tay. The origin of the mania was the 
statement of a convict, a native of Kinnesswood, who wrote from 
Australia to the friends he had in the Kinross-shire village, that he had 
often seen gold at home in the lime-quarries above Kinnesswood, in the 
Bishop's Hill, similar to what was being dug in Australia. At this parti- 
cular time, the public mind was in a condition of great excitement, pro- 
duced by the brilliant auriferous discoveries in California in 1847, inten- 
sified and revivified by the no less splendid results of gold-digging in 
Australia in Sept. 1851 ; added to which, there were certain floating 
local popular traditions or proverbs which gave a spurious weight or 
significance to the convict's rash and inconsiderate assertion. The centre 
of attraction to the Fifeshire diggers the chief scene of their labours 
appears to have been a quarry of Carboniferous limestone, known in the 
district as the Clattering, or Clattering Well. This quarry is situated 
right above the village, and north-west of Kinnesswood in Kinross-shire, 
" about a gun-shot back from the brow of the Bishop's Hill," near its 
summit. Its locality is on the south base of the West Lomond Hill, 
overlooking Loch Leven. Superjacent to the limestone, which is richly 
fossiliferous, is a bed of ochre, abounding in globular masses of iron- 
pyrites, known to the quarrymen as " fairy balls," from the size of a fist 
to that of a man's head. Incredible as it may appear, these iron-pyrites 
were dug out and carried away in large quantities in the mistaken belief 
that they were lumps of gold. 

Alluding to a sample of Sutherlandshire gold found at Kildonan, 
Dr. Lauder Lindsay compared it with (i) those of many hundred speci- 
mens of native gold which he had opportunity of examining from all the 
principal auriferous countries of the world, of whose characters he made 
memoranda at the time, and (2) with those of the gold specimens in his 
private cabinet, minerals from (ci) New Zealand, (fr) Nova Scotia, and 
(c) Scotland (Leadhills) ; and, as the result of the comparative examina- 
tion, states his opinion that the Kildonan gold is of average quality, and 
that in particular, it so closely resembles gold he brought from the 
famous Gabriel's gully, in Otago, New Zealand, in 1862, that it is indis- 
tinguishable therefrom by the eye, even aided by the lens. It may be 
safely accepted as proved, he says, that the Sutherland gold now being 
obtained is of excellent quality. What has yet to be proved is the 
amount in which it occurs ; and this can be done only by experienced 
gold-miners by shaft-sinking and quartz-crushing by co-operation of 
labour and investment of capital. The Kildonan gold he has seen is 
mostly in the form of flattened nuggets, of small size, smaller than those 
in his cabinet from Leadhills. The size of individual nuggets is of little 
consequence, compared with the total amount distributed in drifts or 
quartzites ; for in the latter, gold may be present in amount that will 
pay extraction when it is, nevertheless, invisible to the naked eye. 

A specimen of gold, consisting of " dust " and " grains," from the 
Kildonan Burn, Sutherland, examined by David Forbes, gave the 
following results of two separate analyses : 

Gold 81-11 .. 81-27 

Silver 18-45 . . 18-47 

Silica (quartz) .. 0-44 .. 0*26 

The largest particle weighed 4*6 troy gr. A specimen of alluvial 
gold, in " grains," procured by Alexr. Grigor, from the estuarine mud of 
the river Molyneux, Otago, New Zealand, bore a very great resemblance 
to the Kildonan gold. P. G. Wilson says (Feb. 1869), that the gold 
which has yet been found is in small grains. A few nuggets have 
occurred weighing I, 2, and 3 dwt., and one has been got of 5 dwt. ; but 
the largest quantity is in dust, with pretty much magnetic-iron dust 

According to Thost (1860), at Loch Earn Head, several galena-veins, 
of inferior importance, have been discovered in a stratum of calcareous 
schist. Their outcrop is overlain by gossan, in which particles of native 
gold appear to have been found. Certain it is that arsenical pyrites, 
which was at one time met with as an accessory mineral, contained 6 oz. 
of gold per ton. 

William Cameron (1870), pointing out the chief geological features 
of the Sutherlandshire gold-fields, says that, with the exception of 
certain strips and peaks of Old Red Sandstone, large-grained granite, 
and Oolite, the whole of the country immediately surrounding the 
diggings consists of metamorphic Lower Silurian rocks. No discovery 
of gold in situ has yet been achieved, so that the question as to what is 
the true matrix of the Sutherland gold is somewhat perplexing, and is 
exciting amongst geologists a considerable degree of interest. The 
drifts in which it is found are various, fine-grained gold and even small 
nuggets having been obtained in various strata, from the bed-rock to 
the roots of the heather. It exists in bands of black ferruginous drift, 
almost of the nature of cement, containing washed boulders of gneiss, 
granite, and schists. There are occasionally two distinct bands of this 
drift, with intervening beds of sand, drift, or felspathic clay, the lower 
one, which is always on the bed-rock, containing very large unwieldy 

Gold was found in some half-dozen of the tributaries flowing into 
the Ullie from the north. Mining operations, however, had been con- 
fined chiefly to the Kildonan, the Suisgill, and the Torrish, the two 
former being the more favourite grounds. Respecting the origin of the 
gold, Sir Roderick Murchison takes us to the grand central plateau of 
Sutherland, whilst Campbell of Islay, who has written a pamphlet on the 
subject, hesitates whether to travel a little farther, and carry us to 
Lapland and the Polar regions. Sir Roderick attributes the gold to the 
abrasion of the granites and metamorphic Lower Silurian rocks, in the 
interior, which have been carried by glacial action down the E. slopes of 
Sutherland and deposited in straths and valleys, such as those of the 
Ullie and its burns, the Kildonan, Suisgill, Torrish, &c. ; whilst Campbell 
points to the fact of gold being found in Unst in Shetland, and in river- 
drifts in Scandinavia and Lapland, and, referring to data collected by 
himself and others respecting the curves of the glacial flow, suggests the 
possibility of the gold being brought by icebergs and glaciers from these 
Boreal regions. The Rev. Mr. Joass is inclined to infer that the granite 
may yet be found to be the matrix of the gold, and remarks that the 
material in which granular gold occurs, namely, the detritus, is not neces- 
sarily far travelled, for it includes boulders of apparently local origin. 

Cameron, whilst admitting all conclusions as yet to be more or less 
conjectural, is inclined to agree with Joass in ascribing the gold to a local 
origin, and probably to a granite matrix. With respect to the question 
as to whether the Sutherland gold-fields would pay to work, Cameron 
says, upon the whole, whilst doubting the desirability of these fields for 
individual labour, he was disposed to believe that with united enterprise 
and combined labour and capital, and with systematic and economical 
working, which would be vastly aided by the great natural advantages 
of the country, satisfactory results would be obtained. 

Prof. Heddle (1880), in dealing with the geognosy and mineralogy of 
Scotland, having himself no means of sifting from the many reports in 
newspapers the true from the false as regards the finding of gold in the 
streams of Caithness, applied to Dr. Joass, of Golspie, and found that his 
experience was confined to an unsuccessful search in the Duke of 
Portland's land, and in the neighbourhood of the Scarabins, while he 
indicates reasons for receiving with caution and doubt all reported finds. 
Prof. Heddle then wrote to Dr. Lauder Lindsay, who has long taken an 
enthusiastic interest in the matter, and from him received the following 
list of reputed finds according to the newspapers of 1869-70, especially 
the Northern Ensign (Wick), in March and April, 1869 : 

1. In the beds, over the banks of the Beriedele water, throughout its 
course, down to the sea-beach. 

2. In the Ord Burn, "in fair paying quantities." 

3. In the Ansdale Burn, in fair paying quantities. 

4. On the Braemore estate (Sir Robert Anstruther's), through which 
the Beriedele flows. 

5. On the Langwell estate, on the flanks of the Scarabin Hills, by 
Gilchrist, the originator of the Kildonan diggings of 1869. 

6. In the Langwell water. 

7. In the Dunbeath water, and 

8. In the Burn of Hasten 

9. In the Lathernwheel Burn. 

10. Various localities, the parish of Lathern : "existence proven." 

11. In the Thurso river, at various points, such as Weydale, 
Acharvadale, Halkirk, the Glut. 

1 2. In streams rising on Braemore. 

13. In Strathmore, on Sir J. G. T. Sinclair's property.

Special references to the Caithness gold-localities are to be found in 
the Northern Ensign of Feb. 4th, March 4th and 25th, and April ist, I5th, 
and 22nd, all 1869.

In Nov. 1870, Sir J. G. T. Sinclair wrote to the Northern Ensign, 
about gold that had been found on his property at Strathmore. Several 
other newspaper correspondents describe the Caithness gold, comparing 
it with that of Kildonan ; but they do not give their names, so that the 
only " authentics " that can be cited in connection with Caithness gold 
are Gilchrist and Sinclair. 

Dr. Lindsay thus reduces the " authentics " to two, and, as it is very 
improbable that Sir J. G. T. Sinclair personally found or even sought for 
gold, it is probable that the "find" was of the same character as the 
other " newspaper " ones. So that the flanks of the Scarabins would 
seem to stand as the only indubitable Caithness locality. 

French (1880) says that the alluvium over an area of about 50 sq. 
miles around Leadhills, in Lanarkshire, is auriferous. In many places, 
the precious metal may be rendered visible after 15 or 20 minutes' 
washing with the primitive wooden trough employed by the local 
gold-seekers. Frequently nuggets have been found weighing from I to 
4 or 5 dwt., and these are often either contained in pieces of loose 
quartz, or have quartz fragments attached to them ; there are therefore 
good reasons to believe that the gold found in the stratum of red clay 
lying immediately above the rock has been derived from the numerous 
quartz-veins which traverse the district. It is a rather remarkable 
feature of the Leadhills district that the lead and gold-bearing ground 
is bounded on four sides by particular forms of silica. On the S. 
boundary, Lydian stone occurs in great abundance. On the N., at 
Abington, red jasper prevails ; towards Crawfordjohn, on the W., agates 
and cornelians are found, these are sometimes of great beauty ; and on 
the E., near where a specimen of pasty silica was found, chalcedony is 
often met with.  

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