In the countryside round about changes were also taking place which were reflected in the Burgh. Rather quickly, farming began to improve and this period records one of the early far-reaching developments in farm machinery, when a thrashing mill, driven by water, horse or man power, was perfected at Phantassie by Andrew Meikle of East Linton (of whom more later) in 1784. Prior to this, thrashing was done by hand-flails (though some mechanical ones had begun to appear), and the importance of the invention can be judged from the fact that about twenty years after, 350 thrashing mills had been built in East Lothian alone. A poem, a dialogue between the thrashing machine and the flail, appeared in The Farmers’ Magazine in 1810 of which the following is a verse, (‘Nout’ is ‘Neat’ or ‘Cattle’)
“When round my axletree I reel,
Wi’ men, wind, nout, or water-wheel,
In twenty minutes, or I’m a de’il
I’ll clean mair strae,
Than you, if ye will thrash it well,
In a hail day.”
Linen was all the rage, and was considered at one time to be a great advantage for Scottish economy. The British Linen Company Bank was chartered in 1747 to finance projects and a branch opened in Dunbar in 1788. Flax was grown widely and small lint mills were erected in the lower valleys where water for machinery and processing was available, but though the industry had a spectacular rise it had a no less spectacular decline in all but a few counties after 1785-1800, when the cotton mills became established. Ruins of these lint mills may still be seen by burn-sides in the County. In 1792 a flax and cotton mill was erected at West Barns, but it did not long survive.