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Alexander Morton

Alexander Morton (1844-1923) was born in a weaver's cottage in Darvel, in 1844. One of his forebears was John Morton, a blacksmith, who fought at the Battle of Drumclog. His father Gavin (Guy) Morton was a weaver and a woodman on the Lanfine Estate.

Alexander was only six when his father died, leaving a widow with two sons and three daughters. Alexander helped with harvest from age eight and finished school at age nine – when he went herding on a moorland farm at Muirkirk. When he was 12, he came home to learn the weaving trade. By the age of 15, he had saved £16 and used it to buy a loom.

He married Jeanie Wiseman when he was 19 and they set up home in a “but and ben”. Four years later, after the death of his brother-in-law, Alexander took over his business as a middleman between the Darvel weavers and Glasgow merchants. At this time, curtains were sold to the merchants unbleached and undressed. Alexander decided to cut out the middleman by dressing the goods himself and marketing them directly to the shops. He crossed the border into England and came back with orders from as far afield as London. He purchased the best designs of a Glasgow firm who went out of business.

In 1874, he saw a new weaving machine which cost £1,050. On his return to Darvel he called a meeting of weavers and agents proposing to co-operate in the establishment of a new lace industry – but they declined to risk their savings in the venture. With a few partners, he raised the money for the deposit on the new machine. The curtains proved so popular that the firm found it impossible to supply the demand and within a year more lace machines were brought into production. The firm flourished and eventually opened factories in Carlisle and Ireland.

Alexander died in Ireland but his remains were interred in Darvel Old Cemetery on New Year's Day 1924. In 1927, the memorial to Alexander Morton was unveiled near Alexander's house at Gowanbank.


Contact Information

East Ayrshire Leisure Trust
Telephone: 01563 554300