T.A. Gray’s outward prosperity was built on very shaky foundations. To
maintain his position he needed continued expansion, but the demand for
Maybole Footwear was static, if not contracting. In addition he had taken
on board an order from the Egyptian Government to provide its’ army with
boots. This meant extended credit. His suppliers, already demanding
payment for earlier materials, refused further credit and consequently his
Egyptian order began to incur late delivery penalties. He was bankrupt.
His debts totalled £37,000, and this did not include his private borrowing.
On 16th April 1894 T.A. boarded the Glasgow to London Train and
after securing editions of Tit-Bits and Today (which in those days carried
automatic insurance policies should they be found in the possession of a
deceased person) he threw himself off the train as it crossed over the
Victoria Bridge. If T.A. believed that he was worth more dead than alive he
was mistaken! His sequestered estate yielded far less than its paper value,
and in 1895 his greatly improved Lorne Tannery and Boot & Shoe Factory was
sold to John Lees & Co. for a knock-down price of £3,500. Many of the work
force found work with Lees.
Lees & Co. was one of the few Maybole manufacturers to ride out the sudden
depression in the Maybole boot industry. They began slowly as bootmakers
during the prosperous 1870’s in a wooden shed at the Bumbee, from thence to
a tenement building in the Greenside next to the old parish school
building. In the 1890’s they moved into the purpose built Town End Boot &
Townend Boot & Shoe Factory
dressing sheepskins for rugs. Shortly after buying T.A. Gray’s Lorne
premises, John Lees & Co. obtained a vital Admiralty contract for welted
rubberised sea boots which became standard naval footwear for many years.
Sustained by War Office orders through the two World Wars, John Lees & Co.
limped into the third quarter of the 20th century by selling their boots,
shoes and other commodities on credit terms to householders through a
network of agents; the firm continued in business until a catastrophic fire
gutted their premises in 1962.
St. Cuthbert’s was started in
1860 by Mr. Charles Crawford and later it became James Ramsay & Co.; James
Ramsay had opened a factory through what was Mr. Garvie’s Close in Society
Street. He succeeded Charles Crawford and under his management the factory
was very successful, fading away in the general collapse of the 1930’s.