Boot & Shoemaking in Maybole - Page 3
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This article was written and contributed by J. Murray Cook with illustrations from ‘The Kingdom of Carrick and its Capital’ by John Latta and William Millar, 1904.

But 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.

John 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 & Shoe Factory

Townend Boot & Shoe Factory

They diversified, 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.

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For more on boot and shoemaking in Maybole see Maybole's Shoe Factories , John Lees & Co. Limited Shoe Factory, Our Shoe Factories by Rev. R. Lawson A Day in the Life of a  Shoe Factory Worker, When Maybole Had Boot Power by Edwin Lawrence and Dick Goudie: Last of the Maybole shoemakers.