Historical Mill Still Grinding for a Modern World
New Zealander Michael Shaw is a miller operating one of Scotland’s last surviving fully operational commercial watermills. Golspie Mill in Sutherland grinds peasemeal, rye, bread and plain flour. The original mill was opened nearby around 1815, and was joined by the current mill in 1863. “The last miller, Fergus Morrison, is the real hero of this story,’ says Shaw, who has been Golspie’s resident operator since 2001. Morrison and his wife Eleanor spent a decade restoring another mill, Orkney’s Barony Mill, and then turned their sights to Golspie, ensuring that the mill’s innards remain fundamentally the same today as at their first grinding. Shaw is considering adding a Golspie-branded bakery line to the flours and peasemeal. Running the mill is a full-time, labour-intensive job, as he explains: “There’s only enough water to grind a ton of wheat a week, in stints of two or three hours a day. The rest of the time is spent cleaning and maintaining the mechanics and roasting the peas, while the mill pond refills.” Much of Golspie’s flour is sent to artisan bakeries across Scotland, and the rest is packaged up for speciality food shops – this is no mainstream, mass-produced product. Every grain is organic, and Shaw is limited in the most fundamental sense as to how much he can grind: when the water’s gone, it’s gone. Rising global grain prices have also been a problem, as they are over double what they were twelve years ago. Shaw does, however, see one potential bonus to running machinery that operates on water: “When the apocalypse comes and there’s no electricity, I’ll be a very important person!” Golspie Mill was a finalist in the 2011 BBC Food and Farming Awards.