Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years. Fragments of straw, seeds, fibres, yarns, and various types of fabrics dating to about 8000 BC have been found in Swiss lake dwellings.  See more on Wikipedia.

Flax Mills

Flax Mills 1842 (Click to enlarge)

In Old and in New Monkland flax was extensively cultivated in the 18th and early 19th centuries with some farmers having as much as 20 to 30 acres annually under that crop, around 800 acres in total. Although Tannoch nestled at the southern edge of Dunbartonshire, it bordered New Monkland in Lanarkshire which  was the centre of a thriving flax industry. There were two mills near Tannoch, one on the banks of the Luggie and another on the Rumblybugs Burn. In the area of Glasgow Barony there were around 3000 looms in 1848 producing, in Lanarkshire, over 1 million yards of linen a year.

You may be interested to learn that “flax-spinning by machinery was first tried in Dundee, in a small mill built at Chapelside, by Messrs Fairweather & Marr, about the year 1793. The machinery was propelled by a ten horse power steam-engine. A second mill, of about the same extent, was built soon afterwards; but though both were kept going for some time, the element of success was wanting, and the enterprise was abandoned for a time.” 

From the Gazetteers of Scotland, 1803-1901 > 1842, on page 371 we read the following:

MONKLAND (New), a parish in the Middleward of Lanarkshire, forming its northern boundary from the counties of Dumbarton and Stirling. It is nearly 10 miles in length, by about 7 in breadth at the broadest part; and is bounded by the following parishes, viz., on the north by Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch; on the south by Bothwell and Shotts; on the east by Torphichen and Slamannan ; and on the west by Cadder and Old Monkland. Much of the parish is situated at an elevation of from 600 to 700 feet above the level of the sea, but the rise is so gentle and continuous that there is nothing in the district which deserves the name of a hill or mountain. These elevated lands are situated in the centre of the parish, and run from east to west over its whole length, declining on each side to the waters of Calder and Luggie, which are respectively its boundaries on the south and north. It is thus a beautiful open country, agreeably diversified by vale and gentle rising, with a soil exhibiting many features of variety. The district was, for a long period, particularly during the war*, famous for its culture of flax. In some years, so much as 800 acres were under this species of crop; but the welcome advent of peace, and still more, the cheapness and universal introduction of cotton-cloth, has rendered flax-cultivation here, as in every other part of the country, so unprofitable that it has been almost entirely abandoned, with the exception of a few patches here and there still grown for private family use. The system of agriculture now pursued on the best farms is a four-year rotation of potatoes or turnips, wheat, hay, and oats, with sometimes one year or two of pasture between the hay and the oats.

*Likely a reference to The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) – a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire led by Emperor Napoleon  against an array of European powers formed into various coalitions.

See this web site for an extensive history of Linen production in Scotland. Short extracts below.

“FROM the frequent mention of linen in the history of Scotland, it is evident that the inhabitants were acquainted with the processes of making cloth from flax six hundred years ago at least. It is related that, at the battle of Bannockburn (fought in the year 1314), “the carters, wainmen, lackeys, and women put on shirts, smocks, and other white linens, aloft upon their usual garments, and bound towels and napkins on their spears, staves, &c. Then placing themselves in battle array, and making a great show, they came down the hillside in face of the enemy with much noise and clamour. The English, supposing them to be a reinforcement coming to the Scots, turned and fled.” There is good reason for concluding that the linen so successfully displayed on this memorable occasion was home-made. At first the flax was grown, dressed, spun, and woven by the people for their own use; but towards the close of the sixteenth century linen goods formed the chief part of the exports from Scotland to foreign countries….

…The linen manufacturers of Scotland derived great advantage from the union with England. The duties charged on goods exported to the sister kingdom were removed, and at the same time the colonies were opened to Scottish enterprise. A period of great industrial activity set in, and the quantity of linen goods produced was much increased. In 1710 upwards of 1,500,000 yards of linen cloth were produced. Ten years afterwards England alone took £200,000 worth of Scottish linen annually….

…In Lanarkshire linen was manufactured on an extensive scale at Glasgow and East (New) and West (Old) Monkland. The trade was established at Glasgow in 1725, and for a long period formed the staple industry of the city. Nearly 3000 looms were in 1780 employed in linen fabrics in the Barony parish alone. Ten years later, however, cotton had almost entirely superseded flax, and the weavers were mostly occupied in making muslin. At present about a dozen firms are engaged in the manufacture of flax. In 1728 upwards of 272,000 yards of linen were stamped in Lanarkshire; twenty years later the quantity was 1,191,982 yards; in 1768 it was 1,994,906 yards; but in 1822 only 228,692 yards were submitted to the stampmaster. The cotton trade had become the staple of the west, and linen was neglected. Large quantities of linen cloth were made in Renfrewshire. The highest figures are those for the year 1778, when 1,467,935 yards were stamped in the county—being chiefly made in Paisley, where also a large number of persons were engaged in making white sewing thread.

Film of early flax production in Ireland

Video on Modern Flax Production in Europe