My most recent client's ancestor was a cattle dealer. As soon as I read this I had a number of thoughts namely, "He must have been quite well off!" and "I wonder how big his herds were?". I will confess to a certain amount of naivety here as I have not read too deeply on Scottish Agriculture in the late 18th and 19th Centuries; I was also slightly distracted by my client being Australian and thinking of the vast and massive ranches you see there nowadays. Of course, a cattle dealer was nowhere near as glamorous as that, generally, but my research gave such a good flavour of the changes in Scottish Society at that time.
The subject of my research was born circa 1805 and is firstly a farm labourer in Forgandenny, where he marries, before appearing as a cattle dealer at Pitheavlis, just outside Perth. He remains a cattle dealer from at least 1841 till at least 1871. In his early career, he would have been buying likely animals from surrounding establishments to try and turn a profit in Perth. At that time, any residence had the right to graze a beast in it's yard which the dealers would compete to get the best of and flog on. Also, nearby Crieff was the main point of cattle sale from the Highlands and continued to operate despite trade moving more and more to Falkirk once English dealers were satisfied the Jacobite threat was over and it was safe to cross the border!
During his career he has moved from Pitheavlis to a farm at Lawgrove where he is also listed as a farmer and then into Perth itself. His gradual migration east from Dunning is synonymous with the changes to Scotland at this time. The late 18th Century saw the march of Land Improvement and the erosion of common land, often used to graze cattle as they were driven South from the Highlands to market in Crieff, Perth, Falkirk and England. England became more and more dependant on Irish and Scottish imports as their population out-stripped supply coupled with the turmoil in Europe. Suddenly, meat that was as cheap as oat-made bread in Scotland tripled and quadrupled in price which meant that rents did likewise. The march of the railways and steam ships increased the speed that a demanded supply could be delivered which, combined with greater rents and the value of grassland, conspired to cut out many of the middlemen required; or rather reduce and alter the middlemen required to station porters and dock workers as a pose to the small time dealers, crofters and farmers. Those that could afford to buy and transport in bulk took over as capitalism took root.
As the countryside became more expensive to live in and further away from business opportunities my subject finally moves into Perth itself, not far from the bonded warehouses of the South Port. Eventually, he moves on to become a Tacksman (a hard job in it's own right!) at the South Port and does so for a number of years, collecting money on goods making their way to and from the railway at Craigie. Scotland had changed forever with Industry wiping out crafts such as Hand Loom Weaving as large mills came into being, drawing people to them for work. Add the massive influxes of immigrants from Ireland as well as the increase of native populations in increasingly crowded towns and cities despite horrific child mortality rates (Glasgow went from sparsely populated to a million residents by the late 1800's earning the dubious title of the filthiest city in Britain after two outbreaks of cholera).
And the final proof that the Cattle Dealer was a hard trade? My subject had a third class burial with no headstone after a short spell living on parish funds in Scone. A man and a family that had seen a lot of change in their country and circumstances during their lifetime.