Mearns Probus Club on the ice

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The second meeting of Mearns Probus Club for the month of April was held in the Crown Inn, Laurencekirk, with President Lawrie Smith in the chair.

After an update on the progress of the secretary’s health the speaker was introduced, past president Dr Ian Williamson, whose topic was ‘The Ice Trade’ or ‘Frozen Water Trade’ as it was also known.

This was a 19th century industry centred on the east coast of the USA and Scandinavian countries, Norway and Finland.

It involved the large scale harvesting, transport and sale of natural ice for domestic consumption and commercial purposes.

Ice had been used in the past. Elite ice from the Alps was enjoyed in Imperial Rome.

In the Persian Empire, ice from the Elbruz Mountains was used along with sherbet for refreshing drinks.

Ice houses on big estates were packed with ice from local ponds to preserve perishables and help with meat storage at different times of the year.

And, of course, ice was necessary to preserve fish in barrels before transporting to other countries and continents.

The trade started in the Boston area where ice was freely available in large quantities.

One entrepreneur, Frederic Tudor who lived from 1783 – 1804, third son of a wealthy lawyer, visited the Caribbean Island of Martinique’s capital St Pierre and found the conditions very hot and longed for a drink with some Boston ice to cool it.

The idea was born and back in Boston he gathered funds to buy a boat, crew it and then load it with 126 tons of ice insulated with hay and tan-bark.

Three weeks later he was back in St Pierre but hadn’t planned for storage, sales, distribution and so on. A lesson learned.

However, the trade progressed and ice was gathered from Alaska, North American states, the Alps and other sources and sent to places such as Cuba, Jamaica, England, India, Australia, California and south America.

In 1833 one cargo of 180 tons was delivered to Calcutta, 100 tons surviving a sea journey of four months.

Member Malcolm McCoig thanked Ian for an excellent presentation on behalf of club members.

Next meeting on Monday, May 6, at 10 am in the Crown Inn, Laurencekirk.