The development in the late eighteenth century by Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-92) and others of factories in which textile yarns could be spun by machinery had repercussions in the remotest parts of the British Isles, as well as in continental Europe. Some entrepreneurs built factories in marginal regions simply because they hoped to make profits, which they often failed to do. Others believed that the opportunities they provided for regular work would help to transform communities that they considered in need of social discipline.
Sir John Sinclair ((1754-1835), a Scots landowner, through that textile manufacturing would give Highlanders the ‘opportunity of tasting the sweets and advantages of labour’. The cotton-spinning community called Spinningdale was established in the early 1790s on the 18,000-acre Skibo estate on the Dornoch which was purchased in 1786 by George Dempster (1732-1818), who once spoke of ‘converting Sutherlandshire into Lancashire’. A partnership that included David Dale (1739-1806), the founder of New Lanark and George Macintosh (1739-1807), the Glasgow dyer, built a stone mill which employed about a hundred people, and 20 cottages, but the managers found it difficult to impose work discipline on Highlanders, and the building was sold before it was destroyed by fire in 1806 leaving ruins which remain, including two characteristic features of Arkwright-period spinning mills, a latrine turret and a Venetian window. The ruins stand in a beautiful setting on the north shore of the Dornoch Firth in the tiny hamlet of Spinningdale and can easily be seen from the A949 road.