One of the Scotland’s most eccentric characters, who at least tried to play the bagpipes, was David Hatton, known as "Fluteorum" after a strange musical instrument which he spent twenty years perfecting. The fluteorum was a cross between a bellows bagpipe, an organ and a flute. Crowds of people came to see and hear the wonderful instrument. But stranger than that were his “mouse mills.” Can you imagine the creative mind that invented a way to get mice to spin sewing thread? Indeed Hatton was yer man!
From —Reminiscences of Dunfermline, Alexander Stewart 1886:
Hatton was a weaver/grocer in Pittencreiff Street, and afterwards he went to the Cross Wynd. Amongst other things he exhibited in his shop was his coffin. He charged visitors one penny if they merely wished to see it, but twopence for those who wanted to see how well it fitted him. This last trick backfired on him one day when some local lads put the lid on and fastened it down with Hatton inside. After being released, he never again ventured to show himself in his coffin. He also worked for some time on a flying machine but this came to nothing. His greatest triumph was his mouse mill. ln the newspapers of the day there was published this account:
Mr Hatton, of Dunfermline, has had two mice constantly employed in the manufacture of sewing thread for upwards of twelve months; and, that the curious may be entertained with a fair statement of facts, I hope you will give a place to the following description, which is by no means exaggerated, as I have often seen his mouse thread-mills, and thoroughly understand the amusing operation.
The mouse thread-mill is so constructed that the common house mouse is enabled to make atonement to society for past offences by twisting, turning, and reeling from 100 to 120 threads per day (Sundays not excepted !) of the same length and equal with the enclosed hank, which I send as a specimen of their work for the inspection of the curious.
To complete their task, the little pedestrians have to run 10 and a half miles. This journey is performed with ease every day. An ordinary mouse weighs only about half an ounce. A half-penny worth of oatmeal, at 15d. per peck, serves one of these treadmill culprits for the long period of five weeks. In that time it makes-110 threads per day being the average-3850threads of 25 inches, which is very near nine lengths of the standard reel.
A penny is paid here to women for every cut made in the ordinary way. At this rate, a mouse earns 9d. every five weeks which is just one farthing per day, or 7s. 6d. per annum. Take 6d. off for board, and allow 1s. for machinery, there will arise 6s. of clear profit from every mouse yearly. The last time I was in company with the mouse employer, he told me he is going to make application to the heritors for a lease of an old, empty house - the Auld Kirk-in Dunfermline, the dimensions of which are 100 feet by 50, and 50 feet in height, which, at a moderate calculation, will hold 10,000 mouse-mills—sufficient room being left for the keepers and some hundreds of spectators. Allowing £200 for rent and taskmasters, and £500 for the interest of £10,000 to erect machinery, there will be a balance of £2,500 per annum. This, sir, you will say, is projecting with a vengeance, but it would surely be preferable to the great South Sea speculation.
David Hatton left Dunfermline in 1829 for Orr Bridge, where he kept a small grocery store, along with his miscellaneous collection of curious odds and ends. He had two large whale's jaw-bones placed over his door, which formed a sort of archway to the entrance of his strange dwelling. He had great crowds of visitors, coming from all quarters. For the benefit of the poor, he kept a charity box to receive donations from visitors. This box was opened once a week, then stepping upon a platform at his door, he blew a trumpet blast! inviting all beggars and tramps to come forth and receive their share of the week’s contributions. —Reminiscences of Dunfermline, Alexander Stewart 1886