Coal mining deaths in Hamilton.

William Aiton’s Family Tree.

For those of us who’s family have lived in Hamilton for many years will have grandparents, great grandparents and great, great, grandparents who worked in the coal mines of Hamilton.

The coal mine was a very dangerous place to work and many men and boys lost their lives here. One of the many hundreds of men was called William Aiton, he was born in Donegal in Ireland in 1837 to parents Robert Aiton & Rose Barrett. William had come to Hamilton probably to gain employment.

William then met a local Hamilton girl called  Margaret Boyd and they were married  on the 5th December 1856 and they had 7 children. Robert was accidentally killed while at work in the coal mine. He was hit on the head by falling debris from the pit head.

William Aiton Death 1873.jpg

The Aiton’s later became one of Hamilton’s many large families and today there are still descendants of William living in the town. Have you got a story in your family from the coal mines of Hamilton? Good or bad, let us know!


Kin You?


A kin remember, growin up in Lanarkshire’ the times a wis jist a kid,
A kin remember, awe the things us kids got up tae n’ whit we awe did,
A kin remember, when a wis a wee boy, ma new cowboy suit n’ ma gun,
A kin remember,ma wee sister gittin a doll n’ a pram, oh,we hid some fun,
A kin remember, walkin tae school, nae mams school runs fur any of us,
A kin remember, ye hid tae walk, cos ye see, back then, thir wisnae a bus,
A kin remember, tae make a bit pockit money, a wid go n ‘ pick “itchy coo’s,”
A kin remember, the woman thit bought thim, tossed a coin n’ a wid lose,
A kin remember, in the summer, we’d be oot awe day, jump aboot n’ run,
A kin remember, we’d go fur a walk ur play, n’ throw water ower everone,
A kin remember, n’ whit a memory! ye know a kin even remember “the sun”
A kin remember, gawn on the bus tae go “berry pickin” way up in Crossford,
A kin remember, pickin “goosegogs”n’ raspberries, naw” we wur never bored,
A kin remember, walkin oot tae the “Avonbridge” on the way up tae Fernigair”
A kin remember, it wis sunny on this side, bit it wis “pissin” doon ower there,
A kin remember, under the bridge, we’d go “skinny dippin” jist under the falls,,
A kin remember, we wid awe hawd hawns, n’ jump aff, that took a lot o'(guts)
A kin remember, walkin’ roon the bank, n’ we seen that big swan” it the Palace,,
A kin remember, it used tae keep attackin us, bit we never bore it any mallace,,
A kin remember, in the summer nights thir wis always a massive big “funfair ”
A kin remember, every time thit it came, a wid go doon n’ git a wee job there,,
A kin remember, me gein free rides ur prizes, tae some of the people thit a new,,,
A kin remember, that wonderous” time, ” KIN YOU REMEMBER IT TOO”

The above poem was written for Historic Hugh Hainey.

Agnes Scott’s Monument of Memories Part 1. Published in 1966

Published in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 3rd June 1966.

Agnes writes about James Mackie the town Chamberlain, Edith Forbes of the library, Sweet the painter, and the famous “Black Doctor” of Regent Street who mad snowfire ointment a household word; plus a number of “Weel Kent” faces in the vicinity of the old Town Hall, now demolished to make way for the £2m shopping precinct at the New Cross.

One can see the face of Hamilton changing day by day as buildings are demolished and streets wiped out. Often, and for too long, there is an aching void into which associations disappear leaving no trace behind. But past and present are inseparable, so while the new town spreads and lifts its head to the sky, let us pause and pay a tribute to the old and to those worthy citizens of yesterday who helped create the Hamilton now passing.

Death, whether of person or place, is always sad and the sharing of poignant memories is both an outlet for emotion and a memorial to the dead.

As i watched demolition squads at work in the area around Holmes Street, the floodgates of memory open and i saw myself in the Burgh Chamberlain’s office being served by Mr James Mackie, senior. He was the epitome of efficiency and pleasantness and one sensed that the finance of the burgh was in capable hands. The office was small but showed character and solidarity. One distinctively felt that here, if anywhere, communal interests were safe, and that their custodian did not take his responsibilities lightly. His work was his life.

Outside again, I crossed the street and followed Mr Thomas Cameron, secretary of the Glasgow chamber of commerce, into his mothers comfortable little house. Mt Cameron was married but the bond of love between mother and son was a joy to behold. Over afternoon tea, I heard stories of big business on the one hand and words of praise and  adoration on the other. He made a conspicuous figure as he cycled with a pole and pail from job to job. At present his son-in-law carries on business from the workshop.

The shop of Sam Pollock, another-well known name, is also no more where it was but Mr Pollock has been lucky enough to secure the premises in Chapel Street which were formerly occupied by Jean Frame.

The window of the supermarket in Regent Street shone clean and bright but I did not see the goods displayed. Instead I saw in memory twenty people surrounding the stance of the Black Doctor who was demonstrating his corn cure on the foot of a man obviously the worse of drink. The drunk was the only spectator bold enough to take off boot and sock and he kept the crowds hilarious as the doctor accidentally tickled the sole of his foot.

The doctor sold a variety of medicines, including a rub for rheumatics, pills for all ills, and a sure cure for baldness. Quite a number swore by his remedies and returned regularly to obtain further supplies.

Although the doctor made his own compounds, he introduced one man to snowfire.  It proved so effective for cracked lips and chapped hands that he recommended it to his workmates. It was used unfailingly thereafter by every stonemason in Hamilton during the winter months. It was easy to apply and cost only 2.5 pence a block.


Continuing down memory lane, I passed the corner pub outside which Jock, and Jennies from the Fair danced with joyous abandon. They led a hard tough life and a day away from the Farm was freedom indeed. It was “Feeing Day” and perhaps a new job would bring greater happiness.

Most of the lads sported a “Monkey” in their caps and their pockets bulged with bottles and coconuts. The Jennies too were laden with articles their partners had won for them. The music and noise from the showground was deafening so I turned into Allen Place and found sanctuary at the Yuills.

From their parlour window I could see Mrs Forbes and her children in the garden opposite. Mr Forbes was the local inspector for the prevention of cruelty to children. The cruelty Man, as he was called, had to deal with many pitiful cases and his work taught him to be a shrewd judge of character.  His wife survived him and lived till well over ninety, being ably taken care of by her daughter Edith who was admirably suited for her job.


On fair days and at the weekends, the Regent Street of past, saw many Street Hawkers, their barrows piled with fruit. One hawker called Paddy Sinclair came out with his float from Glasgow every Friday and did a roaring trade. His bonnie red-cheeked wife could wheedle an order from any man while Paddy had a way no woman could resist.

Gazing beyond the cars parked on the derelict I pictured the shop of James Sweet, affectionately called the lightning painter and the poor man’s friend,  because he was quick reliable and kept his charges moderate. He was always in a hurry…..


Agnes Scott 1901-1987.

Agnes Scott 1901-1987.
Agnes Anderson was born at No.8 Woodside Walk on 7th.June 1901 and her parents were William Anderson & Mary Allan.
After leaving school Agnes was a shorthand typist. She worked for T J &W A Dykes Cadzow  Sreet Hamilton.When she was about 20 years old she went and worked for a businessman in Malaig. His wife was a doctor.
She later came back home to Hamilton to live with her family at Beechwood house, 41 Portland Place. Agnes got married to James McNeilly Scott, they got their first house at 11 Fairhill Place Meikle Earnock and this is where her son Neil Scott was born. The family then moved to No.15 Fairhill Place as they required a bigger house.
Later in life Agnes became a keen historian and she started to document her life growing up in Hamilton. Her stories grabbed the attention of the Editor of the Hamilton Advertiser and from the 3rd of June through to December 1966 the Hamilton Advertiser published Agnes’s memoirs.
Neil Scott who is Agnes’s son has kindly donated his mums book to Historic Hamilton for us to publish her stories. We will be doing this soon. We would like to thank Neil for sending us his mums memories of growing up in Hamilton.

Auld School

Auld School,,

A left John Ogilvie High school in july 1966, that’s exactly fifty years ago, ,
A wis jist reminisin n’ thinkin’ aboot some of the names a used tae know,,
A look in this Historic Hamilton” n’ thirs a lot of familiar names a kin see,,
A wonder if it’s yir grannies ur granda’s, thit went tae the school wae me,,

RUBY HIGGINS, GINA BELL, mess wae them two ye’d git some merry hell,
MARGARET CARNEY, wee ANN RICE, quiet girls bit they wur awfy nice,,
KATHLEEN BROWN, she wis so aloof, I’m sure she hid “bools” in hur mooth,,
ANNE ROUSE, noo she stood oot a mile,,she wis never withoot a lovelysmile,,
BETTY McEWAN, she’s the wan thit got me started enjoying awe ma dancin”
PATSY MC ARTHUR, a wee “stoater, awe the boys wid try some “”romancin”
LIZ McLAUGHLIN, it sport she beat awe the guy’s aye wee Liz thunderthigh’s,
JANET PROVAN, she wis awe gymnastic, anythin she done, wis jist fantastic”
well thats jist some of the lasses, thit awe stood oot fae some of ma classes,,,

Now a list of the “motley crew” jist some of the auld guy’s thit a knew,,,,

JOE LYNAS, the bluest eyes ye ever seen, he made Sinatra’s eyes look green,,
PAUL FERNON, this guy never showed any fear, split his heed fae ear tae ear”
RAB MCMILLAN, whit a great wee guy, he wid gie ye the last wee bit he had”
DAVIE McCAFFERTY, always a smile, ” Davie Laughaweday” stood oot a mile,,

Is ye git aulder yir good memories always take ye back tae yir’ yesteryear”
The days i spent wae these auld schoolmates in my mind are still clear,,,,,,,,

The Above Poem was written for Historic Hamilton by Hugh Hainey.

Frank Brogan

Frank Brogan.
Frank Brogan.

From time to time we like to write about people from Hamilton who have been long standing residents of the town. Frank Brogan has lived in Burnbank all of his days and he still lives at his family home in Hill Street where he has stayed from the age of 6.

He is the son of James Brogan & Annie Smith and Franks dad James who was born in Burnbank in 1890 was a professional footballer who played for Bristol Rovers prior to the first world war. James Brogan joined Rovers in 1910, having previously been playing football in Glasgow. He made 106 Southern League appearances at inside forward and scored 24 goals prior to the outbreak of war, and was Rovers’ top goalscorer in the 1912-13 season with eleven goals.

James & Annie Smith with Franks Brother James and sister Alice.


Frank moved to Hill Street with his parents when the houses were first built in 1936 and he went to St. Cuthberts primary school and later went to Holy Cross. When he left school in 1944 he got his first job helping to build Philip’s factory on Wellhall Road, he later moved on to Graces tomato houses in East Kilbride. The next job that Frank did was working over in Rutherglen where hurt his back, after this Frank retired due to his back injury.

When frank was a wee boy his father James was friends with Walter McGowans father Jo Gans and Frank himself was also pally with Jimmy Johnstone. As kids, Frank & Jimmy played football in the back garden for the Hill Street home and Jimmy Johnstone even had dinner at Franks house.

Hill Street Garden.
The back garden of Franks home where Jimmy Johnstone played football.

Frank was the president of Blantyre Celtic, he joined around 1945 and was the first club president, he later went on to do physio at the club. The club later became the Blantyre Vics.

We would like to thank Frank for telling us about his life growing up in Burnbank and for sharing his old family photos.

A young Frank at his house in Hill Street with his dad sitting on the step.







The Canyon Tossing School was without question the most prosperous tossing school in Scotland albeit that tossing was only operational as a way of gambling in and around central Lanarkshire, Hamilton Palace was the most attended being that it run every day of the week and only closed on Christmas and New Years Day.

How and why the Canyon attracted so many well heeled punters at it’s Sunday session escapes me, however that was certainly the case. In the days before Tossing Schools became legal they were operated by men who ” could look after themselves” The Canyon which was located between the villages of Craigneuk and Netherton, the name was derived simply because it looked like a miniature canyon the surrounding small hillocks discreetly keeping it from public viewing. “The babber” that was the title bestowed on the guy who controlled and operated the school and kept it socially comfortable for those who indulged in this favourite and often expensive pastime.

Jake Kilrain assisted by Dinkey Hughes were the controllers at the Canyon, Jake had a prolific CV for this demanding position an ex pugilist with 76 professional fights to his credit and twice a British champion in the Welterweight division. His sidekick Dinkey did not have such a strong pedigree, only that he was the brother of a Scottish champion who was considered among the top 3 British Lightweight fighters. The Hamilton Tossing was in part run by John Daly Snr, and his son Dan Daly, both also possessing the required skills of a babber, old John having shared many rounds with British and Scottish champions Jimmy Higgins and Frank Markey, Dan having won British Army titles, but in the late 50s he, Dan that is, was more into football playing for a number of well known Junior Sides and attracting attention from the professional teams, he represented Lanarkshire and Scotland against Ireland playing as a strong, fast, and clever winger.

This man was also bestowed with a physique that replicated that of an Olympic gymnast all of these attributes more than compensated for his lack of height as he stood no more than 5 foot and 4 and a half inches. On a late summer Sunday morning, John Daly Snr, John Jnr, Dan Daly, Sammy Walsh, and a Glasgow hardman (more ruthless than hard) named James Kemp, were to make their way towards the Canyon with a view to taken control of it’s operations. It had been decided beforehand that Dan Daly would be the one to approach Kilrain and give him the news about his redundancy as the Canyon babber were over.

As this group of men were passing a sheet metal and nail works that lay beyond Craigneuk’s famed Cuckoo Bridge, James Kemp picked up a triangular piece of sheet metal and gave it a few practice swings. Dan instantly turned to him and said ” Put that down, or you go down” Kemp for all the reputation that he carried, acted as ordered and threw away the off-cut, Dan in turn said something along the lines of not doing things that way, and a few minutes later we were approaching the school. Dan walked straight up to Jake Kilrain and said “That’s it Jake we are taking over” Jakes reply as expected was along the lines of ” You will have to step over me first “, and that is exactly what Dan Daly did, but not before delivering a stunning right hand to Kilrain’s chin and down he went, felled like a log, as some would say.

This sudden and unexpected disruption to proceedings caused many of the gamblers to scatter and among them was Jakes sidekick Dinkey. For those who stayed behind an attempt at reorganising the school was made, but it soon fizzled out and an early finish to the tossing came to be. The Tuesday or Wednesday after that event the Daily Record (it may have been some other paper) made a report about Gangland warfare in Craigneuk Tossing School. However word had got about regarding Dan’s dismissal of Kilrain and that a return match at the same venue was to be held on the following Sunday.

Jakes support and entourage claiming that Dan had hit him without warning, therefore Jake had been taken unawares. Not only was there to be a return match but the princely sum of a 400 pound sidebet was to be picked up by the victor. And so it was on the following Sunday the Daly camp were certainly prepared for the day’s outing. That same Sunday morning the Sunday Mail newspaper ran a story on the Canyons Gangland warfare and warned they’re readers to stay away as the police were mounting a vigilance on the school and that anyone found resisting or engaging in it’s illegal activities was to be arrested.

The 3 Daly’s plus an associate from Hamilton named Pat McCourt however ignored this warning and made their way towards the Canyon, approximately 200 yards or so from the Cuckoo Bridge they were confronted by a number of police who told them to turn around as there would be no tossing this Sunday or for that matter there wouldn’t be any tossing on any other Sunday thereafter, John Daly Snr asked if this same message was delivered to the Kilrain Clan no reply was given.

Needless to say we took our time removing ourselves from the area in the hope that we would get sight of Kilrain but that was not to be. And so it was the Canyon was officially closed. there was for some weeks talk about it getting back to working order but it never did happen, likewise the showdown between Dan and Jake, rumours abounded that Jake would seek revenge by taking over Hamilton tossing which I suppose he could have attempted, but he never did. I believe that Jake knew he had little or no hope of beating Dan Daly after all Dan Daly had done to Jake Kilrain what only 3 out of 76 professional fighters had done and that was to knock him out, whether that be a King Hit or not it was done, just like the canyon done and dusted.

The above story was taken from John Daly’s book “Our Daly Bread” and was sent to us by Rab McMillan.