THE STRANGS OF MEIKLE EARNOCK & MEIKLE EARNOCK BURYING GROUND.

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The former burial site of the Strangs of Fairhill. 

Continuing with our graveyard story at the former burial site in Fairhill, Wilma Bolton has transcribed an article from the Hamilton Advertiser dated 7/5/1887.

Sir, I am curious to know the origin and age of the small graveyard on the confines of the Fairhill property and adjoining the road from Earnock to Meikle-Earnock. Might I ask the author of the “Recollections” which frequently appear in your publication if he can find on the shelves of his memory any impress of the facts relating to it and its dismantled state? If he could also tell me the history of the ruined wall on the north side of the village of Meikle-Earnock. I should be under an increased debt of gratitude to him. QUAERO.

The following reply was printed on the 14/5/1887:

Sir, having read in Saturday’s Advertiser a letter from a correspondent seeking information about the age and origin of Meikle-Earnock Burying-Ground. I, along with a few friends, visited it on Sunday night, as I have often done in my lifetime before, and I must say that I was greatly shocked with the state in which I found it, It seems to me that in this awful race for riches the old proverb holds good, “Better a living dog than a dead lion.”

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The Indians of North America put us to shame in the way they respect the sepulchres of the dead. I must inform your correspondent that according to tradition the origin of this old burying ground is lost in the mists of time Everything points to Meikle-Earnock as being a very ancient place , there being an ancient tumulus, which, though much larger at one time still measures 12 feet in diameter and 8 feet high. There have ben found several urns in it from time to time.

It appears the ancient inheritance of Fairhill and Meikle-Earnock was held by a family of the name of Strang, of which our energetic councillor is a lineal descendant. So far as I have been able to discover, when the old parish church of Hamilton (of which many of your readers of your readers will remember the portion that stood up to 1852, and was used as the burying place of the Hamilton family) was removed on 1731, the Laird Strang of that day built here a place of sepulchre like Abraham of old, in the shape of an octagon tower wherein to bury members of the family. Of course there had been Strangs’ buried here before this, as witness the inscription on two flat stones in good preservation: — “Here lies James Strang, of Meikle-Earnock, who was born July 20th. 1654, and died 31st March 1746, in the 92nd year of his age” –also “Here lies Robert Strang, younger of Meikle-Earnock, who was born 31st October, 1687 and died 6th of May 1737. The Mathers of Meikle-Earnock, who held the estate for a considerable time, came through it by marriage.

One of the Lairds of Meikle-Earnock married a Mather, and at his death the estate lapsed into that family, and was held for a time by a Mr Dick, of Glasgow, and is now the property of the much respected laird of Earnock, and I have no doubt if Mr Watson’s attention were called to the state of this old burying ground, he would perhaps hedge it round and plant a few trees in it. I more readily suggest this, knowing that few gentlemen in Scotland have done as much for the improvement and beautifying of their estates, and I have no doubt if this were done he would earn the eternal gratitude of every well-disposed Hamiltonian. With regard to the high wall at the north end of the village, so far as I am able to judge, and so far as the older inhabitants remember, it was the garden wall connected with the old mansion house. Yours, Etc. KINGSTON.Fairhill.12

Hamilton Advertiser. 21/5/1887:

Sir, Having seen a letter in last week’s Advertiser. Signed “Kingston,” regarding the above burying ground, would you kindly grant space for one or two additional facts which he, as well as others may not be aware of. The ground in question seems to have been taken off the lands of Fairhill, perhaps from the fact of the tumulus referred to being situated as that particular spot, and which has always been supposed to belong to the Roman period. The oldest information we can get concerning it is perhaps what it reveals itself when we find one James Strang, who was born on 1654, having been buried there in 1746.

Seventeen years later, however, in 1763 when the estate of Fairhill (which then formed part of the estate of Meikle Earnock) was sold by a later James Strang. The burying ground is carefully reserved, and there referred to curiously as the “new burying place,” which does not point to a very great antiquity. Eighteen years later still, viz., 1781, we find it portioned out between four members of a family of Strangs as their respective burying places; and the present tomb was not built for nearly 20 years later still viz., about the year 1800, and not by a Strang, as Kingston tells us, but by a Mather, and who was himself the first to be laid within its walls—one or two old residenters being still alive who remember having seen his funeral.

It was built and secured by him as a burying place for members of the family bearing that name only; and from that time it has been gradually filled up by them, as each in their turn paid the debt of Natures immutable law; and at the present time there still remains one or two spaces to be occupied should the present representatives ever choose the spot as a last resting place—their father being the last Mather buried there. If they have ever given up their rights, as “Kingston’s” letter suggests, it must have been very recently. As regards the present state of the burying ground.

I knew that the year before last it was put into a state of capital repair by the present representatives—strong boarding’s being put up inside the windows, the door made thoroughly secure along with many other needful repairs. But no sooner were these done, than a gang of young ruffians (you can call them nothing else) from the town and surrounding places visited the spot—Sunday being a favourite day for the display. The boarding’s are battered down from the windows—the door is wrenched open –head stones are thrown down and broken—and the very ashes of the dead disturbed and exposed to view; and not once only but repeatedly. And try to interfere without a policeman at your back! This is our nineteenth century civilization! “Kingston,” in his letter, speaks about North American Indians, but we have a generation of Vandals growing up around us that would put to blush any dusky Indians that ever handled the tomahawk.

If they have any religious notions at all, its symbols are the tobacco pipe and a sand jig, with a clog dance thrown in by the way of variety. The police authorities have been applied to at different times, but without result; and so the vandalism is repeated. Perhaps the above may account for the condition your correspondent fount it in. How to put a stop to such savagery is another question. I have not the least doubt but if our own beautiful cemetery was not carefully watched and tended it would ultimately share the same fate. Yours W.A.

It just go’s to show that vandalism is not a modern day thing, it was even happening back in the 19th Century.

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GHOULISH VANDALISM AT MEIKLE-EARNOCK.

Skull

The following story was reported in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 20 April 1895.

“Cadzow” writes to the Glasgow Herald; Please give me space for the following statement of facts. In a secluded corner on the confines of Fairhill and Earnock estates, within two miles distance of Hamilton Cross, there lies a small burying-place of some old Meikle Earnock families.

It has long since been disused, but a sweeter and more peaceful resting place it were hard to find, or apparently one more unlikely to be disturbed. What was my horror then, sir, on taking a quiet walk along the road that passes this God’s acre to find a human skull lying on the side walk, and grinning in all its ghastliness at passers-by! I reverently lifted the “thing” intending to replace it in the hallowed ground, when I observed that the door and window of the mausoleum which stands within the graveyard had been forced, and on looking into the interior saw that the stone cists round the walls were prized open, the coffin lids wrenched off, and the remains of their contents scattered over the place.

In my hurried glance I saw three skulls and several thigh and arm bones, and a bystander informed me that shortly before I came up some youths had been enjoying a game of football with the hideous relics. Great shades of Yorick! and this on the evening of a beautiful Easter Sunday in the latter end of the nineteenth century! I have no doubt that those more immediately interested will take steps to bring the perpetrators on this gross outrage to speedy justice.

I may add that the scene of this ghoulish vandalism is quite near to where, not long since, a young man, after spending a convivial Saturday evening with some friends, was playfully kicked to death by his boon companions. (The condition of this burial place has long been a disgrace to all interested in it.)

The next day on the 21st April 1895 the following was written:

“Before Hon. Sheriff Patrick, yesterday, John Murphy, pony-driver, Eddlewood, was charged with malicious mischief in connection with the recent desecration of Meikle-Earnock graveyard.

The libel set forth that on 14th inst., be abstracted from a coffin in a vault in the old graveyard a human skull and bones, and, taking them outside, broke the skull with the bones or stick, and kicked the fragments up and down the graveyard. He pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned for trial.

John Murphy, pony driver, Eddlewood, was tried at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Tuesday 30th April 1895 before Hon. Sheriff Patrick–on a charge of malicious mischief, committed in the old graveyard, on 14th April. Murphy, a boy of 14, pleaded not guilty, and was undefended.

Five witnesses were examined for the prosecution. From the evidence of four young lads, companions of Murphy, it appeared that on Sunday afternoon they met, and one of them gave information that the vault in the old graveyard was open. They went down to see the place. Arriving there, they found a number of other lads congregated.

Accused went into the vault, and, according to one of the witnesses lighted a match. He went to one of the coffins, which was open and contained a number of loose bones, and then opened another coffin. According to the same witness, he inserted his hand and extracted a skull from one of the coffins, this he brought out on the end of a stick, and threw it to the ground. Remarking that he wished to know what was in the skull, he broke it with a stick.

Again he entered the vault and was about to bring out another skull, when his companions remonstrated, and he gave up the notion. Constable Steel of the County police, said two days before the day libelled he had visited the graveyard in consequence of a report that the vault was open. He found that this was correct. The door had parted from its fixing in the wall for a space of about six inches, through the effect of the underground workings, he fixed the door in such a way as to secure it, and communicated with the representatives of the owners who promised to see the door put right. On the Tuesday following.

On information he received, he again visited the vault and found the place broken into, and the coffins and bones in a disordered condition. He further stated that five years ago the vault had been broken into and coffin cords taken away, which the girls in the village used as skipping ropes.

Accused, when asked for an explanation of his conduct, simply denied that he had lighted a match. His Lordship said the evidence disclosed an extraordinary state of affairs, and but for the circumstances that the accused was only one of a large company, all young and thoughtless, and that the place was improperly secured, he would have passed a severe sentence. But he learned from the Fiscal that the present prosecution was brought more as a warning, so trusting that such sacrilegious misdeeds would not be repeated, he would only impose a fine of 15s with the option of 10 days’ imprisonment.

The following story was donated to Historic Hamilton by Wilma Bolton.

DUCHESS ANNE’S HOSPITAL

 

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Duchess Anne Hamilton 1631-1716.

Duchess Anne Hamilton was the 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, She lived from 6 January 1631 to 17 October 1716. and she is remembered as “Good Duchess Anne” She was a noblewoman who rebuilt Hamilton Palace and did a great deal to assist in the development of the town by building a school, almshouses, a woollen factory and a spinning school.

Duchess Anne’s Hospital was an old house that stood at the corner of Castle Street and New Wynd, today the site of the Almshouse is occupied by a house across from where the entrance to the Asda car park is. The hospital or Almshouse as it was known was occupied by a number of poor families,  it was built around the middle of the 17th century as a hospital and had been occupied up until the beginning of the 18th century where it became disused as a hospital and ever since it had been occupied as a dwelling house.

 

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Duchess Anne’s Hospital for the poor.

In the year 1858 there were still 6 or 7 individuals who were receiving 8s per annum from the house of Hamilton in view of a house rent. The slum building was later demolished.

1851 Map of Duchess Annes's

Almshouse former site.(3)
The former site of the Almshouse.

 

Leslie George Sayce.

In the first picture we have Leslie George Sayce aged fifteen and the second one is Les Sayce and Andra McDade in the garden of
29 Mayfield Road in 1948.

Leslie George Sayce
Leslie George Sayce aged fifteen

He was later known then as Les McDade due to his parents getting divorced when he was 2 years old.

Les was born at 29 Mayfield Road in the “Jungle” to Mary McDade on 19th Jan 1947 and his father Les Sayce was a survivor of HMS Barham in 1941 His father later went on to escort duty in the North Atlantic.

The picture was taken in the back yard of 24 Hillhouse crescent in 1963 and Earnock “Bing” is in the back ground.

Les went to Glenlee primary and then Earnock secondary and when he left school he worked as an apprentice joiner for Charlie Cornes at Limetree, then for Gibbons who were building “The Furlongs.’ He later worked at the Wagon works across from the Blantyre Industrial estate.

Les McDade.
Les Sayce and Andra McDade in the garden of 29 Mayfield Road in 1948.

He then went to London and spent seven years doing joinery work. He was also a cross country runner attaining house colours for his school which was “Windsor boys school”. and served as a member of the combined cadet force of the Royal Artillery. He then joined the Cameronians, he was based in Germany for a year in 1962. Returning to Scotland in 1963 he joined the ATC at Hamilton barracks 2166 Squadron.

Les started spending much time in libraries reading poetry of Selfridge Sassoon and the usual building subjects pertaining to construction management and aeronautical physics. (mechanics of flight) – {He published his own work in 1978}

He then set out for the south of England and searched for his father, it took only a few hours to track him down. (in a pub) He went back to Scotland in 1972 for four years working as a Ghillie on the Mamore estate in Kinlochleven and a joiner on the housing schemes.

In the mid 70s Les went to Spain for a holiday and when he was in Spain, he met some lads from a NZ rugby club and they invited him over there, So in 1976 he arrived here in NZ and worked in the islands “Rarotonga” then Australia and in 1977 he met his future wife Jessie Stokes!

At this time he was playing guitar in the country clubs and dance halls as a solo performer In most circles he is known primarily as a guitarist.
He trained as a commercial pilot in Wanganui and Nelson and done the flying part in Auckland as that was his home club, he flew many types of aircraft mainly on charters.

In 1982 he suddenly started playing cricket and he went at it with a vengeance,his training regime was rugged as he was running around a Hill station farm rounding up lambs and in winter found him training with the rugby lads. He ended up a captain of a two day team and won sportsman of the year in 1986.

Last year Les moved from Auckland and is now living in a town (a country town) He has his dream home with a huge garden and his dream car and has not slowed down in the least.

Historic Hamilton would like to thank Les’s friend John Stokes for sending us Les’s story.

SAD TIMES WITH FOND MEMORIES OF HAMILTON.

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Matthew & Richard Scullion at the steps of Glenlee Primary 1953.
SAD TIMES WITH FOND MEMORIES OF HAMILTON.
 
In the picture above are Matthew Scullion and his younger brother Richard. The picture was taken at the steps outside the main entrance to Glenlee Primary School In 1953.
 
Three days after this photo was took, the boys, along with their other two brothers and sister were taken into care until their mid to late teens.
 
Matthew and Richard age 6 and 7 spent Six months in the then Old Folks Home, the former Poor House on Bothwell Road. Richard told Historic Hamilton,
 
“This for all that happened, was the best of times and the worst, but I will always remember the kindness of those folks in George Sreet? (jungle) who were there for us when we needed it most.
 
Memories of Burnbank, Blantyre and Whitehill ( Whistleberry Drive) will always stay with me for the rest of my life”
 
Historic Hamilton would like to thank Richard for sending us his story. If you have a story that you would like to share, then we would like to hear about it. Send a PM or contact us via Email: historichamilton@icloud.com

RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS (By a Hamiltonian) THE MINE EXPLOSION OF MARCH, 1841.

 

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The following names are the first eleven documented fatalities in a Hamilton Coal mine. In total Wilma Bolton found 813 men, boys and women killed while working in or at a coal mine.(See Wilma Bolton’s reference book Coal Mining Fatalities in Hamilton Parish 1841 – 1948 in all Hamilton libraries.)

AVONBRAES Mine March 1841.
WILLIAM BROUNLIE and his son age 10, Christian name not recorded.

JAMES DUFFIE. JOHN DUFFIE. HUGH MCLEAN, JOHN SMITH and WILLIAM WOTHERSPOON. These seven miners were killed in the explosion. JAMES FLEMING, GEORGE PATE,

JAMES FISHER, and JAMES FYFE died while trying to rescue the above. Duffie or Duffy’s* widow was recorded in 1878 as still receiving a pension from the Duke of Hamilton. No other mine owner paid a pension to miners dependants. (* Both spellings used.)
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The following article gives an eyewitness account of the first explosion in a Hamilton coal mine. Seven miners were killed in an explosion at Avonbraes Mine (a drift mine) which was situated in the Avon gorge and not far from Chatelherault. Another four men lost their lives trying to rescue them. Among the dead was a 10 years old boy who was working with his father who was also killed. Research Wilma S. Bolton.

A Great calamity which occurred in the west of Scotland last week brought vividly to my mind an accident which has left an impression that will be irremovable. It is forty-five years since the catastrophe happened.

We have had more disastrous affairs of the kind since then, but the peculiar circumstances of this one made the occurrence more striking. I refer, of course, to the explosion in the Duke’s mine in Avon Braes. The development of the coal industry in our locality then was yet in the future. The consumpt of the mineral was purely local, and the men who wrought in the mines were our relatives and neighbours. There were scarcely any but whom we had known from infancy. The villagers at Quarter were church members, going out and in with our fathers from very early times. The managers were people with whom we were on the most intimate terms. Well, on a fine spring morning in the year 1841, we, young weaver lads, were taking our breakfast meal hour walk, and in rounding the end of Miller Street, as you see before you the road to Covan Burn, a mounted horseman is seen by us.

His speed is beyond the common. It is our old friend Ord Adams, who had always a kind or jocular word for us. One look at his face that morning, as he rode past, conveyed intelligence of disaster. There was no greeting. He saw us but heeded not. His mission was one of mercy. All this we read and more. One look at each other and we ran. There was no use in asking what was the matter. The two miles to the mine mouth (for it was not a pit in the ordinary sense) we soon passed over. My companions and I were the first of the town’s people who were at the spot. Speedily we learned that the mine had exploded, with seven or eight men and boys inside.

No great number it may be thought; but worse than that, a rescuing party of four brave fellows had entered the mine before we arrived at the scene, and there, issuing from the dismal hole was seen the noxious vapour. Could anyone live in that poison, was the question we put to each other. The men must have succumbed long ere this. Who are the four adventurers? Their names were soon made known to us, and we found them to be neighbours, whom we had known from infancy. James Fyfe, George Peat, James Fisher and a lad from Quarter, named Fleming. The wailing of the mothers and sisters was not loud, but deep. In a few minutes Mr Adams appeared, bringing with him the doctors of the town. Among them I well remember Dr Alex. King, a townsman of great promise.

Volunteers were offering their services, nay, urging their immediate acceptance. But as I stood near the doctors, I saw they were stoutly opposed to any further effort, so long as the gasses issuing from the mine. Mr Adams, himself, I saw became impatient at the restraint and ventured onto the fatal mouth. He and his party speedily returned, sickly and staggering; one or two had to be assisted as they came out of the mine. Still a return to the rescue was insisted on by the men, and still the medical men convinced that it was dangerous—that the hope of saving the lives of all the volunteers was futile. As the vapour cleared away, a party of stout miners entered. Then after a little a move was made to clear the mouth and the last party in came out carrying a body. I see his face and know him. The doctors at once pronounced him dead. Then all hope vanishes. As the mine cleared, the search, though still dangerous, is steadily pursued. One after another is brought out, and the medical men’s opinion is confirmed—there is no hope for one of them.

 

Avon Gorge.

Strange to say, I had grown up to manhood nearly, and never had looked at death in any form. One of the lads, who fell in attempting rescue, had been laid upon a soft grassy bank, a little distance from the mine. I was told he was lying alone. I timidly approached the spot. I did get a surprise, and one that did me good, for there lay the young man cut down in the prime of life. A smile! Yes, a smile on his handsome face. He belonged to a rather good featured family. Henceforth I thought the grim king of terrors would have no scare over me.

I was the better of that night. We waited till all the rescuing party were brought to bank, and we learned that the search for the bodies of those who were in the pit before the explosion would not be brought out till the next day, if they were recovered. It began to be whispered that the bodies of the unfortunate victims would not be a pleasant sight to see. The town, when we arrived home, was in great excitement. I do not think such another day Hamilton had seen since the day of Bothwell Bridge.

People could not settle to work. The good people of the town were busy offering consolation to the widows and orphans. Each one felt the calamity to be affecting themselves. Next day I was up at the mine at an early hour. All was hushed. The bodies were being got out. They were tenderly and delicately handled; respectfully and mournfully laid in their last resting place.

It was an eventful day. It brought out the better part of some we met in ordinary life. I was personally a great friend of Mr Adams, and it affords me pleasure to add that his tenderness, kindly sympathy, and gently consideration to the bereaved ones, during the trying ordeal enhanced, if that were possible, the high opinion in which he was held. D. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser 2/10/1886 page 4.

AIR RAID SHELTERS UNDER NEW HOUSES AT HAMILTON!

In 1938 the town council were planning ahead for a possible second world war. When Mill road was being constructed they included air raid shelters under the houses. Here is an article from 1939 that describes the air raid shelter and how it worked!

Tenants of the majority of houses being erected by Hamilton Town Council at Fairhill Housing Scheme will not require to be provided with the Home Office corrugated steel air raid shelters.

They will have a splendid shelter of their own, provided by the Council, which is erecting over 800 houses at the site. Each block of four houses will have a shelter, built at an estimated cost of £40, and situated underneath the block.

The shelter, a square room about seven feet high, is whitewashed, and round one side is a form, for seating accommodation.

Mr Gavin Patterson the architect explained that “The shelter is 170 square feet, and the concrete ceiling has been further reinforced by Steele beams running both ways so as to prevent falling debris destroying the whole ceiling.”

There are two entrances to the shelter, each of which has two doors and an air-locked lobby. The door frames are bedded with felt and doors have felt checks with fixtures for securely fitting a felt blanket for to prevent the entry of gas.

The brick walls have been thoroughly pointed and rendered air proof. In the event to interruption to the lighting system, emergency lighting is provided by a battery with a trickle charger.

Mr Patters on further explained that an air intake is provided with an air duct from a position above the height of the house, and provision is made for fitting a home office filter.

The intake air is circulated by a small fan, operated by the battery. If the electrical supply fails then the fan can be worked by a hand pump. There is also ample space for beds and chairs and accommodation is provided for 16 adults for about 12 hours.

Numerous A.R.P officials including superintendent Thomas Renfrew, chief officer for Lanarkshire, have visited the shelters, and have expressed as delighted with them.

In recent years the council have filled in a lot of the air raid shelters! Do you live in one of the houses at Mill Road? If you do let us know if the shelter is still here and in use, or has the council filled it in! Or even better can you remember having to uses an air raid shelter?