THE BURNBANK DYNAMITE EXPLOSION 1876. By Wilma Bolton.

shawburn
The Explosion would have taken place roughly where the number 1794 is on the map. 

“From the middle of the 19th century, Hamilton and surrounding hamlets and villages were dangerous places to live and work. Health and safety was not on the list of priorities and many people were killed in industrial accidents. This story tells of the carnage in Burnbank on the 19th June 1876, when dynamite exploded in a builder’s yard the site of which today would be behind Newfield Crescent at the Burnbank entrance to Pollock Avenue”

During the 1850’s, the discovery of rich coal seams in Hamilton and Burnbank heralded the beginning of the development of the infrastructure required to accommodate the industrialisation of what had been a rural setting. With the development of Greenfield Colliery commencing in May 1859, Burnbank expanded rapidly and railway lines were constructed with branches leading off to the coal mines and developing heavy industry.
Within a short period of time Burnbank, had gone from a quiet little hamlet of only a few houses and farms, to a dangerous, noisy, hub of industry with people coming from all over the country and Ireland to seek employment.

By 1876, John Watson had started extensive colliery operations in a field on the lands of Hillhouse farm and with the purchase of a small piece of land at Burnbank he now had access to the new Bothwell- Hamilton railway line which was under construction. Building this railway was Charles Brand & Sons railway contractor Hope Street, Glasgow whose workshops at Shawsburn were at the end of a narrow road just beyond the bridge which spanned the burn going under the Burnbank Road. Originally a farm, the old buildings had been adapted by the company and one of the buildings, 60 feet by 20 feet, had been converted into a store, joiners shop and a smithy, separated by a wooden partition. Another two buildings were used as stables with stalls for twenty four horses.

At twenty-five past eleven on the morning of Monday September 19th June 1876, Burnbank was rocked by an explosion so loud that it was heard beyond Baillieston, Wishaw and Stonehouse. So violent was this explosion that both the County Buildings and Hamilton Barracks along with the rest of Hamilton, shook to their foundations. Debris from the explosion caused damage to property hundreds of yards away and seven workmen employed by McAlpine, building houses at what would become Burnbank Cross were nearly blown off the roof when the building shook violently and debris rained down on top of them.

At a house thirty feet away from the smithy, a woman named Mrs Hughes who had been standing at her doorway was knocked unconscious when she was hit on the cheek by a brick and her daughter who had been doing a washing, was covered in plaster from the roof and walls. Their comfortable home was extensively damaged. Another two houses close to the site of the blast and occupied by James McGinnigan and James Stirling were left uninhabitable. In Burnbank more than one hundred windows were blown in. People ran out on to the street and collected in groups, speculating on the source of explosion and the general consensus of opinion was that a boiler must have blown up.

Men from all around the area ran towards the scene of the explosion. Navvies left the nearby railway-cuttings where they were working and soldiers from Hamilton barracks, and police and officials from the county buildings all headed as fast as they could towards Burnbank, where a huge cloud of smoke hung over the disaster.

It was evident to the people making for the site of the explosion, that whatever had taken place lay up the narrow road at Shawsburn. The first on the scene was county police officer Sergeant Cruikshanks who had been riding only 100 yards away when the explosion occurred. He arrived at the smoking ruins followed by workers from the McAlpine’s building site and was met by a scene of utter devastation. The smithy and joiners shop no longer existed and in their place was a tangled mass of wood, stone and iron. The stables were recognisable but only just. The roofs were gone, and there was a lot of damage caused by flying debris.

The rescuers heard screams of pain coming from cartwright Alexander Livingstone who was lying covered by debris. When released and questioned, he said he had been working that morning with two blacksmiths, two hammermen, two joiners, a labourer and a policeman, a total of nine men. He was carried him to the stable furthest away from the scene of devastation and laid on clean hay where he was treated by Drs Robertson and Grant who had arrived after hearing the explosion. Within a very short space of time, the disaster scene was crowded with officials and helpers, including Sheriff Spens, Commander McHardy, Lanarkshire’s Chief Constable from the County Buildings and Lieutenant Brewster and Dragoons from the barracks in Almada Street.

The scene at the smithy was one of indescribable horror with several of the bodies atomised and lying in a pool of blood near what had been the door was an unidentifiable mass of what had shortly before, been a living human being. One body was found under the upright wheels of a cart and another two were found locked together some nine feet away and a fourth some twelve feet distance. At first it was thought that there were five victims but the arrival of Constable Charles Chrichton with the news that Constable James McCall was missing increased the total to six.

Chrichton and McCall although county constables and wearing the uniform, were both employed and paid by Messrs Brand to watch the railway works. Because the joiners shop also doubled as a pay office and general local headquarters of the firm both men had arranged to meet there to see if any complaints had been lodged before they started their work. Charles Chrichton had escaped death by a few minutes as he had been on his way to the yard when the explosion occurred. Immediately after the disaster he was been dispatched to find a doctor and returned an hour later.

The remains of the victims were removed to a stable where the work of identification could begin. Constable McCall was identified by a piece of his belt and fragments of his handcuffs and police sergeant Cruikshanks and the Rev. Stewart Wright Parish minister at Blantyre had to break the bad news to his young widow Catherine who was heavily pregnant and already the mother of four children.

By that evening six sets of remains had been recovered and as dynamite had been found in the wreckage, work was halted until someone with knowledge of this explosive attended the scene. The following day the suspicion surfaced that there was a seventh victim after a local dog was found running about with a scalp which was later identified as belonging to John Kennedy a labourer.

Three people were injured; cartwright, Alexander Livingston lay unconscious for several days at his father’s Greenfield home but went on to make a good recovery. John Rafferty hammerman at the smithy had a miraculous escape. John had been aware that there was damaged dynamite being stored in the joiners shop and due to the close proximity of the smithy he had repeatedly complained about it, and warned that it could be dangerous. John had been the first one to see that something was going wrong in the workshop when he noticed a blue flame in the corner where the dynamite was stored. He quickly drew the attention of Black the foreman blacksmith’s to it and was told to get a pail of water. He had only reached the door when the dynamite exploded and the force projected him for some distance finally dumping him behind a hedge. When he recovered consciousness he staggered back to the workshops to find the building had been blown to smithereens.

Over 100 pounds of dynamite were found in the debris and one stick complete with fuse was found lodged in a chimney on the McAlpine building site several hundred yards away. There was a public outcry that despite the 1875 Explosives Act, dynamite was being stored in an unauthorised area. Subsequently James Donald Clark, engineer and sub-manager of Messrs Charles Brand & Son was charged with the culpable homicide of the seven victims.

During the trial, one of the witnesses, John Bathgate, told of how on the instructions of Dickie the foreman joiner, he carted 200 lbs of water damaged dynamite from the magazine approximately a quarter of a mile away, to Brands yard and left it in under Dickie’s bench. It was stated that Dickie was in charge of the magazine key and gave dynamite out when authorised. When it was found that a quantity of the dynamite was water damaged, Clark ordered that the magazine be cleaned out and repaired. Experiments had then been carried out with the damaged dynamite including the use of detonators, gunpowder and then a bonfire but it failed to explode and it was concluded that it was useless.

Patrick McAvoy, Donald McGinnes, James Semple, James Clark, John Rafferty and Alexander Livingston all gave evidence as to the presence of the dynamite under the bench. At the summing up of the trial the Advocate- Depute asked for a verdict of guilty but the jury after an absence of half an hour returned a not guilty verdict by a majority of 13 to 3.
Eight weeks later, the report on the results of the official inquiry into the explosion, laid the blame for the explosion at the door of the engineer Mr Clark, despite him being found not guilty in court. The inquiry stated that he was morally responsible, if not criminally responsible for the accident, because it was under his instructions that the dynamite had been stored at an unlawful place i.e. the joiner’s yard. The report emphasised the necessity of keeping dynamite free from contact with water whereby it became extremely dangerous and unstable. Messrs Charles Brand & Son were also implicated.

At Hamilton Sheriff Court the following March the young widow and children of James McCall sued Charles Brand & Son for £2000. Despite the finding of the official inquiry she was awarded only £150 damages.
THE VICTIMS.
William Dickie. 50. Foreman joiner. Native of Ayrshire.
George Horne. 43. Joiner. Native of Ingie, Buckie, Banffshire.
David Black. 29. Foreman blacksmith. Native of Balerno.
John Fraser 26. Native of Inverness.
William McLay. 22. Hammerman. He belonged to the district.
John Kennedy. 66. Labourer. Native of Elginshire.
James McCall. 25 Police Officer. High Blantyre.
© Wilma S. Bolton

Advertisements

Woman Killed at the Keepers House at the Mausoleum.

keepers-house1
The Mausoleum Caretakers House where the accident occurred.

HAMILTON WOMAN KILLED

A sad tale occurred on Saturday the 16th of September 1911. Mrs Thomas Kerr, wife of the keeper of the Mausoleum at Hamilton Palace, died at one o’clock Saturday morning from injuries sustained by explosion of gas in her house late the previous night.

Her husband had gone out to post letter, leaving in the house his wife and two children, aged respectively two years and six months. After making some calls, he returned home between ten and eleven, and entering the   house a painful scone confronted him. His wife was lying the stair leading from the kitchen the coal cellar. Her clothes were practically burned off, and her body was scorched in a terrible manner.

He lifted her into the kitchen, and ran for assistance, Mrs Kerr was still conscious, and was able say that when she was going down to the cellar fetch coals something went up in a blaze at the gas jet on the stair. The elder of her two children, a bright little girl, was with her, but Mrs Kerr had the presence of mind to push the child down the stair when the explosion occurred. In this way the girl escaped the flames which enveloped her mother.

The younger child was asleep in a perambulator in the kitchen, and was uninjured. Mr and Mrs Kerr are a young couple, who only entered upon duty at Hamilton Palace three weeks ago, having previously lived at Caledonia Road, Glasgow.

 

Hamilton boy in Court

keepers-house
The Keepers House in Hamilton.

HOUNDED DOG ON LITTLE GIRL.

Hamilton Boy in Court. Hamilton, Saturday 10th September 1922.

A remarkable case was heard in Hamilton J.P. Court to-day—ex-Provost Pollock on the Bench —when a diminutive boy of tender years named James McMillan, residing at Grammar School Square, Hamilton, was charged with hounding a dog on the little daughter -of the caretaker of the Mausoleum.

It was represented on behalf of the accused that he had gone to the Palace grounds along with some companions. They were accompanied on that occasion by a dog which was a bid disposition.

Accused did not think that the animal would do the little girl any harm, and he was not alone in urging it to make an attack. It was more a juvenile prank than anything else, but the unfortunate circumstance was that the girl was badly bitten on the right arm. It was a good thing, added the Fiscal, that the animal had been destroyed. In the circumstances the Justices decided to admonish the accused.

Fire at Wellhall House.

FIRE AT HAMILTON, WAR HORSES BURNED TO DEATH.

Late on Friday night of the 23rd of August 1889 the gardener at Wellhall House, the residence of Colonel Stevenson, C.B., commanding the 26th and 71st regimental districts observed fire rising from storm window on the roof of the stables.

After calling the coachman he forced open the stable door, and the occupants, two valuable horses and pony, were found to have been suffocated. Word was sent to the barracks, and at the bugle call the garrison turned out in masses. The Hamilton fire brigade and under Mr Watson, arrived about the same time, and though under the disadvantage small water  pressure, along with the military, they were successful in preventing the burning from spreading to the mansion-house and the adjoining offices.

About eleven o’clock the roof of the stables fell in, and before midnight the fire was virtually got under control. The extent of the damage cannot yet be estimated. One of the horses was Tel-el-Kebir, which carried Colonel Stevenson through the attack .on the Arabs’ stronghold, and was much prized.

The premises destroyed consisted of coachman’s house, four-stalled stables, baronets-room, and loose box with hay loft above the stable. A large crowd was attracted, which Captain Millar, Hamilton Burgh Police, kept in capital order.

 

Two Fat Ladies.

 

Two fat ladies, ,

Kin ye remember years ago in Hamilton some uf the pubs wur bloody manky?
Ye walked in the bar slid awe ower n’ then ye got served by the widow twanky,,
They wur the real auld “spit n’ sawdust, oh aye “whit dae ye want light ur heavy”
Well ye see , back then ye wurnae spoilt fur choice, ur ye jist didnae git a bevvy”
***************************************
Then some guy’s got the gether, here’s a great idea, whit aboot a “social club”
Well that day changed everythin’ n’ fur hunners, it soon became the social hub”
They hid a games room, a separate bar, a lounge’ then a great big concert hall”
Music, a trio, comedians, perfict fur dancin’ n” up a hight a big magic”glitterball”
****************************************
The Greenfield” wis magic, a resident group, n’ ma auld teacher wis the organist”
They hid somethin’ fur everywan, it wi great sittin in comfort while gittin pissed”
“Can ye hear me in the lounge Andy” well, that always caused a big stampede ”
” Bingo in the concert room” ye see fur awe the women it’s a big o’ game speed ”
*****************************************
The wimen wur it the ready, wae thir dabbers, a hunner poun fur a full hoose”
Ye could hear a pin drop, the wans thit spoke ower the turn, quiet as a moose ”
The wimen always hid book uf six, cause tae play they hid tae know the lingo”
Eyes doon look in, jist ye ask any woman, thil say it’s a serious game this bingo”
*******************************************
Ye know thir great places the clubs, thiv got somethin oan nearly every night,,
A kin remember ma mates sayin” where ye bin, n’ cawin me worse thin shite”
Somebody seen ye on Tuesday, gawn past “sing sing” wae wee whitehill Annie”
C’mon spill the beans, “awrite I’ll hivtae admit it “A lumbered it grab a grannie “”

(Well the aulder the fiddle the better the tune)

Burnbank House

burnbank-house

Burnbank House was one of the first grand houses to be built in Burnbank and through time, it had many influential people who owned or lived at the house. The land the building sat on is now used as a public park, situated between Whitehill Road & Burnbank Road. An old wall can still be seen from Yews Crescent that I believe was part of the original boundary wall surrounding the lands at Burnbank House. To put things in to perspective, Burnbank House was situated in the garden behind the flats across from the BP petrol station on Burnbank Road.

burnbank-house1
Satellite overlay of the 1896 map of Hamilton.

Burnbank House was documented as being a superior dwelling house with extensive gardens attached and it was built around c 1715 and it’s first documented owner was a man called McMath. There is very little information on McMath but he was the owner from 1718 to 1744, where it was later owned by a Robert Hamilton and then being sold jointly to John Dewar an Edinburgh tobacconist & the Rev James Hamilton who was the minister at Paisley, where Burnbank House was noted as being a  “Summer House” out in the country.

 

burnbank-2
John Aiton Horse Tax 1785.

John Dewar sold the house to Bailie, John Aiton of Burnbank on the 20 May 1773 and he owned the house up until his death in 1788. Colonel David Muirhead of the honourable East India Service then bought the house on the 10th of April 1789, however his time at the house was short lived as he died in 1791. His trustees sold the house in 1801 to a wine merchant from Hamilton called Charles Gordon and yet again the house was only shortly owned by Charles for four years, as he in turn sold the estate to Charles Campbell in 1805, Charles was a Glasgow Silk Merchant.

A series of occupants lived at Burnbank House, as Charles Campbell rented it out; Charles would have been probably living at his main house in Glasgow.  The people who rented the house were:  Captain Moodie, Captain Brown a Mrs Campbell (probably Charles’s wife) and a surgeon called William Weir. On the 5th March 1832, during the time when Captain John Brown Esq was living at Burnbank House, his youngest daughter Elizabeth was married there by the Rev William Buchanan, minister of Hamilton to Lawrence Brown Esq of Edmonstone. This must have been a beautiful place to be married within the grounds of Burnbank House along with the stunning gardens and vast open countryside surrounding the house.

The house was finally sold (apart from 4 Acres) to Patrick Stevenson who was another Glasgow Merchant, it looks like the sale of the house is now being kept in the Glasgow Merchant clique. The 4 Acres that were sold off separately, was acquired by a William Nelson, who was a spirit merchant in Hamilton, who seems to have gone bankrupt. The Stevenson’s, Jamiesons and even Peter W Dixon and D.R Robertson, men with great wealth and high respect also had an interest in the land until it was bought by the Glasgow merchant and banker Lewis Potter in October 1859. It was this man’s enterprise more than anything else that was to transform Burnbank and its neighbours – Greenfield and Udston into a thriving community which in its boom years reached some sixteen thousand people.

lewis-potter
Lewis Potter 1807-1881.

Lewis potter at the time was living over at Udston House, not far from Burnbank House. When he bought his new property he had a tenant already living there – Sheriff Veitch, who lived there from 1837 right up to 1861. The house seems to have been sold again c 1874 when Robert Lalston is registered as the owner and he rented it to Major George Hamilton who lived here until 1882. The last tenant to live at Burnbank House was William Clarkson who was living there in 1920, by this time the house was divided and it was agreed that demolition was was to go ahead. Burnbank House was demolished in the 1930s.

 

 

 

burnbank-house3
Burnbank House was situated in the gardens behind the Flats at Burnbank Road.
burnbank-house4
The former Gardens at of Burnbank House.

Prior to its demolition it seems to have been used as a Hostel, I am unsure if this was official or if the house was inhabited by squatters. By this time, the London, Midland & Scottish railway (L.M.&S) seem to have now acquired the house and surrounding land and the Hamilton Burgh are now wanting to buy the land from L.M&S, to build houses. The Hamilton Burgh buy the ground, extending to 2,292 acres, including Burnbank House, but excluding the Smithy at the corner of Whitehill Road & Burnbank Road, for the sum of £2,000 with certain conditions  as to upkeep of fencing etc. The Hamilton Burgh later built flats on Whitehill Road, which were later known locally as Sing Sing.

I would like to thank the staff at the Hamilton Reference Library for helping me find the information on Burnbank House, as there isn’t much on line that can be found on this once beautiful grand and historic building. Some of the notes were also written by the late William Wallace who was one of Hamilton’s finest historians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes R Scott Monument of memories Part 5……Printed in The Hamilton Advertiser 1st July 1966.

Auchingramont Road..jpg

 

Hamilton has long outgrown the days when every school boy knew the town like the palm of his hand and could give an interesting precise on the local “who’s who”.  Now one can get lost in a labyrinth of streets with not a kent face in sight, for the separate communities that compromise the whole have no common bond, except perhaps the supermarkets, the libraries and the ever increasing burden of paying for the mammoth development schemes.

In the process Auchingramont Road has become just another thoroughfare cluttered with parked cars. Structurally it is little changed although the north church has been demolished and replaced by a block of flats called “Gramont” and several villas have been concerted in to office. Lately the Glen hotel has put the area on the motorists’ map, it being recommended by the automobile associations.

Formally the residents would have stood aghast at such intrusions. In fact, it is doubtful weather Auchingramont proprietors would have allowed it, as they permitted nothing or no one to interfere with the amenities of the road.

COUNTRY QUIET LANE

They had every reason to be proud of it, for its air of elegance and grace could not be matched elsewhere. It was as peaceful and quiet as a country lane, with the sanctity of the churches pervading the atmosphere. Its beauty entered the soul and one felt refreshed and stimulated physically and mentally.

Doctors, Lawyers, ministers and bankers were representative householders, whose illustrious careers were followed by the general public. Character and breeding shone from every window, but wealth was never blatantly exposed to incite resentment or envy in poor citizens. Rather it appeared as something substantially worth wile, and inspired dreams of achievement without covetousness.

A stroll along Auchingramont was always a pleasure; there was so much to admire and delight to the eye. It is still a lovely residential area but that indefinable something which defies analysis or description has to some extent disappeared.

BUSIEST ON SUNDAYS

In the old days Auchingramont Road was busiest on Sundays, for each of the three churches had good congregations. After morning service, the worshippers were wont to standing little grounds outside their church discussing the sermon or perhaps evaluating a lady’s ensemble. The vicar of St. Mary’s was usually in evidence, and his engaging smile and friendly manner left a lasting impression on many an onlooker.

When the death of Edward the peacemakers was announced, the Episcopalians were first to hold a special service. Women hurriedly acquires black hats, and gloves then rushed to the church, accompanied by young daughters whose mark of defiance consisted of black velvet ribbon tied round their necks. some wore borrowed hats, so that they appeared more like guys dressed for Halloween than mourners. But it was a sad and moving occasions and the laughs at the weird attire were reserved for after. Memorial services were held in other churches, Auchingramont, North being elaborately draped in purple and black.

My dearest memories of Auchingramont, however, centre around the North Church, particularly during the ministry of the Rev Thomas Brown M.A. and that of the Rev John McCallum, Robertson M.A. I can still hear Mr Robertson’s talk on “The House with the Green Shutters”. His Sunday evening disclosures drew people from far and wide and filled the church to overflowing, so that they had sometimes to sit on the balcony steps. He was a great orator. Thus his successor began with a disadvantage. Mr Brown however was warm-hearted and easier to approach than the scholarly Mr Robertson.

FIRST MINISTER

The first minister of Auchingramont was the Rev Peter C Duncanson, who came with the congregation from the relief church in Muir Street, now part of Smellie’s Market. The church dates back to 1776 and its exiting history has been written by Baillie James F Hamilton, a man of high endeavour and personal magnetism.

I possess a stucco bust of Duncanson which was executed by J Mossman and originally belonged to the Bishop family of Barncluith. It was given to my grandparents, who never tired of telling how much pleasure it gave their beloved minister to see his image on their mantelshelf.

The new church was opened on 24th November 1867. Special services were held and Dr Johnston, limekilns occupied the pulpit in the morning. Mr Duncanson officiated in the afternoon and Dr Eadie in the evening. The collections for the day amounted to £202.3s.4d.

The church cost £5,233.13.7d and the manse £1,703.19s. The old church was sold for £525. This, together with various contributions and the proceeds from a bazaar held in the Town Hall, considerably reduced the sum outstanding. But it took 26 years, a second bazaar held at the Art Galleries, Glasgow in October 1884, and a third held in the Town Hall in 1893 to liquidate the debt. The ladies of the congregation made every effort to make the bazaar a success and the £3,180 raised in this way was a very gratifying result.

Mr William Cassels personally collected £105 – the cost of the bell erected in the tower. I may have been prejudiced but as a child i considered it had the most melodious and distinctive tone of any bell in Hamilton. The bellringer then was Mr Scott of Selkirk Street and the Beadle was Mr Williamson.