The Wharrie family & Hamilton’s surgeon’s through the early 1800s. By Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton.

Wordpress Muir Street.

I love it when I stumble across an old Hamilton family that is from a generation or two gone past and are out of common knowledge or memory to people, and this one was a highly respected family who in their day, would have been known by many. I found this family by chance when I was asked to look in to the history of a house on Muir Street.

On the 5th of January 2017 Gordon Duncan sent me a document that he had found in the attic of his Muir Street home. He asked if I would consider looking in to the history of the building.

I love to take on these challenges and do the research for Historic Hamilton and must mention that I have particularly enjoyed this one!

When I looked at the document, I first noticed that it was written in 1813, and it was hard to transcribe, so to make the most of this little snapshot in time, I consulted an old colleague of mine from Edinburgh who used to work at the records office on Princess Street and is also a fantastic transcriber.

Linda Gordon transcribed this document over a couple of days and as I had suspected it was the deeds to the house. Why they were hidden in an attic for so many years will remain a mystery, however it is possible that the owner who was called Dr Thomas Wharrie could have placed the deeds here for safekeeping in the year 1813 and they could have lay hidden and undisturbed for 204 years, which I think is a fantastic find for Gordon Duncan and of course for Hamilton.

This property on Muir Street was probably built by Dr Thomas Wharrie, and it was even built before the reconstruction and upgrade of the Hamilton Palace, which was compete in the year 1842. When you take a wee drive past the house at Muir Street, then think of this, apart from the museum which is on the opposite side of the road and on the same street, you are looking at one of Hamilton’s oldest and inhabited buildings.

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The document was written in ‘Old Scots’ and when transcribed it stated that the house was purchased or built by Dr Thomas Wharrie on the 17th of September 1813. The document was proof of ownership of the house and it laid out the boundaries of the land and garden. The great thing I find about this 204-year-old land certificate is, when this was written, it also takes in to account other people who lived in houses surrounding this building. The document stated that in 1813 the house had attached offices with a yard.

On the east side of the house the closest neighbour was a man named George Ward and there was a hedge separating both houses, and to the south of the garden was Common Green. On the west of the house, the next property was owned by a man named Roger Croft.

The annual payments on the house in 1813 was seventeen shillings and three pence Sterling. The local town clerk in 1813 was Archibald Hamilton and he stamped the document, while a man named John Reid also witnessed the signing.

1814

So, as I have stated, I found that the house was once owned by a prominent family in Hamilton that went by the name of Wharrie. This family were a very well-known one in the town, and they had many friends in many high places, Dr Dykes of Woodhead was an example of this upper-class Hamilton Hierarchy. I had never heard of the Wharrie family and even the name is not a common one in the area. This was when I decided that I was going to research this family.

Thomas Wharrie was not originally from Hamilton, he was a man from Lesmahagow and he married Isabel or Isabella Brown on the 13th of March 1788 and nine months later the family’s first-born child arrived. Thomas James Wharrie was born on the 8th of December 1788 at Lesmahagow. I believe that there may possibly still to this day be family connections to the Wharrie family in Lesmahagow, as Thomas Wharrie had come from a very large, educated and well-off family in this area.

Thomas and Isabella moved to Hamilton between 1789 and 1796, and 3 more children were born, James 23/08/1796, Rachel 19/07/1799 and Jane 13/03/1808. Thomas would probably have come to Hamilton as a doctor where he could have more opportunities in a much bigger town.

What becomes of Thomas and his wife is unknown to me, as I can’t find any other relevant information on Thomas Wharrie or his wife Isabella Brown and the trail stops here. What I can tell you is that Thomas Wharrie died on the 30th of September 1839 and I have this information from his Will and Testament which I discovered.

Thomas Wharrie was a surgeon in Hamilton, and he states in his Will that James Brown Wharrie was his only son, so his first son Thomas has died at some point before his father and yet once more I can’t find any information stating the place of death, and apart from James Wharrie the only other family member that I have come across is his sister Rachel Wharrie, who married a man named Alexander Murdoch on the 2/01/1837 in Hamilton and yet again, there is no information on her or her husband and all that I could find was her death certificate. Jane died on the 26th of March 1872 in Dumfries.

Dr James Brown Wharrie was born on the 23rd of August 1796 in Hamilton and he was the second son of Dr Thomas Wharrie and Isabella Brown. He was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Surgeon and Dr of Medicine in Hamilton.

He studied to be a surgeon in Glasgow and as well as being a doctor, Dr Wharrie also owned a lot of properties in the town, and one of his legacies that James Wharrie left for Hamilton, was the beautiful house that he built, and lived in. It was the grand handsome house called Avongrange at Castlehill, and this big house still stands to this day, and we all know it now to be called, ‘The Avonbridge Hotel’ this was Dr Wharrie’s main residence.

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Castlehill Crescent which is now called Castlehill Gardens, was at the time Hamilton’s affluent street and on this part of Hamilton you would find a Crescent, having on the west side a few fine villas occupied by respectable families. Dr Wharrie’s house was the largest on the street.

He married a lady named Eliza Croil on the 08/01/1837 and I assume that this lady died shortly after they were married, because he re-marries, and as the usual family pattern continues, this lady, like the rest of his family, do not appear on any Old Parish Records and I can’t find a death or any evidence of her re-marrying. He continues to live at his father’s property on Muir Street which he inherited and is still here in 1841, this is at a time when he would probably be thinking about building his mansion at Castlehill Crescent.

James Wharrie re-married, to a girl called Margert Morley Drysdale who was the daughter of Major James Drysdale and Mary Watson Pew. Margaret was born on the 17th of August 1816 in Bothwell, and she was the eldest of her four sisters and two brothers. Margaret was 20 years younger than James.

Dr Wharrie started a family late in life and he was 55 years old before his first child had come along – I am assuming that due to his work commitments, starting a family was an after-thought and not high up on his list until he met Margaret Drysdale.
Avongrange House was built between 1855 and 1858 and the country mansion consisted of one Public Room, a separate Dining Room, six bedrooms, a large Kitchen and Offices which were presumably used for Dr Wharrie’s work.

Things were going well for Dr Wharrie, he was the Surgeon at the Hamilton prison (the prison was situated roughly where the roundabout is at ASDA) and not only did he have a highly paid job as a Doctor, he also had other income in the form of rents, raised from his properties that he owned around Hamilton. He owned two houses and four shop premises on Cadzow Street. He was happily married and now had his very own family which consisted of Thomas, James and John with another baby due to be born in October 1856.

The happiness of the new house at Avongrange on Castlehill Crescent was about to take a turn for the worse! His wife was due to have their fourth child and when little Margaret was born at 8:00am on the 26th of October 1856, sadly James’s wife Margaret died three hours later with complications during the birth. On a sadder note, James was the person who was present during the birth of his daughter, as he was the family doctor and he was also the doctor who certified his wife’s death.

When the 1861 census was taken, Dr Wharrie was living at Castlehill, and he had an adequate amount of staff living here, thus telling us a bit about his wealth. Living with Dr Wharrie were his three sons, Thomas JM Wharrie (10) James D Wharrie (8) and John B Wharrie (7) and his daughter Margaret Wharrie (4). He had a lady named Marion Williamson who was the children’s Nanny, he had a cook named Elizabeth Crawford, and finally he had a house maid that went by the name of Agnes Dobbie.
In 1864 Dr Wharrie was renting his house and shops at Cadzow Street to the following people:

• George Cooper, who was from Cumnock in Ayrshire, rented 58 Cadzow Street and he ran the shop as Tailor and Clothier business, he paid a total annual sum, of £24 and 7 shillings for the house and shop.

•James Keith, a Provost, and famous grocer and spirit merchant of Hamilton, was born in Edinburgh and rented the House and shop at 78 Cadzow Street. James Keith was using this premises as a grocer’s shop and was paying an annual sum of £45 & 5 Shillings. James Keith later became a councillor and his son Sir Henry Keith, followed in his father’s footsteps.

•The third premises consisted of a house and shop which was rented by J&T Thorburn who were confectioners and they were renting these premises for £17 & 3 Shillings.

•The fourth premises on Cadzow Street was a shop, which John Wilson was renting for £15 per annum, this shop may have been rented for a short space of time, as I am unable to find any records for this man.

Wordpress Muir Street.

•The fifth premises that was rented, was his family home that his father built on Muir Street, and the house which still stands today was rented by an Alex Henderson for the sum of £20 per annum. In today’s money, he would have a combined income of £14,616 or £1,218 per month, this in turn would have paid his mortgage at Avongrange, which was set at £95.00 per annum, or in today’s money £11,020 per year or £918.33 per month, this would have been a substantial amount of income as back then in 1864, when you think that the average coal miner earned 2/6 – 3/- per day.

Dr James Wharrie continued to work up until his death, he worked with the local judges of the Hamilton JP court which has been documented in many newspapers of the time. It was reported in the Glasgow Herald on the 2nd of November 1869, that he was present alongside John Meek Esq at the trial of a local man called Bernard Gourley, who was charged with keeping a dog without a licence and who was fined 25s. So, he was in fact a very well-known person in Hamilton.

Dr James Wharrie died at the age of 73 on the 1st of January 1871, at his house at Avongrange. He died at 6:00pm, the cause of death was recorded as Apoplexy or commonly now known as a Stroke. His oldest son Thomas was the person who registered the death.

After Dr James Wharrie died, all his children were still living at Avongrange House and Thomas was the head of the family at 20 years old. Thomas would have inherited a great deal of wealth from his father, as well as Avongrange and in 1871, he studied Law. Marion Williamson who was the children’s Nanny ten years before is still employed by the Wharrie’s and her title in the house now is a domestic servant, they also have one other domestic servant called Elizabeth Crawford living with them.

In 1881, Thomas and Margaret have both moved to Edinburgh, where Thomas is still studying Law and interestingly, they have Marion Williamson also living with them, she was their Nanny and is now their cook and Domestic Servant, this says a lot about the relationship that Marion had with the children, maybe she had taken on the role of their mother, as she was the only woman in the house, that had been there since their mother had died.

John Wharrie, is listed as the head of the house at Avongrange, he doesn’t seem to have a job, but is receiving an income from houses and interests in Hamilton. It would appear, that he is now solely benefiting from his father’s many years of hard work. The house is very large for just one person to be residing in, even though he does have a servant living there with him called Elizabeth Smellie, it wouldn’t be long now until the house at Avongrange leaves the ownership of the Wharrie family.

An advert appeared in the Glasgow Herald Wednesday the 9th of April 1879, and the house was up for let. It is unknown if this went ahead as John Wharrie is still living here in the year 1881. Avongrange remained in the ownership of Thomas Wharrie and it was leased out to various people throughout the years, one of the tenants being the Provost James Moffat. The house was eventually sold off between 1915 and 1920 to Sir Thomas Munro the County Clerk.

After their father’s death, the children of Dr James Wharrie all seem to leave the memories of Hamilton behind them, and when Avongrange is eventually let out they also leave everything behind. They were all born at Avongrange and lived in Hamilton their whole lives, but their father was the only person in the family who was respected, and it was all down to him for giving the Wharrie family the good and respected name that it held in Hamilton.

When Dr James Wharrie died, so did the respected family name and as the new generations of Hamiltonian’s had come and gone, the name Wharrie which was associated with Hamilton, was also gone and forgotten about. All that now stands as a reminder to this family, are the two grand houses, the first one built by Thomas Wharrie on Muir Street and the second house formerly known as Avongrange, where many Hamiltonian’s now enjoy a good Sunday dinner or Christmas and New Year party, which we now call ‘The Avonbridge Hotel’.

So, what happened to the rest of the Wharrie Family?
The Wharrie children all seem to have moved to Edinburgh, this may have been due to the eldest son Thomas studying Law and everyone going with him.

John Wharrie, after being the last to move out of Avongrange in 1881, moved to the house of his brother Thomas at 26 Inverleith Row. There he becomes unwell and dies of pneumonia. He died on the 26th of October 1884. His brother James is the person who registers his death.

James Wharrie also moves to Edinburgh and his occupation is a fund holder and living on his own means. He is still living off his inheritance and seems to have invested his money either in property or stocks and shares, and is receiving an income from this. In 1901, James is renting a room at 15 Atholl Crescent, which is also a few streets away from his brother Thomas, at Edinburgh’s West End. I have concluded that he moved to Edinburgh to look after his brother Thomas, as he is having mental health problems. Later, James pops up again, and I find him living his final days at 7 Castle Terrace which is also St. Marks Church, opposite Edinburgh Castle. He dies here, a single man on the 7th of May 1904. The cause of death is Pneumonia.

Edinburgh..jpg

Thomas Wharrie the eldest son of James and as I mentioned moved to Edinburgh, residing at 26 Inverleith Row, which was a substantial family home in a very upper-class area of Edinburgh. He is having a tough time after his father’s death and is a frequent guest at various Lunatic Asylums. In 1891, he is an inmate at the Edinburgh Royal Asylum for the insane, this institute around this time was a private paying one, so he may have admitted himself and I must mention that he has an income and is living on his own means, so he is also like his brother James still living off the money that was left to him by his father. Sadly, Thomas like his brother, dies a single man on the 22nd of February 1915 at the Sunnyside Asylum for the insane in Montrose. It is unknown why he ended up over in Montrose.

I also found Thomas’s Obituary in the Hamilton Advertiser which was printed on the 27th of February 1915 it read:
“Obituary. —By the death on Monday at Montrose Mr Thomas J. Drysdale Wharrie. there has passed away and the last of the sons of the late Dr. Wharrie, who was well-known to a former generation of Hamiltonians. Dr. Wharrie was prison doctor in Hamilton up till the discontinuance of that institution in our midst. He built and occupied Avon Grange, presently the residence of Provost Moffat. Another link of the Hamilton bygone days has been surrendered.”

I had told you previously Margaret had moved with her brother Thomas to 26 Inverleith Row where she is living here in the year 1881. She then re-appears in the 1911 Census and is living at a place called Wallacehall in Glencairn, Dumfries. She is living with a family called McClelland and she is boarding with them. It is unclear as to why she is living with this family in such a far-away place from the likes of Edinburgh where her brothers were living, but one thing that is listed on the 1911 census is she is recorded as being of “Feeble Minded”.

There does seem to be a pattern evolving with the Wharrie children, but this could also be due to the complications of childbirth that killed her mother.
Again, another death close to her brothers, Margaret died on the 22nd of April 1916 at the house of the McClelland’s at Wallacehall. She died of heart failure and the person who registered her death was the owner of the house a Mr Thomas McClelland, his relation to her on the death certificate is ‘A Friend’.

Margaret’s obituary was printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on Sat 29th April 1916.
“The Late Miss Wharrie, the last we believe of a family well known to Hamiltonians of a generation ago has passed away in the death, on 22nd inst., Wallace Hall, Dunscore, of Miss Margaret Morley Drysdale Wharrie. She was the daughter of the late Dr. James B. Wharrie, who was prison doctor in Hamilton up till the discontinuance of that institution in our midst, and resided at Avon Grange, which he built. The funeral took place on Wednesday from Hamilton Central C.R. Station to the cemetery in Bent Road. Mr Thomas J. Drysdale Wharrie, who died at Montrose in February a year ago, was the last of the sons of the late Dr. Wharrie.”

It is still unknown to me as to why Margaret ended up living with this family in Glencairn, Dumfries, or what the connection to her was. There possibly was a connection to her aunty Rachel, who died here in 1872 so maybe a cousin? Margaret was the last of this well-known Wharrie family from Hamilton and when she died it was the end of an era.

The Watson’s Fountain.

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THE WATSON FOUNTAIN.

 

How many times have you driven past this statue and wondered what it was? This statue is actually a fountain!

The statue is one of the last remaining emblems of wealth gifted to the town by one of the coal masters of Hamilton. Hamilton’s Coal masters during the 1800s were very rich and powerful people and one of the coal masters was Sir John Watson, Bart of Earnock.

In 1893, John Watson donated the fountain to the people of Hamilton. It was erected at the junction between Cadzow Street & Muir Street. In the centre of the fountain is a woman who represents & commemorates the finding and working of coal. In her right hand, she held a miners pick and in the other hand a miner’s wire gauge Davy safety lamp. The fountain was built at a cost of £10,000 (Over £600,000 in today’s money)

Today the fountain still stands, however, the miners pick and safety lamp are both missing and the water no longer runs through the fountain.

The house behind the fountain at Muir Street are no longer there, however, they have been replaced with new flats.

I would personally like to see the fountain switched back on again! When I was young in the 1980s I can recall the water running through it, there were 4 exit points for the water at waist height and i believe there were 4 at the bottom (possibly for animals)

So thank you to Sir John Watson for donating this marvellous gift and now an antique for us – the people of Hamilton!

THE HAMILTON REFERENCE LIBRARY

Library.
The Hamilton Reference Library is contained within Hamilton Town House Library, located at 102 Cadzow Street. Until 2009 this part of the library was unknown to me. I discovered this treasure trove when researching my family tree.
 
I was researching my Di & Granny’s side of the family when I was directed to the Carnegie Room upstairs. As I walked towards the big brown doors leaving the lending library, I looked through the window, went through the imposing Carnegie vestibule, and proceeded to walk up the grand staircase. It was like walking into a film set from a more elegant era.
Stain Glass window with Burgh Crest..JPG
 
As you go up the first set of steps, you are greeted with a beautiful stained-glass window depicting the Hamilton Burgh crest. Arriving at the top of the building reveals the magnificent Carnegie Reading Room with vaulted ceiling and decorative plasterwork.
 
The first thing that you notice in the Reference Library, is how peaceful this upper floor is and even though it is usually busy, there is a sense of respect for other people who are studying or using computers and the quietness of the place is really relaxing.
Wilma Bolton's Display Cabinet..JPG
 
Hamilton Town House is jointly operated by South Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture. The building contains both the town’s main public hall (formerly known as Hamilton Town Hall) and public library, as well as various Council departments including licensing, registration and community learning.
 
The building, although appearing to be one, was constructed in stages over a 21-year period. The library was opened by Andrew Carnegie in 1907, the adjacent Town House offices were opened by King George V in 1914 and finally the Town Hall completed the building in 1928.
 
In 2002, the entire building was closed for a massive refurbishment project, costing £9 million. This was required to bring the internal facilities to current building regulation standards (including modern lifts), whilst also restoring the exterior of this A-listed building. In August 2004, the new integrated Town House complex was revealed to the public, with an official opening by HRH Princess Anne in September. The library won two awards: the “Architect Meets Practicality Award” for libraries of significant architectural interest that are practical and user-friendly and the “Mary Finch Accessibility Award” for the library which most addresses access issues from physical through to cultural barriers.
1841-1901 Censu Collection..JPG
 
For those of you who are not aware of the Reference Library, I would like to share what you can find in there. The resources are incredible, and include the following: Local Authority / Council minutes and reports dating to the 1600s, a section of the Hamilton Estate Papers, a historic collection of over 2000 indexed photographs, a large postcard collection, historic and contemporary electoral registers, Valuation rolls, Hamilton Advertiser and other local newspapers in print bound volume and on micro-film, a collection of fiction and poetry by local authors and about Lanarkshire, a collection of historic and geographical guides relating to Lanarkshire, a large collection of historic and contemporary maps covering Lanarkshire, Census reports on micro-film, free access within the library to the family history website Ancestry.com.
 
There are 15 Internet-linked PCs available in the ActiveIT suite, in addition to free WiFi throughout the building.
 
All published material is searchable on the South Lanarkshire Libraries catalogue online at
 
In addition to the materials held, ‘Scotland’s People’ (https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/gclid=CJKTv5H64tQCFeeV7QodkfcHaA)
 
Vouchers are for sale, there are drop – in sessions for family history advice and guidance, Nostalgia Days at intervals throughout the year, and regular displays relating to the history of Hamilton and Lanarkshire.
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One important thing that I would like to mention is the staff who work at the Reference Library. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. One real gem is long-time library assistant Angela Ward whose knowledge of Hamilton is unrivalled. The staff handle family research requests continuously from local and international enquirers.
 
The staff at the Hamilton Reference Library really do try to accommodate everyone, but as you can imagine they are sometimes stretched, so if you are planning to visit the Reference Library for research, then please call in advance to secure a seat and avoid disappointment. The telephone number is 01698 452121.
 
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On a more personal note, the Hamilton Advertiser copies that are kept here in storage areas are the last remaining copies ever to be printed of each year and cannot be reproduced in original form. In this digital age, I would like to see the Hamilton Advertiser archived in this way, future proofing the collection for future generations. The collection of Hamilton Advertisers is so large, it would take a lot of time and money for this to happen. These records have preserved the history of Hamilton week by week since 1856. I firmly believe that they should be digitised for future generations to read. Just think that in 100 years from now, someone will be reading what we did today as history! Let’s try put a plan in action and come up with an idea to get funding to have Hamilton’s history stored and made available online.

KEITH’S BUILDINGS OF CADZOW STREET.

KEITH’S BUILDINGS OF CADZOW STREET.

Written by Garry McCallum – HistoricHamilton.

Keith's Buildings.

I am always being asked about the big building at the side of Cadzow Bridge and what it was used for.

This red sandstone building is called Keith’s buildings, and it is one of Hamilton’s old surviving properties, that has graced Cadzow Glen since its construction was complete in 1903.

The Keith family business was started in Hamilton by James Keith, who was a grocer, who moved to Hamilton from Holytown in 1856. He had started his business in Holytown in 1849 and when he moved to Hamilton – presumably to grow his business, he opened his small grocers shop at 78 Cadzow Street, he was renting the shop and house above from a well-known surgeon called Dr Wharrie.

The Keith’s would have their business in Cadzow Street for the next 111 years. By the year 1859, James Keith had entered the Town Council and was now fully involved in how Hamilton was run so this would have given him a huge advantage over his competitors in Cadzow Street. In modern times, we have seen this same sort of influence with a certain nightclub owner. It has, however, been documented that not only was James Keith a great employer but he was a man of great nature, who was Kind and well respected by many. In 1895 James Keith would later move up the political ladder and become the towns, Lord Provost.

James Keith’s only son, who was called Henry Shanks Keith, had taken over the family business when his father died on the 21st of March 1901. He was responsible for the grand sandstone building that we see today. The construction of Keith’s buildings was done in conjunction with the widening of Cadzow Bridge and it was designed by Bonn & Baptie structural engineers.

Sir Henry Shanks Keith1.

It began in the year 1901 and was completed by 1903. The grandeur of the building can be best seen when you stroll under Cadzow Bridge along the Glen, however, when you walk down Cadzow Street the entrance to the building just looks like a normal old sandstone shop and it fits in nicely with the rest of the buildings on that side of the street. Thankfully, this Hamilton building is Grade A listed and it can’t be demolished, but on a sadder note, it is now just rotting away.

As I stated, Keith or Keith’s Buildings as it is called was named after its owner, the wealthy businessman and lord provost of Hamilton, Sir Henry Shanks Keith. Sir Henry Keith, had chosen this site to build his property because, at the turn of the 20th century, Cadzow Street was the best place to go for shopping and Cadzow Street was at the heart of everything in the town and not to mention it was the finest thoroughfare in the burgh. When you entered Hamilton from Glasgow, Keith’s department store was the first shop that caught your eye and the store became the finest delicatessen in Hamilton and at the turn of the 20th century, Cadzow Street had more to offer than its Quarry Street neighbour.

The exact address for this building is 84- 90 Cadzow Street and the building itself was purposely designed to be a large commercial property, with its design of continental and mostly Parisian and Viennese styles and looking at it from Cadzow Bridge, it really stood out from the rest of Cadzow Street. It is built to approximately a square plan and above the bridge level it has a 2 storey and dormer-less attic and it has 4 storeys below the bridge level. The building also has its own lift installed inside it and on each floor, below ground level was a store room where the Keith’s kept their stock.

James Keith Advert.

When the business was in full operation and because of the size of the building they had to transfer money around quite quickly, so they used a pulley system attached to the ceiling where the money would be put in plastic cylinders and transported all over the building.

On the Cadzow Street entrance, there are 3 wide key blocked segmental arches, linked by segment headed doorways and below on the ground level, there is a segmental terraced space with one arch. Like many of Hamilton’s buildings, the stone is a red colour and would have been brought in from of the many neighbouring Quarry’s that surrounded Hamilton and Lanarkshire.

Keith's Buildings at Cadzow Street.

Keith’s store offered a fine choice of foods, it was run as a delicatessen for a time and you could say it was Hamilton’s first supermarket. The shop sold fine meats, steaks, gammon and all poultry. They imported meat from Ireland. They also sold tea, coffee, dried fruit and fresh fruit. They were also Wine importers, wholesale & retail grocers.

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Around the 1890s the family saw a gap in the market for affordable whisky and in 1901 they started to produce their very own. They used the cellars at Cadzow Glen as the whisky bond. The whisky was stored here for a minimum of ten years to mature. When the ten years had passed, they started to bottle their whisky and production commenced on the 30th of August 1911 – they gave it the appropriate name of ‘Keith’s Cadzow Blend’ or KCB for short.

Some of the people who worked at the whisky bond were Frank McGrory who was the Blender, Eddie Summers who was the store man and the well known Beef McTaggart was the Lorry Driver.

Keiths Cadzow Blend1

 

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Henry Keith wanted to make his whisky a worldwide product, and around the beginning of the twentieth century, he was advertising all over the United Kingdom. Adverts were in all the local and national papers and the adverts stated, “Possibly the oldest whisky in the world offered at this price”

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The company of James Keith was still thriving through both world wars. Henry Shanks Keith had died on 9th of July 1944. The business was passed to his son John thus making way for the third generation of this family run the business.

Rations during World War Two were in force, and Keith’s was no exception to the rules, however, the rules were bent a little. In 1947 Messrs. James Keith Ltd got into a spot of bother for selling too much Whisky to Bothwell Golf Club and they were told that they would be obliged to restrict the quantity of whisky sold to the Bothwell Golf Club owing to recent regulations.

The Convenor submitted a statement of the quantities of whisky supplied to the Club in the years 1939 and 1946 which showed the Club had obtained from Messrs. Keith, a larger amount of whisky in 1946 than they had purchased in 1939. The allocation now offered to the Club would be 18 bottles of whisky per month or roughly 4 bottles a week. It was agreed to conserve the supplies and to ensure that there should be a fair distribution amongst members, to restrict the sale of whisky to one bottle on Wednesday and three on Saturdays. It was also agreed that no large whiskies be supplied.

Keiths Label1

John Keith was also a Major with the 6th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) During the 1st world war 1914-18 was wounded at Festubert. John H Keith was the new owner of Keith’s buildings and he continued to run the family business and he was to be the last member of the Keith family to be Managing Director of this family owned company.

John H Keith continued to run the family business up until 1961 when it was taken over by Messrs David Sandeman of Pall Mall London. I would take a wild guess that the company of Keith’s was sold due to declining sales and competition from the new supermarkets and corner shops emerging all over the local area.

 

The new owners tried to make something of Keith’s and they also kept the name, but only 6 years later they closed the doors on Hamilton’s first Super Market. This was the end of an 118-year era passed down from father to son and the 1970s were just around the corner, what was to become of this grand old building?

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Messrs David Sandeman closed Keith’s and they stated that it was no longer possible for them to trade from Cadzow Street because of excessive burdens in the form of Selective Employment Tax, Heavy Local Rates and ‘other government impositions’. (Nothing has changed in 2017)

They did try to find other smaller premises in Hamilton but without success. The manager of Keith’s at the time was called Alex Wylie and he had worked for Keith’s for 30 years and because of his great work at Keith’s, his job was safeguarded and he was transferred to the sister store at Bothwell.

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I asked you what was to become of Keith’s? The building was eventually bought by businessman Armando Russo and his Associated Rentals Company. Russo held substantial properties all around the town centre and still to this day, his company owns Keith’s and many more properties in Hamilton and for reasons unknown to many, Russo owned derelict buildings which he refused to sell.

One example of this was the old derelict Regal Cinema, this took the Hamilton Town Council Ten years of negotiations to buy it from Russo. The old Regal was later demolished and its land turned into a car park.

The doors of Keith’s were opened back up again, but not to be a delicatessen or whisky bond some of the people who used the building were Netty and Ian Kane. Netty, used the building as a Café and Amusements whilst Ian, ran a Taxi firm from it and I have heard that Ian Kane was the first person in Scotland to own a Black Hackney Cab. There was also a clothes shop and Fancy dress on the top floor of Keith’s and it was later used as a gym.

The doors closed again for the last time at the end of the 80s and would remain closed. In December 1994 workmen were carrying out maintenance on paving slabs at the side of Keith’s and when they lifted the slabs they made a shocking discovery.

They found themselves staring into a very deep cellar which took you down to the basement of the building where they kept old Whisky barrels. This was found to be one of Three Cellars deemed unsafe by the council and the roofs of them had become quite dilapidated.

If a car had to park on the pavement at the side of Keith’s then it would have fallen straight through. After a series of Meetings with Armando Russo, the council agreed to fill in the cellars with concrete to avoid the roof collapsing as it was a danger to the public.

Keith's Cadzow Glen..JPG

In 2006, the building itself was found to be in poor condition after lying empty since the early 90’s and it was agreed that no less than £500,000 would be set aside for possible spending on Keith’s Buildings. This money was funded by the Hamilton Ahead Initiative, run by the Town Council. It is unclear if this money was ever spent on Keith’s Buildings, but when you put things into perspective, this is a 117-year-old building and it still has a lot of potential to offer to our town so I would imagine it would be in their best interest to invest some money into it.

Today, Keith’s is admired by many people who pass by it and the grand old building is still owned by the late Armando Russo’s company Associated Rentals.

I have done some research to find out what exactly is happening with Keith’s and I am pleased to say that there is currently an offer of Intent to purchase by a man named William Campbell. I don’t know who this man is, but I would assume he is some sort of developer.

Keith’s is a Grade A building and it is protected, so Mr Campbell if you are reading this story of our historic building – that is known as Keith’s buildings, then can I ask, please talk to South Lanarkshire Council and see if an agreement can be reached to give this historic building to the People of Hamilton. This building would make a perfect Hub for our community.

Written by Garry McCallum
Historic Hamilton.

MURDER AT PALACE GROUNDS.

MURDER AT PALACE GROUNDS, 1950.
Three Hamilton men sentenced to hang.
 
A vicious assault took place at the Hamilton Palace recreational grounds on September the 9th, 1950 where a man later died.
 
At the High Court Trial at Glasgow, four men who are charged with murder, in Hamilton Palace Recreation Grounds, where John Edwin Newall of 6 Cadzow Street, Hamilton, died in Killearn Hospital on September 14. It was alleged that the assault was committed on the evening of Saturday September 9th, when a clash occurred between a gang of about 20 or 25 young men and employees of Bertram Mill’s Circus.
 
The accused are Robert Gallacher, a labourer of 9 Portwell, John McGuire, a machinist of 36 Church Street, Robert McKenna, a labourer of 43 Tuphall Road and Edward McGuire, a labourer of 36 Church Street who are charged with acting together with others unknown and who are also accused of having committed a breach of the peace, seizing brushes and shovels belonging to the circus and adopting a threatening attitude towards circus employees, particularly Noel O’FIynn struggling and fighting and throwing missiles at them and circus vehicles.
 
All the accused pleaded not guilty and John McGuire tenders a special defence of alibi. An additional charge against Edward McGuire alleges that he assaulted John Leonard Wool, staff manager of the circus and attempted to strike him.
Mr H.R. Leslie, K.C., Advocate-Depute, conducts the case for the Crown, and the accused are represented as follows—Gallacher, Mr W R . Milligan, K.C.; John McGuire, Mr C.W. Graham Guest, K .C .; McKenna, Mr C.J.D. Shaw, K.C and Edward McGuire. Mr W Ross McLean, K.C.
 
Mr Cyril Bertram Mills chairman of Bertram Mills Circus, gave evidence to the effect that the circus was being dismantled after the final performance on September 9. A little before 10 o ‘ clock he saw three men fighting, and soon afterwards another two fights. His own men were involved and he called to them to group together and to drop any of the tools they might have been using. He saw a group throwing bricks and stones at a tractor the windscreen of which was broken, and then he saw a group of seven men and a woman kicking a man. The four accused were identified by witness as having been amongst this group Mr J.L. Woolstaff, manager, said he saw a crowd of about 20 men entering the ground in a hostile manner Some had bottles, one picked up an iron stake, and another had a 14-lb hammer with a broken shaft They were looking for a man whom they called “the Belfast Irishman.”
 
Cross-examined by Mr Ross McLean, witness agreed that he had seen Edward McGuire at the circus the previous evening he arrived late when the box office was closed and was refused admission.
 
Constable William Aitchison of Hamilton Burgh Police stated that he saw John McGuire at Hamilton Old Cross at ten minutes past ten on the night of the assault McGuire said, ‘You are going to have a busy night’, and witness told him and others to “Move on.”
At 10:25, after he had been called to the Recreation Grounds, he saw John McGuire and the three-other accused, all of whom he knew well, kicking a man lying on the ground the man whom he recognised, was unconscious, bleeding from the ears, nose, and mouth.
 
The date of the execution was fixed by Lord Keith as 26th November 1950 at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.
 
DEATH SENTENCE APPEAL.
On the 13th of November, Edward McGuire has lodged an appeal against his conviction on the ground of misdirection of the Jury. It was also announced on Saturday Appeals on behalf of the other two men. Robert Gallacher (23) and Robert McKenna (31), who were also sentenced to death, are expected to be lodged to-day.
 
CIRCUS CRIME: THREE MEN REPRIEVED.
On Saturday the 23rd of December 1950, the three men due to die on Boxing Day for the Hamilton circus murder were reprieved yesterday.
 
Mr Hector McNeil, Secretary for Scotland, has advised the King to commute the capital sentence to a sentence of life imprisonment.
I couldn’t find the deaths for the men, so I am assuming that they all did life at Barlinnie and either died there or were released.

THE ENEMY WITHIN.

 

Andrew McNulty
  Andrew McAnulty. 

THE ENEMY WITHIN.
by Wilma s. Bolton

Wilma sent this story to Historic Hamilton at the start of last month and the story could be seen as controversial, however it is based on facts and letters published in the Hamilton Advertiser.

When we consider the damage to local buildings caused by the extraction of coal during the 19th and 20th centuries, Hamilton is indeed fortunate to have many fine old grey, red and honey coloured sandstone buildings still surviving. Looking at these buildings, some of which still show evidence of subsidence damage, it is hard to comprehend how the town’s residents managed to live with the daily threat of collapsing homes and the ever present danger of falling masonry and slates.

Such was the extent of the damage, a town Bailie is recorded as saying at a council meeting during December 1891 that “if a stranger were to pass through the town at present, he would think it had been wrecked by an earthquake,” another remarked that “tenants were living in terror”. On June 3rd, 1911 the Hamilton Advertiser reported that “that the new and costly Academy in Auchincampbell Road is showing signs of fracture from mineral workings before the walls are more than half-way up”. To prevent further damage, coal hundreds of feet below the building was purchased from the Bent Coal Company and left in situ to provide solid foundations. Graphic accounts in local archives tell of joists snapping in the middle of the night and people in night clothes fleeing their homes as gable ends, roofs and chimney stacks collapsed. Fractured gas mains set fire to property and buildings all over the town were being shored up to prevent them collapsing. If the old buildings which are left could talk, many of them would have extremely diverse and interesting tales to tell.

A classic example of this is the grey sandstone building at number 116 Cadzow Street, the story of which is inextricably linked to the industrial history of our town and which without a shadow of a doubt, has more stories to tell than most. Now being privately renovated, it was seriously neglected by South Lanarkshire Council who had bought the property. The building was paid for by coal miners contributions and was once the proud headquarters of Lanarkshire Miners’ Union. If only the building could talk, it is a silent witness to a gargantuan battle between moderate trade unionists and the Communist Party who were intent in achieving total control over the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union.

Designed by Alexander Cullen and built to replace the New Cross offices of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union, the building was opened on July 16th, 1908, by John Robertson the building committee convener. Union secretary David Gilmour in his opening speech, publicly acknowledged that Blantyre’s late William Small was one of the pioneers whose labours had made it possible for them to reach their present strong position.” He also spoke of another great pioneer Alexander MacDonald, M.P. 1821-1881, who in 1829 at the age of eight entered a Monklands mine where he worked for eighteen years. Harnessed like a beast of burden, MacDonald and other children aged from seven to eleven slaved every day transporting hutches of coal to the surface. Almost forty years later, on the 28th April, 1868, when called to give evidence to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, he gave a graphic account of how the children “wore leather belts for our shoulders. We had to keep dragging the coal with these ropes over our shoulders, sometimes round the middle with a chain between our legs. Then there was always another behind pushing with his head.”

Alexander MacDonald was gifted with a quick mind but had little formal education; however, in his twenties he started attending night school after work and developed an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Eventually he gained admission to Glasgow University the fees of which he funded by working as a coal miner during holidays. His education enabled him to work as a teacher, but never forgetting his years underground he spent the rest of his life trying to improve the lives of coal miners by becoming actively involved in the formation of a miners’ union. His harrowing evidence given before the Royal Commission on Trades Unions was instrumental in the passing of legislation for the 1872 Mines Act which vastly improved the working conditions for both miners and children. Another product of his leadership was the Mines Act of 1860, which empowered miners to appoint and pay a checkweigher from among their number to be present at the weighing of coal to ensure that the correct weight was recorded. Prior to this, miners were regularly underpaid for the coal they sent up to the pit head. In 1874 MacDonald stood as a Lib–Lab candidate for Stafford and won, becoming one of the first working-class members of the House of Commons. Throughout his life he fought to improve conditions for coalminers. He died in 1891at Hamilton’s only recently demolished Wellhall House and was buried in Monklands Churchyard. As his funeral cortège passed through Hamilton, the streets were lined with thousands of miners paying their last respects to a good man and a great trade unionist.

Many men of a similar caliber followed in Alexander McDonald’s footsteps. Men like Keir Hardie, Hector McNeil, Robert Steel, John Dunn, Robert Smillie, William Small, William B. Small, David Gilmour and John Robertson, all of them trail blazers who fought long hard battles to win safer and better conditions for miners and whose qualities of courage, honesty and conviction count them with Alexander MacDonald as the founding fathers of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union.

Miners Union..jpg

The end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century saw a relatively prosperous period for miners, but with war clouds gathering over Europe, life for them was never going to be quite the same again. With the declaration of World War One on August 4th 1914, countless men left the pits to fight for their country and they fought with distinction and great courage.

The peace which followed the carnage resulted in thousands of miners returning home expecting to be re-employed in local coal mines only to find that the market for British coal was collapsing and their chance of finding work was almost negligible. Hamilton pits still working were on short time and in September 1919, the Bent, Greenfield, Earnock, Neilsland, Hamilton Palace and all the Larkhall collieries closed until further notice throwing 10,000 men out of work. It was during this period of mass unemployment there appeared a more insidious and dangerous enemy than any they had ever encountered before….. the Communist Party, organised by local power hungry political extremists.

Seeing the vulnerability and despair endemic in the coal fields, the Communists seized the opportunity and the battle for complete control of 116 Cadzow Street began. Party zealots targeted the unemployed miners knowing that hunger and poverty left them extremely vulnerable to their persuasive tongues. Had employment and working conditions been normal, the usually sensible and hard working Labour voting miners would have laughed at their radical beliefs, but destitution and worry can change the way people think and the propaganda preached to men who were at their wits end trying to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads appeared to some like the solution to their problems. Desperate men blinded by promises of full employment, a six hour day and wages higher than they could ever have dreamed of were brainwashed into believing in a Communist utopia.

Blantyre in particular had become a Communist hotbed and the miners’ smoldering insecurities were blown into flames by highly organised propaganda campaigns orchestrated by communists like Andrew McAnulty and William Allan, who taking their instructions and orders from their Communist masters preyed upon the despair of the unemployed coal miners in their effort to gain outright political power.

During the 1921 miners’ strike and the long drawn out agony of the 1926 strike, the members of the Communist Party of Great Britain were to the fore in using the dissemination of their propaganda as a political strategy in an attempt to win over the coal miners to their cause. A letter clearly referring to the dangers appeared in the following excerpt from a letter published in the July 19th, 1926 edition of The Lanarkshire which left the reader in no doubt as to who the writer’s was talking about when he asks “is there a Labour man in Blantyre who imagines he can see home questions better with Soviet spectacles than with Scottish or Blantyre goggles?”

Miners Union1
Miners Union. This symbol can still be seen on many old buildings throughout Lanarkshire.

By 1927, 20,000 Lanarkshire colliery workers were unemployed. The disastrous 1926 strike resulted in large regular European orders being lost to Silesian coal companies where miners were paid £1 for working a seventy hour week. The coal from these mines was sold at prices Britain could never compete with. Another major factor for unemployment among Lanarkshire miners was the exhaustion of many of the seven to ten feet high seams of prime splint coal used for blast furnaces and a greater part of the coal output was being obtained from seams of two feet or less in thickness. These seams were more difficult and expensive to work resulting in the closure of many uneconomic collieries. This had a knock on effect on neighbouring pits where the pumping equipment failed to cope with the flooding coming from the abandoned mines, causing them in turn to shut down. The Hamilton Advertiser noted on December 15th, 1928, that “78 pits were reported to have closed down in Lanarkshire, throwing 3218 employees out of work and 540 pits previously employing 34,330 wage earners had been abandoned in Great Britain since January 1927”. For the once great British coal industry, this was the beginning of the end.

A stark warning about the Communist infiltration was included in the March 12th, 1927 edition of the Hamilton Advertiser. This article records how “The Miners’ Minority Movement was carrying out intensive propaganda for the reorganisation of the Miners’ Federation and taking advantage of the dislocated condition of the Federation and district unions as a result of the strike. They are a unit of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and their objective is the overthrow of the present system by revolutionary methods. They make demands which are economically impossible. It is not their desire that the miners should reason them out, but accept them as submitted so that they can carry out an attitude of discontent which is the most important factor in their propaganda. Their movement is not wholly maintained by their members, who are mostly unemployed. It would be of interest if some of the officials, say Mr Allan, would come forward and let the miners be acquainted with the source of their revenue.” The article advises that “the workers must do their part in refusing to listen to the agitators who create strikes for their own benefit and to the detriment of the miner.”

Miners were aware of the indoctrination tactics being used by the Communists and articles and letters on the subject were appearing on a regular basis in local newspapers. A letter published in the Hamilton Advertiser of February 18th, 1928 points out the dangers and makes the following plea to the mining community “we need a Miners’ Union free from the scarlet fever of Communism. Referring to the carnage of World War One, the writer reminds readers that “all nations are now banded together in an effort to abolish war with all its horrors. The only section of the community is that of the Communists, who seek to let loose the dogs of commercial strife and this is but a step forward to the rattle of machine guns and the sowing the seeds of death and desolation. War, whether in the battlefield or in the industrial field must be paid for. What decent folk want is peace and the prosperity that alone can come from peace.”

By this time most branches of the Miners’ Union had been infiltrated and the Hamilton Advertiser of August 18th 1928 published a letter from an outraged miner in Ponfeigh near Douglas Water, telling how James Hunter the “late” Communist local branch secretary of the Lanarkshire Mineworkers’ Union, had attempted to falsify a Communist majority in a Union ballot. The writer describes how the entry written by Hunter in the minutes of the local branch meeting of 5th December recorded a Communist victory for a ballot which was not held untill the 9th, three days after he had documented the “results” in the book.

The Hamilton Advertiser regularly warned the mining communities about the dangers of Communism. On June 2nd, 1928 headlines of “COMMUNISM EXPOSED” reported how the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers had issued a strong condemnation of the Communist and Minority Movement at a meeting in Glasgow of the Executive Committee presided over by Mr Robert Smellie, M.P. the first President of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union from its inception in 1889 until January 1919. At the meeting, he made an appeal for the “the men and women in the Scottish coalfield to support the Union.” Their movement he stated had only been made possible by the service and sacrifice of numberless men and women who had paid the price in suffering, privation and victimisation as the result of their activities on behalf of the workers.” He added: —“The growth and development of our organisation during recent years encourage us to hope that at the next General Election a Labour Government in power is reasonably possible. With Labour in power the beginning of a new and happier era in the working class struggle will commence.” His explicit message couldn’t have been any clearer as he spoke of how “the Communist Party and its auxiliary body, the Minority Movement, were acting on definite instructions from an outside and foreign executive authority and were seeking to capture the industrial and political machinery built up by the workers of this country. Their method of achieving this is as unscrupulous as it is dishonest. ‘Don’t trust your leaders’ is their slogan, while their own slavish subservience and implicit obedience to their own masters the autocrats of the Red International, is only equalled by their desire to attain the position of those whom they have systematically transduced with that object only in view. That the Communist Party and the Minority Movement are one and the same is now proved. They are the children of the same parents, and cannot by the very nature of their connection carry out the will of the workers, as they must not concern themselves with what the Union members think but only what the Executive of Moscow International decides. The will of the majority means nothing to them and their professional desire to serve the interests of their fellow Trade Unionists becomes a lying phrase in the mouths of men who have bound themselves to carry out the dictates of this autocracy to whom they are responsible… their method of obtaining selection and election.”

At 116 Cadzow Street, a desperate battle was being played out in an attempt to prevent the Communist members of Lanarkshire Mineworkers’ Union taking over the Union at elections due to take place in June 1928. Moderate members of the Executive tried to place a ban on Communist interference at a meeting of the Executive held at Hamilton and the following resolution was submitted by them:– “To draw attention to the interference of the Communist organisation and its ally, the so-called Minority Movement, with the questions affecting the internal and domestic affairs of the Lanarkshire Mineworkers’ Union by holding open public meetings to which persons are invited who have no concern or interest in the miners’ organisation and, at which resolutions are made to support the candidature for official positions in the Lanarkshire Mineworkers’ Union of such persons as are willing to carry out instructions given or conveyed to them by emissaries of the above named outside and alien organisations; and as their interference is an invasion of the right of members of the Lanarkshire Mineworkers’ Union to choose their representatives in a manner consistent with their usual custom and practice, and intended to cause friction and dissension, this Executive Committee recommends that any person on the panel of those outside organisations, and being recommended by them, be declared ineligible to hold any official or executive position in the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union, and that his or their name or names should not be submitted to the members of the organisation to be voted upon at any election.”
Communist Andrew McAnulty, by now Union president ruled the resolution out of order, whereupon his ruling was challenged and it was moved that he be asked to leave the chair. This motion was carried by a 2 to 1 majority, whereupon the proceedings were adjourned. At a subsequent meeting, McAnulty insisted on continuing as chairman and as a consequence, another state of deadlock was reached.

By June 30th, 1928 the Communist leaders of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union were reported to be sending delegates into English mining areas to ask for help in their fight to clear out the “old gang” (the moderates). The same week it was stated, “A Lanarkshire Communist has been in Nottingham coalfields begging the miners there to assist the Lanarkshire “Reds” in their plans to capture the union machine.” The majority members of the executive of the Lanarkshire Miners’ County Union, who have been demanding that Mr Andrew McAnulty should vacate the position of chairman, issued a manifesto yesterday in support of their attitude. The objection to Mr McAnulty arose because of his refusal to allow a motion which proposed to ban all nominees for union positions whose names appear on the lists of the Communist Party and Minority Movement.” The manifesto, which was signed by three miners’ M. P.’s and others declared:–
“The Lanarkshire Miners’ Union have been in chaos since June 5 when the business of the union has been held up by the chairman Mr Andrew McAnulty, who has put forward a claim that “his decision on any subject must be accepted by the members as final and conclusive”. He has repeatedly refused since the above date to allow the question at issue, viz., the right of the members to appoint their officials, delegates, and members of the Executive Council free from the interference of persons belonging to the Communist Party and Minority Movement, to be considered either by the Executive Council or a conference of delegates. As this arrogant and impudent claim, if admitted, would destroy all representative and democratic organisation, the following members of the executive who form the majority, have no alternative but to advise local officials and members that any communication they may receive from the chairman and secretary of the union with respect to elections or any other matter will be unauthorised and irregular until after a conference of delegates has been called.”

Andrew McAnulty was a fanatical hard line Communist and a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The objective of every Communist was to infiltrate organisations, increase party membership and supply new recruits. The Communist radicalisation of the Lanarkshire coal miners had begun and with McAnulty at the helm, Communists infiltrated the union at an alarming rate.
In August 1928, local non Communist miners’ MP’s and Lanarkshire Miners’ Union members in an attempt to remove McAnulty and his Communist comrades applied for and were granted a note of suspension and interdict in the Bill Chamber of the Court of Session, Edinburgh. This suspension prompted his resignation at the end of August 1928. In his letter of resignation he gave “a loss of self esteem and his nerves being affected” due to the attempts by the moderates to have him removed.

into a union, I should like to set a few plain facts before them. For some time past we have had nothing in our district but debt and disunion. Now our enthusiasm is rekindled and we are told if the Blantyre miners intend to attain to their former admirable position, we needs just copy the wise example of other districts. Very good indeed, Mr McAnulty is the one that has to enact “the one eyed monarch among the blind,” and we, the Blantyre miners, have to contribute our quota to keep up the magnificent fun. I marvel much at their impertinence when we miners reflect on the unions of the past. Now sir, I could carpet a floor with union books and all the union money vanished in expenses. Now, we are asked to start another by the same agent that made the rest of the unions beautiful failures. Surely the Blantyre miners are not going to ballot a man on for his ability and cleverness in breaking up unions. If that be the case, I as one object, until I get a clear understanding. Has Mr McAnulty not openly said that all the unions in the past were useless? Then I ask him on what lines he is intending to draft this new species? Will it be one of the old species? Will it be one of the old kind which took all we miners could contribute for postcards and what the committee could borrow for ink? If that is to be the sort of union, I would advise the Blantyre miners to have none of it. Let us not build up another frail, fragile sham. If we have to be in union at all, let us have a solid one that will be appreciated and carry weight with it. Goodness knows, it makes men’s brains sick to observe so many unions set a going only to crumble away. I am, yours, etc., Frederick Farrell.

In recent years the airbrushing of Andrew McAnulty’s contribution to Lanarkshire’s mining history has resulted in him being erroneously described as the “first” president of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union and “champion of the working class,” instead of a dyed in the wool Communist whose political ambition and radical extremist beliefs caused nothing but strife, strikes, suffering and poverty for miners and their families. Much has been made of his unfurling of the National Coal Board flag at the newly nationalised Dixon’s Collieries in 1947 and of being awarded a weekly pension of £2 by the National Union of Mineworkers’ whose General Secretary William Pearson just happened to be a close friend of McAnulty and a fanatical Communist and a prolific contributor to the letters column of the Hamilton Advertiser, where his descriptions of the wonderful working and living conditions enjoyed by Soviet miners in Stalin’s Siberian coal mines beggars belief. Sixty years after Andrew McAnulty’s death, Blantyre’s Stonefield Public Park was renamed McAnulty Park much to the anger and disbelief of many Blantyre residents a number of whom noted their disapproval through the letters pages of the Hamilton Advertiser.

Historical accuracy is often the first casualty when eyewitnesses are dead and no one is left to challenge what has been written; but the indisputable evidence of the Communist take over of Lanarkshires Miners’ Unions has not vanished into the mists of time. The rank and file throughout the coal mining communities repeatedly contributed to local newspapers voicing their alarm at what was happening and in doing so, they recorded the facts, fears and their eyewitness accounts of what was taking place throughout the Lanarkshire coal field and beyond. Their testimony can be found in the archives of the old Hamilton Advertisers which are available for the public to read at Hamilton Town House Reference Library situated at 102 Cadzow Street and only a stone’s throw from the former miners’ union headquarters at 116 Cadzow Street, Hamilton where this story began

© Wilma S. Bolton. 2014.