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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
ROUND UP IS OVER AT MEN ONLY RANCHE.
Transcribed by Wilma Bolton.
Hamilton’s last drinking haven for men wanting to avoid wives, girlfriends or mothers is to go.
The Ranche Bar in Strathaven Road, famed for its sloping floor and no women-in-the-bar-rule is the victim of the 20th century progress.
Those responsible for the demise of The Ranche are not women’s libbers but planners.
A lot of men will be homeless” joked one of the lunchtime drinkers at the bar this week.
According to Hamilton’s chief planning officer Crawford Russell, what will happen, though plans have still to be firmed up, is that The Ranche and adjoining shops will be demolished to make way for 40-50 council homes.
These proposals are contained in the district council’s five-year plan, a report which outlines what changes Hamilton can expect over the next few years.
Wind of the proposed demolition reached shop-keepers in Strathaven Road last week.
They rejected immediately, organising a petition which has the support from tenants living in the nearby Eddlewood Housing scheme.
Miss Gwen Richards has one of those small shops which sells everything from cigarettes to Jaffa-cakes, and she is incensed at the idea that her shop could be demolished with no replacement.
This shop was opened by my grandmother when my grandfather died, she said “it will be sadly missed.” A pile of petition forms lie on her counter next to the Jaffa-cakes, and already Miss Richards has gathered more than 100 signatures.
Next door there is a chip-shop which has been there as long as Miss Richards can remember. They are collecting signatures. And at the bookies, two doors up, punters are putting their names to the petition after filling in their betting-slips. The Pakistani mini-store- also as a pile of petition forms for shoppers.
“A lot of people from Eddlewood shop here and there’s a lay-by outside, so we get a lot of passing trade.” Explained Miss Richards, adding “we are going to put forward our petition to the council. It’s up to the people now to sign it.”
There’s no petition nestling next to the pints in The Ranche.
Last year, in an interview with the Advertiser the manager of The Ranche, Mr Alex Allison,, said the publican would rather see the bar closed than admit ladies. Ref Hamilton Advertiser. 30/4/1982. Page 1
It’s 1977 and the late Sir Rodger Moore is taking a well-deserved break from filming The Spy who loved me. What else is there to do but catch up on all the latest gossip that’s been happening in Hamilton.
I would like to think that Sir Rodger Moore was a weekly reader of The Hamilton Advertiser, however, it would more likely have been one of the workers on the set that lived in or around Hamilton who bought the Advertiser.
Great picture none the less and a big thank you to Paul Veverka for sending this picture to Historic Hamilton.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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
On Monday afternoon there was laid to rest in Hamilton Cemetery all that remained of Mrs Ritchie, (Janet Young) a remarkable woman in many ways. She was one of those quaint, delightful characters whom a J.M. Barrie or an Ian MacLaren would have made the most of. Quick witted, clever, and with a keen sense of humour, her friendship was coveted by many kinds of people in different walks of life, and to all she was interesting.
She came from an old Covenanting family, and running through her whole life was that deep seated religious strain which was so characteristic of many of the old stock. He religion was not a bigoted one; it was broad minded and charitable, and on that account her influence for good was always apparent. Amongst those with whom she came into contact she never made any parade of her strong spiritual convictions, but one always left her feeling better for her conversation and companionship. She was a loyal Scotchwoman and an enthusiastic Hamiltonian, in the Ducal Palace she claimed a special interest as many of her folks wrought as tradesmen on the building in the good old days.
Mrs Ritchie lived and died in the town that she loved, and all who knew her will cherish her memory amongst their brightest and tenderest recollections. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 6/12/1902 page 4. Wilma S. Bolton. 2012