During the late 1890s John Williamson, or better known to locals as “Sir John Williamson”, “Jock O the Law” or “Jock o the Lum” was in his day, one of Hamilton’s best well known characters. Jock led a simple life and probably had mental health issues that would have been with him for a long time.
The poor man was usually a figure of fun and sometimes the kids in Hamilton were cruel to him. He was deluded and he thought that he was a Knight that rode a horse at the celebrations in Glasgow for King Edward’s visit after the coronation,but he was unseated when boys pricked his horse.
Jock was born at Kilbrachan in Renfrewshire to his parents John & Janet and he travelled around with his parents. In 1861 jock was living at Factory Close in Lochwinnoch with his parents and later in 1881 he was living at New Kilpatrick and his father was working as a collier.
In 1901 he was lodging at the Lodging House at 10 Grammar School Square. He was earning a living as a Hawker. Jock was also known to be sometimes cruel, however this could have been down to his mental health issues.
Jock was admitted to Hartwood Hospital at some point between 1902 & 1910, and he died on the 4th June 1910. On his Burial Record from Hartwood Hospital it stated Pauper Lunatic, this was the stated term back then. The cause of his death was pneumonia.
On his death cert there were no parents registered, so this would indicate that poor Jock was taken to the asylum by someone that never knew him or where he came from. The death cert did however state that Jock was married! Sadly I have not come across a marriage cert for him.
During a previous post that I have done on “Jock o the Lum” some our readers have told us that their parents were still saying to their kids, “Who do you think I am? Jock O the Lum!” Indicating that they were not daft, this was still a well used phrase being said in the 60s.
Jock was such a character that even seven years after his death his antics were still spoken about and people still thought of him. The following report was printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 19 May 1917 and it read the following:
JOCK THE LUM
Ever ready with excuses, Johnnie had always something to advance in mitigation of the charge preferred against him. Was it drunkenness, then he would plead a “bash-on the head and bad cold, and he usually urged doctors orders for what he took in the way of liquor, only he did not wait until he got home before taking his prescription.
He had one memorable encounter with the late Bailie MacHale with smiling countenance and characteristic eloquence, Johnnie lined up before the Magistrate to answer to a charge of being drunk and incapable.
Without waiting for his offence to be stated to the Court, began -“Well, sir” – But he was cut short with the query, “Are yon guilty or not guilty?” Nothing disconcerted, Johnnie replied—” Yes, I’m guilty; but. see, yer honour, I tak’ convulsions, and whiles ye wad think I had drink when I had scarcely ony. I even tak’ the fits in the hoose.” And you take them in the street times,” quoth the Magistrate, sympathetically. Oh, yes.” acknowledged Johnnie, with alacrity. And you occasionally require a barrow.” was the next comment of his Honour, whereat Johnnie became suspicious and launched into a story about a crowd of boys “grupping his barrow.” and putting him “in a great state.”
Even after being fined, and failing in his attempt to strike a bargain with the Court for the procuring of the money, Johnnie always remained bland and smiling, and in leaving the dock never failed to give a gracious salaam to all and sundry.
Johnnie, who latterly became known as ” Sir John.” has long since gone to his rest. Peace to his ashes. (Ref: Hamilton Advertiser 19/05/1917)
In my eyes, I see to this day quite a few Jock o the lum’s still alive and walking about Hamilton, RIP John Williamson.