Population Triples

Coal

Interesting fact: Did you know during the 10 short years from 1871 to 1881, the population of Blantyre tripled to almost 10,000 people. This was almost certainly due to the discovery of coal seams and opening of the pits. Can you imagine the impact of any town, where the population triples in 10 years!?

The Blantyre Coalfields

In the late 1700’s coal was being mined in Cambuslang and brought in to fuel the furnaces and steam engines of the Blantyre Works & Mills which opened in 1785. By 1835 coal was also being brought from the Hamilton area at a cost of between 5 and 6 shillings per ton.

In 1867 however, test borings revealed seams of high quality coal in the Blantyre area. In 1871, the first two pits were sunk in High Blantyre and by 1876 there were 8 pits in production in the area. The demand for an increased labour force was high, and there was reluctance among the local mill and farm workers to work in the new mines.

This labour force was found principally in Irish emigrants who were refugees from the suffering and deprivation caused by the potato famine in Ireland. Blantyre was reputed to be, at this time; “a district of pits, engine houses, smoke and grime”, this description no doubt led to the nickname the town endured for many years as “Dirty Auld Blantyre”.

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