Craighead girl held to ransom

craigheadMost Blantyre residents are aware of the old stone pillars that remain of the Craighead Viaduct (pictured here in 2010). They once belonged to the North British Railway. In the early 1900’s the viaduct was a busy thoroughfare, allowing not only rail, but pedestrian crossing too. Located behind the current Whistleberry Estate, in a North South direction, they connected elevated positions at Blantyre to Bothwell over the River.

Sinister events took place on Saturday 9th July 1910, when a local nine year old girl and her friend were at the Blantyre end intending to cross over. Suddenly and without warning, a vagrant tramp appeared from the bushes and held the girl, to her terror and ignoring her frantic pleas for release. Her young friend, in fear ran off back in the Blantyre direction. The tramp was Mr John T McLelland of no fixed abode and his intention was theft, demanding she pay a penny to be allowed to cross. With no money and having to refuse, the girl was subjected to the terrifying ordeal of being held at the edge of the precipice leaning at the overhang at great height.

Her friend’s cries for help thankfully attracted the attention of a passing Uddingston Minister cycling on his way home. He bikesketchwas quickly informed what was happening nearby. The brave minister then cycled in the direction of the Viaduct, engaged and confronted the vagrant. The tramp, upon realizing another adult was on the scene, immediately released the girl without harm and sped off towards the nearby streets. With a quick check that the girl was ok, the young and fit minister mounted his bike and gave chase, managing to keep up with the middle aged tramp. Upon the steel inclines of nearby Whistleberry Road, his cycle managed to overtake the tramp allowing him to jump off and wrestle the vagrant to the ground. A witness volunteered to go into Blantyre along Glasgow Road and fetch the police from the Station. For an hour and a half, the minister sat on the tramp on the Whistleberry Road, despite his lofty efforts in trying to escape. The police arrived, the tramp was charged and was to appear in court the next day. The girls were unharmed. The Fiscal reported the tramp was fined 30 shillings, but without the means to pay, was to be imprisoned for a total of 15 days and nights.

Source: The Dundee Courier Tuesday 12th July 1910

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