A gruesome case never solved

blantyremillladeOn 17th August 1923, the Blantyre Police made a grim discovery. Their search for a Mrs O Brien ended in the worst possible manner when her body was found in the mill lade , leading off the River Clyde. Mrs O Brien had been missing since the previous Friday.

The discovery was made by James McDermid, a miner residing at Shuttle Row, Blantyre who while passing along the river bank observed the hair and part of a blouse on the surface of the water at the entrance to the lade. With the assistance of another man, he succeeded in withdrawing the body. The Police were immediately notified and Mrs O Brien’s body was taken to the mortuary where shortly after a family member identified the body.

However, during the weekend after, rumours started to circulate around Blantyre to the effect that Mrs O Brien had apparently met her death by foul means. It was said that the woman had been seen struggling with 2 men on top of a nearby refuse bank, overlooking the river late on the Friday evening. Upon these rumours, the police found articles belonging to Mrs O Brien on the refuse tip strengthening the rumours of foul play. Fear spread throughout the Village area.

The police however, were less quick to jump to conclusion and in effort to end the rumours made public statements that there had been no marks on the body indicating any sort of struggle. It was concluded in the press that the woman had likely slipped, but this did not sit well with Blantyre residents who made the story a talking point for some time later.

Source: Glasgow Herald Archives

** Update: Her name was Mary McCard OBrien, she was 38 when she died. The death certificate, rather than simply saying DROWNING had the rather more sinister tone stating, “Asphyxia from Drowning”



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  1. Hi Mike – Thanks for your kind comments. A lade is a change in water height, usually created artificially for means of creating some sort of hydro power (using the force of the waterfalling), but could just as easily be formed using some starting help from natural rock formations below. The continual force of the water would power parts of the mill, such a lighting or turning equipment itself. Blantyre’s lade was situated very close to the Mill where your ancestors lived. There are definitely Crowley families living in Blantyre. In the 70s i went to school with some boys named Crowley (pronounced Crawly). Your family story still fascinates me following on from Waterloo Row fire.

  2. Hi Paul – please keep these stories coming, I enjoy reading every one of them. What is a lade, is it a small canal or stream or an off-shoot coming from the river? Thanks pal. One more thing – my late mom says they were related to the Crowley family. Were there any Crowley’s in or near Blantyre? Could my mom’s family have moved in with a Crowley family after the fire? Thanks mo chara. Regards, Mike.

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