Forrest’s flee from Stoneymeadow

One fine Wednesday evening in 1849 about seven o’ clock in the evening, a young man named Dick, the son of a Cambuslang farmer was out airing a pony on the Stoneymeadow Toll Road, which leads down into Blantyre. He was suddenly aware of another man, dressed in labourer atire carrying a gun, then shortly behind him again was Mr Joseph Kirby the gamekeeper at Dechmont Estates. Being followed by these people behind wasn’t particularly of note, nor was a small boy he glimpsed creeping through a nearby hedge. He continued his walk down towards Blantyre.

After just 20 minutes, he turned back to go back up the hill to Stonemeadow and upon the place he previously saw the other people, Mr Dick was horror-struck at observing Mr Kirby the gamekeeper laying on his face in the road, with blood flowing from a wound in his breast. He was quite dead and indeed death appeared to have been instantaneous from the efects of gun shot wound which had pierced his heart. Mr Kirby’s two dogs stood over him moaning piteously, as if they were quite conscious of the calamity that had occurred. There was no sign of the labourer with the gun or indeed the small boy.

Mr Dick immediately raised the alarm at the cottages on the crossroads and accounts of how some farmers had heard a musket shot were given, though Mr Dick himself had not heard it. An express was forthwith sent to the Sheriff and Procurator Fiscal at Hamilton who reached the spot, along with a medical gentlemen with as little delay as possible. Having instituted an investigation, they learned from neighbours that a boy about fourteen years of age named William Forrest, the son of the Miller of the Bridge Meal Mill near Crossbasket had been for some days prowling around the neighbourhood at dusk and in the company of a young man with a gun, much older than himself and believed to be his cousin.

Following up the clue, the authorities ascertained that the young man alluded to was a nephew of the Miller, named Andrew Forrest who had for some time been staying at the mill and often going out in the evening hunting with a gun.

2014 Crossbasket Mill today

Crossbasket Mill today, where the Forrest’s fled

After a full investigation, the Hamilton Officers John Thomson and James Young got upon this young man’s track to Glasgow and finally apprehended him about 6 o clock the next day in his bed in Bridgeton at a family members home. On their return they visited the miller’s house and apprehended the young boy William, who bizarrely was sleeping in the mill, rather than the house. The boy, with some hesitation produced a gun which was deposited under the mill steps and which he admitted Andrew Forrest had carried with him the day before. The youth also admitted to being on the road the previous day with Andrew, but seeing the gamekeeper approaching them, had dived in to the hedges to avoid the law. Whilst the Gamekeeper Kirby confronted Andrew, young William had fled along the hedgerows and out back on to the road close by, but out of sight. William told of how he then heard a gunshot and then was immediately joined by Andrew his cousin who told him flustered that the dogs had set about him, and meaning to shoot a dog, the gamekeeper had got in the way. They both then made off quickly back to the Crossbasket mill, where the gun was hidden and once dark, Andrew made off to Bridgeton.

Andrew Forrest at the time was 26 years of age and a blacksmith but had been idling his time in the country for some days shooting anything to hunt that came in his way. Mr Kirby was an Englishman, in the prime of his life and very highly respected in the neighbourhood. He resided in the Old Castle at Dechmont and was noted that his loyal dogs would not allow anybody near his body in the road. Eventually relatives of Kirkby had to call off the dogs guard to allow the police and doctor to attend. The body was removed to Dechmont to the family home. No signs of a scuffle were found and as the deceased’s coat was scorched, the shot must have been at close quarters. The gamekeeper was unarmed. The gun belonging to Forrest was a common single barrel piece, with a percussion lock and the cap which produced the last fatal explosion was still upon it when recovered. The boy Forrest was sent to Hamilton Prison and received a “significant” sentence.

The North British Mail states that on Forrest being apprehended in Glasgow , he at once confessed that he had been the cause of the unfortunate man’s death but alleged it was purely an accident. He stated he had been accused of poaching on the Duke of Hamiton’s grounds at Dechmont and that after an altercation Kirby had set the dogs on him and that whilst they pounced on him forcing Forrest to the ground, apparently the gun went off accidentally. It is known that Forrest received a jail sentence, but not for how long.

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  1. Great local stories keep it going

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