This previously unseen photo is one of the most remarkable I have seen of Blantyre. I just LOVE it. Photographed in 1905 by David Ritchie of nearby Main Street, the photo is of High Blantyre Primary School in Hunthill Road. Not a normal school day, but it’s polling day.
There is so much character to this photo. Indeed, enough for several pictures to be created from it, zooming in to the children and faces. Local politicians stand outside doing some last minute canvasing. The sign on the school reads “Polling station” and the police guard the entrances, ensuring matters are conducted properly. Children looking very dressed up, stand in the street and the entire crowd is fully aware of the camera facing David. Behind the school, as well as the Old Parish Church Steeple, a massive chimney can be seen which was located in Adams Sawmill. The chimney does not feature on 1930s maps.
The stone wall in the foreground is still there today and even at that time, looks fairly weathered. However, the wall was rebuilt to align with Park Crescent and is now in a slightly different position a few metres away. In 1905, it formed the corner of the gardens of the house called “Orchardhead” belonging to James Aitkenhead the builder. Today, the wall is at the junction of Hunthill Road and what is now the entrance to Park Crescent.
In 1905, the vantage point is from the window of a now demolished building known as Lyon’s Laun. This was a house owned and built by Mr James Lyon who was a mason. He was a tenant of James Aitkenhead of nearby Orchardhead. I have marked up this 1910 map showing Lyon’s Laun with a red dot.
In 1905, the canvassing was largely about unemployment. A massive campaign was underway to ensure some sort of low paid work was at least made available to able bodied unemployed people. The 1905 Unemployed Workmen Act was passed that year. Women were not able to vote until 13 years later.
To put the original photo in context, here is the scene today. The school is no longer there replaced by Kirk Care. The walls remain, the road widened.