1938 saw a much loved character in Blantyre sadly missed. Dr J.Cowan Wilson had passed away and the people of the town felt the need to remember this man, who for over 50 years had been seen to provide great public service to Blantyre and the surrounding district.
On 8th January 1938, the Glasgow Herald told of Dr Cowan Wilson’s passing with a brief synopsis of his life. The article reads, “The death occurred yesterday morning (7th January 1938) at his residence, Parkville, Blantyre, of Dr John Cowan Wilson after a short illness. On Wednesday he had visited his patients as usual throughout Blantyre and district, but for some time prior to that he had sometimes been off duty for a few days.
Dr Wilson, who was a native of Newarthill, took over the practice in Blantyre 53 years ago (in 1885), and three years ago he was the recipient of a handsome testimonial and gifts, including a cheque for £500, from the people of Blantyre and former residents in recognition of his jubilee as a medical practioner in Blantyre. He was the oldest J.P. in Blantyre, and in early life he was a member of the Lanark County Council and of the old Blantyre School Board.
It was greatly due to Dr Wilson’s energies and enthusiasm that the Blantyre Nursing Association and the local Cottage Hospital were instituted 45 years ago. Born in 1862, Dr Wilson , who was 75 years of age, is survived by his wife and two sons, one being Chief Constable of West Sussex. Another of the doctor’s sons, who was an officer in the Air Force during the war, died some time ago as the result of injuries received when on active service.”
In June 1938, shortly after his death, a Blantyre Committee was set up with the purpose of setting up a memorial fund and if possible raise enough funds for a statue in the park. With local authority permission, space was set aside in the park, and the people of Blantyre were asked to kindly donate anything they could. The fund was given a deadline of 15th September 1938 with all funds to be collected the Clydesdale Bank. Mr John Thomson at the bank was given the position of Honorary Treasurer of the fund. Indeed, the fund was so graciously donated to that a memorial arch was decided upon, instead of the statue.
So it came to be that in November 1938, work began on the Memorial Arch, to be located just off the Glasgow Road, in a highly visible position, in Stonefield Public Park, across from the end of Victoria Street. I cannot find any unveiling ceremony, but presumably the arch opened in Winter 1938/1939.
Just as well it did too. I suspect that if the Committee had waited a few more months then war broke out, this project would probably not have got off the ground. Today, the arch is a fitting entrance to the park and Dr Cowan Wilson’s memory lives on also in a modern street , “Cowan Wilson Avenue”, named after this local doctor.