Life of Blantyre’s Alexander Crawford

Alexander Crawford was born in Blantyre on 24th July 1837 at his grandparents home at Blantyre Works. His parents were Alexander Crawford Snr from Blantyre b1819 and his mother was Lucy Chalmers of Bothwell b1815. Younger Alexander was the eldest child of 7 siblings. Alexander (or Sandy as he allegedly liked to be known) is noted in the 1841 census as living at Rutherglen Laun, Hutchestown. This is a district of Glasgow. It is situated south of the River Clyde and forms part of the Gorbals.

He was brought up in this Glasgow District but in 1851, tragedy struck when his father died and he was sent off to live in Boathouse Cottage, Blantyre with his grandfather, (also Alexander Crawford aged 68, who was the ferryman there. This area was previous to the Crawfords known as Boat Jocks, but the whole area known officially as Boatland. The Crawfords sold up Boatland in 1866.) In 1851, Little Sandy was 14 years old and was still a scholar. It must have been absolutely incredible for him to look out his window, gaze upon the Clyde and at the brand new Clyde Railway Bridges, for the Caledonian Line had just opened up and went right past his grandfather’s property on the most impressive railway bridge, near Blantyreferme.

On 7th September 1859, at the age of 22, Sandy married his sweetheart Isabella McIlwraith who was aged 19. Born 3rd November 1839, Isabella was the eldest daughter of William McIlrwaith and Alison Steele. The McIlwraith family lived at Cadder Bridge, Lanarkshire but had previously moved from Midton in Cadder. I’ve previously seen a photo online of their home at Midton Farm, noted by an Australian family member as being “Cadha Camp”. This farm was home to the McIlrwaiths. The name Cadha is old Scots meaning “a steep place” and may well have been used at the time for Midton.

When Sandy married Isabella, they set up home in 1860 at Morningside Village, Cambusnethan. (near Wishaw). A first child arrived quickly in 1860, whom they called, wait for it….Alexander! I wish to state that Sandy was never the Railway Station master at Blantyre. He was too young. The first Stationmaster at Low Blantyre was Mr. Kirkpatrick and he was still there in 1862 on Naismith’s Directory. Sandy was actually the Stationmaster at Morningside Village, Cambusnethan, as noted on the 1861 census.

In 1862, Sandy, Isabella and their son decided to emigrate. Their second son, William McIlrwaith Crawford was born on the sea voyage in 1862. They arrived at New South Wales Australia in 1862 and went on to have a total of 12 children before 1885. At the time Sandy emigrated, he was still only 25 and this was likely prompted by the death of his mother. He must have envisaged a new start with his new family.

The railways must have been close to his heart, for in 1869, at the age of 32, he is noted as being the railway stationmaster at Burwood, Australia. Then, in 1865, at the age of 38, the stationmaster at Goulburn. From the birthplaces of Alexander’s children I can trace his progress, which seems to have started in a part of Sydney called Redfern (Lucy, 1864), to a couple of line-stations just a few miles away, Concord (John, 1865), and Burwood (Robert, 1867). Alexander was still, according to a directory of people and services in the area, stationmaster in Burwood in 1869. Then James and Ellison were born in 1869-70 when the family was in Liverpool, a little farther south on a different branch line. According to the birth of Jeannie in 1873, by that time they had moved into Sydney itself; but by 1875, Alexander must have been stationmaster in Goulburn, 137 miles SW of Sydney, a station only a few years old, for there Andrew was born. The family was finally able to settle in Goulburn for at least a decade, through the additional births of Isabella, David and Ellen.

By 1887, with many children to support, Sandy landed himself a wonderful job as Traffic Branch Inspector for GWSR railways, earning £440 a year. Sandy died on 22nd October 1922, aged 85 at Kensington, New South Wales, Australia. He was buried on 30th October 1922 at Woronora, at the Presbyterian Cemetery beside his wife Isabella, who had died earlier on 27th March 1918. Pictured is Sandy’s home in Australia when he was station master in Goulburn. Pictured is Sandy’s former home at Goulburn Station.

Goulburn Station

Goulburn Station

Goulburn Stationmaster house

Goulburn Stationmaster House

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  1. Great research PV!

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