Niaroo, Blantyre in 1999

1999 Niaroo, Traveller's camp

1999 Niaroo, Traveller’s camp. Photo by Jan Parnell

Pictured here in 1999 is the Niaroo, a rare photo still with the travellers camp there. The area is located mid way down the Pech Brae, down the hill from Barnhill.

The Niaroo sign and posts have fallen down, indeed one of the poles is still there today laying on the ground.

I went back to see what it looked like in 2014, some 15 years later and took this photo. The field is still prone to flooding from time to time.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-19-37-33Niaroo was previously home to the Smith family. Joe Smith was born in 1887 and by 1906 had become the bare knuckle champion of Scotland. He married in 1908 and went on to have a large family. He wrote a book in the 1930s, a memoir of his life, which is available to buy from his grandson, Steve Smith. See here for more details.

2014 April Niaroo, Pech Brae (PV)

2014 April Niaroo, Pech Brae (PV)

On social media:

Andy Callaghan My Uncle Hughie (Smith) used to live down here on a wee holding. He called it the Ponderosa.

The Blantyre Project Perhaps on account of the lovely pond once there? I hear rumours of it possibly being renovated or cleaned.

Moyra Lindsay Andy, I should have realised you were related to Hughie. Who was it had the shop in High Blantyre? His wife and son stayed not far from us in Laburnam Lea. Hughie wasn’t really a traveler more an eccentric!

Andy Callaghan Not sure we’ve got the same Hughie Moyra. He was certainly an eccentric. Very much his own man and marched to his own drum. Was married to my Dad’s sister, my Aunt May who lived in Blantyre with their son Joe, my cuz. They got on great as long as they didn’t live together! Don’t know anything about the High Blantyre shop.

Carolyn Patterson as kids we used to ice skate down there when the ponds froze over …aprrox 45 years ago when there were lots of caravans some who were permanent residents……happy memories sad to see it now in an overgrown state!!

The Blantyre Project it looks a little better than it did a few years ago. Some cleaning up must have happened but the whole area is strangely eerie. For some reason it unsettles me and my dog.

Ann Donnelly Hughies wife stayed greenbank

Lynn Kelly Loads of memories from going down the cawther , x

Mags Adam We used to go ice skating down there in the 70’s, NIAROO spelt backwards is OOR AIN,

Elizabeth Ferguson Remember it well, we always referred to it as OOR AIN
John Queen pond to the right hand side as you walk in
taken in early Jan 2016
John Queen's photo.

The Blantyre Project Great photo. There is a programme being launched which will introduce frogs and other wildlife back to this area. I’ll post about it shortly.

Jim McSorley Skated there once


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  1. Hi! Thought I should let you know that the photo you have of Niaroo came from a small book of mine entitled ‘Photographs of Blantyre’ which I published back in 2003 and copies of which I passed onto South Lanarkshire Council ( among others ) I am glad to see that it brings back many happy memories!

    1. Hi Jan – Thanks for your message. I’ll add credit to you in the article. I can’t remember seeing that little book, but it sounds interesting. I’ll look out for it in Hamilton library when it reopens. Thanks.

  2. This is wild. I am the son of Cathie and Scott Cawker. My mom, Cathie, is the daughter of Catherine Braidwood, who was Joe’s daughter and I believe the last remaining one still alive in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I’m reading Pitman Pugilist Poacher now, and just about done. It’s very cool ready about my great grandpa, and some decisions that were made by him, that if not were made, could have meant I would have never been born. I would love to have met him, he seems like such a stand up cheeky kinda guy. Anyway, not sure if anyone will read this or not. Just thought I’d drop it off!

  3. Dear Paul
    Niaroo was never a travellers camp it was privately
    owned land and Mr Smith regularly put a roof over the head of people in need of emergency accommodation
    there was no association with travellers.It was a caravan site, the land is still owned by the Smiths.
    Mr Hughie Smith was not eccentric just someone who loved the great outdoors and after he retired would go up the hill every night to check on his wife May.They stayed good friends and never divorced.
    Mr Hughie Smith was unique he followed his heart and
    was compassionate and a good listener.He was a
    great Dad, grandfather ,uncle,brother and pal.

    1. Hughie Smith was my uncle and the land is still owned by the Smith family my cousin Jan and Jay Farrell own the land now we used to stay down the “ponds” as we called every summer school holidays along with our other cousin James Carmichael auld Shug put us to work every day Happy days

      1. David, I’ve been trying to get hold of Jay for ages. Lost number when I lost my phone. Can you pass on my details?

  4. Hi Steven
    My Uncle Hughie lived at Niaroo after he
    retired. My grandfather joined him when he was
    Eighty ,my Mum ,your Auntie Mary looked after my
    Grandfather before that ,at 71 Morris Crescent ,the family
    did not live at Niaroo it was a place where all the family visited
    Uncle Hughie ,and everyone had great fun swimming , talking and sharing picnics.

    1. Did Pat and Kim Farrell not stay with Pops at 71 Moris Cres im sure they did

      1. Hugh Smith was my Papa guess that means we are sort of related?

  5. Victoria Burningham nee Smith

    I am really proud of the developments at Nairoo where I spent many weekends summer/winters with my Papa (Hugh), my dad Joe Smith, my sisters Josephine & Fiona & my aunty Pat & my cousins Jay & Jan Farrell.

    1. Victoria I remember you well you were younger than us but we had some great fun remember getting chased with those geese.

      1. Victoria Burningham

        I do remember the geese ha ha what a lovely memory.

        1. Hope you are well Victoria stay safe

          1. I hope you & your family are keeping well in 2020? Kindest regards, Vic

  6. Moyra, the shop you refer to in High Blantyre was owned by Willie Smith who was a younger brother of Hugh. He came back to Blantyre after living in Australia,Canada and America took over the shop and built a house next door to it. I visited Blantyre many times to see my Aunt Mary , Uncle Willie and regularly went to Niaroo to visit my Uncle Hughie along with my Dad James Smith. Joe Smith father of John,Hugh,Joe,William,James,Terence,Daniel, Annie,Margaret,Mary,Cathy as well as two other children named Margaret and Mary who died as children lived at Niaroo until his death in 1970. He was a well known boxer who wrote an interesting book called ‘Pitman Pugilist Poacher’ which tells the story of the early years of his life and his experiences working down the pit as well as his many fights in the boxing ring.

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