Mr James Duddy was born in 1871 in Mountpleasant, Church Hill, Donegal, Ireland, a son for Michael Duddy and Mary McCay. He moved to Scotland seeking employment and became a miner in Hamilton, where he met and married a local girl Mary Jane Wallace (b1872) on Hogmanay 1890. Children soon followed. Sadly, their daughter Susanna, aged 2 and a half died on 12th June 1898, prompting a fresh start and a move away from memories and heartache.
They all moved to Blantyre in 1898 deciding to settle down at 73 Merry’s Rows (near current Elm Street). James, more commonly known as Jimmy was employed as a “shanker” at the Auchinraith Colliery, owned by Merry and Cunningham. By 1901, 30 year old Jimmy had a growing family. Little Maggie, John, Mary and Lizzie all aged between 1 and 9 years old lived at the little cramped house together with their mum and dad. I say cramped, for amongst them was a lot of workshop equipment, for Jimmy had quite the flair for invention and fixing things. Around this time, motorcycles were a new invention and to those lucky enough to own one, when it broke down, they would bring it to Jimmy to fix. This skill for fixing all things mechanical, led him to have a part time job carrying out repairs on the projector at Blantyre Electric cinema on Glasgow Road, the town’s very first silent cinema.
However, there is a story for which Jimmy is best known for. A fanciful story, but delightful nonetheless. It is said the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903 sparked Jimmy’s interest in taking to the air. Sometime between 1903 – 1913 he had installed a lathe and machinery in the back part of his miner’s row home where he took to inventing, constructing parts from scratch. It is alleged that Jimmy constructed a small machine, labelling it an “manned aircraft” and constructed from his own manufactured components. Stories of Jimmy flying over the rooftops at Stonefield were told, but having no means to land safely, the aircraft always crashed and each time had to be brought back and reassembled. It is thought he made contact with the Patents office about the machine, but not known if anything was ever registered.
At the time of the 1911 census was taken, he was visiting his mother Mary back in Ireland, whom by that time was 75, although this is known to have just been a holiday. He was soon back to Blantyre.
Sadly, Jimmy didn’t live a long life and indeed didn’t see the first world war. On 19th July 1913, aged 42, he died in a pit accident at Auchinraith. He had been summoned to Auchinraith to take off broken plates on pump rods, near the top of the shaft. He stood to the side on to a scaffold board, which gave way underneath him, causing him to trip and fall to his death down 113 fathoms. (203 metres!) The racking that kept the scaffold in place, had for some unknown reason come off. At the time of his death, he left behind a wife and 9 children.
Pictured are Jimmy’s daughters and their husbands in the 1940s. Also pictured is John Duddy, Jimmy’s eldest son around 1920. The final photo in this article is of Jimmy Duddy’s gravestone. Jimmy Duddy was clearly a man with a flair for invention and will be remembered as such.
On social media:
Carol Crombie Terribly young to die and leave a young family, very sad
Andy Callaghan One of my great friends as a boy was Eddie Duddy. Eddie was in my primary class at St Joseph’s so would’ve been born in 1948. He lived in North Way with his father Michael, mother Rose, sister Betty, older brother Manus and another older sister who’s name I can’t remember. Mick, his dad, was a very clever guy and a bit of a tinkerer. I think he was killed in a motor bike accident on the main road between Blantyre and Half Way. Eddie who married Christine and lived with his family in the Jerusalem houses also died a relatively young man. He too was very smart and a bit of a self taught mechanic. Could Eddie have been Jimmy’s grandson?
John McArdle My mum was was born in merry rows 1923 bell family
Ellen Collins This is my great grandfather!!
Blantyre Project really?! Thats fantastic. Anything else you can tell me about Jimmy?