Jimmy Duddy and his Flying Invention

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?

Ellen Collins unfortunately no the picture of the family my mother Ina is next to her father Andrew Tait and in front sitting is Maggie (Duddy) Tait…My mother told me the story of how he passed but I did not know the rest until recently through ancestry which led me to this story from your wonderful Blantyre project
Ellen Collins It was in fact mw researching through ancestry that I found this story and I was so excited. My mother is the cute blonde standing in the Middle in front sitting is Maggie Duddy my grandmother.
Daniel Anderson Is this a relative Mike?
Mike Duddy Yes, Daniel. Thanks for the link.
Mike Duddy Daniel. I have taken it on authority (John Flynnand Betty Robertson) that James is the elder brother of my great grandfather, Manus Duddy. Manus was a Justice of the Peace (JP) and has the place Manus Duddy Court named after him in Blantyre.
Gord Fotheringham Went to school with manus daddy….late 40s early50s….
David Jones Can see where Stephen and my hair comes from. Engineering runs in the family Mike
Daniel Anderson Thought it may be a connection with your nautical masterpieces

Elaine Speirs Great story Paul and so good to see people remembered.

David McAleenan Amazing story 🍻
Ann Hartman Just goes to show Blantyre still had it’s characters even back then
Matthew McGuigan John Duddy and his wife Mary lived next to us in Craig st. Blantyre in the building next to Gibson’s shop.
Nigel Nicholson So Kit Frank Duddy I have a history to look into, thank god, I only know as far as grannie jean and never looked further than burnbank. Gonna have a look at this.
Please don’t mention wedding pics, I’m on it x
Kit Frank Duddy Granny Kate Duddy was married to a John Duddy who I believed was a manager operator if the cinema close to Cambuslang Circuit. They were later divorced.

Sorry Nigel thats as much as I know. aunt Margaret might have more info.

Nigel Nicholson Uncle kit I’m on it, just aft your pictures from the wedding haha, I swear I’ve been at work forever x

Marian Maguire A great story but a sad ending for a hardworking man.

Lynn Anderson What a great but sad story,he sounded like a great man.


Add a Comment
  1. Mary Duddy Robertson

    Margaret Duddy Tait, and James Duddy were brother and sister Margaret moved to Brooklyn. James stayed in Blantyre, with Mother Mary Jane, and sister Jeanie. They have all passed away and buried in Blantyre.

  2. Mary Jane Duddy is my great great grandmother, my grandmother was her daughter Mary. Who went to USA with sister Annie. I.m May mc Skimming, daughter of Molly and Andy Mc Skimming. I sailed to New York with my grt, grt, grandmother Mary Jane Duddy, in 1947, I know all the family. Uncle Johnnie was a cinema projectionist, from a small boy. He married Margaret Ward, from Largs, where he was manager of the Viking Cinema in Largs. He is burried in Largs.

  3. Hi just been re-reading this amazing story about my Great-Grandfather James Duddy (my grandmother, Catherine was his youngest daughter). His father was actually Michael Duddy, Sr. and his mom was Mary McKay. Manus Duddy was actually his 1/2 brother (same father – different mothers). Manus’ mother was Mary O’Donnell.

  4. I’m wondering if I could be related? my Grandma’s maiden name was duddy and at one point lived in Blantyre Scotland. There is an Irish connection from churchhill Donegal Ireland. Also Manus is a traditional family name carried down through generations.

  5. Catherine Newton Thompson

    James Duddy is my Great Grandfather. His youngest child, Catherine duddy is my beautiful grandmother. In this picture (which I also have a copy of) she is the second from the left standing in the back row.

    1. is there a Margaret Duddy? and a James Duddy jr ?

Leave a Reply