At nine o’clock on the night of 31st January, 1940 fire broke out in a large two storey building in Glasgow Road owned by Mr James Kelly, wine and spirit merchant.
The building which had 120 tenants was known as Henderson’s buildings and had a frontage of 100 feet on the Glasgow Road and the Auchinraith Road. Henderson’s Buildings were located between Herbertson street and Rosendale, on the Southern side of Glasgow Road. The ground floor of the building contained 12 shops and the wine and spirit business owned by James Kelly was at the corner of the building at the junction of the two roads (Kelly’s Horse Shoe Bar). The outbreak originated in the home of a Mrs Elliot in the centre of the building and the fire travelled at great speed towards the eastern end of the tenement engulfing it in flames. Three fire engines attacked the fire from different angles and they brought the fire under control at 11.30 p.m but continued to pour water on to the burning building until well after midnight.
The fire took place on one of the coldest nights for years and the bitter conditions caused a great deal of hardship, not only for the people who had lost their homes, but also to the people whose homes had been damaged by the vast amounts of water needed to bring the fire under control.
During the blaze great anxiety was caused by the knowledge that three invalids, confined to their homes by ill health were in the blazing building but they were carried to safety by neighbours. John Tennent whose home was terribly damaged by water lost all of his furniture. John was the secretary of Blantyre and District Ornithological Society and he remembered at the height of the blaze that he had £23 in a drawer in his home. Much to his relief he found the money quite secure when he managed to gain admission to his home. The money had been the proceeds from a recent show and was to be handed over to the Red Cross.
Seven families were left homeless. Mrs Mary Elliot, widow; John Woods, wife and family; William Davis, wife and family; Alexander Henderson, wife and family; James Loudon, wife and family; John Clark funeral undertaker, and Stewart Raeburn, wife and family. Many of the families in the building lost everything they possessed due to either fire or water/smoke damage.
This news report from the Hamilton Advertiser is made all the more bizarre by suggesting it happened on 28th February 1940, when compared to other newspapers who suggest the fire took place on 31st January 1940, a full month earlier. It DID take place on 31st January 1940. Henderson’s Buildings is no longer there and would have been located exactly at the eastern end of Gavin Watson Printers offices (formerly Reids).