With the exception of the Mission Hall, there was only ever one other building on the east side of Herbertson Street prior to the 1980’s. The telephone exchange may be remembered by some of our older generation being there before 1958, but the building didn’t start out like that. It initially was a large, detached house.
Between 1898 and 1905, Mr. John Marshall, a printer constructed a detached house behind the mission hall at Herbertson Street. It opened out on to Herbertson Street, the main door facing west. Built of stone in one and a half storeys, it had 2 large dormer windows on the roof and a large bay window on the ground floor.
By 1905, for an unknown reason John was living in Johannesburg, Africa and his house was being occupied by Thomas Moore, an agent. A small workshop had been built adjacent to the house, which lay empty.
According to the valuation roll of 1915, John Marshall’s house had been acquired by the bank, owned by the Hamilton & District Economic Building Society and it is noted a liquidator had been appointed, presumably due to payments not being kept up. John had returned back to Blantyre and together with his son continued to operate under new name John Marshall and Son at nearby Anderson’s Buildings at 97 and 101 Glasgow Road until 1925.
So what became of the house and the workshop? Well in 1915 the bank was letting the house at 3 Herbertson Street out to the Postmaster General for the Telephone Service with George Carruthers as caretaker. The small workshop at 1 Herbertson Street was now a small house occupied by William McLellan a miner for £5,13 shillings per year.
The Telephone Exchange was almost directly across from the entrance doors of the Co-op hall, located on the site which now is the car park at Gavin Watson Printers. The exchange was manned by only one or two women, who must have been privy to every telephone conversation, which took place in those early years.
By 1920, Elizabeth Jamieson (a widow) lived at the large house and likely was one of the operators. In the small house was Christopher Bell McKie, who was a postmaster linesman, operator of the Telegraph. The Telegraph Plant was located within the small house at 1 Herbertson Street.
In 1958, a new exchange was built in Forrest Street, adjacent to Blantyre Victoria’s Castle Park Football Club and the premises continued as a house until demolition in the 1970’s.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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