The Orchard Raid

Speaking back in 2005, the late Blantyre historian Jimmy Cornfield recalled his childhood memories of a daring raid on a local fruit orchard, near Boathouse at Blantyreferme during the late 1930s. Pictured in 1910, is that very orchard at Boat Jocks, with its abundant fruit.


“It was a year in my childhood (late 30s) when warm summer days seemed to last forever. The boys all gathered at their usual meeting place, the lamppost at the middle of Logan Street. Their aim? A raid on the bountiful orchard on that magical place known as “Boat Jocks.” It was an unusual name for an orchard, indeed whilst none of us knew the origin of the name, nevertheless, we all knew it contained the most wonderful Apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries, which were there for the taking, except for the Gamie and he (Big John) was a problem.

With the big yins agreeing to look after the wee yins, we set off with a will, still talking about what we would do should the Gamie appear! Down the street on to the newly built Public Park, then on to Station Road, over the Railway Bridge to the timber turnstyle and stairway that led on to the footpath, alongside the railway line towards the Priory Pit, Dandy Woods and the River Clyde. We walked in file like Lascar Seamen, along the Banks of the Clyde, crossing the 4 burns, until we came to the ruins of the holy place, Blantyre Priory.

A halt was called here to go over the plans again and two new additions were added. The Priory would be the meeting place should anything go wrong. No one would be left behind. The wee yins who would be lifted up into the trees, were told to put their jerserys inside their trousers and tighten their canvas snake buckled belts so that they could stuff everything they got into their jerseys!

We had to be very careful because Boathouse Farm and Boathouse Cottage (where big John Munro the ferryman), Gamekeeper and general factotum lived, stood right in the edge of the orchard! Then all of a sudden, there it was, between the Priory and the Rid Brig (The Clyde Bridge). There was Poat Jock (Boat Jocks) Orchard!

There was a shout from the front, “Doon oan yir knees!” and we all dived in the long grass and lay still. The shout “On youse go” came and we ran out to where we were given a Boy Scout lift in to the trees. We started picking everything we touched, whether it was big, wee, green, red, ripe or rotten! It went into our Jerseys, till the shout came, “right down youse come” and down we came into the safe arms of our handlers.

The wee yins, led by an older boy were told to run back to the Priory, which now seemed miles away, especially running with our jersey’s stuffed full, whilst the bigger ones at our back made sure we were all right. The Priory was reached safely and the spoils were shared between us, unaware of this ancient Holy Place, in which we were sitting. Jist another day of my childhood, in my beloved Blantyre, when we were much younger, this world and I. James Cornfield , 2005”

Leave a Reply