When Monteith created his Village at Low Blantyre at Blantyre Works, it had the mills, houses, shops, education and religious outlets. As the workers grew old, or ill and died, it became necessary to have a graveyard and so a small plot of land with four sides was chosen on the Clyde Braes, near to the mills and the church.
We cannot be certain for sure when this cemetery was established, but the nearby church was built in 1828, and it may have been around that time. The plot for the cemetery was on sloping ground and left open, unfenced for all of the 19th Century.
Pictured in 1925 from left to right is a tenement called Mayberry Place, the Cross Row and on the right Waterloo Row, built in 1815. Waterloo faced down upon the River Clyde and was destroyed by fire in 1928, just a few years after this photo. The Blantyre Works Cemetery can clearly be seen enclosed by this time in railings, which were purchased from funds raised by Mr. Hugh Mayberry and erected in the early 20th Century.
Hamilton Advertiser on 12th April 1930 proved very informative stating, “In the little village graveyard at Low Blantyre, now, unfortunately, desecrated and overgrown with grass, there are still six tombstones to be seen. One of these has very recently been enclosed with a tall iron railing to preserve it from further destruction, and in this grave rests “N. Livingstone”, very probably the grandfather of the great missionary, for it was he who emigrated from the ancestral home in Ulva to Blantyre, His Christian name, no doubt, was Neil, the name which David Livingstone’s father also bore. The tombstone bears the inscription:– “N. Livingstone. Memento Mori. A.D. 1799.” “Memento Mori” is the Latin phrase meaning “Remember death.” Another of the tombstones in this little graveyard is erected over the grave of Rev. Duncan McLean, one of the ordained missionaries who conducted Devine services in the Chapel School in the village, and whose stipends were paid by Messrs Henry Monteith & Coy. Mr McLean died during his incumbency and was buried here at his own request, The inscription on the tombstone reads:”Sacred to the memory of Rev. Duncan McLean, preacher of the Gospel, who died on 14th February, MDCCCXLIV. Having laboured nearly four years in his sacred calling with much acceptance among the people at Blantyre Works, by whom this tomb and tablet were erected. The only other tombstone in the graveyard which is decipherable is one erected by D. McKinnon, in memory of Catherine Livingston, his spouse, and child. “ This means Rev Duncan McLean preached at Blantyre Village Works Church from 1840 until 1844. The cemetery received burials during an outbreak of cholera in 1848 and would have been used right up until the 1875 Parochial Cemetery was constructed in High Blantyre.
The 2 Livingstone related stones were removed from the cemetery and are now face down rather unceremoniously in the grounds of David Livingstone Centre.
During the 1960’s proposals were made to clear the cemetery and make use of the land. Protestors objected that the graveyard site should not be built upon and the contractors claimed that the graveyard did not exist, which of course was wrong. All in all, it was very cloak and dagger. With the last interment almost 100 years earlier, no legal objection existed and the contractors were permitted to remove the bodies.
What happened next is unclear. Going on verbal accounts given to me from people int he village, rumours that contractors did the work at night time, so they could minimise being seen were abundant. One lady told me, there was “no way they cleared all the cemetery, just the part that was to receive planning for construction”. She was insistent that coffins were left buried on the eastern side, untouched, under what is now young woodland paths.Despite a great search, there is no confirmed evidence of where the bodies were removed to and what happened to them, although some suggestions have said they were taken to Bent Cemetery as High Blantyre was already starting to become full.
The cemetery is no longer there but is now the site of a modern housing estate in the Village. Contrary to local myth though, no houses were actually constructed on the old Cemetery site, although some of the modern homes gardens were.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul D Veverka (c)2016
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