Donald Campbell Blantyre Works

Nigel Campbell contacted me from Canada in April 2016, writing, “Hello from Canada. I have seen your very helpful family searching for early Blantyre residents. My family ( through the Campbell name) traces back to the Blantyre Mill. Through my research we go back to Shuttle Row (Alexander Campbell… 1816). Alexander had a number of children born in Blantyre one of whom was Hugh Campbell, my great grandfather, who is buried in a Blantyre graveyard (I have been there and don’t have the Church name to hand but can provide it). We know the story forward from Hugh but not backward beyond Alexander. Our best anecdotal information is that Alexander was the son of Donald Campbell who was possibly a dyer at the Blantyre Mill in the late 1700s (we believe Donald came from Argyll). Would you have any suggestions where we might look in the Blantyre records to tack Donald’s story (is he buried on the Mill grounds?

Our best information (word of mouth back to my g grandfather, Hugh, who was born in Blantyre in 1847, to Alexander (born Blantyre , August 2, 1815) and Jean Gray‎ is that Alexander’s father Donald Campbell (married to Margaret Liddle/Liddell in Blantyre, daughter of John Liddle) came from Argyll (Kilchoan or Glassery) and married “well” and lived to produce 6 children (the first being Alexander above) up to 1831 (Margaret 1831). The story is that Donald rose in position at the Mill  and Alexander 1as born and lived in due course at Shuttle Row (I think the Mill tenement). Alexander  was said to have been a friend to neighbour David Livingstone who lived in another of the “single kitchens” at Shuttle Row and was born a year or two before Alexander.Best wishes, Nigel”

I was able to return the reply with:

Hi Donald, This is going to be a difficult one and my heart sank when you mentioned your ancestors worked at the mill, for all the mill records are now lost , presumed destroyed, so it will be difficult to work out when and who came to the mill in those initial years after it was built in 1785. Additionally, many ancestry databases once you go before 1800, tend to be a lot more vague, for proper census information was not available in the UK in that time.

All the mill workers were buried in a small Blantyre Works Graveyard. In 1848 a cholera outbreak in Blantyre filled up many spaces in that graveyard and I’m sure that if Donald worked in the mill, and died in that area, this would have been his resting place. A modern housing estate was built over the graveyard in the 1960s, of course after bodies had been exhumed. They were re-blessed and taken to Bent Cemetery in Hamilton , a few miles away. Sadly, no real markers or stones exist for those people, as was in the case in the works cemetery.

There doesn’t appear to be any Campbells at Shuttle Row in 1841, according to the census. The families of Shuttle Row have been pretty much documented in terms of who lived there, given the buildings National importance.  However, in 1851, I found the family headed then by Alexander Campbell aged 34, a dyer (meaning he would work in the Turkey Red dying mill, rather than the cotton mill). Jean is there with him at Shuttle Row that year, also aged 34. They had 6 children with them at that time. John 11, Margaret 8, Donald 7, Jean 6, Hugh 3 and Mary aged 1. By 1861, the family had moved up the hill a little to 3 Waterloo Row, still within the Blantyre works Village. (the houses were of a better condition and the move was prompted likely by the need of a 2 apartment rather than a large family in a 1 apartment in Shuttle Row). Alexander and Jean would go on to have 9 children between 1840 and 1860. Alexander was born in 1815 and his neighbour David Livingstone would have been 2 years old at the time. The boys would certainly have been taught in the same classroom at school and shared very similar experiences in terms of their early working and family life.
Also of note in 1851, at Shuttle Row in another house were Janet Campbell aged 47, Martha 18, Peter 16, Isabella 14 and John aged 9. They may be relations and this family originated in Paisley.
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Donald Campbell was born 4th May 1790 at Glassery, Argyll. He was the son of another Alexander Campbell and Margaret. Donald died in 1860 but not in Blantyre, certainly there is no information for him at all in Shuttle Row, or indeed post 1841 census information at Blantyre. He must have left Blantyre by 1840. Alexander his eldest son was born in Blantyre in 1815, so we know Donald and Margaret were in Blantyre by then. Their youngest child little Margaret was born in 1831 in Blantyre, so we know Donald and Margaret were still in Blantyre then.
My Suggestion:
This next part is speculative rather than fact, but I think i have noticed a couple of things that would help piece together Donalds story. Couples tended to have their first child the year after marriage and so I think Donald and Margaret may have married around 1814, moving to Blantyre for 1815, as this is also the year that Waterloo Row was constructed. i.e Donald looks likely to have been living in the Blantyre Works Village, but not at Shuttle Row, but instead at one of the other Works houses, like Waterloo Row.
Sadly in 1840, Margaret Campbell (nee Liddell) died. Donald was 60 and i think this prompted a move away from Blantyre, perhaps memories too much to cope with. There is no mention of Donald in 1841 in Blantyre, but it would appear his son Alexander stayed on in Blantyre with his own family the first son born also in 1840. I am suggesting Alexander took his fathers house at Waterloo Row to live there with his own family from 1841, following the death of his mother. Certainly 1840 is a real trigger date for this family. I hope this helps and gives you something to think about. Here’s the ancestry line mapped out for you.


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  1. Mike Glangevlin McGovern

    What a great detailed Campbell family story. My mom lived at 2 Waterloo Row, an end house. The Campbells lived at 3 Waterloo Row. How were the 19 houses numbered? I thought they were even numbers maybe 2 thru 38 or similar sequence. Thank you Paul.

    1. I believe they were 19 double storey houses, numbered to up to 38. (1 for each home on each floor). I will need to double check.

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