Volunteer Arms, Blantyre Pub

From the illustrated social history book…

“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.

Volunteer Arms (Cross Guns)


Volunteer Arms Public House

   ‘The Volunteer Arms’ is a former late 19th Century, early 20th Century public house on the south side of Glasgow Road, located in the western part of Walker’s Buildings, a double storey tenement on Glasgow Road, not far from the West end. The site would now be the front gardens of Cloudhowe Terrace.

   Constructed in 1878 by J&J Walker, part of the building was sold off to Bathgate teacher, John Whelan (or Wheelan) as 6 homes and 2 shops, 1 of which immediately was to become a public house.

   Initially with address 345/347 Glasgow Road, the address of the pub would change after 1930 to become 435/437 Glasgow Road. Situated on the ground floor at the western end gable, the public house was large by comparison to the other shop and homes adjacent and above it.

   Mr. William Roberts, a spirit merchant was the initial license holder, perhaps as early as 1878 and the pub was named ‘The Volunteer Arms”, likely a connection to William’s strong association with the Rifle Volunteers.


The Rifle Volunteers in 1870’s

   The Roberts family were well known in Blantyre at the time as builders and spirit merchants. His son, John Roberts would later own the ‘Priory Bar’ further eastwards along Glasgow Road. The Roberts family lived in neighbouring ‘Causeway Shott Place’, a former tenement between ‘The Volunteer Arms’ and Westend Place to the west.

    There is no doubt that the pub was in direct competition with Robert Craig’s neighbouring ‘Westend Bar’. Attracting the custom of miners and agricultural workers in the area would have been paramount to the success of each business, and perhaps the locality and fact that Bardykes and Priory collieries were not far, helped this goal.

    In October 1891, a newspaper report recorded that the Volunteer Arms was renewing its licensing certificate. By 1895, Archibald Jamieson, a spirit merchant was renting it for £39. Archibald started trading there in 1891. “Volunteer Arms” is shown on the 1898 map of Blantyre. The map also shows the front of the pub had a small yard or garden between it at Glasgow Road, although this would change in 1930 when the pub opened directly out on to the pavement.

    In 1901, a Mr. Charles Angus McGaughey, a 28-year old Irishman was living at Walkers Building and is noted as a spirit merchant. The census reveals he was there with wife Margaret, their 2 little children and a live-in domestic servant by the name of Elizabeth McGhie. He was still the license holder in 1905. In 1907, tram cars started operating past the pub.

 Charles & Annie Cook

    In the years prior to WW1, Mr. Charles Cook (b1887) was the license holder of the pub. Charles was a spirit merchant by trade and commenced renting his pub from owner John Wheelan in 1909, running it with his wife, Annie Cummings.

    Now, Charles it would appear like Archibald and William the license holders before him, was also a keen military enthusiast and a member of the Rifle Volunteers. The men were likely known to each other through that circle and the idea of volunteering and training for military duties, common to them. Looking westwards along Glasgow Road from the public house would have given a good view of Dechmont Hill, where their firing range and practicing took place.

    When Charles volunteered for active duty in WW1, he was incorporated into the Royal Scots and headed off to the Mediterranean in combat. To ensure continuation of his pub, his wife took charge of operations. ‘The Volunteer Arms’ pub, should not be confused with Mr. Bruce’s ‘Volunteer Bar’ at High Blantyre, which was a different pub entirely but conducted business around the same time during WW1 years.

    A terrifying situation arose in 1917 for Annie Cook, compounding further her personal worry of her husband being away at war. In early May 1917, whilst Charles was away, the pubs license was suddenly withdrawn by authorities and Annie, not permitted to trade, her great worry being it was her only means of income. The case went to court that month.

    An appeal was made by Annie on behalf of Charles Cook whose certificate had been withdrawn by the lower Court. It was first recorded that Charles had held the license for eight years without complaint. The appeal continued showing how Charles was now military service, was married, and had a family of three, and this license was practically their only means support.

    Unfortunately, he had recently had two convictions against him but in the more serious of these ,the offence had actually been committed by an employee directly against Mr. Cook’s explicit instructions to obey the license regulations. The Fiscal (Mr. Weir) said that suspicion had existed regarding the conduct of this house before the convictions were obtained, and Mr. Cook had a complex system of reliable scouting which practically prevented the police from getting at the place unobserved.

   Mr. Cook had been at the premises when the latter offence occurred supplying two men with drink out-with hours and he had previously been fined £20. Mr. Montgomery moved that the appeal be sustained as he was sympathetic to the thought of taking away the house of a man called out an currently on military service. Mr. Hamilton seconded, remarking that it was not fair to withdraw the license from a man who was not there to defend himself and was fighting for ones country. Mr. Lambie, however was adamant for the prosecution pointing out that Mr. Cook had been ‘on premises when the offence was committed’, and therefore did not think it was fair to ‘introduce appellant’s absence on military service’. Besides, Cook was only on service because ‘he couldn’t help it.’ Lambie continued, ‘Cook had got conditional exemption from the war and that had been withdrawn, forcing him to go and fight.’ But the main fact was that he had been on the premises when the offence happened. A division in opinion formed but the licensing committee overwhelmingly voted to uphold the appeal with 7 voting to reinstate the license and just 3, including Lambie against it. Mr. Jackson of nearby Bardykes chose not to vote. The license was therefore restored.

   However, news of the successful win did not last long when communicated to the front. Charles died young, aged 30 on 2nd November 1917 whilst fighting Ottoman (Turks) and Germans in the third battle of Gaza in Egypt during World War One. Although an Allied Victory, some 2,696 people died that night alone. On 3rd February 1918, almost exactly 3 months later, news officially was communicated to his grief stricken widow, Annie. Of their 3 children, they had one daughter who lived her life in Blantyre, Mary Maxwell Cook b1911-d1978.


Ottoman Troops train Machine Guns on British Troops 1917 at the 3rd Battle for Gaza

   In April 1918, a license application by Mrs. Annie Cook, widow of Charles for the pub was granted to continue running the pub. Dealing with grief and having 3 small children as well as running a pub likely took its toll and by 1920, Mary Cook, Charles mother had taken charge. It was a situation which sounded a little out of control and difficult.

   Just a year or so later, Annie Wilson and her son Andrew Wilson who lived above the pub were the new license holders, an arrangement which existed in 1925. The Pub thereafter became known as the Cross Guns Public House. It is said, ‘The Volunteer Arms’ had rifles crossed over the fireplace and as a result often also went by the name “The Cross Guns.” By 1930, the Wilsons were no longer there and the pub was empty. They were the last license holders, the pub only lasting half a century. Given new address 435/437 Glasgow Road, the premises then became a hall, although it is unknown for what use. Walker’s Buildings, including this former pub was demolished in the early 1950’s prior to 1953 to make way for the Council’s housing at Cloudhowe Terrace.


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