Davidson Mr. Robert – late 19th Century owner of the saw mills at Auchinraith, according to Naismith’s Directory of 1879. Born in 1847 in the Gorbals, Robert was the eldest son of Helen and John Davidson. His father had died by 1879 and the family had moved to Blantyre by that time.
According to the 1875 valuation roll, 28-year old Robert was the owner of Braehead Place at Hunthill, which also looks likely to have gone by the name Davidson’s Land. He may also have been the constructor of the existing house Braehead at the entrance to the Calder, that house once being located adjacent to Braehead Place.
By 1881, Robert was 34 years old, a wright (joiner) and timber merchant who owned the business “Auchinraith Saw-mills”. He employed 2 men and 3 boys. At 34 years old, he lived with his mother, supporting her at Davidson’s Land, but there was no father figure alive at that time. With them were brother William 17, sister Jane 16 and brother John D Davidson. Fitting out stores, shops, warehouses and offices were his speciality as noted on adverts of the era. He also built hothouses (greenhouses) and conservatories. He may have been responsible for building Thornhill Place. He certainly did build the tenement in 1879 when he was 32 years old, which was to be occupied upon opening, by Blantyre Livingstone Masonic Lodge 599. This was at its initial location at the corner of Forrest Street and Glasgow Road. Davidson’s Land, was located at Hunthill.
On 3rd August 1881, the estates of Robert Davidson were put into liquidation. His bankruptcy was read on Mondat 15th August 1881 at the Commercial Hotel, Hamilton. The 1885 census shows he was not the owner of Braehead House by that time, but had managed to hold on to Braehead Place.
Robert is shown in the 1891 census still at the Braehead address, unmarried. By 1895, Robert is occupying a house owned by TJ&WA Dyke at Braehead There are no signs of any great business success in the late 19th Century, for by 1901, he is not an owner of a sawmill, but a “home joiner”, aged 53, still single and lodging then with a family named “Shan”.
However, his success came late in life when he became known for building and owning many new tenements in the opposite end of Blantyre. From his Joiner’s shop and large woodyard at 242 Glasgow Road (on the north side opposite Victoria Street junction) he conducted his business and ended up with many houses and shops in his ownership. By 1915, these included a house at 51 Auchinraith Road, which was his own home, two houses at 254 Glasgow Road, a shop at 256 Glasgow Road, a shop and house at 258 Glasgow Road and the 9 houses at Thornhill Place (which had address 284 to 290 Glasgow Road). By 1925, aged 78, he had sold his house at Auchinraith Road and was living at his premises on Glasgow Road near the woodyard. Single with no children.
Robert died between 1925 and 1930, making Mr. Alexander Colquhoun his executor. Robert’s legacy of the current tenement housing Connolys Opticians and Cut Above Salon in Glasgow Road lives on today, his buildings still there and well used in a part of Glasgow Road that thankfully escaped the redevelopment of the 1970s.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c)2016