1 Blantyre Family, 2 World Wars

Elizabeth Grieve emailed me in June saying, “I thought I would send this short story to you after I had seen a news piece on Scotland Today regarding the 75th Anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz. The people concerned were from Blantyre, with the parents of the boys being buried in High Blantyre Cemetery, of which I have attached photo of their headstone. It is mentioned on the headstone that their son Richard and his wife, who lived in Clydebank after they were married, died during the Blitz and that also one of their other sons died during the first world war. Their Daughter, Helen, erected their headstone and she was the wife of William Hogg, who had a newsagents in Blantyre at that time.”

This is a story that I have always been meaning to do and was reminded of it whilst watching the evening news one evening at home with my family.

The family I am writing of is a one that has had tragedy dealt to them by the two world wars of the 20th century, resulting in the early deaths of family members. This Davidson family story actually begins with the father of the family, whose roots started in Ayrshire and the family moving to Paisley in Renfrewshire where Hugh Davidson was born in 1860. Hugh was the son of Hugh Davidson senior and Janet Coulter, and married 25 April 1884 Blantyre to Helen Paterson, daughter of William Paterson and Janet Kerr.

Hugh and Helen set up home in Blantyre and in the first census after their marriage showed that they had been blessed with 3 sons; Hugh, William and Richard, and were living at Lindsay Land in Blantyre. The next census in 1901 showed the family had been added to by the birth of a further 2 sons in Andrew and James and the family living in Stonefield Road in Lindsays Buildings.

The 1911 census showed that the family had moved and resided in Auchinraith Road Blantyre and consisted of Hugh, the father, who was a fireman below ground at the local colliery, his wife Helen and their family Richard, Andrew, James and daughter Helen. The 1911 census was the last one taken before the onset of the first world war and all the boys of the family were employed at the Colliery whereas young Helen was a shop girl, with mother Helen keeping the family home.

The first tragedy strikes this family on 2 September 1918 where young Private James Davidson of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (service number 52379) was killed in France aged 21 years. His remains were never found and he is remembered on Panel 6 of the Vis-En-Artois Memorial. This Memorial bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave. James is also remembered on his parents memorial in High Blantyre Cemetery and is also mentioned on the War Memorial at its entrance.

In 1913 their second eldest son, Richard married to Jeanie Sinclair Steel in Blantyre, daughter of David Steel and Elizabeth Groves. Sometime after their marriage the couple moved to the Clydebank area in Glasgow and at the onset of the second world war, they were living at 97 Nelson Street. Around midnight on the evening of 13/14 March 1941, a mine was dropped on Nelson Street between a tram and the corner of Centre Street, causing a building to collapse at 90 Nelson Street onto an air raid shelter. In this particular block was the home of Richard and Jeanie Davidson, who never got out of their home on time and were killed instantly by the collapse. They are listed as Civilian Dead with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. (see picture below)

Their details are remembered in the High Blantyre Cemetery on the gravestone dedicated to Richard’s parents, which was erected by Hugh and Helen’s daughter, Mrs Helen Hogg. Old Dalnottar Cemetery also has a memorial dedicated to victims of the Clydebank Blitz, however the names of the Davidson’s appears to be omitted. At the time of writing this, I am awaiting a reply from West Dunbartonshire Council as to whether their names will be written onto the memorial anytime soon.

On social media:

Jane Johnstone My mother was a conductress on the buses CSMT during the blitz in Clydebank. She told me tales of what it was like. We played with her tin helmets as kids. There but for the grace of God….

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  1. I believe these are my relatives! Hugh, William and Andy emigrated to the US and bought a farm in New York State. My grandfather is William, who never lived on the farm and lived in Teaneck, N.J., where his son James (my dad) and daughter Helen grew up. Hugh and Helen, my great-grandparents, lived for awhile in the U.S. but went back to Scotland with their daughter, Helen. My father says it was because they always thought their son Jimmy might come back from the war and not be able to find them, which never happened. Helen Hogg would be my great aunt. I visited her once as a child when we visited Scotland in the late 1960’s. I remember having tea with her. I would love any information about other relatives that still live in Scotland.

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