Bizarre Schoolboy craze 1900


1910 Bethany Hall Glasgow Rd

1910 Bethany Hall , Glasgow Road

Boys will be boys. Such was the phrase in early February 1900 when something had to be done about a bizarre craze adopted by local Blantyre schoolboys.

All along Glasgow Road by then, and even several years prior to the arrival of trams, were telegraph and telephone poles. You may have noticed on old postcards and photos, these poles which were situated very often along the pavements on both sides, had electrical insulators at the top of them. These were small, white caps or surrounds to protect the insulator from rain and of course to assist the efficient delivery of the electricity and signals. The caps were made of a substance almost like porcelain and were extremely fragile.

As the 19th Century became the 20th Century, the craze that boys chose as a pastime, was the deliberate vandalism of these electrical insulator, by throwing stones up towards them to shatter them. Can you imagine clusters of boys trying this activity at night or day, whilst one boy acts as a lookout. These were days of hardly any traffic and opportunity to conduct this fun sport would have been frequent.

By February 1900 though, numerous complaints had been made about this wanton destruction and it reached a climax when on examination, it was found that between Springwells and Spittal, upwards of 60 insulators had been broken. A subsequent watch or stake out by police resulted in the apprehension of 4 boys from Spittal Row, Bardykes. They were brought to court on the Monday afterwards at Hamilton and each pleaded guilty having been caught red handed. Whilst still in the court, each boy was “sentenced” to receive five stripes or lashings with the birch rod cane.

Pictured in 1910, just 10 years later are those very poles and replaced insulators, which may  give an indication of how tempting it would have been for boys to target them!

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka © 2016 All rights reserved.

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Brian John Frankham Bring back the Birch. Soonest.

Betty McLean I remember feeling angry when the gas lamps on Elm St were broken.

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