Coal Miner Robert Wilson 1887 – 1973

Coal Miner Robert Wilson 1887-c1973

robert wilsonWendy Wilson recently sent this picture of her Grandfather Robert Wilson to a colleague of mine. Wendy told Historic Hamilton’s page:

“My Grandpa Robert Wilson b1887 worked in the mines from at least 13 yrs old. In 1912 he emigrated to Canada (from Blantyre) & got a job on the Canadian Pacific Railways. When WW1 broke out he returned to Scotland with the intention of fighting for his country.

The recruiting person asked what he did before he went to Canada & when he told them he was down the pit they said he could not join up as they needed miners more than soldiers. So that was him for the rest of his life. I think it was the Clyde pit he worked in which my Dad said was the wettest pit in Scotland. 

He spent all day up to his waist in water. The pit was shut down in the 1930s & all the miners were offered jobs in Fife. The family moved to somewhere near Dunfermline but my Granny missed Hamilton too much & they only stayed a few years before returning.”

Thanks to Wendy for sharing her Grandfathers story and to Historic Hamilton for pointing out the Blantyre connection. I was looking at this story a little more and found that Robert was born on 24th April 1887 at 33 Kelvin St, Glasgow. His middle name was Tannahill. He was the son of Alfred and Mary Ann. By 1891 the family had moved to Blantyre where they lived at Coats Land. That same year, whilst Robert was only 3 years old, his father Alfred died young at only 39 years old. His mother remarried into the MacFarlane family and in 1901, even although Robert was only 14 years old, he is noted living with his siblings, his birth mother and step father at Waterloo Row, Blantyre Works Village, where he was a miner!

In 1903, whilst Robert was only 15 years old, his mother Mary Ann died also very young at only 47 years old. Further tragedy befell him when his brother Robert died aged 22 at Cambuslang in the River Clyde on 4th April 1912, the week or so before the Titanic sunk in the Atlantic. April 1912 saw Robert Wilson, aged 24 having lost both his parents and younger brother. There may have been a strong desire to move on or elsewhere. Despite the Titanic tragedy still very much fresh in the mind of the nation, Robert bravely crossed the Atlantic that year to Canada.

World War I broke out a couple of years later and Robert came back to Scotland on board the Pretoria, arriving back in Glasgow on 23rd November 1915. He travelled back to 4 Ulva Place in Blantyre, a street away from his step father and step siblings. He is noted in the passenger log (attached) as being a clerk and he travelled alone. Like many men with skills or experience in mining, the war effort required them more in the pits, than on the battlefield and Robert was to stay at home during the war years, returning to mining.

Following the war, he married Mary Scott and their son Alfred Tannahill Wilson was born on 15th September 1920 (d1994) at the new family home in Almada Street, Hamilton. On 10th September 1944, his sister Catherine Lucinda Wilson died, whilst Robert was 57. Interestingly, Mary Scotts family were of a poor background. Her father George Scott died in Hamilton Poorhouse on 15th August 1917.

I have Robert Wilson passing away in Hamilton in 1975, rather than 1973, but perhaps the family could clarify that.


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