Mr. Joseph Smith – was more commonly known as Joe. Joseph was born at Causeystanes on 28th August 1887 in Blantyre, the son of John Smith and Margaret Keegans.
He made a success of his hobby, boxing and became the bare-knuckle champion of Scotland in 1906.
Joseph married Annie McGorgary in 1908 at the relatively new built St Joseph’s Church on Glasgow Road. Father Thomas Hackett married the couple. The couple married on 25th November 1908.
By then Joseph, aged 21 was a coalminer, living at 54 Forrest Place. Annie was born 14th September 1889 and was a neighbour of the Smith family, born and lived at Gardiner Terrace then later nearby at 64 Main Street. She died 5th August 1952.
The couple’s first son John, actually was born on 10th May 1908, some 6 months earlier than the couple married, which may have prompted them to hasten their wedding plans at that time.
By 1911, the family lived at 113 Main Street, stone tenements towards Auchenraith. With them was first son, John. It is likely William Dixon & Co or Merry & Cunningham were Joseph’s likely employers.
The land at Niaroo where the Smith family would eventually settle was likely acquired from the Milheugh Estate nearby.
His boxing record was impressive. He was the lightest heavyweight, youngest, never knocked down and retired undefeated. He had an impressive physique that men would aspire to have.
Truth be told Joe was born too soon. If he had been in the boxing business in the post WW2 years, he would have made a fortune. Joseph Smith came into prominence in 1906 when he knocked out Pat McDonald in the first round at the odl Tivoli in Glasgow. It was not billed as a title fight but after the result, he was crowned as the new heavyweight Champion of Scotland. He was small in stature for a heavyweight, but carried a punch that could put an opponent easily to sleep for the required 10 seconds. Even later in life, Smith had no scars or battlewounds and was described in the 1950s, as “fresh now as he was in his heyday.”
There is a record for Joseph Smith travelling out to Quebec in 1909, but he was himself and this may have been a “scouting mission” looking for employment.
In the 1930’s Joe wrote an autobiography of his life up until 1908. Joe and Annie in 18 years had 13 children, although 2 died young. This is no doubt a large family now with several members overseas and with children and grandchildren of their own. It is thought some of the family live in America and Canada now.
Following the death of his wife in 1952, Joe lived with his son Hughie at Niaroo, just off the Pech Brae in Blantyre. Joe died on 30th January 1970, aged 82.
In 2016, his grandson Steve Smith, son of James Smith, transcribed Joe’s book and published it under the title “Pitman, Pugilist, Poacher”. Joe wrote of his memory, “I’ll never forget that fateful day when I lost my father in a quarry accident. It will always live in my memory. The sight of his torn and broken body as they carried him indoors, the sobbing and wailing of my mother and the pitiful smile that crossed my father’s lips as he tried to ease my mother’s feelings though he knew himself to be a matter of hours from death. His hoarse whispered words as he called me to his bedside and said, ‘look after your mother Joe. Be good, do good and good will come of it.”
Another son of Joe was Hugh Smith who lived at Niaroo on the Pech Brae with his family in post WW2 years until 1970.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016
With Thanks to Alex Rochaed and Steve Smith for additional information.