Joe Smith, Boxer 1887 – 1970

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.

1906-joe-smith-wmHe 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.


1911-joseph-smithBy 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.

1908-joe-smith-wm2The 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.

1950s-joe-smith-backIn 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.


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  1. I
    would like if possible to purchase a copy of joe smiths book
    could you please send me details
    regards j carmichael

    1. Sorry, I dont have any details on how that can be bought. As far as Im aware the family only printed a certain amount for their immediate family. I don’t think its commercially available. Paul

  2. Remember Joe and Hugh living at oorain, helped out people down on there luck with accommodation.
    Good memories and Hugh was his own man living as he chose.
    Bill Smith

  3. Janis , just to be clear the comments on the website are not mine. All i have done is distribute the book to anyone who wants a copy and this website has been very helpful in making people aware of the book., Some of your comments in this posting and others are getting a bit personal and should not be on a public forum.


    1. Mrs Janis Martin

      On the contrary your comments and inaccurate representation of my grandfather my Mum and other family members is inaccurate. As previously stated my Mum looked after my grandfather at Morris Crescent in Blantyre until three before he died The family home was never Niaroo . My mother cared for you and all my cousins and the least you could have done was let me know when my beloved Uncle James your father passed away. My Uncle James was a wonderful Uncle to me and brother to my Mum.

  4. My grandfather was looked after by my mother ,Mary ,at our home :71
    Morris Crescent, Blantyre. Steven was just a wee boy and his account
    Is in parts completely inaccurate. Steve is one of nine children and my
    mother regularly also looked after the kids when they were young.
    During the war years .my grandfather and uncles created a large living
    Space under the house with an escape route in case the Germans invaded. There was a fear at the time that the Germans would just cross the channel. My large family did not at any time live at Niaroo.
    They lived at 71 Morris Crescent and gradually one by one moved abroad including Steve’s Dad my much loved Uncle James. My mother
    Cared full time for my grandad, and my brother James and I ,also lived at Morris Crescent with my grandfather.
    My grandfather did not live at Niaroo until he was eighty..My Uncle Hughie moved down to Niaroo when he retired , he still had his own home , but loved the peace and quiet of Niaroo. He was a steel erector
    and worked away a lot. He had a son Joe, and daughter Pat , my cousins , they were close to my Uncle Hughie and before he died
    my cousin Pat persuaded my Uncle to leave his precious Niaroo
    and go home where she cared for him until he died.
    My grandfather”s original book was published in 1966.

    Janis ( Joe Smith”s granddaughter)

    1. love hearing about this, I’m also Josephine Smith daughter of Hughs son Joe, born in Coventry to Joe Smith and Maureen Dunleavy don’t think they married! they had 3 daughters Fiona, Victoria and me.

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