William John Gourley b1879-1956

Norma Marr in Canada recently sent me a heads up about an interesting Canadian man, who was born in High Blantyre. She found a brief record on a Canadian ancestry website  and copied it across to me, writing

William John Gourley, 1880-1956, was born in High Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and moved to Calgary, Alberta where he operated a blacksmith shop. He later developed the Pioneer Carriage and Wagon Works which operated from 1912 to about 1919. He then sold his factory to Hay and Harding. He and his wife had at least one son, Hallaban Digby, 1905-1988.

This all sounded very interesting, so I decided to look into William’s story, certainly for the time he was in Scotland. I didn’t get off to a great start, but I think this was due to an incorrect date and location for William’s birth.

William John Gourley was actually born on 11th June, 1879 in Templepatrick, Antrium, Ireland. His father, James, was 25 and his mother, Elizabeth Bolling, was 23. This was to be a large family. He had five brothers and four sisters. William was the second eldest child.

The Gourley family left Ireland between November 1879 and March 1881 and settled in Dykehead, Hamilton, (not far from Auchentibber in Blantyre). William’s father took up a position at Dykehead as a colliery labourer.

By September 1883, the family had moved a mile or so to High Blantyre to Auchentibber at Parkneuk, where the rest of William’s siblings were born in the 1880s. His father then became a quarryman at Parkneuk, most likely working the quarry, which would eventually become the Italian Gardens at Auchentibber.

William lived in High Blantyre in his youth and when he was 22 years old in 1901, he travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada from Scotland. It is likely he went with brothers James, who would die young in Canada in 1927 and Thomas who lived until 1968. His parents remained in Blantyre and died in 1934 and 1935 when they were 79 and 80 years old. It is known that he came back to see his parents at least once, certainly in 1913.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-20-38-16Pictured is William John Gourley’s blacksmith shop in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1903. His shop was located at 329 – 8th Avenue SE, east of the Queen’s Hotel.

His blacksmith business must have prospered for in 1911, he built a house located at 614 – 6th Avenue SW. Around this time in 1912, he formed the Pioneer Wagon Works, which he continued to operate until 1919, after which it was bought by Hay and Harding.

Pictured in 1912, is a grain tank, horse drawn, built by the Pioneer Wagon Works. William passed away in Canada in 1956.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016


On social media:

Liz Doonin This is 614 6th Avenue SW Calgary now. Right in the heart of downtown

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Jane Johnstone My folks came to Dykehead from Ireland round about the same time..

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