William Downie Junior


1898 Downies BuildingsMr. William Downie (Junior) – b1845-d1893. Born in Blantyre in 1845 to father William Downie Senior and a Blantyre lady named Ellen, he was an only child, who would always live with his parents at Kirkton even into his 30’s.

In the 1861 census, 16-year-old William Junior was an apprentice grocer, learning the family business. His parents ran Downie’s Public House and rented out several homes in the Kirkton area.

However, in 1885, they both passed away and William Downie Junior inherited their estate worth £1,340 in October 1885. Up until then, he had lived with his parents all his life and at the time of their death, he was 40 years old.

In the 1891 census, William Junior, then 46, is shown as still single and noted as being neither employed nor self employed, an unusual feature for any census. The valuation rolls of that time show he certainly owned many houses and shops and indeed had expanded his empire further into Stonefield and Hunthill, acquiring several more shops, a bakehouse and other businesses following his new found wealth.

That same census, lists staff working on his behalf and it would appear that William Downie Junior was not working but letting others run his businesses for him either through a decision to not work and reap the benefits, or due to ill health. Perhaps the latter, for only 2 years later on 14th September 1893, William Downie Junior also died, aged only 49. Dr William Grant noted on the death certificate that William had died from Ciahrosis of the Liver, telling indeed. It may not be difficult to associate William’s newly inheritence just 8 years earlier and sudden ownership of a Downie’s Public House with others running it for him, to determine what he was doing in those final years or how he spent his time.

Sadly, none of his immediate family remained to sign his death certificate so that duty fell upon cousin William Johnstone, who was his loyal grocery shop assistant, one of four cousins living at his house in those final couple of years.

William Downie’s will was read out in Hamilton on 6th March 1894. His assets included £100 cash in the house and shop, £53 in household furniture subject to LS Smellie auctioneers appraising its value, £182 stock in trade, £302 due to him by the Bank of Scotland and £1,200 in bonds and securities due to him by various banks and individuals.

Furthermore monies owed to him from 70 other individuals totalled a further £447. This included a debt from Rev Turnbull of £31. A further £313 was valued at nothing. At Kirkton, 14 people owed William rent ranging between £3 and £16 including Archibald and William Speirs, William Wilson, the Parochial Board and J Hazel & Sons (Plumbers). At Hunthill another 5 individuals owed rent and at Commercial Place, Stonefield, 8 tenants owed rent, including the Co-operative Society. In all he was due £336 rent.

Rent in arrears following William’s death was also added into the estate, up to the point of the will. Life assurance of £200 and £57 bonus due to his early death age were also included in assets. His inherited Caldonian Railway stock was now worth £700 in dividend. William Downie Junior had also invested heavily into Blantyre Gas Company and was due dividends in stock shared back to him worth £337. His assets were totalled at £7,432, 4 shilling and 9 pence, (around £1.2million in today’s money).

His debts were minor by comparison at £334, largely due to builders, plumbers and individuals working in construction although it should be noted William had run up a huge bill of £57 in calling out Dr Grant prior whilst ill prior to his death.

An estate of £7,127 was concluded following funeral expenses. With no family member to confirm these details, this duty was left to Mr Wardrop Moore of Greenhall, Justice of the Peace, who signed on 22nd March 1894. As joint executor along with Dr Grant and Mr Thomas Rae, Candlemaker of Hamilton, the 3 men were asked to act as a quorum as trustees, to notify within a period of 3 months, to whom the heritable property should be left to.

The will did spell out who was to benefit. Firstly Nigel MacFarlane, who lived with William Downie and was his cousin, was to inherit the properties at Hunthill.

Secondly, William’s other cousin, Thomas Thomson was to inherit the properties at Commercial Place, Stonefield, on the strict condition that an annual payment of £40 was given to John Todd the Baker of Bothwell for the rest of his or his wife lives.

Thirdly, William Johnstone, his cousin and shop assistant was to inherit all the properties, shops and houses in the Kirkton area. Finally, Helen MacFarlane, another cousin was to inherit his stocks and shares. All cousins were permitted to be able to sell these assets at a later date whenever they wanted.

Clearly his cousins were well thought of by William Downie, for the Downie’s large and thriving estate was left entirely to them. Of note was William Johnstone’s inheritance at Kirkton, as he would go on during the next two decades to build upon the thriving property empire. It was a sudden end to the Downie legacy in Blantyre.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017

On social media:

Eleanor Connor Brilliant ! 💚 💛
Ray Couston William Downie Any relation? 😛
William Downie Interesting stuff!

Leave a Reply