1978 Anderson Church Fire


1978 Anderson Church fire2The Anderson Church on the east side of Stonefield Road, burned down in the early evening of Thursday 8th June 1978. Vandals were thought to have caused the blaze, which totally destroyed the Church.

The fire was a final act in a prolonged campaign of malicious attacks on the Anderson Church, which had not been used a church for 2 years prior. The Church congregation had transferred to St Andrews Parish Church a couple of years earlier and subsequently the Anderson building had become a prime target for breakins, attempted arson and damage.

The fire left people shocked at such a landmark gone, some people angry and others disgusted that vandals could do this to a religious building.

1978 Anderson Church fire wm

Large groups of spectators gathered to watch the blaze as firemen battled with the flames. People who remember this event, recall the immense heat, even standing on the opposite side of the road.

Fire Engines from Motherwell, East Kilbride and Hamilton rushed to the scene very quickly after the blaze was discovered. It took firefighters under half an hour to get the blaze under control but the damage had been done. Only the partial steeple and 2 gable walls remained. The timber roof and internals of the building, completely gutted. Fire officers assessed the gables and determined they were unsafe, prompting the brigade pulling down the two gables later than evening. By sunset on the 8th June 1978, a large smouldering pile of rubble was all that remained.

1978 Anderson Church fire3

In later weeks, CID, the Police and firefighters worked on the assumption that the blaze had been caused by vandals, with public disorder commonplace in Blantyre in 1978. A man had been seen chasing 2 youths out of this building shortly before the fire was discovered.

A few days following the fire, a member of St Andrews Church Property Committee said, “It makes you wonder what the worlds coming to when people cannot even respect a church. Of course, we are all terribly upset.”

St Andrew’s Minister, the Rev. James Gregory added, “This is just disgusting. The same day another church in Glasgow had been burned down. Vandalism is becoming so common, we’re finding it everywhere we look. Do we need to sit on the doorsteps of our MP’s in order to get something done? I, myself have caught two youths attempting to break into the building and elders have caught others in the past.” Mr Gregory also commented on the lack of police in Blantyre not helping.

It was those people in Blantyre who remember Anderson Church for weddings and a place of worship who took the news about the fire, the hardest. Luckily the hall beside it, then used for youth organisations and clubs, was largely undamaged.

A sad story. I can’t help but feel there are least 2 individuals out there in Blantyre or beyond, who were youths in 1978, carrying a 40 year secret and know just perfectly well how this fire started!

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

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