Glasgow Road businesses came and went and slowly but surely the buildings got older, some not maintained too well. By the 1960s’, well before the redevelopment of Glasgow Road got underway, there were 36 shops on Glasgow Road and 13 pubs, a large number you may think, but not as great as it had been 50 years earlier. A large proportion of these shops were dominated by the Blantyre Co-operative Society, which were popular with lots of residents.
The East Kilbride News from Friday, June 28th, 1968, touched upon Glasgow Road looking unchanged for 70 years! Nothing could now be more further from that statement, with the subsequent 1970’s redevelopment of Glasgow Road transforming the old character through demolition of the old buildings, into the modern streetscape of today. The article touches upon the “ugly scars” on Blantyre by these old tenements, many of which were boarded up. Remember, this is reported in a 1968 context and although the following strays sometimes from the subject of Glasgow Road, it is worthy of inclusion here in this book as a reminder that Blantyre looked relatively unchanged. “Look clearly at this photograph. It was taken perhaps 60 years ago. Yet today, without the tram, the similarity is striking. It is a photograph of Glasgow Road looking towards Stonefield from a point just east of Herbertson Street. On the right are the Co-op buildings, while across the road that licensed grocers shop on the corner of the building is still a licensed grocers shop today. Well known Hamilton and Blantyre grocer, Andrew Gilmour, who also had a shop in High Blantyre near the Post Office, once owned it. The photograph is one of a collection in a booklet issued by Mr. Gilmour to his customers. Others show scenes from the banks of the Clyde, the old mill, Priory Colliery at the height of production and the old hermit’s hut at Calderwood Castle.
One of these booklets has come into the possession of “East Kilbride News” reader Mrs Janet Tennant of 12 John Street, Blantyre (now in my own possession via Betty). Now 73 years of age, Mrs Tennant has lived in Blantyre all her days and remembers many of the old scenes. Turning these pages of history, she recalls, “Gilmours also had a drapers shop where I used to buy trousers at 1/11 a pair.” Mrs Tennant’s boys were Tom, now living in Bath and George who is a salesman with Robertson of Springwells, the mineral water firm. The Blantyre woman also has 2 daughters Mrs Janet Mackie and Mrs Elizabeth Graham. Mrs Mackie is the wife of Mr. Willie Mackie, the Co-op butcher at High Blantyre and lay pastor of Blantyre Nazarene Church. Mr. Mackie’s father, who lived above the shop where his son now works, died about 10 years ago, aged 84. It was after his death that the book of photographs was discovered amongst his possessions and passed to Mrs Tennant. Although firmly steeped in the past, Mrs. Tennant also has an eye for the future and she speaks proudly of her granddaughter, 8-year-old Sandra Graham, who is dancing her way to fame with Mrs. Hislop’s School of dancing. Sandra has already gained many medals and cups and she participated in last Saturday’s dancing competition at the Community Centre. From her home in John St, Mrs. Tennant looks across at the rear of tenements, which are now an ugly scar on Blantyre’s main thoroughfare. She also sees the public park, which one-day if county plans materialise will stretch right to Glasgow Road. Indeed, at a recent Council meeting, Councillor Frank MacDonagh raised the question of whether the park could not be immediately extended to the road at the site of the former, “Blantyre Gazette” works, now recently demolished.
As for the building where Andrew Gilmour had his shop, only 3 of the 7 shops are still occupied by a butcher, baker and grocer. The pend close is still there and people still live above in the houses. Of the rest of the lower properties, only the former Victoria Cafe survives, as a development fund headquarters for appropriately enough, the Blantyre Victoria Football Club.”
By the end of the 1960’s, several properties had started to become boarded up and unfit for purpose, forcing some tenants and shopkeepers to move. The tenements were cold, badly insulated if at all and almost all in need of re-wiring and plumbing. Timber rot, rising damp and woodworm were amongst other problems, not to mention many still with unwelcome outside toilets. As the colourful and vibrant 1970’s approached and especially seeing the accomplishments in modern new towns like East Kilbride, something had to be done to save Blantyre’s retail district. A grand plan was unveiled by the Council but sat shelved for many years due to the perceived disruption it would all cause.
An extract from my book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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