From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
Turner’s Buildings (Central Buildings)
One of the most populated buildings ever on Glasgow Road was the former Turner’s Buildings, or as they were also known, Central Buildings.
Before we explore this, lets clear up yet ‘ainother incorrectly previously published snippet suggesting that Central Buildings was ‘located between Craig Street and Victoria Street’. That wasn’t the case, it was further east between Logan Street and Craig Street. Neither was Hill’s Pawn Building located in it. The name Central Buildings and Turner’s Buildings are actually interchangeable for the same former properties and should not be confused either with the Central Premises (Co-op) previously explored.
Turner’s Buildings were constructed between 1877 and 1878 by Architect, Mr. George Turner, who did not live in Blantyre. Named after him, it is referred as so in the 1879 Naismith’s Business Directory.
The properties were L shaped on plan leading from Logan Street where the buildings were taller at 3 storeys, around the western corner of Logan Street junction with Glasgow Road, then after a pend close, became 2 storey with frontage on Glasgow Road to just over three quarters of the way towards Craig Street. The land at the corner of Craig Street was never built upon until the later Clydeview Shopping Centre. Built partly of brick, part stone with slated roofs and tall chimneys there were initially 28 homes although in later decades these would be split into 44 homes. The land was low lying and was built up on a small embankment to enable the frontage opening out on to the street. Confirmed also by the raised kerblines at the corner of Logan Street.
The houses located on all floors were mostly let out to miners and their families and unlike other nearby tenements, some of the houses were also located on the lower floors. When first built there were 3 shops, 2 of which were Alexander McGill Ironmongers on the corner and further west, James Hill Tailors & Clothiers.
Sad Child Fatality
On Thursday 25th June 1885, a child of four years of age named Elizabeth Livingston was knocked down outside the building by a runaway horse. She never regained consciousness and died that evening.
The 1880’s and 1890’s
By 1885, Mr. George Turner was bankrupt. It is unknown what caused this given the rental capability of his premises. Keith Patrick solicitors acted as creditors whilst John Mitchell of Stonefield Road acted as temporary factor of the homes. There is a strong possibility that money may have been an issue for George even whilst the buildings were being constructed, perhaps downsizing from 3 storeys to most of the homes being 2 storeys. As will be seen later, some of these homes were not built to a good standard which would later have disastrous consequences. That year, the 2 shops were Richard Livingstone a wine merchant, JG Birken & Co of Bridgeton and Mrs Marion Potters drapers. As you’ll see shops changed often in these buildings!
In 1887, twenty three year old single man, William Denniston of Turner’s Buildings was killed in the Udston Colliery disaster. Also that year, as 500 miners rioted through Blantyre, two of the prisoners eventually taken to the nearby police station were 50 year old James McGuire and 18 year old John Gilhooly, both of Turner’s buildings. With so many people living at these properties, news stories are plenty.
Between 1887 and 1895, William Buchanan, a spirit merchant of Melville Drive, Motherwell bought Turner’s Buildings. Born in 1842, William was the owner of the Black Bull Inn at Merry Street, Motherwell as well as other homes there. This was to be a grand investment with William preferring to continue living at Motherwell. It is around this time we first see the name “Central Buildings” appearing for these properties, likely a name chosen by William to leave behind the old “Turners Building” legacy. However, with residents of many generations living there, the name Turner’s Buildings and Central Buildings would both be used right throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, referring to the same properties.
In 1895, Central Buildings in the time before postal addresses were numbered from 1-24. Houses 9,10,17 and 18 were split into two, totaling 28 homes. The shop at the corner was empty that year and in the 2 storey section at Glasgow Road was James Gibson Musician’s shop and William Baxter fruiterer.
James Gibson Musician
Born on 8th June 1868, James McRae Gibson was originally from Dunoon and was the son of Alexander Cameron Gibson. He had a natural flair for music, and by 1881, at the age of 12 following a family move to Blantyre, he started playing as organist for High Blantyre Old Parish Church.
On 22nd April 1889, when he was 21, he married his sweetheart Jeannie McNaught at Kirkton High Blantyre. Jeannie was a Blantyre woman, born at Smithycroft, High Blantyre on 20th October 1865. James ran his music business from 2 Central Buildings. He is noted in the 1895 census as being a musician and is said at one time to have led an orchestra. He was not the only family member to be involved with music, for nearby that year at 9 Central Buildings was another James Gibson Jnr, noted as being a music teacher. The relationship was father and son.
James Senior was also an organist for High Blantyre Old Parish Church for 7 years, the church being exactly adjacent to Smithycroft, the home of his wife before they married. It is quite probably this is how they met. He was a pianoforte tuner and also a member of Blantyre Kilwinning Masonic Lodge. In 1891, they appear in the census at Adam’s Land, High Blantyre, which was not far from Smithycroft and adjacent to the old Parish Church Halls. With them was 1 year old, first daughter, Agnes.
Before 1900, they family left for Hawick, then later in 1912 moved to Dunville, Canada, taking a ship from Scotland to Seattle. His family moved with him. During his lifetime he had 11 children (3 daughters and 8 sons). He died at home in Canada on 15th November 1937, aged 69. His wife, Jeannie died on 16 March 1947 in Dunville, Canada.
Grisly end of William Buchanan
William Buchanan’s ownership of Turner’s Buildings was to be short lived when on 8th September 1895, he was violently murdered in the most brutal manner, aged just 53. Let’s take another ‘pit stop’ to tell that grisly story.
That evening, William Buchanan had been out with friends discussing the results of the days yacht races. He left the company late in the evening to walk the short 50 yard distance back to his home in Melville Drive, Motherwell. On the dark path at the back of his house, William was surprised to see his nephew, 18 year old Mr. William McQueen of Glasgow standing there with a revolver in one hand and a knife in the other! The nephew proceeded to shoot William who fell to the ground heavily. There, lying injured he was sat upon by the nephew, who took out the knife and drive it through William’s right eye socket into a depth of 4 inches, almost to the back of his head. William died instantly from lacerations to his brain.
His son, witnessing the incident had run for help and came back with police and some of the friends who had been in William’s company earlier. The group was confronted by McQueen, brandishing the revolver at them saying “Don’t come any closer or I’ll blow your brains out!”. Behind him, William lay dead on his back, in a huge pool of blood, with further cuts to his face. McQueen made off quickly, turning back occasionally to let off a volley of shots, which missed the party bouncing off the road.
A young man by name of MacFarlane took it upon himself to give chase to McQueen and later bravely pointed to police where he had gone. McQueen was arrested that night, openly admitting the murder. The revolver was taken in as evidence but the knife was missing and would not turn up for a few weeks until some boys found it on an embankment some distance away.
In court in November 1895, McQueen was charged with murder and given a life imprisonment, but pleaded insanity. He insisted God had told him to do it. It later transpired a family feud have been bubbling away in the background, the details of which were over money and not disclosed.
Turner’s Building Young Girl’s Sad career
In late February 1900, at Hamilton Sheriff Court, Elizabeth McCann, a 12-year old Blantyre girl stood in the dock awaiting to be charged. She was the daughter of William McCann, a miner who resided at Turner’s Buildings.
She was charged with 3 different acts of theft from shops in Blantyre. The offences were committed between 24th January and 22nd February 1900 and the articles stolen were all items associated with keeping warm and dry in that winter. Five boys’ jackets, six pairs of boots and one pair of shoes, all of which were promptly taken to be pawned.
The theft is telling of a cold winter but there is more to the story for she was not intending to keep them for herself. Instead the court heard how the girl had been encouraged by her mother to steal the items from the shops and also told where to take them to afterwards, for the purpose of pawning them. The girl was told to bring her mother the proceeds of the thefts. In answer to the Sheriff, little Elizabeth was told she got 2d from her mother on each occasion she took money home after each pawning, and she would happily spend the full 2d on sweets and ice cream.
It was suggested by the court that a usual stance for this type of incident would be for the girl to be sent to a Reformatory School, but the court noted there was no such Catholic Institution of its kind in Scotland for girls at the time and instead asked for a period of 3 months to monitor her behaviour in future. It sounds that Elizabeth had got off lightly.
20th Century Shops, Tenants & Ownership
In 1905, Turner’s Buildings was called ‘Central Buildings’ in the Valuation roll. Owned by the Trustees of the late William Buchanan, the property was being managed by John Hastie an ironmonger and the 28 houses were now divided into 44 houses, including those at Logan Street corner.
Postal addresses had been allocated and there were now 5 shops. At the corner of Logan Street at 159 Glasgow Road on the ground floor of the 3 storey building, and directly across from the Priory Bar had been until 1903, Torrance Grocery, run by Mr John M. Torrance. However by 1905, it was occupied by Hugh Whyte. That year, in the 2 storey at 161 Glasgow Road was Marion Rae’s Dairy, 163 Glasgow Road was Marion Greenhorn’s Butchers. Further along at 167 was William Baxter’s Fruit shop and at 169 was John Bryson’s Drapers.
Turners Buildings / Central Buildings were allocated 159 – 187 Glasgow Road, all odd numbers. 20 houses at 165, 8 homes at 171-185 with 10 upper homes at 187 divided into a,b,c and so on. By 1915 the Buchanan estate had passed to William’s widow, Mrs. Marion Clifton Buchanan (nee Chapman). Still living in Motherwell, she owned these 44 homes including 4,6,8,10,12 and 14 Logan Street, the 3 storey tenements. Shops had changed again. 159 was James Bryce Ironmongery, 161 Samuel Park’s Dairy, 163 was James Powell (jnr) Butchers. 167 and 169 was combined as Charles Easton Drapers.
Mrs. Buchanan still the owner in 1920, with same shops as 1915, with exception of Samuel Brown an ironmonger moving into 159 Glasgow Road at the corner and at 167-169, John Davidson Drapers.
Brown’s Ironmongery Store
Samuel Alexander Brown was born in 1878 in Glasgow, Scotland. In post WW1 years he ran an ironmongery shop at the corner of Logan Street for a short time. He was still running the shop until the time of his death in March 1921, aged only 43. The address on his death record was 49 Aitken Street, Glasgow. This was his home address indicating he may not have lived in Blantyre, despite owning the shop.
After his death, Samuel’s widow, Elsie Blair Meek (who was originally from Forfar), took over the running of the shop but she was soft on the local families who would send barefoot children along to obtain goods without the means to pay for the items. The business later ‘went under’ by 1923.
Three of the surviving children of Samuel and Elsie were admitted to Quarriers Orphanage at Bridge-of Weir in 1923. The only child to escape the orphanage was Elizabeth Agnes Alexander Brown (1918 – 1997) who was only two years old at the time of their father’s death. A fifth child, known as ‘baby Sam’ died as an infant.
The man at the centre of this previously unseen photo is Samuel Alexander Brown. The lady on the left is likely be his wife. We do not know the identity of the lady on the right, but she is most likely a shop worker. The name of Logan Street can be seen on the photo. In the window reflection, across Glasgow Road is McAlpine’s building. The former name of the shop, ‘Torrance Grocery’ can be seen faintly on the Logan Street upper side.
Change in Ownership
In 1921, Marion Buchanan died, aged 78 and Turner’s Buildings were inherited by her daughter Miss Marion Chapman Buchanan, a single lady. All 44 homes were let out. The 5 shops in 1925 were James McGeachie Ironmongery at 159, Charles & Marion McCabe at 161, James Powell Butchers still at 163, James Maxwell & Son Chocolate Manufacturers at 167 and John Davidson Drapers still at 169. However, life was not kind to Miss Buchanan and she died in 1925 in Wishaw, aged 48 after suffering pneumonia whilst recovering from an ear operation.
On Saturday 23rd January 1926, a disastrous midnight fire took hold of these buildings.
The 2 storey tenement premises occupied by Mr. William McManus, provision merchant, 183 Glasgow Road, Blantyre was discovered to be on fire about midnight. The converted shop was on fire and difficulty was experienced by the tenants in the houses above the shop in making for the street, owing to the dense smoke. The fire brigade was summoned to find the shop a raging furnace and for a time the houses above were in danger.
Alter a long fight the firemen were able to get the outbreak under control and about two o’clock on the Sunday the flames were fully extinguished. The shop was completely gutted, and the damage was estimated at £600. Insurance covered the rebuild and renovation of the damaged shop and homes.
Blantyre Men in Trouble
John Stirling (18) and James McGrorty (20) were charged with having between 18th and 20th February 1927 breaking into a magazine store at Gartshore Pit 11 and stole 2 boxes of explosives and detonators along with breaking into a shop and stealing Players cigarettes and one and box of chocolates. They pled guilty.
Turner’s Buildings were then bought in 1925 by James Little of 175 Stonefield Road, a prominent businessman, joiner and property owner in Blantyre. (James would in 1932 go on to buy Crossbasket House in High Blantyre). In 1930 William Henderson Ironmonger was renting 159 corner shop, Marion McCabe a spinster at 161, James Powell Butchers still at 163, Mrs Little drapers at 167 and John Davidson’s drapers at 169. By then 185 had been converted and was that year consulting rooms for Dr Adam Stewart’s surgery. Dr Stewart had telephone number Blantyre 109 and lived at the new homes at 51 Small Crescent. However, all was not well with Turner’s Buildings. The 3 storey building at the corner of Logan Street was now in a deplorable condition and some families had moved out, feeling ill or in danger.
The Wartime Collapse
About one o’clock on the final Sunday afternoon in August 1940, considerable excitement prevailed among tenants of Central Buildings. Word soon spread that a large portion of the three-story property situated at Logan Street had suddenly collapsed and many tons of bricks, mortar and some wood crashed down into the back court. For some time this property had been condemned and the tenants had been compelled to leave it, but three families comprising of nineteen persons had been “squatting” in the property.
The property or at least a large portion of it was simply a shell, for the greater part all the internal woodwork and supports had been removed and it had for a long been expected that sooner or later there would be a collapse.
Mr. Robert Limerick an Oncostman employed in a local colliery with his wife and five children who had been squatting in a two room and kitchen house on the top flat, supplied the local news reporter with an account of their experiences. Mr Limerick said he had gone to his work at ten o’clock that morning and did not arrive home till about six o’clock at night. His wife, however, said that she and the children were having dinner when the terrific crash of falling masonry was heard and every moment she expected that the roof would fall in on them. On going to the outside landing she nearly collapsed with fright when she saw that her house at some height was separated only six feet from the huge gap made in the property, and her children were in hysterics.
The house the Limerick family were residing in beggared description and it was inconceivable to think that human beings could live under such deplorable conditions, with no water or sanitary accommodation available. In 1939, Mr. Allan Chapman, M.P. for Rutherglen division, paid a visit to the Limerick’s home and said it was a tragedy that people were compelled to live in such a place. As if living in wartime wasn’t difficult enough, the collapse threatened their very home. A huge block of bricks and mortar, weighing at least half a ton, was brought down by Mr. Limerick by tying two clothes stretchers together and after a few minutes he managed to get it dislodged from its threatening position.
The other two families, who live at the second flat, were in no danger when the collapse took place and were removed from the gap in the property. The 3 storey block along Logan Street with address 2,4,6,8,10 and 12 Logan Street and also part of Glasgow Road, namely the corner 159-165 Glasgow Road was then demolished entirely.
The space occupied by the collapsed part was bought over by the Post Office who would construct their new building on the corner site in 1953.
The Little family would sell the remaining part of Turner’s Buildings with addresses 167-187 Glasgow Road to others in post WW2 years. Families living there during the 1960’s included the Dunsmuirs, Mackies and Mains.
Shops would change again too. 167 became a sweet shop, then later the Co-op Chemist. Next door at 169 John Davidson’s Butchers became Janette Robertson’s Ladies Hair stylist with telephone Blantyre 152.
At the end of the block at 185 Glasgow Road, not far from the corner of Craig Street, the doctors surgery changed hands several times including in the 1960’s , premises for Doctor Gordon.
Bought by compulsory purchase order, the remaining businesses and tenants were asked to leave in 1977, the buildings boarded up for a short time afterwards. The properties were then demolished later that year to make way for the Clydeview Shopping Centre and modernization.
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