Central Garage (Harper’s Garage)
The Central Garage was a former vehicle garage in the 20th Century once situated on a fairly large plot of land at the western corner of Craig Street and junction of Glasgow Road. The approximate location today is where the central traffic lights and hardstanding is at Clydeview Shopping Centre.
The garage would also be known as Harper’s Garage, but Harper was not the original owner and indeed there were 2 owners before him.
Sometime between 1921 and 1924, Mr. Thomas Johnstone bought former McVaney’s Land, which at that time was entirely clear. Seeing opportunity in the growing popularity of mechanized vehicles Johnstone constructed a repair shop and petrol tank. Thomas Johnstone was a motorbus proprietor and mechanic and his repair shop is noted in the 1925 Valuation roll. The repair shop had a front entrance out to Glasgow Road, and was long stretching its length on Craig Street, with a pitched roof.
My Johnstone’s ownership came to an abrupt end, when in March 1927, Mr. William Mullen sued Thomas Johnstone for personal injuries he sustained in a vehicle accident, asking for nearly £1,000. In court, he settled for £350, but had to put up his repair shop up for sale in order to make the injuries payment. It is unclear if this bankrupted Johnstone.
In 1927, The Blue Line Motor Spirit Company Ltd bought out Mr. Johnstone and opened the premises naming it “The Central Garage”, a name first appearing in the 1930’s valuation roll. Managing their garage and petrol pump, renting it from Blue Line was Mr. Gilbert Harper, a motor hirer since 1919, and who had previously been a flesher at the Masonic Buildings. This was the primary Garage in Blantyre, the most well known for repairs throughout the 20th Century. In the 1930 valuation roll, it is noted being at 163 Glasgow Road but we suggest this may have been an error in the roll and that the garage was actually at 189/191 Glasgow Road. At that time Mr. Robert Patterson was a driver at the garage.
Gilbert Harper had in 1899 fought in the Boar War. He moved to 4 Craig Street in 1922 which was situated 2 houses up from the garage on Craig Street on the same side. He may have previously used small garages and a former coachhouse at the back of his home prior to renting the Central Garage in 1927 for £35 per annum. His business looks to have flourished for in 1930 he had moved home to a larger house ‘Forestlea’ at 16 Craig Street.
When Gilbert died in November 1934, Barbara Harper (w) took full control of the Central Garage and that year concluded the purchase of the premises from former Blue Line Motor Spirit Company Ltd. Trading under the name G Harper Ltd, they are pictured with their renamed “Harper’s Garage”. Following Gilbert’s death, the garage and G Harper Ltd was managed by James Ramage, a motor hirer until he started his own business in the 1940’s. The Harper family extended the building to the west in the 1940’s.
Note: Another Blantyre source has published that ‘Gilbert was the original owner’ taking that from something I’d written previously. This is not the case. I had to amend my previous comment after discovering Gilbert was neither the original owner and in fact never even owned the Central Garage at any time, only renting. It was after his death in 1934 that the family through his estate, bought the garage after closing their existing little garage in the 1930s nearby at 16 Craig Street. The Central Garage was a much more prominent business location and good investment.
In the 1960’s, Brian McLaughlin who owned a local undertakers/lorry business and a mechanics business in Glasgow Road (Felix Mclaughlins) purchased Harper’s garage and gave it back its original name of “The Central Garage”. As well as repairs and motor sales, Brian also leased out Limousine cars for funerals and weddings and continued to be successful and used frequently by Blantyre residents.
This prompted a major rebuilt of the garage to accommodate more vehicles. The extensive renovations saw older parts of the building removed at Craig Street and rebuilt with larger more rectangular frontage on to the more busy and prominent, Glasgow Road.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, cars appeared in the showroom windows. Vehicles such as Austin / Morris 1000’s, Minis and later Cortina made an appearance and often tempted locals. A common service was repairing punctures and as well as providing petrol, the garage sold pink and blue paraffin.
When petrol rationing started in the 1970’s, staff were very generous to Blantyre people, letting them fill up perhaps more so than other garages. It created many loyal customers. Across the road was Hart’s Building which housed the Cosy Corner Public House and Peter’s ice cream parlour.
Further up from the Garage was ‘Watts’ the dentists which later became Oreste’s Chip Shop.
The garage was next managed by Willie Richardson, his wife Peggy and her sister Isa MacMillan. These ‘Richardsons’ were of no relation to the family who later ran the garage of that name further west. One September weekend the garage was robbed, the same day as a garage at High Blantyre, and despite being only a few hundreds yards away, and to frustration of staff and owners, the police took hours to get to the scene.
Many people worked there as mechanics, clerks, attendants over the years including Kenneth Crombie. Marion Aitchison worked in the garage up until it closed. The site of course changed forever when it was demolished in 1979, to pave the way for Blantyre’s development and the subsequent building of Clydeview Shopping Centre and Asda.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
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