As you’ll probably be aware, I like to provide good detail on the old, old history of Blantyre. 19th Century stories about people, buildings and places, now long forgotten.
In my recent Glasgow Road book, I exclusively explored the older history of the Stonefield Tavern, before it became a pub in the 1880’s. Formerly a changing house, a place to change over the horses and have a rest, right across the road was Blantyre Toll, at the corner of what would become Station Road.
So, I was excited to uncover the name of the changing house in the 1820’s, forming another piece of the puzzle that is the Stonefield Tavern (Teddies) building. A story from 1824, early 200 years ago, near the very birth of Stonefield itself.
On 6th December 1824, John McDonald a Blantyre cotton spinner ran amock in that rural area, which was surrounded at the time entirely by open fields. The former name of the Tavern was “Binning’s Changing House” and on that day, a party of several young men and women were enjoying themselves inside the building. They were to be accompanied by a man named McKenzie who was walking with his sweetheart and approaching the changing house at Glasgow Road. However, they didn’t get there.
About 20 yards from the changing house, a group of Irishmen appeared, one of whom was John McDonald. On seeing McKenzie and his sweetheart, they hurled abuse and set about McKenzie, punching his face, as he fell to the ground. John McDonald, set about McKenzie with a stob, for no apparent reason, drawing blood, as the stricken man’s girl shouted “murder” and for help.
The whole party came out of Binning’s Changing House and tried to help, but set about by the Irish Mob, they were forced back in again to retreat. The Irish party tried to follow inside, but the landlord had locked the door. A rammy ensued as the attackers demanded to be let in. When refused, they set about breaking the windows of the house, demolished the door and window shutters, causing considerable alarm to those inside.
It was later established that John McDonald has started the riot. McKenzie’s head wounds were so severe, it was difficult to assess if he was to make it. A month in bed followed although he lived to tell the tale.
McDonald found himself in court in May 1825 where the judge took a firm stance, commenting, “You may have been connected with such affrays in the country of your birth, but it won’t be tolerated in Scotland. Suitable punishment must follow that prevents you doing this again.”
John McDonald spent the next SEVEN years in jail on hard labour.
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