Breaking Ground for Railway, 1858

The ceremony of breaking ground on the under section of the Strathaven Railway took place on Tuesday 4th May 1858 at the the farm of Broompark, Blantyre, the property of John Gardiner, Esq.

Under the direction of the engineer acting on the line, a number of the adjacent proprietors and landowners whom the novelty of the occurrence had attracted were also present.

The occasion was to mark the commencement of construction of the Blantyre sections of the Strathaven railway which would connect Low to High Blantyre with the formation of a new station and good connections. Blantyre at the area of Broompark was then just fields, with one or two homes and substantial earthworks would be required to elevate the railway with ground rising gently between Low and High Blantyre.

On that day, 160 years ago, the first barrow of soil put into operation on the line was ceremoniously filled by Alexander Gardiner, Esq. of Priestfield. Alexander was an eighty two year old, ‘stalwart navvy’ and when he had filled the barrow, it was then manfully wheeled away to its destination by his kinsman (father of the owner of Broompark) being nearly an Octogenarian also. The efforts and courage of the two old gentlemen was applauded by all the spectators.

To good health

Mr William Johnstone, baker of High Blantyre proposed a toast to the health of the two elderly men, the oldest navvies in Blantyre and to work on this new line, and suggested they should both go and get ‘enthusiastically drunk’ after the opening event.

Amongst other toasts, recorded, the health and success of the spirited contractors (Messrs. McDonald & Grieve) was given, and Mr McDonald responded in a very friendly, humorous way. He hoped that during the progress of the work, the greatest good feeling would exist between the contractors and the surrounding population and he assured all that he would promote peace and goodwill during the process.

He was aware that navvies, generally speaking, were not in very high repute. They were not, certainly, the most refined class of her majesty’s subjects, but indomitable vigour and perseverance were necessary elements in this undertaking.

The Contractor told people to perhaps put up with or “turn a blind eye to” a little rollocking behaviour as the navvies ended their shifts each evening, as long as there were no offensive intentions! It was perhaps an indication that Mr McDonald knew his workers well already and that he was setting the scene for what he knew would happen!

In conclusion, he toasted the “Prosperity of Blantyre and its inhabitants.” The meeting dissolved amidst expressions of friendship and good humour.

Where did this take place?

Looking at the former position of Broompark Farm and the position the railway was built on next to it, we can confidently state this ceremony took place around this area pictured at Broompark Road, (opposite side of John Ogilvie Chapel).

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