Tragedy at High Blantyre, 1860

Construction of the Railway through Blantyre didn’t get off to a great start, despite the optimism spoken at the start of construction work in 1859. Not only did a gaffer get mown down by a train within the first few months, but just as tragic, another gaffer lost two of his children!

During the evening of 30th December 1859 going into Hogmanay at High Blantyre lived John Robertson, gaffer on the Hamilton and Strathaven Railway. Robertson’s wife wakened about four o’clock in the morning, in a very exhausted state, and found her infant child, aged nine months, lying dead in her arms.

She immediately woke her husband, who also felt in a weakly condition, but had strength enough to get up out of bed. They then discovered that their next eldest child, a boy named Allan, aged about three years, was also dead, and the third, a girl nine years old, seemingly approaching “dissolution”. The father removed the latter girl into an adjoining house and she fortunately in a short time recovered.

The wife Ann Robertson (nee Martin) was likewise taken into another house, and progressed favourably. The father, mother, and eldest daughter were much troubled with vomiting, after being rescued from imminent death.

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Families living in 1 bedroom houses was commonplace

Medical aid was soon obtained. The deaths of the two youngest children were caused by suffocation. It appears the family were all well enough the previous night at supper, and felt fine before going to bed. Due to their small, damp home, just one room with little heat, they all slept in one bed – five human beings huddled together that winters evening, in a small, dingy, smoky, dwelling, consisting of just one apartment! Fumes from the fire were the root problem, the room being without windows and without sufficient ventilation.

Digging a little deeper into this story, I found that the baby was little Rachel Robertson, not even one and the little boy who died was Allan Robertson, aged 3. I retrieved their death certificates which showed this tragedy happened at Kirkton, High Blantyre. The father signing the certificates the following day on Hogmanay.

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From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said

Mary Higgins Horrific 💔

Mary McGaulley So very very sad

Janet Hamilton Heartbreaking .x

May Mains Very sad .

Irene Crawford Terrible…we don’t realise how bad the living conditions were in those days ! 😢

Frances KellyCsn I have always wanted to look into our Kelly family in Blantyre Irene Crawford

Irene Crawford Frances KellyCsn yes I can imagine it would be very interesting x

Frances KellyCsn Indeed. I often wonder about our great granny Ellen Kelly she was killed on the Blantyre main Street by coal lorry. I am sure there would be info in thst accident. Did you know about her?

Irene Crawford Frances KellyCsn no that’s the first I’ve heard about her ? sad 😔

Frances KellyCsn Irene Crawford yes it’s an interesting story she ran into the road to save a grandchild who is a cousin of your mum and my dad. The child was unharmed she was killed. Hopefully I will get some time at home so we can meet. My plans always change but hope August sometime. X

Irene Crawford Frances KellyCsn aww what a brave lady ! Yes would love to meet you and hear all these stories xxx

Frances KellyCsn Irene Crawford yes lots to tell you especially about her, she was a convert, was married and had one child her husband died and she met our great grandfather it’s a good story. My dad tells me all this . 😊

Frances KellyCsn Irene Crawford the child she saved was a twin too. X

Irene Crawford Frances KellyCsn fantastic looking forward seeing you xxx

Irene Crawford Wow Amazing x

Irene Crawford Good night Frances xxx

Blantyre Project Ladies – you do know i offer a free service to research things like this. If you log your request here and as long as there’s a Blantyre connection, I’ll get to it and tell the story with as much research as i can find. Paul.Manage
Irene Crawford Blantyre Project many thanks Paul I didn’t know this ! Sister Frances KellyCsn I’ll leave this to you to log if you don’t mind as you know more about the names dates, etc

Frances KellyCsn I will contact Paul and see what information he can get. It would be interesting to know. X

Irene Crawford Frances KellyCsn thanks it would be wonderful to hear Happy Sunday xxx

Donna Hamilton How sad fro that poor family awful living conditions.

Nan Burrows Very sad story

Elizabeth Weaver What a tragedy for that family.

Colette Barrett Such a sad and tragic story.

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