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