William (Willie) McConnell

Sue Hainsworth writes, “Hello Paul, I am looking for any information there may be about my gt grandfather William McConnell. He was killed while on his way home from a pensioners Christmas meal in 1964. This was on Bardykes Road, not far from his home in Park Crescent. He had lived in Blantyre most of his life. His pals were apparently Tarzan and Jake!! I would love to know if anyone remembers him, and better still has a photo.
Many thanks”

I was able to reply with:

William (Willie) McConnell was born on 12th May 1881 in Galston, Ayrshire. When he was born, his father, John McConnell, was 37 and his mother, Elizabeth Hurst, was 32.

Willie had moved to Blantyre by the First World War after marrying Elispeth Bowie in Ayrshire. Together they had one son, John in 1900. He also lived and worked in England for a spell prior to WW1 whilst on service duty. Sadly, his wife Elispeth passed away on 29 September 1918 in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, at the young age of 30.

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Willie quickly remarried again, this time to Elizabeth Weir, a domestic servant 16 years his junior. She was a neighbour at Merry’s Rows, where he stayed. Willie was a miner for Merry & Cunningham at the Auchinraith Pit nearby and would have lost him employment and house when the pit closed in 1931.

However, things looked up in Autumn 1931, as new homes to improve Blantyre had just been built that year and the previous, at High Blantyre. William moved to 9 Park Crescent in 1931 and lived there the rest of his life. These were spacious, large homes with inside toilets and washing facilities. They offered a living room as well as bedroom and were a vast improvement from the tired old Merry’s Rows. It would have been an exciting move and huge improvement in quality of life. Williams home was rented at £15 per year, one of the larger houses. Within a year or two, vast improvements to the adjacent fields were being made when the large High Blantyre Public Park was constructed next to Park Crescent. Re-employment as a miner in that location, meant that  William likely worked at Dixons’ High Blantyre Pit, not far off. After WW2, Willie like other miners at Dixon’s would have celebrated the Nationalising of the Coal Industry, celebrated in ceremony at Dixons Pits in 1947.

1947-men-at-dixons

Older miners raising the flag at Dixons Pit in 1947

If retiring at state pensionable age, it seems Willie would have retired before the closure of the pits in the 1950s.

On the evening of Christmas Day 1964, 84 year old Willie McConnell was coming back from a Christmas Day dinner and was knocked down by a van on Bardykes Road, Blantyre. He sadly passed away from his injuries. His daughter Jean placed a memorial notice in the local newspaper and it mentions also that he was remembered by ‘Tarzan and Jake’. He had being living latterly in life in Park Crescent, High Blantyre.

Now this is a long shot, but it would be great if somebody had a photo of Willie to accompany this story, or indeed to give to his family. They don’t have any photos of him, despite the relatively modern era. Also, who was “Tarzan or Jake”, perhaps elderly friends in the 1960s? If you know anything else that can be added to this story, please let me know.

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

Daveed McAleenovich Great work paul 🍻
Christine Forrest i just paid £75 to ancestry should have gone to you!
Blantyre Project Im happy to investigate any Blantyre connection for ANYBODY in the world, for free. It may take a while to get to it, but nobody needs to fork out.

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