The Ludger: William Paton (Auld Wullie)

Archie Simm has kindly written and shared this article about William Paton (affectionately known as Auld Wullie). A nice piece of recorded history and remembering a man who led an interesting life.

“When the surge of coal mines proliferated in the late 1800’s in Blantyre and surrounding areas, the influx of miners and their families were accommodated in row houses provided for rent by the coal mine owners. Getting a job in the mines was more than just a job, it also provided a roof over the family’s head. As long as you were employed by the specific coal mine, you and your family had a level of security beyond the weekly wage.

There were drawbacks though. If a miner was incapacitated for life or worse, the family was at great risk of losing their home.

Another serious issue was that of the single person. If you were not married, you were not entitled to mine owners housing, those being reserved for married miners and their families. It was therefore, common to have a boarder or “ludger”.

My mothers’ adopted mother, Cecelia Lindsay (nee Anderson) and her husband William lived in Merry’s Rows, William being employed at the coal mine. They had several children, too many of whom died as infants. The rate of infant mortality in those days was so sad.

For unknown reasons and at different times, Cecelia and William adopted and raised three children including my Mother, Mary Lindsay Laird.

During their time at Merry’s Rows, a young single man was known to them; a certain Mr. William Paton. He was welcomed to the family home as a lodger whilst awaiting his upcoming marriage to a fair local lass. It was a common occurrence and when couples got married they then applied for family housing to the mine owners representatives.

William Paton was devastated when his betrothed lady died. His plans for the future spent. William must have been deeply in love because he never looked for another girl or woman and remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.

He lodged with Cecelia and William until they eventually passed away.

By this time my mother was married and residing at 66 Forrest Street. She and her husband Peter Johnstone readily accepted William as their lodger where he witnessed another round of small children being raised. He was respected as a family member, so much so that one of my brothers’ was named after him. William Paton Johnstone.

Another tragedy occurred when Peter Johnstone died in India in 1942, a rifleman in The Cameronians. Mary was now a widow with 4 children. Willian helped in both a fatherly role and certainly in a financial role.

Mary remarried in 1944 to widower and father of 6, Andrew Simm of Baird’s rows. The large family resided at Forrest Street along with William and a further 3 children were produced. I could not imagine such cramped living even though some of the elder Simms had left for marriage and to raise families of their own. I was born there in June of 1947.

In Spring of 1948 the family moved to the new and by miners rows standards, huge 3 bedroom house at 4 Beech Place, downstairs on the left side. One bedroom occupied by my parents, one for all the males, including William of course and one for all the females. 

William continued as our family lodger and as a child I assumed “Auld Wullie” was family.

He was a great old fellow and very kind to us children. I remember on Fridays he stood and handed out “bolt thrupnies” to us and we rushed to Russell’s shop to buy sweeties.

For wee jobs, Wullie encouraged us by paying a few pennies for our cooperation and work.

My memories are all about a great fondness for this quiet and gentle man. In his later years he got around with the aid of a wooden walking stick. I can still see him in an easy chair in front of a roaring coal fire listening to the radio or reading a paper and puffing on his pipe. He was a non controversial person with ears for everyone.

One summer, Mother did not join us for a week holiday at Butlin’s in Ayr, staying home with a very sick William. After just 2 days, Dad was called for and he left us to go home. Auld Wullie had passed away at our home, aged 80. I don’t recall which day it was but Mother came to Butlin’s to take care of us and ensure that us children got our holiday.

This humble, generous and thoughtful old man has never left my thoughts.

He must have lodged with my family for around 60 years and must have been loved by the family. He is interred in a Lindsay family lair in High Blantyre Cemetery. It is a tribute that his final resting place is with the families who loved him.”

Below is a picture circa 1951 (L to R) of Auld Wullie, sister Alice, Mother Mary Simm, Sister Celia Johnstone and Dad Andrew Simm.

1951 Simm

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

John Cornfield Great story of times I can only imagine and also of tales my dad told me
Nancy Sinkinson Well done Archie great story
Lynn Anderson What a brilliant story
Terry McMahon They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these words have painted an entire history! Lovely, very poignant reading.
Joy McLennan OK…I cried at this one….Old gents like this were rare, but, I had one who was born here, Bill Watson. Emigrated to CANADA, at the turn of the last century….
Jessie Caldow A beautifully written article, and very moving
Marian Maguire What a lovely story and family.
Betty McLean Thank you Archie your family story brings back precious memories. Your mother and my mother were great friends.
Linda Zakko Lovely
David H Gibson Great article. By any chance did you work in the Belmos?


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