Revolvers fired at Police, 1920


A riot broke out in High Blantyre Main Street on the night of Friday 23rd July 1920. Some of you may be thinking, “well, nothing new there then!”, but you would be wrong, for this was much more serious than any quarrel. On that evening, almost 100 years ago, angry men took to the streets with revolvers firing them at police officers!

6 men were involved. William Leishman, miner, Main Street; Thomas Johnstone, miner, 10 Douglas St.; Matthew Brown, miner, Craigmuir Road; Albert Turney, miner, Sydes Brae; Matthew M‘Naught, miner, School Lane; and Noble Thomson, miner, Douglas Street, all of High Blantyre took it upon themselves to form a rowdy gang intent on disturbing the peace. Drinking, swearing and causing mayhem along the Main Street, police were soon called for.

Constables of Lanarkshire Constabulary, William Moir and Edward Cunningham arrived but being only 2 people, the drunken crowd of 6 strong, were having none of it! Threats of arrest fell on deaf ears and in return to police officers stern words, stones, bottles and other missiles were thrown at the two unlucky officers.

Suddenly, things took a more dangerous turn. When officers rushed at the 6 men to pick out one or two, the group pulled revolvers on them loaded with ball cartridges. As the two officers tried to protect themselves, they were kicked and their batons wrenched off them.

Retreating for their protection, police moved through the lane off Main Street towards Victoria Street intent on seeking assistance from the station. At that instance, Leishman, certainly the ringleader recklessly discharged his revolver in the direction and to the life danger of Constable Moir. Police assistance was called for and heading back to the scene, all six men were arrested and take to the cells overnight.

In court the very next morning, and sobered up, all 6 men sticking together  denied the charges, and the Fiscal asked for substantial bail, as the fracas had clearly been a most serious one. Bail was put on each man at £5 and sentence was scheduled for 5th August.

Oh, and that day in Hamilton Sheriff Court when the six miners appeared on serious charges of breaches of the peace (and in Leishman’s case, having revolvers), a further man was admonished on a lesser charge. A young miner named William Taylor, residing 7 School Lane, High Blantyre, appeared first on charge of breach the peace. He was represented by Mr George M’Laughlin, solicitor, Hamilton, and admitted the offence. Taylor was not in the company of the six other young men who were concerned in the  later fracas on Main Street although had been observed earlier with them. The Sheriff, in view of the explanation imposed a fine of 20s, with the alternative of five days’ imprisonment.

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

Anthony Smith When we were legally allowed to have handguns.
Jiae Jiae Anthony Smith A lot of guys brought them back from WW1 as souvenirs.
Anthony Smith Jiae Jiae Among other things.But guns weren’t illegal in this country yet.
Linzi Muirhead Leeshy LeishmanBrian Leishman your papa!!
Brian Leishman Linzi Muirhead no relation you never seen me and David causing trouble in the Main Street
Kenny Weir Aye it is
Karen Ballantyne Leishman Just reading this and thought it too…..and the guy noble?? Can’t have been many guys named that….was he a relation too????
Linzi Muirhead Abbie LeishmanTrishaAnn LeishmanMiller Leishman, your great granda !! X
TrishaAnn Leishman Linzi Muirhead 23rd of July aswell 
Jiae Jiae Mr. Taylor must have been a neighbour of my grannie’s, she lived, I think at No 1. School Lane, my mother was born in this street.
Gord Fotheringham I have Sean two pistols in my days in blantyre…..and i know where one is buried…..
Marian Maguire You would get 5 years for that now
Scott Weir Kenny Weir ma mams 2 uncles
Kenny Weir Brilliant. Whit a story. Always mind of Uncle Noble 🔫🔫🔫
Scott Weir Kenny Weir can mind him a wee bit always remember that nose tho
Kenny Weir Scott Weir did he not have half a thumb missing as well ? need to ask mam the morra
Elaine McGuire Veitch Scott Weir was that him that kept his money in his sock
Kenny Weir Elaine McGuire Veitch aye Elaine, the very one

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