Lindsay at Priory Plantation

Bernice Cox messaged, “My great grandfather, Matthew LINDSAY (married to Catherine CORNFIELD), was fishing or poaching probably, salmon from the River Clyde on 27th May 1878.  

He was spotted by the gamekeeper who set off across the river in a boat and Matthew took off running. He collapsed and died at the scene and it was reported that he had died of a stroke.  He was only 23 and left two young sons and an unborn daughter. My older relatives always believed he was shot as his widow apparently received a substantial sum of money.  I was wondering if anyone knows where I could find more information.”

I was able to reply with:
The 27th May 1878 was a Monday. Matthew Lindsay was a miner, employed by Dixon’s Collieries and lived at 33 Hall Street, Dixon’s Rows, Stonefield in Blantyre. Those rows were still relatively new and it was only 7 months or so since the Blantyre Disaster had happened.

Matthew was actually with a friend named McVey and the two of them were fishing in the River Clyde, directly opposite Bothwell Castle, near the Blantyre Priory. The gamekeeper on the Bothwell side, did indeed spot them and started rowing across the Clyde to their position.

The men weren’t up for being caught illegally fishing, so they ran off through the Priory Plantation and it was in those woods, where Matthew Lindsay suddenly dropped. McVey, realising the seriousness of the situation, went back to fetch assistance from the pursuing gamekeeper. Dr Downie was fetched from Blantyre but Matthew had died by the time he arrived.

Catherine, his widow could not write and signed the death certificate with a “cross” as her mark. I have retrieved the death certificate which states apoplexy referring to sudden death. This would have began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. It is an early term for what we now know as “stroke”.

I could not find any evidence of Matthew being shot, either in documentation or in any newspaper report. The information above is gleamed from the Dundee Courier newspaper which also suggested he died suddenly with no suspicious circumstances.

As for the widow Catherine receiving a sum of money? It may have been from insurance. The severity of the Blantyre disaster killing over 200 men and boys would have been recent in the minds of this family and may have prompted life assurance to be taken out. Alternatively, and perhaps more likely the community may have rallied to raise money for her, for a widow with 3 children would NOT have been permitted to stay in the tied miners homes and the family would have lost their home.

Pictured by Jim Brown 2013 is the River Clyde at the likely spot where the men had been fishing.

Partly from “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2019

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

Betty McLean A sad story but was interested that you suggest the community may have helped. I remember if a neighbour died a collection would be taken to perhaps to buy a wreath.
John Cornfield Such hard times to be an ordinary person!
Back then. Heartbreaking story of a ancestor of my family
Robert Crothers Great to read these storys.john.pity about the guy..only 23..
Elizabeth Weaver I suppose it’s too much to hope that the gamekeeper’s employers (local landowners, presumably) had an attack of conscience for their part in this poor man’s death and maybe made a financial gift to the young widow and her children? Life was so hard for the ordinary family back then.

Leave a Reply