McCall, the Blantyre Diver

There’s a little known man from Blantyre’s history that deserves some attention drawn to him.

William McCall (or McColl) was a Blantyre man who made many heroic river rescues and managed to save the lives of many people. His heroic efforts can be traced back as far as 1889 and were the admiration of the Blantyre Public right into the 1920’s.

William was a voluntary rescue worker and diver, also involved in search and rescue and the retrieval of submerged bodies from difficult places in the river. Not a pleasant job. However, it’s his remarkable feats of saving lives that should be best remembered!

On Christmas Night, 1918 in Bothwell Mission Hall, William was presented with £100 in notes, which had been collected by miners working at Hamilton Palace Colliery, Bothwell Castle, Priory, Viewpark, Haughhead, and Blantyre Ferme Collieries. The cash gift recognised a long record of voluntary public service.

Conducted by Mr John Fraser, of Blantyre, representatives of all the subscribing collieries were present. In handing over the sum, Mr Fraser paid eloquent tribute to William’s magnificent record. He had given at least twenty-four drowning accidents since 1889 at the River Clyde locations between Blantyre and Uddingston, without giving consideration to the effects of his diving and rescue attempts upon his own health.

A brave man indeed, and William is remembered in public here at Blantyre Project today. Picture for illustration only.

[Source: NE Lanark Gazette Friday 3 January 1919]

From the book, “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:

Elizabeth Knowles Gosh, learn something every day. MrJohn Fraser, could this be my grandfather? The timing I right, the place right. He later was labour councillor for Blantyre in late 1940’s early 1950’s.
Blantyre Project John J. Fraser residing at Jackson Street, Blantyre was appointed on Saturday, 15th December 1934 as Labour candidate for East Lothian and Berwickshire. A Blantyre man, he was left an orphan before the age 10, and started work in Greenfield Colliery, Burnbank when he reached the age of 10 and a half! At an early age he joined the Salvation Army, and was an S.A. officer for three years. As a Salvation Army officer he was stationed at Earlston.

He joined the emerging labour party about 1905, and he devoted a very large proportion of his spare time to voluntary organising and propaganda work all over Scotland. For over three years he was a full-time political agent in the Barkston Ash Division of Yorkshire. In the summer 1927, he was appointed by the London Co-operative Society to be their first political representative. Leaving Barkston Ash Division, he was appointed an organiser for the Labour Part in Yorkshire, Northumberland. Cumberland, and Durham. He severed his connection with the I.L.P. because he wholeheartedly disagreed with party policy, and the association of the I.L.P with the Communist Party. For many years Mr Fraser was active trade unionist in Blantyre and district, and suffered victimisation. In one period, the Scottish Coal masters passed resolution to the effect that was not to be employed. Visiting America twice, he worked there as a coal miner. Life-long abstainer and pacifist, for many years he was active in the Rechabite Society, and held all the leading positions in the local Tent. He was a member of the Blantyre Society Board of Management for 17 years and became the first Chairperson of the Blantyre Educational Committee. He served on the old Blantyre Parish Council and was also chairman of the Blantyre School Management Committee.
Moira Macfarlane What a wonderful story, and yes you do learn something every day,he certainly was a brave man,,,
Jean McIntosh A very brave man x
Margaret Mary OSullivan Wonderful work and great that he is being remembered!
Nan Burrows Good piece of Blantyre history
Kate C Lorentson I was told growing up my Grandad Jock Connor a Miner also did this. I remember being told there were two or three Men, not sure how many in Blantyre who would be contacted for Search and rescue.Sadie Mcivor Sadie VanceIsobel Mcmillan Ned McMillan John McMillan
Janette Stewart Paul great story, but it was William McCall , this was my great grandfather
Blantyre Project Thanks Janette. Some second names often slightly changed in the late 19th Century or early 20th Century or became interchangeable in spelling. Newspaper reports have him as McColl, and i’ve just checked and he’s McCall in census and documentation. I’ve updated the story. It makes things difficult sometimes when researching having to try different versions of 2nd names. In this case, i think the newspaper reporter of the era, simply got it wrong.

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