Mathias Skuczus Askivasaus was born on 1 March 1878 in Aribalis, Lithuania, the son of Rozie Dabarzinckute and Adam Askivasaus. Between 1868 and 1914, approximately 635,000 people, almost 20 percent of the population, left Lithuania seeking work in Europe and the United States.
We know that Mathias was working as a miner taking up residence by 1901 at William Baird’s terraced miners homes at 68 Craighead (Bairds) Rows, Blantyre. The following year in 1902 Mathias had moved home, but within the same housing estate to 15 Bairds Rows. A move perhaps calculated or with purpose, for later in that year he was to wed a woman four years younger than him who lived 3 doors along at 18 Bairds Rows. Though the houses were small, a housing report of the time describes no overcrowding and a large population of “Polish” miners, perhaps a generalisation of Eastern European immigrants in general.
At the age of 23, Mathias married Eva Josephine Prakapas Prosko on 27th September 1902 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. The beautiful brand new, large Roman Catholic Church was still being built in Blantyre that year and it would appear the couple were not willing to wait for its completion, but instead to marry in the neighbouring town, nearby at St Cuthbert’s, Burnbank.
Their marriage certificate is telling, in that they may have not been able to read or write, something perhaps not remarkable considering English was not their first language. Both bride and groom left “x” as their mark on the marriage certificate with a neighbour Lewis Waitys witnessing for them both.
They moved from Baird’s Rows after their marriage. It was common for bigotry against immigrants in those times and many Lithuanians, Polish or Germans changed their names towards easier to pronounce English names. Mathias may have done this with his first name, perhaps calling himself Matthew. There’s certainly evidence he did this for his second name. Following his marriage, he adopted his middle name of Skuczus and his surname became Skutt. There is good evidence of this and doing so was not uncommon. Indeed, it may have helped job prospects and integration into a hard, mining community.
The couple settled at Allison Place, a double storey stone former tenement, not far from Bairds Rows. It was closer to their church but their time there was short lived and filled with tragedy.
On 17th August 1903, baby Juozapas Askivasaus Skutt came along and Eva became pregnant again almost right away. A growing family meant another move. This time to James Place, a miners tenement on Auchinraith Road. Work was likely at the nearby Auchinraith Colliery or William Baird’s colliery.
However, when Eva was 8 months pregnant, baby Juozapas died aged only 1 year and 1 month. Eva gave birth a month later on 24th October 1904 to second son Matthew Antone Skutt, who would live until 1991.
The growing family moved again, this time to 21 Oilwork Row and one has to ask on a mystery why they moved so frequently in such a short time. A third son Charles arrived in 1906 and sadly he would only live a few weeks. It is clear things were difficult for this family and losing 2 babies in a short time would have affected them deeply. Blantyre would have been surrounded by sad memories for them, despite only living there less than half a decade.
During this era, back in Lithuania, all was not well. The tsarist regime of Russia though had made a number of concessions as the result of the 1905 uprising. The Baltic states once again were permitted to use their native languages in schooling and public discourse, and Catholic churches were built in Lithuania but it was clear the Russian regime was there to stay. There would have been a strong feeling of living under persecution and working in Europe or USA would have seemed a logical choice, for freedom and living standards.
The couple pressed on with their new life and growing family, far from parents and family. However, enough was enough in Scotland. In 1906, they took passage on a ship to Quebec, Canada, before travelling to the USA , settling in Illinois.
They had 13 children in 22 years. Mathias outlived his wife Eva. He died on 15 March 1957 in Granville, Illinois, USA, at the age of 79. I found no record of them ever returning to Scotland.
Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:
Moira Macfarlane I love these stories, you learn more of Blantyres history!!!!¡
Mary Kane What a great story. What an adventurous life they had despite personal tragedy. Strong people for sure. Their story even overlapped with my family history during their time in Auchinraith Road. Just amazing.
Mary Mcguire Great bit of history . Sad for the family to lose their babies.
Helen Lawson Taylor Great learning all about Blantyre before and after we are born .
Catherine Whitefield So sad for them losing the babies . But an amazing story
Mari Pollock Thompson What an interesting story. Sad too. We are so blessed to be able to live our life without the fear they must known and felt. I think we take our freedom for granted
va Brown Great reading their story. My grandparents on my mother’s side were also Lithuanian. Their name was Budris but I never knew them. I was born in Bairds Rows
Sharon Morrison Doonin Big Lithuanian community settled in Bellshill. Sancta Familia JP Mallon
Donna Mae Brown Skutt I’m married to the grandson of the people featured in this article. We’re so grateful to Paul Veverkafor all the information he’s provided and our upcoming tour!
They were indeed hardy people. Eva bore a total of 13 children, one of whom, Edward, died in WW II. Their son William was my father-in-law. We live about two miles from where they lived in Granville, Illinois, USA.
Valerie Krawczyk Another insight to the people of Blantyre, fascinating.
Margaret Duncan I love all the history – my father Peter Brogan was born and brought up in Bairds Rows and he always maintained that his childhood was very happy although his father died when he was about 12 with lung disease from the pits
Kathleen McShane My Mother Margaret Brown (Brogan) was brought up in Bairds Row by by her parents Johnny and Kate Brogan. Great to see a photo of the Rows.
Joy McLennan So sad..Roman Catholics…poor wee woman suffered greatly. GREAT strength to emigrate to N. America…
Christine Forrest Great part of Blantyre history when Billy McNeil died recently I was surprised to read his family on his mothers side was Lithuanian he played for Blantyre Victoria his first football team was he from Lanarkshire
Laurie Shevokas Loger This is my family!! Thank you!!