John Black & Theresa O Hara

Some research I did earlier this month for Janet Dunsmuir.

John Anderson Black,the son of John Black (a ploughman) and Flora Anderson was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire Scotland in 1866.  Flora had been married before with maiden surname Reid. By the early 1890’s John had come to Glasgow to seek employment, which he found in the Gorbals District of the City, as a coal miner.

John met Glasgow woman, Theresa O ‘Harawho was seven years younger and they were both living at the same address at 90 Nelson Street, Tradeston, Glasgow in 1899. Living together in Scotland was fairly unusual prior to marriage in those times. But they had good reason to, as a daughter Annie Black was born in 1895, four years earlier and another daughter Flora born in 1898.

1899 JOhn Black & Theresa O Hara

Theresa O’ Hara was the daughter of David O Hara, a stonemason and Elizabeth North. At the time of the marriage on 25thOctober 1899, both sets of parents had passed away and the couple were already parents to two daughters. It was a Church of Scotland Wedding. John had to place an “x” has his mark on the certificate, a good indicator that he could not write. At the time, Theresa had been working as a domestic servant.

1901 Census

The lived at that Glasgow address for 2 years before deciding in 1900 to move to Lanarkshire. With a third daughter Elizabeth born that year, the move may have been prompted by further employment opportunities, the need to move to a larger family home or simply as John and Theresa no longer had parents in the area to be tied to. The family chose Fleming’s Land in the small mining village of Bothwell to settle down.

John was a coalminer and their home suggests proximity to Bothwell Collieries owned by William Baird.

However, John’s employer assigned him to another pit and he went to work at the Blantyreferme Colliery. He moved to Calderbank Terrace, a small row of former terraced mining homes, affectionately known as “Fin Me Oot” (Find me Out), a place generally thought of difficult to find! This was a remote community but very nearby to the colliery. It is certain the family moved there between 1901 and 1905, a first move for any of them to Blantyre Parish.

By 1905 John, Theresa and three children were at Calderbank but another move was on the cards.

William Baird Coalmasters acquired many of the homes in the nearby old village part of Blantyre. After 1903 when the Blantyre mills were demolished, a lot of the old homes remained, a great deal of them condemned. He likely got them at a good price given their state. With the millworkers gone, William Baird used these homes as tied homes for his colliery workers, renting them out to his workforce. John Black and family sometime around 1911 moved to Shuttle Row, the tenement built in 1785, which in 1813 saw the birth of famous explorer, David Livingstone. The family lived in an adjacent room to Livingstone’s actual birthroom.

However, this was not a great place to live in 1910’s. Shuttle Row had been condemned, damp and squalid and proposals had been made for demolition (something that didn’t happen when the building was saved in the 1920s)

Other children were born including Daniel Black, a son.

Annie Black married David Dunsmuir on 31stOctober 1914 not long after the outbreak of war.  Indeed her marriage may have been planned before war was triggered! David was a coalminer but was also a private, a soldier in the Royal Field Artillery. They married at 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow. Annie was 19 when she married.

1914 Pic Annie Black & David Dunsmuir

Following Annie’s marriage, by 1915 John Black, now 49 years old, had moved to 18 Main Street in High Blantyre renting the house from the Craig family for five pounds, 10 shillings per year. The proximity of Dixon’s Pits suggests he had  changed employer and home to be near to a new workplace. The black family had lived at Shuttle Row no more than 4 years and contrary to family notes, none of the woman had ever lived in Blantyre at the time Livingstone was alive.

Between 1920 and 1925, John Black moved to Mintos Buildings on Glasgow Road. Then again shortly after to 97 Station Road, where lived for the rest of his life. He outlived his wife Theresa O Hara.

John Black died on 23rdJune 1943, during WW2. He was 79. His son, Daniel Black was present. Theresa Black, aged 66, burial date 4/4/1938. They are buried in Lair L445 in High Blantyre Cemetery. There is no headstone, (but the lair is next to a stone named ‘Cornfield’.

1943 John Black death cert

Elizabeth Black, who married James McLean died in 1963 at 3 Springwell Crescent, Blantyre, aged 64.

John Black and his wife Theresa are pictured. Also John, in younger years. The military uniform photo is David Dunsmuir and Annie Black.

In late September 2019, Janet Dunsmuir and four of her family members visited me at Croftfoot. Visiting from America and even although they had just stepped off the plane, I took them around Blantyre on a guided tour that lovely sunny day. It was a real pleasure to meet them and one of the most interesting little tours I’ve done. I know they were most appreciative exploring the places their ancestors had tread and lived.



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