Four Men and a Culvert

1890s 4 men on culvert

I like mysteries and this was a good one to solve. When this picture was shared with me, it was just titled “4 men at a culvert“. However, it is definitely Blantyre related and I recognised the location.

This is the Flag Bridge up at Letterick, just beyond Stoneymeadow. The barrelled culvert collapsed or broke since the old photo was taken and today, one side has a flat flagstone, the other has a modern pipe, backfilled with stone and rubble. The wee bridge even today looks very difference from each side. It’s on the 1859 map and is photographed in modern times by myself in 2014 and Alex Rochead in 2015. Beyond the fenceline at the back, leads down to the Spywood and fields behind the homes at Loanend.

Ok, location identified, but what about the people?

Well, remarkably I recognise 3 out of the 4 men and can put names to these unidentified figures! This is where I’ve relied upon knowledge of other old photos and where writing about the lives of others in Blantyre has paid off. On the right is Mr Thomas Scott, the farmer of Back Priestfield, High Blantyre. A rather distinctive looking man, always clean shaven he would eventually be the neighbour of David Ritchie, the photographer who moved across the road from him. The next person in the middle, towering over the rest is Mr. Matthew Campbell. I’ve identified him knowing he was a very tall man and from his reluctance to shave off a very defining grey beard even in post Victorian times. Matthew was the nurseryman at the corner of Auchinraith Road and Main Street, tending to his plants, flowers and vegetables in former large glass houses, where the derelict nursing home now stands. On the far left is Mr Braidwood, a builder of High Blantyre, though I’m unable to say who the person is second from the left though he bears a resemblance to David Ritchie. I’d say this photo is between 1895 and 1900.

What did these men have in common? Well, it was curling. They were team players, using a field at Greenhall, which they flooded using a hand made sluice from the Cocksburn. Indeed, they’re standing over that very burn, not too far upstream from the curling field, which often froze over in winter. This looks like a summer outing and together with David Ritchie, who took the photo, the men were most likely friends and certainly teammates posing for a friend’s photo.

If YOU know the man second on the left, please do get in touch. (Like the other, I strongly suspect he was a businessman of High Blantyre and a curler, a theme uniting these men.)

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