The tale was first offered to the late Blantyre historian Neil Gordon in 1979 by visiting Americans, something thought to have been a myth. However, a few years ago, I was able to find evidence of the story being reality but is retold below. Please be aware, I have corrected dates and provided facts adding “meat to the bones” of myth, exclusively related to the event.
At Barnhill on the western side of Blantyre on Bardykes Road stands a cottage known as Brownlie cottage, named after a family who lived there for many generations. It is today known as Bardykes Cottage, the oldest house in Blantyre.
One day in 1813, the same year explorer David Livingstone was born, Mr Brownlie was leaving his cottage and shocked and surprised to find an abandoned new-born baby girl in a basket, which was sitting on his doorstep in the lane that now leads on to Glenfruin Road.
A small note was pinned on the baby shawl, asking the Brownlie family to take the child in and raise her as their own and requesting specifically that the baby be called Mary.
Now, just a week before this, Mrs Brownlie had given birth to a baby girl of their own, whom, by co-incidence and in fashion with the day, they had already named Mary. Still, the kind soul she was and unable to trace the baby’s parents, she took the newly found baby in and raised the child as her own alongside her own child. Mrs Brownlie was keen to grant the request regarding the child’s Christian name but she could not possibly consider raising two children with the same name, “Mary Brownlie.” So, she gave the baby another surname and had her christened as Mary ‘Blantyre.’
Little Mary Blantyre would grow up at Barnhill until she fell in love and married a local merchant by the name of Robert Gray, an incomer to Blantyre. The couple settled on Glasgow Road and had several children. Robert and Mary Gray (Blantyre) settled down in Stonefield in the mid 19thCentury and it is known they were living at Coats Buildings in 1865, with their grown up family. However, by the 1871 census, they were living in their own building, “Grays Building” (more known now as the YMCA tenement). It was constructed in 1868 and 1869 and opened in Autumn of that year, a license provided in October for Robert’s new grocers shop. This makes it, with exception of the Stonefield Tavern, the oldest existing building on all the south of Glasgow Road between Springwells and Stonefield.
Mary would outlive her husband and died on 21st October 1901, aged 88.