Blantyre Project reader Ursula sent me a message saying, “My nan was Helen McCutchon born at, I believe at 6 Netherfield Place in 1915- d.o.b 31.12.15. It was quite a large family. I think her dad was called Hugh. I managed to look at some of her brothers and sisters history, but really when I hit Blantyre I can’t go back. I’d love to know where they came from, had they always lived in that part of Scotland? What was it like to live there in the early 1900’s?
Nana left when she was 13 or 14 walking down to London…took her years and years, stopping and working and even got married for a very short period on the journey. Hope you can help An Interested granddaughter. Ursula”
I was able to reply with: Hi Ursula. Sorry this has taken so long to look at. I have Hughs’ WW1 Service record which shows Helen was one of his children and certainly the family in 1916 lived at Netherfield Place.
Helen McCutcheon was born on Hogmanay, 31st December 1915 to parents Hugh McCutcheon and Jessie McCulloch. She was indeed born at 6 Netherfield Place. Her mother, Jessie was born in 1885 in nearby Hamilton though moved to Blantyre as a young child, at time when Blantyre was rapidly expanding. Helen’s parents had married in July 1903 in Hamilton and had several children by the time she was born during WW1. Helen’s grandparents on Jessie’s side were from Ayrshire and Rutherglen, so this is a family with Scottish roots.
On her father Hugh’s side, going back following the McCutcheon line, for several generations we see ancestors living in Whithorn, Wigtonshire, the Borders connection that may have influenced her young life. Her ancestry is mapped out as attached.
Being a wartime baby, she would have few recollections of the difficult times many people went through. Times were difficult and her father’s income as a coal miner would have brought in little money to support such a large family. There would have been little by way of any luxuries.
Netherfield Place was a former tenement early 20th Century building on Calder Street which stood opposite from the Health Centre where now the Little Tearoom is. It was nicknamed “McAlpines in the park”, not to be confused with McAlpines Building on Glasgow Road and housed many families, in small rooms. In 1915, it would have been located directly opposite a brand new police station , centrally located with good access to shops, trams and the nearby school.
Whilst primarily accommodation for miners, it certainly had a good vantage point looking out over farm fields southwards towards High Blantyre, perhaps lined by hedges. Some of pits started to close or reduce capacity in the 1920s and into the 1930s, creating more stress on working families. This is around the time she left Blantyre.
How incredible that she walked to London, an adventure for any teenager. The 1920’s were difficult for many people and no different in Blantyre. Unemployment was rife and the condition of many homes were appalling prompting authorities to embark on a programme of slum clearance and better homes, many of which still stand today in Blantyre’s ‘Crescents’. I don’t know the reason Helen chose to leave Blantyre so young in life and can’t speculate on that. Perhaps the family know more?
It’s my understanding Helen married twice in her life to Andrew Brennan and later to Sidney Newman, presumably one of whom you are very directly related to? As you will be aware, Helen passed away in 1991 aged 75 in England. I’d love to add her photo to this article.