Agnes Johnstone Mystery

Stephen Rhodes shared this mesmerising photo, possibly from the 1880s or 1890s.

He told me, “It’s a photo of my Great Great Grandmother Agnes Johnstone. Agnes was born in Clelland in 1846 and married William Ferguson in Blantyre in 1867. They lived in Blantyre and brought up three children: Marion Johnstone, William and Janet. Unfortunately Agnes’s Husband William died in 1876 at the age of only 31. Agnes remarried a Robert Bowes in 1881 and they had two children, Robert and Ann Scott. I like this photo as I can see a hint of my late Father and Brothers facial features in it.”

I had to wonder what Agnes is holding in this photo, that was so precious it needed to be included.

Whilst looking into this woman a little more, I uncovered something rather strange. In 1891, she was she was living at 89 Bairds Rows, Blantyre, married to Robert as Stephen suggested and with their son Robert Junior in the same household. By 1895, they had moved along Glasgow Road to McAlpines Buildings, again not unusual for a miners family.

However, it was the 1901 census that’s bizarre. Then, the family had moved to Bowesfield, suggesting a link to ownership of property, named after them. Not unusual, but here’s the strange part….with them lodging there were 9 other adult men. These men all noted as being “Prisoners’ their home address being “Blantyre Police Station”! Most of them miners, I wondered if this was some sort of halfway house, rehabilitation or perhaps a more lenient place to stay determined by a court, rather than jail?

Bowesfield Cottage was on Auchinraith Road and valuation rolls show Robert Bowes was the owner. So what on earth were 9 prisoners doing in their detached house on the day of the 1901 census?! For once, I am stumped!

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