William Oliver, Publican b1862-d1911

Born in Edinburgh around 1862, its thought Mr. William Oliver came to Blantyre in Summer 1893 around the age of 31. He had good reason to do so, for he’d fallen for Jessie Fullerton, the daughter of the Cemetery keeper in High Blantyre. The couple married on 10th June 1893 at Stonefield Parish Church then back to Cemetery Lodge.

In 1895, according to the valuation roll, William was renting a small house in Kirkton from landlord, William Johnstone, a wine and spirit merchant. This appears to be where the couple started out their married life. William Oliver’s occupation that year was a ‘sawyer’, a person employed to saw wood and he may have worked at one of the nearby sawmills further west along Main Street. Renting a small house at he corner of School Lane and junction of Main Street, his rent was £6 a year and his neighbours were generally miners.

1894 saw some significant changes take place near the High Blantyre Cross at Kirkton. According to my earlier research, Mr William Johnstone, the landlord had inherited several properties and the public house following the death of his cousin William Downie and with it, Mr Johnstone let his new acquisitions out to new tenants. Amongst the new tenants were William Oliver and his wife Jessie.

By 1905, the valuation roll confirms Mr Oliver as being a wine and spirit merchant, the owner of pub at the Kirkton Vaults (the name of the building where the pub, shops and homes were), and living there beside it too.

In 1911, William was 49 or 50 years old and living at 151 Main Street at a house at the rear with wife Jessie who was a year older. Just the two of them in the household. The census shows during 17 years of marriage, they had two children, though none were still alive by 1911. As such, the couple had no family.

The loss of two children and difficult and competitive trading as a publican perhaps most likely had an affect on Oliver’s health. With that came trouble keeping his business afloat and a downwardly spiral started.

In April 1906, he was in trouble with authorities for making amendments to the premises without permission. A passage offering right of way from Main Street to the back of the properties had been amended blocking off part to the public and creating easier access for William Oliver to his own cellar. A complaint had been made and it escalated to the authorities, who upheld no alteration should have taken place. The Court ordered new plans were to be issued by October that year to make amends.

By 1907, there were at least 2 pubs close by and competition would have been apparent, perhaps placing further stress on his failing health.

On 20th June 1911, his accounts were put forward for inspection ‘in cessio’ at the County Buildings. It was a sure sign he was in debt and his creditors were seeking their payment. It would appear this signalled the end of his business and with it came a move away from Blantyre.

William Oliver died 5 months later on 5th November 1911 at the Forth Bridge Hotel in Queensferry, not far from his birthplace. He was 51 years old and Jessie outlived him. With his parents deceased, his brother signed the death certificate and he is noted on it as being a publican. His death caused by Pulmonary consumption, a wasting disease causing destruction of the lungs.

It is known that by the early 1920’s a Mr Pearson was running the pub until 1924 when Joseph McNeil acquired it. Joseph McNeil would continue to operate the pub calling it the Caledonian Bar, nicknamed locally as the Heilandmans, before moving to the WestEnd in 1934. The public house, along with the tenements was subsequently demolished in 1934.

The Kirkton Vaults location is shown here in this photo, I’ve marked it with a red line, albeit this was in 1915, four years after Mr Oliver died.

Research by Blantyre Project. (c) Blantyre Explained 2021

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