Highway Robbery at Priory Bridge, 1910

In June 1910, a sensational affair was reported to the Cambuslang police though this story happened on the border with Blantyre.

A man named Henry Kelly (28) visited his parents at 71 Main Street, Cambuslang. As he missed the last Lanarkshire tramcar at Cambuslang for Hamilton, he started to walk back towards Blantyre. He reached Priory Bridge about 1 a.m. Suddenly, he was accosted by two men, and asked for a match. Kelly complied with this request, and then his ‘no-gooders’ asked him if he “had anything on him.”

“Do you mean drink?” queried Kelly.
“Yes,” was the answer.
”Well, I don’t drink at all.”
“Have you any money ?”
”Yes,” answered Kelly, “and I mean to keep it!!”

A desperate struggle then took place in the darkness on Priory Bridge, but ultimately the taller of the two men pinned Kelly’s arms, while the other turned out his pockets. A robbery happened. Kelly still retained his watch and chain, and another fight took place over it. It was broken during the struggle.

On Kelly demanding his money back, the taller of the two men lifted him and threw him over the parapet of the Priory Bridge into the river Calder, a drop of over 39 feet. How the unfortunate man got out he was not able to tell. When he recovered consciousness the murky water was running over his body in the blackness of the night. Kelly was able to reach home, but he was drenched to the skin, and covered with blood. The men were not caught and today, this crime would have been deemed an attempted murder, carrying lofty jail sentences.

Trams traversed this bridge at the time. Earthing guard wires were added to the tram network in 1923 between Priory Bridge and Springwell at a cost of £60. Various road realignments have also occurred in the 20th Century. The bridge was closed off to traffic and now also to pedestrians and has been so overcome by nature, there are trees actually growing on the bridge deck now in these post Millennium years. With the realigned road, Priory Bridge is a bridge to nowhere and consequently is not maintained.

Looking at this photo taken in 2007 by Jim Brown, the Priory Bridge structure is incredibly high and the steepness of the slopes immediately beside it, make it feel quite perilous to be anywhere in this area. Ivy trails over the side reach down almost to the water giving a romantic appearance to those adventurous enough to observe it from the river or steep embankments but reflecting on this story, I have no idea how Henry Kelly survived.

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