The Cairns, Station Road

‘The Cairns’, is a large Edwardian sandstone villa, comprising of two semi detached homes situated on the western side of Station Road, not far from Blantyre Train Station.

Built in two storeys, the desirable house features large bay windows and is contained in a low height stone garden wall amidst attractive surroundings.

Missing from the 1898 map of Blantyre, the house dates from the turn of the 20th Century and was built in 1904 by builder, William Kerr. In fact William built the villas also immediately adjacent and either side of the Cairns too. He built them to rent out and in 1904, first occupiers moved in.

it is known that in 1904, Mr. Archibald Gracie Weir had arrived in Blantyre having come from England from Liverpool on 17th July 1904. It appears he rented the house (at 57) to be close to his fruit business in Glasgow. This was a desirable area. Fantastically close to the speediest connection to Glasgow being the railway beside the house. The collection of large houses around the station even to this day is representative of the desire to be close to the railway at that time.

Archie was living there whilst he got married to Bessie Richmond Gibb on 28th September. A daughter was born to them on 26th June 1906 but as much as this lovely start to their married life was to be celebrated, all was not well at work. Soon after, Archie who was a fruit salesman of Weir Brothers of Glasgow, decided to change career between March 1907 and June 1907 and became a spirit salesman and commission agent. The action was deliberate for his business was failing and he’d walked away. As the Weir Brothers business declined, the other parties, who were family members brought an action against Archie in June 1907 to try to get him involved in the liquidation, but they did so in an improper manner, the proceedings ending up being thrown out of Court.

Needless to say, Archie did not escape the financial entrapment and the huge debt the Weir Brothers Fruit business had run up. Nor was it a great time to become a spirit salesman when licences were beginning to be restricted. It appears he became bankrupt shortly after in late 1907.

Following 1908 (at 57) John Reid, a 30 year old Spirit merchant from England was living there with his mother and sister and still there at the time of the 1911 census.

The earliest resident (of 55) was Mr Alex Wilton Hendry and his wife. Alex was a chemist. His son was born there in 1908 and their daughter was born at the house on Boxing Day, 1910. By 1912, they had employed a maid at the house and in August 1912, from a visitors book in Fife, it is known that the maid, Agnes Findlay Crichton was sufficiently close to the family to have gone on holiday with them!

During WW1, George B Dow and George Crawford were renting the houses. After WW1, perhaps due to the financial hardships of the war years, Mr Kerr sold the houses. Just to confuse things, after WW1, the houses were known as 33 Station Road, The Cairns,……though the address would only last for just over a decade.

By 1920, Mrs Crawford lived at the Cairns and in February that year was applying for a capable, female servant, preferably elderly offering ‘liberal terms’.

In the late 1920’s, as with many postal addresses in Blantyre, the Cairns was officially given a re-numbered address and became known as 55 and 57 Station Road.

By the mid 1920’s and into the 1930’s The Sillars family lived at number 57 buying the property outright. Mr William Sillars was well known in Blantyre for his association with aerated water works Andrew Robertsons of Springwell. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years, also sat on Blantyre Parish Council and was a member of the County Council. He died suddenly on 3rd April 1931. He had a sudden seizure at work and was taken home to 57 Station Road but passed away from heart failure before medical aid arrived. With an active interest in Stonefield Parish Church, he was only 60 years old and left behind a widow and grown up family. Throughout the 1930’s , Mrs. Helen Sillars gave handsomely to charitable causes and was still living there in the 1940s.

To the left of number 55 was an entrance to Hugh B Kerr’s builders yard, which opened out at the back. Hugh being the builder of several homes in the area and lending his namesake in relative William Kerr to nearby Kerr Street.

Number 55 throughout the 1930s and 1940s was the home of the doctor. Two doctors to be exact. David Keir Fisher first in the early 1930s, then later from the mid 1930s, Dr George Hutcheson.

In the 1940’s Dr George Hutcheson still lived at number 55. He was married to Raby McCauley and the doctor was well known in Blantyre. On 16th September 1944, George suddenly died at home in the main bedroom age 41 after having a tooth out! His death cert says pulmonary embolism following tooth extraction. George was interred in High Blantyre Cemetery a few days later on 19th, the news shocking the town. Rates for the house that year were £31/annum.

It is known the McCluskey family lived at the number 55, Cairns in the late 1970’s. Today, it is now home to the Stevenson family. The Cairns are pictured in September 2016.

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  1. The Sillars had at leat one daughter whowent abroad as a missionary. Irecall her speaking at the Sunday School of Stonefield Parish Church in the late 1940s. I never learnedher first name – it was always ‘Miss Sillars’ to us.

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