Jane Duffy (or Ferrie)

Jane Duffy or Ferrie found herself in bother with the law on several occasions in her life. For example on 30th June 1908, aged 48 she gave miner Sandy Dunsmuir a black eye after striking him in the face with her clenched first at Merry’s Rows.

The blow resulted in a nasty infection and lasting pain to his eye and in a court a month later she was fined 30 shillings. It wasn’t the first time she had been in bother and whilst there is never any justification for violence, we only need to briefly look back at Jane’s history to see why she felt that life was so very much against her.

Jane is pictured in 1930, aged 70.

Born in 1860 in Ireland to parents John Duffy and Margaret Walker, Jane’s story is a sad one, but happier times thankfully followed. Jane also has the accolade of being the last widow to pass away, after being widowed at the 1877 Blantyre disaster.

Jane was just 17 at the time of the Blantyre disaster, having moved from Hamilton beforehand. Living at 24 Hall Street, she fell in love at that young age with her neighbour James Simpson, a 24 year old man living next door at 25 Hall Street, in Dixon’s Rows, Stonefield. She was employed as a dye worker but lived with her parents, her father being a coal miner in Dixon’s Pits.

On 22nd October 1877 on that fateful morning, Jane and James were just 1 week away from being married but things were not going to work out. James Simpson was one of the men who lost his life in the Blantyre disaster, the papers noting he was still single and by that time living at Larkfield, James’s death certificate shows him as single, despite his love and intention to marry that Jane that week. We can only imagine the heartache Jane felt as she learned that her man had died that day, grief she must have felt for many years.

Perhaps the committee in charge of the Widows fund put her on the widow’s roll out of sympathy, knowing that she would probably marry fairly soon anyway, being such a young girl?

Jane DID eventually marry, but not until 6 years later. In 1883, she married Irishman, John Ferrie in Blantyre’s RC Church and not able to read or write, she signed her marriage certificate with an ‘x’. They settled down at 51 Auchinraith Road and had at least 6 children!

In June 1918, Jane attempted to sue William Baird and Company at Bothwell Castle Colliery for the sum of £150 following the death there of her son Thomas, who died on 27th August 1917. Money may have been a worry at the time, for by 1918, Jane was a widow (again) following the early death of her husband, John Ferrie.

Coalmining had robbed this woman of a fiance, a husband and now a son!It is not hard to imagine why she felt it necessary to make coal merchants culpable and perhaps that is why she was in the crowd that day in 1930.

She won her claim in, and expenses. During the court case it came out that another son was not able to support her and this may have assisted the outcome. The court case also revealed that since the death of her husband, Jane Ferrie also held a police record of petty offences, but had not been convicted of anything for 2 years prior to her pursuit.

Jane Ferrie passed away in Blantyre two years later on 8th November 1932, aged 72. She is buried in High Blantyre Cemetery. With a nod to events in 1877, she is commonly known as being the “last widow of the Blantyre Disaster”.


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  1. What a sad story Paul, I’m thinking of you tonight and praying for a speedy recovery for you. I went to school with Elizabeth Duffy and wonder if she was a relative of Jane’s. A lovely girl, I envied her quiet peaceful nature, not like Jane who was a bit fiery, but understandably so. Oh what amazing stories come out of a wee village! Get well soon Paul

    1. Jane had 11 children – one with James Simpson, and 10 with John Ferrie. Four came to Australia – Susan, Bridget, Dennis and Edward.

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