Boy Thief’s Career

In March 1908, 11 year old William McLeary of Dixon’s Rows, Stonefield, Blantyre found himself in trouble with the law. And not for the first time.

Along with 2 other boys, he had broken into a shop on Glasgow Road and stolen chocolate and matches. He was also further charged with breaking into Whistleberry collieries and stealing a silver watch and leather albert from a workman’s vest.

William stood in the dock and watched as his colleague Cornelius Marr, one of his companions get fined £5, which wasn’t payable by his father if the boy displayed good behaviour over the next 6 months. Then it was time for William’s punishment. He stood there awaiting his parents to be fined or be birched.

The justices handed out…wait for it……FIVE YEARS of full time board in Parkhead R.C Reformatory School!

For those unfamiliar with this children’s workhouse school, conditions were most tough. The conduct of the boys at the school often gave serious cause for concern. There were a good many instances of insubordination, violent behaviour, bullying, quarrelling, and several cases of absconding. Boys had lost their family time and their liberty. Boys of good conduct were allowed home for a few hours on Sundays only once a month, and those from other further places for a few days very occasionally. There would be plenty of time to reflect upon ones crimes and behaviour which put them there.

By 1921, the institution had become known as Westthorn School. The School buildings no longer survive and the site is now in use as farmland.

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