David Robertson, Coatshill

Blantyre Project reader, Deirdre MacKinnon shared this photo of an object she recently found. She had been walking by the River Gryffe between Bridge of Weir and Houston. While exploring a small shingle beach by the river, she found an old oval engraved metal plate, 9 inches long and 6 inches wide. It is engraved DAVID ROBERTSON, Coatshill, BLANTYRE, No.3. It is a bit bent and corroded from being in the river.

An interesting find and strange to find this some distance from Blantyre itself.

The tagline “Blantyre No 3” is interesting and I first thought it must surely be a reference to Blantyre’s Collieries. No 3 was owned by Messrs Dixon & Co at High Blantyre, indeed the very same colliery which saw the terrible disaster of 1877 where over 200 men and boys died.

However, David Robertson, according to my notes was a farmer and had no connection to mining. So, i’m inclined to think that “No 3” actually relates to the vehicle, cart or equipment this was attached to. A plough perhaps? A Cart? The holes suggest it was once fixed or nailed to something else and I think this relates to David Robertson’s farming business. In any case, Pit 3 was nowhere near Coatshill.

According to my notes, I can confirm there was a David Robertson in Coatshill in 1871. The valuation roll of 1875 suggests he was renting the farm from others and he was still there with wife Jean and son Robert in the 1881 census. Naismith’s directory confirms he was at Coatshill Farm, Blantyre however, the entry is unusually vague for David’s entry, not stating what his profession was. It is the census info which confirms he was a farmer, 52 years old by 1881. Thus, David Robertson was born in 1829 and I later found out his birthtown was Hamilton.

He appears in the 1885 Blantyre census, still at Coatshill Farm, renting from the Naismith family but had moved away by 1891. He passed away on 27th April 1907 in Avondale (Strathaven) age 78, his death certificate confirming he was a farmer and that he outlived his wife Jean. He had been suffering from bronchitis for 3 weeks.

Therefore, I can say with some certainty that the plaque dates from somewhere between 1871 and 1890 and is therefore already 132 – 151 years old.

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