Are we Asleep?

On 14th February 1907, Mr. John Dunlop wrote into the Hamilton Advertiser with a letter which contained not just complaint but lots of suggestions and foresight. John lived in Douglas Street in High Blantyre and was particularly concerned about the lack of facilities in Blantyre as a whole. I’ve recorded his interesting letter below, shown unedited and in full:

“Sir – permit me through your medium to express my views on the above topic. It would appear that “the powers that be” either willingly or stupidly neglect the youth of our Parish and it would almost seem that an Earthquake is required to wake them up to a sense of duty. Gentlemen, do you not realise that the boys of today are the men of tomorrow? What was good enough for Jock in 1897, is not good enough for John of 1907.

The place [Blantyre] is simply as dull as an old ladies Convalescent House. An absolute essential for our young is notably missing in a public park and a gymnasium. Is there no ground available in the Parish? For example, I can see large fields at the Clay Road which cost no more than £20 per annum, and for what? Simply to keep a few lean cattle alive. Can our councillors not come forward and rent the field, say at £25 or equal sum and allow our young people some freedom? Better still, could they not liquidate the field, year by year and eventually buy the field obtaining proprietorship. Public affairs in Blantyre appear at a very low ebb. It does not require keen observation skills to see we are lagging behind our neighbours.

I do not think our Councillors are ignorant of current political and commercial moves both at home here and on the Continent, but I assert, they are dead to their obligations. Every year, the battle of life is becoming harder through competition, a gulf widening between rich and poor and you, gentlemen would be conferring a valuable asset to your country, by turning out strong and healthy men. The matter only needs a start and would develop gradually. Would you not rather see young men romp around a playing field, rather than kick on their way to a police station? Give our young lads more scope and the tone of the place will improve. We must keep abreast with the times. Arise from your slumber. Advance …be your password.”

The field John refers to would be that which would eventually become the Crescents or Calderside Academy. There is much about his letter which resonates with today, finding something for youth to do and improving Blantyre’s facilities is a rally cry, even in 2022. However, the letter also reflects his era, with an observation of the disparity of income and does not mention girls? Were they not to have access to the park too? As this 1910 maps shows, there certainly were two massive fields right in the middle of Blantyre during this time.

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