1904 was perhaps the height of popularity for the Blantyre bonesetter, the bloodless surgeon, Mr. William Rae. At this home at Raploch Cottage, at the top of Station Road, visitors besieged his home that year more than any other.
Reports took time to record the events in Blantyre that year. On Saturday 24th September, a trades holiday saw hundreds of people arrive in Blantyre and there was no accommodation left in the village. That Saturday, railway officials recorded tremendous traffic on the trains. Two special trains had left England on the Friday night. One from Lancashire, the other from Yorkshire, bound for Glasgow. The scene which presented at Glasgow was one not to be forgotten as halt, lame and disabled people of all conditions congregated at the station and it seemed that everybody in Britain with any sort of affliction was on their way to meet Mr Rae at Blantyre.
Tickets were sold from the home of Mr Rae, Raploch Cottage, pictured. Seeing the bonesetter was strictly by ticket only. So, when the trains arrived into Blantyre, the station officials had a tough time of it. Reporters covered the spectacle of lame, crippled folk making their way up Station Road “at pace”, almost like a race, describing the scene in some misplaced amusement. From the first train alone, it was thought that 345 tickets were given out at the cottage and a further 100 from a later train at 7.45.
But as much as 445 people hoping to see William Rae is a LOT of people, it was nothing by comparison to the actual numbers of people who arrived in Blantyre. From the other direction, 4 trains from Motherwell arrived and 12 cabs and brakes arrived to Station Road by road, driven all the way from Glasgow.
To find accommodation for all these people was difficult. Some went to Stonefield, others to High Blantyre, which proved an expensive business. Some charges in Blantyre for a room rose 10 fold to 5 shillings, even then not always getting a bed! Others went to nearby Burbank and there was much profiteering as households opened their own doors to suddenly become hospitality. These visitors to Blantyre were short lived. Most of them went home, their tickets not traded and unable to afford extortionate prices for accommodation, could not stay for the durations they wanted.
Mr Rae would see folk from 5pm until 10pm at his home. The excitement can be understood for there are several amazing stories of his successes in being able to “cure” limps and displaced bones. It was a time when Blantyre was being put on the map and right behind Livingstone, fame was spreading for Mr Rae.