George Matthews, 1903

Next, a sad tale of homelessness which ended in tragedy. One, snowy morning in January 1903, a startling discovery was made on the banks of the River Calder. A man was found, deceased, having apparently frozen to death in a field, next to the riverbank.

As news spread around Blantyre, authorities were perplexed as nobody had been reported missing and sought immediately to try and identify the body. A paper was found amongst his clothing which bore the name George Matthews and upon investigation further it was learned that he was homeless having the night before spent an evening at the Glasgow ‘Night Asylum’. The signing register there indicated that George was 45 years old, working as a travelling labourer, seeking work wherever he could. A post mortem revealed tattoos on his chest and arms and concluded that he died due to exposure to the elements.

Wanting to know more, I retrieved his death certificate. It shows George being a Marine Fireman, found on 14th January 1903 about 11am near the Spittal Bridge. James Kemp a police constable signed the death certificate and it is telling that there are no parents noted.

George Matthews may not have been a Blantyre man, but his story ended there. He is remembered here today. The Rotten Calder is pictured in 2010 by local photographer Jim Brown.

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  1. Thanks that you bring the history and the people of Blantyre to memory so that they will not be forgotten

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