Main Street Thatched Cottage, 1911

One of my most favourite photos of old Blantyre is this one, previously not seen online until now. I’ve held back for several years showing this picture, until I researched a little more. Shared with Blantyre Project, nobody knew where it was, but I’d be happy to reveal the answer.

This is Main Street. In particular, its the ground directly in front of the Baptist Church. I’m positive it’ll be the first time you’ve seen this and not only have I identified the location, but also the year and now also able to name the people in the photo!

Today, this same scene looks like this, which is certainly very different.

The thatched cottage was actually a shop and house on the north side of Main Street. It is noted on the 1859 map, sitting isolated on a small plot of land belonging to nearby Croftfoot. It eventually was given the address 134 Main Street, long before the Main Street postal addresses were renumbered. A traditional stone cottage with a thatched roof, the back of the property faced on to open farm fields of Croftfoot and from the front over to the fields of Priestfield. In fact, directly across the road from the cottage door would have been the large Priestfield tree.

The shop was a grocers, with some produce on display outside the door. Through the windows, I could zoom in to also see hardware and soap being sold.

But who were the people? The giveaway were the words ‘James McKay’ on the cart. Looking at the census and valuation records, I could see that the McKay family were at this property sometime after 1906, but were not there after the end of WW1. The photo therefore dated between 1906 and 1918. But I can be more accurate than that, closing down the timescale further. In the 1911 census James McKay is a 45 year old coal merchant with a yard at the side of the property (which can clearly be seen). He had a 2 year old son, George, most likely the wee boy in the cart on the left. James’s wife, Jeannie, also 45 was a grocer, working in the rented shop. With them on the census were daughters Maggie, 18 and Lizzie 12.

I think this all fits in REALLY neatly with the photo and who’s in it. The all look these ages in 1911. The older man in the doorway, according to the census is their lodger, John Docherty, a 72 year old Irishman.

Daughter Maggie was born in Blantyre and being 18 years old in 1911, we know the McKay family must have been in the area from at least 1893, though not always at this location. James and Jeannie had married in 1888 and had 12 children by 1911, 10 of whom were still alive that year. Another two sons are pictured on the right. This is therefore a family photo, taken by a neighbour, Mr David Ritchie.

Researching a little further, after WW1, this became the home and business of Mr George Thomas. I have a good photo of George at this doorway in 1923. George was only there a short time before moving across the road, further up towards Kirkton. By 1930, the thatched grocers shop was being run by Jean McLean. She would later move to a more familiar location nearby when this cottage was demolished in 1930, around the same time as the tenement buildings in the background. Indeed, the McLeans stayed in that location for most of the next Century. If you look closely at the bottom of the thatch, you can just about see the dormer window of ‘Parkhurst’ (the house which became Matt Boyles home).

Above the chimney and at the back of the cottage you can just about see “The Wee Tin Kirk”, which actually at the time of this photo was brand spanking new, as a billiard room, not yet the Baptist Church. The entrance to the billiard hall can be seen on the left beyond the coal store through a gap in the wall.

This thatched cottage has been gone for 93 years, so it will not be remembered by anybody alive today. As I said, an absolute favourite of mine, not just for the detective work!

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  1. Congratulations !

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