McKenzie Bakers, 1901

When this photo was shared by Alex Bowie, it was simply titled “Bakers from Strathaven” with no indication of who they were. I wondered why it would be amongst the photos of early Blantyre Photographer, David Ritchie? I now have a possible theory about who the people are, which stemmed from first researching bakers in the 1890’s in Strathaven.

Robert McKenzie was born in Strathaven in 1856 and ran a successful family business there after he became an adult. However, by 1900, he had moved his whole family to High Blantyre, a similar move David Ritchie had done too, coming from Strathaven to Blantyre some years earlier. It’s my belief David knew the McKenzie Family hence the familiarity of photographing them.

The 1901 census shows Robert McKenzie was an established baker in High Blantyre Main Street at the former two storey ‘Smiths’ tenement building, which was once situated directly across the road from where the Police Houses are now. This photo of Main Street, around that time depicts a scene looking towards the cross, with McKenzie Bakers on the left side, their sign actually above the door. Not to be confused with Rev Robert McKenzie also in Blantyre at the time, Robert involved his whole family in the trade. In the 1901 census, he was 45 years old, his wife Janet 44. Sons Peter 21 and David 17 were also bakers within the family business and that particular year, there were several young daughters too, still at school.

The Main Street photo can therefore be dated from between 1900 and 1905, for by 1905, according to the valuation roll that year, Robert had moved to a bakehouse at Larkfield, though was only there a short time.

Admittedly, there’s a leap of faith here, especially as I never like to assume anything on Blantyre Project, so I’ll put forward a theory for consideration. Perhaps this crystal clear photo is a family photo of The McKenzie Bakers, formerly of Strathaven and if taken around 1901, it fits well with the number, sex and ages of the people described in the census.

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