William Small’s License , 1899

This is the story of how William Small, miner’s Secretary of Oliva Cottage, Forrest Street almost had a change in occupation and if he had done, his name may not have been given to one of the Crescents.

Acquiring a shop in Station Road, Blantyre in Springtime 1899, he applied for a public house certificate. However, first there was the small matter or representation and getting the actual license.

Mr Small, acting on behalf of himself, explained to the licensing committee that it was practically “ancient history” since the last license had been granted in Blantyre. The most recent being the transfer of a license from Larkfield to Stonefield. The population was thought to be 10,384, but the most recent police census of 1899, showed the population to be 13,400 an increase of over 3,000. This was the justification that Mr Small used to create a better chance of achieving his pub license. He went on to say that although there was a public house near the top of Station Road already and 2 others very close by, this particular district in Blantyre was fast becoming the centre of the village, indeed it was already the ‘cross of the village’.

Mr Small had to explain he had no previous dealings in the pub trade but he ‘knew people and their nature’ and had some power over men educationally and otherwise. It was a statement that did not impress the committee.

Mr Small’s reputation as a Miners Secretary was however impressive and he was well known as a keeper of the peace in that industry. Many Sheriffs and Justice of Peace had thanked him previously for his ability to keep law and order. John Millar, Chief Constable told the committee he had known Mr Small for upwards of 20 years and that he would no doubt keep a peaceful public house if the license were to be granted.

Mr Small had worked as a miners secretary for over 15 years and that tiresome work had left him physically disabled. In the close of his years, he had wanted a quieter profession.

The Fiscal and Committee then had a time to respond reminding all that it was not Mr Small’s character being judged, but the fact remained there were FOUR public houses and one spirit shop already all within 150 yards of the proposed location. In Stonefield, which had a population of 7,600, there were 20 public houses already!

After some wrangling, the final votes were in. 13 in favour of granting Mr Small a public house license, but overwhelmingly 44 votes opposing the application. The license was therefore not granted and the shop was demolished, the land sold. In 1902 a brand new tenement at the corner of Station Road and Glasgow Road was opened, though not under the ownership of Mr Small.

Illustration by AI.

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