Parish Council Dinner, 1898

On Tuesday 15th November 1898, the members of the Blantyre Parish Council met at Arthur Blackey’s Hall at High Blantyre. However, in this instance that particular evening, it wasn’t to discuss the present Parish matters, but instead it was in social capacity, reflecting on their accomplishments to date.

Mr Neil Douglas presided and Mr Thomas Jackson was croupier. Mr Blackley provided dinner and afterwards all the members of the council (all prominent men of the Parish) embarked on a programme of toasts and song.

The first toast went to Queen Victoria and her family and for their continued interest in the Army and Navy, keeping Britain safe. This was toasted by Neil Douglas to much applause.

Mr James Brown then proposed a toast to themselves, the Parish Council of Blantyre and went on to say that the amount of accomplishments and improvements they had made throughout the years was worthy in itself of being the principal toast. Like for example, perhaps their greatest achievement being the lighting up of the streets of Blantyre by gas with as little expense to taxpayers as possible. It was reminded to all that under the new Government Act, the Parish Council now had a great deal more power to change things in Blantyre than they did under the older, Parochial system. It had been through the insistence of Mr Craig all those years ago that lighting came about for Blantyre with his petition to the County Council. It was fresh on everybody’s mind the day Mr Craig was given the honour of lighting the first gas lamp those years previously and how handsomely he treated and entertained everybody in his hall afterwards.

The Parish Council also reflected back on the old Sydes Brae track leading up to Auchentibber. A road all but impossible for vehicle or foot traffic until the intervention of the Council. They reflected back on Mr Jackson’s early meeting with Council officials on making the road into a public highway to the benefit of more directly connecting Blantyre and Hamilton. The County Council could not undertake to do that and it was at the expense and foresight of the Parish Council that the endeavour had happened, beginning first with forming a footpath at a cost of under just £30.

The last reflection was perhaps equally as important. How the Parish Council had taken care of the poor. It was a remarkable feat for the Council in such expanding population, to root out pockets of extreme poverty, remaining impartial and with no heed to their nationality. Neil Douglas then closed his speech by commenting that a new Parish Council would be formed in a matter of weeks and hoped they would make some equally significant improvements.

Dr Grant then spoke up with his own toasts for the District Committee and County Council. Remembering when he first came to the Parish, he remembered when the sanitary conditions were wretched and as a doctor, he was pleased at the progress the County Council had made for the welfare of Blantyre people. He commented that if one now walked to Sydes Brae, (the Highlands of Blantyre), one would be greeted at night time with a fine picture of lights below. (laughter by the group).

He went on to say that even a few years ago when enteric fever was prevalent (now called typhoid), it would be difficult to imagine that now there would scarcely be a case. The hospital at Auchinraith which had recently been enlarged was now greatly used to more effect and that people came to the hospital by their own accord and not when forced by doctors. Other improvements were noted such as the extension of the High Blantyre Cemetery and improvements to mining conditions and wages.

Mr Paton Aitkenhead, High Blantyre builder spoke next of the plentiful work in putting up new buildings in Blantyre, especially in Stonefield. His stonemasons were making record wages.

Songs were then rendered by the members of the Board, in fine voice and the whole proceedings brought to a close by the singing of “Auld Lang Syne”.

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