Dereliction of Blantyre Works, 1898

On 7th July 1898, a letter appeared in the Glasgow Herald, sent in by W.G which gave an interesting, written description of the decaying Blantyre Works Village at the time. Pictured in that era is one of the larger mill buildings, derelict with windows broken to suitably illustrate.

“Sir, If my letter of the 13th ult. has only succeeded in eliciting Mr Ness’s letter of the 28th, it has served a very good purpose, and those who take any interest in this question must be exceedingly grateful to him. I think however, my letter has been somewhat misunderstood both by Mr Ness and “J.M.” They must both admit that the dye-work is still standing, and most of the windows of it broken, that the village is now surrounded by collieries, and the houses mostly inhabited by colliers , and as Mr Ness says, a whole row of houses have just been pulled down; that and other things give the place an air of neglect and ruin. All this, of course, may be regrettable, but it unavoidable, and it is much more apparent to one who last saw it twelve years ago (it showed signs of decay then) as than to those who see it daily, and are scarcely conscious of the change which is slowly but surely taking place.”

“This change reflects on everything in the neighbourhood, and if Mr Ness or “JM” is sceptical on this point let them try to remember the trim, neat, appearance of the railway station 25 years ago and contrast it with its present condition. Of course Livingstone’s house being part’ of a flat and not, like that of Burns, a cottage, the problem of keeping it as a show place is a very different one; but on this point Mr Ness’s letter is not very encouraging, and when one considers the amount of money spent at every Burns dinner every year it is not very creditable to Scotchmen if they cannot raise money to buy the block of buildings for preservation, or, failing that, raise a statue in the village.”

“One gathers from Mr Ness’s letter that it is the trustees of the estate who attend to the matter now. All honour to them for doing so; and while I feel that I ought to apologise to them for some of my remarks, I only want to point out that it is impossible that the place could be kept different or better (I refer entirely to the approach), as the caretaker has everything as it should be in the house itself, unless the whole block is taken over, and the offensive “jaw-boxes” removed. These were, of course, there in Livingstone’s time, but they are nevertheless offensive, and I do not know that they are necessary as relics of Livingstone. To put all this right is not a duty which ought to be left to the trustees of the estate. I regret that I am not in a position to take a lead in this, but I will of course, gladly subscribe what I can. Perhaps Mr Ness could encourage someone to take a lead and try again.”

What foresight about saving the building. A full 30 years before the museum opened!

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