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From the illustrated social history book…paid research by Paul Veverka
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018
The immediate neighbor to McLelland’s Land to the north, still on the same south side of Glasgow Road was Welsh’s Land or Laun. A building with a similar story to McLelland’s, given that it was built by somebody else, but became known differently for the long term owner’s surname.
The property was simply 2 houses, of equal, modest size, built of stone or brick in one storey. It is quite likely they mirrored each other in terms of layout. Built between 1881 and 1885 by Mr. William Semple, a stonemason, the houses were slightly larger than McLelland’s buildings to the south and opened out on to Glasgow Road.
Born in 1838, William Semple came to Blantyre in 1881 with his wife, Christina. As a stonemason by trade and employer of others, he would have been well known and would certainly have been involved in the construction of tenements along Glasgow Road. Building these 2 small homes was a business venture, and in 1885, they were rented out to miners Henry Thomney and Andrew Frame for £4 per annum.
However, in November 1894, whilst working for Warnocks & Horsburgh, wrights and builders in Rutherglen, William Semple was injured and on 28th November took them to court suing them for £500. (around £60,000 in todays money). In early 1895, William collected all his assets and his injury monies and would go on to build other properties in Springwells. To do this, he had to sell his two properties in this article, which he sold on to Mr. John Welsh, a coalminer. Whilst Semple owned the buildings for only 14 years or so, John Welsh and his family would be the long term and only other owners of this property right up until the 1930’s.
The buildings therefore became known primarily as Welsh’s land from 1895 and that year Alex McLaren a brakesman was living in the southern house and John Welsh and his family occupying his new purchase in the northern house.
The houses were deeper than nearby McLelland’s and would have occupied the space in between where today two large billboards are erected. Outside wash-house and toilets were located in the far corner of the land, which initially had a dividing fence in the back garden. The house would have made an excellent vantage point for watching people coming and going, to and from Blantyre as well of course as being a suitable location for miners.
By 1903 as trams ran past for the first time, John Welsh had moved out to 15 Victoria Street, left his profession as a miner and had become a coalman. Born in 1868, he married a lady named Marion McClelland in 1888 in Hamilton. John Welsh should not be confused with a teacher or inspector of the poor of Blantyre, all three with the same name.
In 1905, his acquaintance, (we previously eluded their friendship) William McLelland was living in John’s former home, the other house rented by James Stoddart, a miner. Perhaps William McLelland wanted to be near his own property for in any case, the diving fence was brought down and by 1910, the back gardens of Welsh’s Land and next door McLellands, were all open, with some of the old outbuildings removed. William had moved out again by 1915 and Welsh’s Land once again was rented out to miners, this time to Duncan McCorkindale and Robert Moore , each for £10, 3 shillings.
Welsh’s houses each only had 2 rooms, each with a window, likely front and back. By this era the southern property had address 7 Glasgow Road and the adjoining house, further north was 9 Glasgow Road.
In 1920, Duncan McCorkindale was still renting the same house, the other house at number 9 rented by James Coffey, a miner and both paying rent to John Welsh.
In 1925, John Welsh was 57 years old and would pass away shortly after in 1928. That year George Wilson, a miner and Duncan McCorkindale both renting for the princely sum of £12, 12 shillings. Following his death his widow and wife, Marion Welsh continued to let the property out but only a short time.
- This John Welsh is spelt as “Welsh” in the census information, his marriage certificate and all valuation rolls, although his family have pointed out his name was “Welch” with a ‘c’ as noted in his death certificate.
By the time of the 1936 map, Welsh’s Land is gone, likely demolished at the same time as the adjacent McLelland’s land to make way for the early 1930’s road widening improvements to Glasgow Road. The building was declared unfit for purpose in 1933 and was subjected to demolition orders. Today, nothing remains of Welsh’s Land, the name and building forgotten and confined to the realms of history, but hopefully brought to some life again by this book.
McDougall’s Land or Laun
With exception of Springwell Farm, one of the oldest properties to ever exist in the hamlet was “McDougall’s Land” or to give it its original official name, “Springwell Cottages”. During the lifetime of this former building, like others nearby it would change hands a few times, be used as personal home for the owner and was also later used primarily to rent out to miners and their families as a means to supplement income.
McDougall’s Land was a 2-storey former tenement divided in half, forming 4 houses, 2 up and 2 down. It was of average size for a tenement and each house comprised of 2 rooms, each having 1 window. It opened out on to Glasgow Road and was situated at the former fork in the road, right at the bend.
The stone built property was constructed in 1876 by Mr. Duncan McDougall, a miner of Greenfield Colliery, who arrived in Blantyre that year following a spell living at Hamilton. He was one of the first people to approach the Farm of Springwell to buy land from them and it should be noted when he did, no other properties with exception of the farm existed in Springwell. He was a “Springwell Pioneer” so to speak.
The fact a miner could afford land and to build this property suggests he had savings and that likely he managed to secure an inexpensive deal for his plot. It paved the way for McLellands and Welsh’s plots.
Duncan McDougall was born in Tollcross in 1837 the son of Duncan McDougall and Jeanie Hastie. He was 39 years old when he came to Blantyre with his wife and 5 children. In 1881, the family all lived together in one of the homes, but it was crowded whilst he let out the other three.
Life would have been fairly cramped with so many people inside the modest property, especially with so many young children. It would have been a busy household, no doubt the kids having the freedom to explore all the fields of Springwell and Burnbrae Farms behind to the south.
In 1885, just 9 years after construction, the McDougall family and relatives occupied all 4 of the homes, spreading themselves out more comfortably. In the first house to the south was George Speirs, (Duncan’s brother in law who was also a miner.) In the adjacent home was Duncan (44) and his wife Mary Speirs (44) and some of their children. In the third home son George McDougall (24) and in the fourth home was another son John McDougall (22). The men all worked as miners. The proximity of McDougall’s Land to other properties to the north, on one occasion included it as part of Springwell Place in census information. This may have been an error, for McDougall’s Land was certainly separate.
Living beside your family, each in separate homes, within the one building, perhaps felt a comfortable existence for the McDougall’s, by comparison to many of the miners who lived nearby at Greenfield Rows in spaces a third of the size.
By the 1891 census, Duncan (54) was there with Mary (53) and sons James (18), Alexander (16 born in Blantyre), Hugh (13) and daughter Jane (11). With grown up children George (30), John (28), Catherine (26), Robert (26) and Margaret (21) all having moved out by then, in all it is known that Duncan McDougall had 9 children!
In 1892, Duncan sold all his homes to brother in law George Speirs, who was still one of his tenants. It’s unknown why he did this, perhaps to raise fast capital for another venture or daughters weddings. It had been McDougall’s land for a lengthy 16 years, the best part of a generation. Even after the sale of the 4 homes, occupancy didn’t change much with George Speirs, Duncan McDougall and George McDougall all continuing to live in their same homes. However, by 1895 John Ritchie, a miner was renting the 4th house instead of John McDougall whom by then had moved out.
George Speirs rented to Duncan McDougall for £7 a year from 1892 for as long as he owned the property, never changing his brother in laws rent, a condition perhaps part of the deed of sale.
Around 1892, George took the opportunity to expand the property by building a small workshop on the side, adjacent to the north. Opening out on to Glasgow Road, the single-story workshop was modest and rented out to Alexander Lennox, a shoemaker, where he would conduct his cobbler’s business for a few years. The workshop was small, may not have had windows and was possibly made of tin cladding or timber. Alex Lennox would have been kept busy making boots and shoes for the miners and their families for Springwell was a busy place in the 1890’s. His starting rent was £3 per annum, which never rose throughout the life of this workshop.
Mr. George Speirs was a miner, an incomer to the area. Born in 1840 to parents George Speirs Senior and Margaret Miller, George, like Duncan was also born in Tollcross and worked in Hamilton before coming to Blantyre around 1880/1881.
Initially working for Dixon’s Collieries, George and family first lived at Hall Street, the tied cottages to the colliery further west at Stonefield. Grief and tension in that community would still have been high, just 3 or 4 years after so many miner’s in those local streets lost their lives in the Blantyre Pit Disaster.
He married twice in his lifetime. His first wife Elizabeth Strachan died young in Blantyre in 1879, aged 39 at 19 Hall Street. George was left as a single father of 4 young children with daughters Annie (12) and Margaret (8) and Janet (6) and son Thomas (10). However, he married just 3 years later in 1882 to Christina Aitken and for a fresh, new start he took up lodgings that year at McDougall’s Land, buying it all from Duncan in 1892 , 10 years later.
In 1905 George Speirs and family occupied the first house, Duncan McDougall in the second (previous owner now a tenant), vanman James McLelland was in the third home. (We’ll come back to James McLelland a little later for his story is an interesting one.). James Pollock a carter occupied the 4th home for £4 per year. The previous shoemakers’ workshop, was now a fruiterer by the name of John McKinnan renting for £3 per year.
George had also taken time to expand his interests by building a stable in the back garden, also being rented for a further £3 by the fruiterer for maintaining the horse for his delivery cart. An outbuilding joining on to the house on the south side had also been converted into a small narrow, one storey home. Likely not well built with inadequate warmth, it was rented by Patrick McDade a labourer in 1905, but had been demolished a short time later by 1915, most likely due to being unfit for purpose.
With the McDougall’s Building in the hands of owner George Speirs, it became known for a short time at the end of the 19th Century and first decade of the 20th Century as “Speirs Land”, (which should not be confused with a building of the same name around this era in High Blantyre). The fashion for naming a building after the owner was on its way out when, at the turn of the Century, the Glasgow to Hamilton Road became known simply as ‘Glasgow Road’ and buildings along it were given proper postal addresses, each house numbered with the odd numbers on the south. In 1915 George Speirs therefore lived at 11 Glasgow Road, Duncan McDougall at 13 Glasgow Road, James McLelland a craneman also at 13 perhaps looking after elderly George. The workshop being allocated 15 Glasgow Road and the 4th house at 17 Glasgow Road occupied by John Hamilton, a lorryman at £4 per year.
By 1915 the workshop was empty and would be demolished by 1920. This may not be surprising. By the First World War, Blantyre, Greenfield and Burnbank had expanded enormously, offering tremendous business opportunity. That’s where profit and trade lay. Springwell was becoming a hamlet, detached and trapped between those popular areas. George may have lost the workshop due to economic progression elsewhere and the same was for his stables, as it was abandoned too. Things were about to change even more the following year.
On 28th November 1916, Mr. George Speirs died, aged 76. His son Thomas Speirs moved from nearby McNair’s Land into 17 Glasgow Road at one of his father’s homes and was there when the death was registered. In 1920 with Thomas Speirs inheriting the 4 houses, John Tenant was renting 11 Glasgow Road, Duncan McDougall as always at number 13 Glasgow Road, James McLelland now at 15 Glasgow Road (15 became a house after the workshop was demolished.) However this caused some problems, for earlier the building next up the road had been given number 17 beyond the number 15 Glasgow Road workshop. When it was demolished, it meant there were two number 17s. One at McDougalls Buildings and the other in the block further, up not yet explored here.
Thomas was not as lenient on rent as his father had been and in 1920 Duncan McDougall’s rent increased from £7 to £8,11. James McLelland’s was raised from £4 to £4,18 shillings. Thomas also fenced off the large open plan space to the rear after demolishing the small separate house. The former stable was turned into a piggery, considered far more lucrative a business.
By 1925, the occupation hadn’t changed much although Thomas had moved into 11 Glasgow Road. Thomas was a miner and only owned McDougall’s Buildings for approx. 10 years.
On 21st December 1925 Duncan McDougall died aged 88. His death certificate lists ‘senility’ and it would trigger a different path for the property. Upon his death and their inheritance, Robert and James McDougall, Duncan’s sons who had grown up in the building, bought all 4 homes from Thomas Speirs in early 1926. It was an end to 34 years of Speirs ownership. If there was any doubt to that, in 1930 James McDougall occupied 11 Glasgow Road, his brother Robert at 13 Glasgow Road and all change at 15 with Irvine Fleming a miner renting for £5,4 shillings and a single lady, Barbara Paterson at number 17.
The property had come full circle and was once again truly “McDougall’s Land.”
The 1930’s saw many changes. The road outside widened, the Greenfield Foundry expanded so much at the south it practically touched the boundary fences of McDougall’s property and of course neighbouring properties McLelland’s and Welsh’s Buildings were demolished, the land cleared. The piggery was sold off to a man named McCallum.
McDougall’s Building was home to many other people throughout the 20th Century and existed well beyond WW2. Robert McDougall would operate a Fruit and Veg business, growing some of his produce at the back during the mid 20th Century. His burgundy delivery van was a regular sight right up until his property was completely demolished in the 1960’s.
Today, there are billboards and grass on the land it once occupied. It was an old part of Springwell that had gone forever.
Tram Accident 1904
On Thursday 29th September 1904, an alarming collision of two tramway cars took place outside McDougalls Buildings. There was only a single line at the place and owing to the heavy fog the drivers did not observe each other until a collision was inevitable. The impact was heavy, the passengers were knocked about – and considerably. Mr Tennant, a butcher noted shortly in this book, was the person most seriously injured. He was coming down on the outside stair and was thrown down the steps, out to the ground. Both cars were badly damaged.
The Springwell Piggery was formed in 1916, when Thomas Speirs, the new owner of McLelland’s Buildings cleared the yard at the back and fenced off the large open plan space. He sold the former stables that year, which was of no use to the Speirs family and the buyer was a Mr. William McCallum Junior of 64 Auchinraith Road. It is unknown how the Speirs family took the news when they learned of the plans for land outside their home.
By 1925, William McCallum had sold the piggery business and land to Robert McDougall, the son of the former owner of McDougall’s Buildings. The land initially owned by his father, now returned to the family. This allowed Robert to give up his mining profession and he became a pig breeder, moving away from nearby 29 Glasgow Road back into the family home at McDougall’s Buildings the year after. Pig rearing may not seem the best job, but by comparison to the working conditions in the mines, so far underground, it may have been much more tolerable. There may have been chickens kept in the same area.
It will take a person of a certain age to remember this piggery, for it was removed around 1955. It was relatively tucked away off the Glasgow Road at Springwell, behind buildings and should not be confused with the piggeries accessed from Craighead or John Street.
Piglets were weaned and removed from the sows at between two and five weeks old and placed in sheds or nursery barns. Farmed for their slaughter weight, for the purposes of providing meat, piggeries became less common in Scotland rural areas during the latter part of the 20th Century.
Contaminants from animal wastes sometimes could enter the environment through pathways such as through leakage of poorly constructed manure lagoons or during major precipitation events. Regulations became stricter and pig farming became less of a small business pastime, with individuals becoming more unable to compete with larger, intensive pig farming operations.
McClelland Boys in Bother
Let’s backtrack a little to Mr. James McLelland. James if you recall was renting a house at McLelland’s Buildings and also happened to be the son of William McLelland, the owner of neighbouring McLelland’s Land explored earlier. When William McLelland (miner and carter) died in 1906, James unfortunately went “off the rails” somewhat and lets just say, he was in the newspaper often, for not the best reasons.
On Wednesday 20th February 1907, James found himself standing in Glasgow Sheriff Court, turned out in his best suit. The accusation against him was serious for stealing £108 (about £15,000 in today’s money), along with a gold watch, 2 gold rings, 2 silver albert chains and a purse from his mother, who was a widow, living at Springwell. An agent for James, stated to the court that the accused’s father had been a carter and died 6 months earlier, leaving considerable property and over £300 in money. (nearly £50,000 today). The family were distrustful of banks and the sum of money was kept at home at McLelland’s Buildings, in their home within an 8 day clock in the front room.
About 3 weeks before the court date, the brother of James had appeared in court charged with taking £100 from the pot without permission. The problem was since the death of the father, the widowed mother had been drinking heavily and the pot of cash was depleting. A curator of the money had been appointed in courts at an earlier date, the intention being on resolving through legal process who was entitled to what. However, James and his brother, worried by this situation took it upon themselves at different times to help themselves to a share, before any legal authority instructed them. Looking at this situation, it must have been very difficult for them to see such a large sum of cash being kept at home and not to touch it.
One evening, James had got very much the worse for wear with his mother in a drinking session and it is then whilst under influence that he abstracted the money and the articles. He then fled to Edinburgh, but was later caught, the money returned with exception of £16 spent. James pleaded guilty telling the court he thought he had only taken his legal third share, leaving two thirds to be split between his brother and mother. The matter in court actually proved quite complex, for in truth, there was a high likelihood that a third of the money did belong to James, or indeed soon would. The judge explained this to him and asked if he wished to change the plea to not guilty. James did and was sentenced on the diminished plea.
However, even as early as July 1900, James’s brother John McClelland had broken into a house in Burnbank and stolen items, being jailed for 40 days. It is not unnoticed that this was long before the father’s death.
Moving again northwestwards, further into Springwell, we next arrive at the former Smellie’s Land or Smellie’s Buildings (pronounced ‘smiley’), a surname well known throughout Lanarkshire.
Smellie’s Buildings at Springwell should not be confused with his buildings at Craig Street, Stonefield, which also was Smellie’s Land. These pages are about his Springwell properties on Glasgow Road, sometimes incorporated in census information as part of nearby Springwell Place.
The subjects consisted of a block of four, two storey stone tenements, with frontage directly on to Glasgow Road, commissioned by owner Alexander Smellie, a nearby flesher (butcher). The buildings were to be Alexanders’s retirement present to himself.
Alexander Smellie was born on 1st January 1852 in Carluke and married his wife Ellen (Helen Finlayson) in Larkhall in 1875. The couple set up their home there initially, with Alexander working as a butcher. In 1877 their daughter Mary was born, then a son John in 1881, both born in Larkhall. By 1885, the family had moved to Springwell, Blantyre renting a house at Allison Place (a tenement block) and working from a corner shop of at the property.
A daughter, Jeannie would follow in 1892, born in Blantyre.
By 1895, Alexander Smellie was working 3 different shops in Allison Place at numbers 12,13 and 41 (not the numbers of Glasgow Road, but the numbers within Allison Buildings). Working with them was his wife’s sister Kate. Alexander had already by that time bought houses in the newly formed Craig Street and was renting them out, further to the west in Blantyre, choosing to live at 43 Craig Street. He would later move to a larger home at 55 Craig Street by 1925.
In 1896, Alexander retired from being a butcher, not due to age as he was only 43, but having acquired so many homes in Craig Street and presumably from savings, he was able to step away from working that lifestyle and became a factor of homes. Expanding his property empire was key to this succeeding and having bought an empty square acre of Springwell land, directly beside his previous rented shops, he set about building his own tenements and shops.
He constructed four terraced, two-storey stone tenements of varying sizes, on the south side of Glasgow Road, between McDougall’s Land and the entrance to Springwell Place, slightly stepped due to the fall of the land.
With no photos of Smellie’s Buildings forthcoming, we once again show how the tenement looked with a location line drawing, putting size, location and scale into modern context. This was quite a latter addition for Springwell, with many homes, shops and tenements around it by its time of construction. All together the buildings comprised of 13 homes and 2 shops, both at the western side at the corner with Springwell Place, (a former side street leading off Glasgow Road.)
The corner shop was let to John Tennant, a butcher, who was likely filling the vacancy created from Alexander’s sales departure in the area. Next door was James Allan, a relatively short lived tailor shop.
The back of the property was an open square yard with outside toilets. The upper homes were accessed by one single flight of steps at the rear with a long upper terrace leading to the doors. However, by 1908 an additional flight of stone steps had been built, with more private entrances created, possibly due to the homes being further subdivided to maximize rental capacity.
By 1905 Alexander had bought a similar good sized square plot of land at the south of Smellie’s Buildings and had constructed a hayloft, stables and a slaughterhouse. Of note then also, was his acquisition of the adjacent, existing 8 one-storey houses going by the name of McNair’s Buildings which ran north to south along the east side of Springwell Place. From 1905, the name ‘McNairs’ was gone, these homes incorporated into Smellie’s Land.
In 1905 the tenants renting Smellie’s Buildings (including McNairs) were mostly miners, carters or enginemen and their families. They were as follows; Mrs. Margaret Nelson, Samuel Liddell, Marion Davidson, Thomas Speirs (later to own McDougall’s Land), John Brenigan, Joseph Irvine, Agnes James, Boyd Thomson, William McGill, John Gray, Thomas Jamieson, Robert King, Hugh Wood, John Law, David Allan, George Hutch, Robert Nelson, Robert Lawson, Charles Neilson John Tennant and Alexander McGregor. You’ll notice 21 tenants, but only 18 houses, so some of these people may have been living in split or smaller rooms.
Rents ranged between £4, 9 and £5, 13 shillings per annum, with exception of tenant John Brenigan living in a double property paying £8, 11.
Around this time Smellie’s Buildings on the Glasgow Road were given postal addresses, namely homes 17 and 19 in the east, then 21 (shop) and 23 (corner shop) moving west.
Tragedies at number 19
At 19 Glasgow Road the Swain family were renting in 1916. Tragedy struck the family when little Eddie, the 1 year old son of James and Margaret died on 27th April. Following the infants death, the family moved out and new tenant was Gavin McLelland. However, fate was not finished with 19 Glasgow Road.
In August 1918, it was reported that Private Gavin McLelland of the Scottish Rifles, who was the fourth son of Hugh and Grace McLelland of Hamilton, had dead. Gavin had left 19 Glasgow Road to head off to war, which during his time away was vacant. However, injured in a fight against the Germans, he died from his wounds. Another Blantyre solider taken by war.
In 1914, McNair’s Buildings went on fire, with everything gutted inside. The story is told later when we properly explore them, but the properties were rebuilt.
By 1915, whilst war raged in Europe, John Tennant was still renting the butcher shop at 23 Glasgow Road, for £12 a year. He was doing well for he had bought the hayloft, stables and former slaughterhouse from Alexander Smellie. John Tennant, who you may remember earlier in the book receiving compensation for being injured in a tram accident in 1904 had also moved out to Burnbrae Cottage in High Blantyre Road. John Tennant would operate his butchers business from 23 Glasgow Road from around 1896 until the early 1920’s. In 1920 he was paying £16 a year rent. By 1925, David Berry was the shopkeeper, signifying an end to Tennant’s butchery business between 1920 and 1925. John passed away in 1947.
Fleshing or butchery was and still is, a traditional line of work. In the industrialized world, slaughterhouses used butchers to slaughter the animals, performing one or a few of the steps repeatedly as specialists on a semiautomated disassembly line. The steps include stunning (rendering the animal incapacitated), exsanguination (severing the carotid or brachial arteries to facilitate blood removal), skinning (removing the hide or pelt) or scalding and dehairing (pork), evisceration (removing the viscera) and splitting (dividing the carcass in half longitudinally).
These practices would have been done at the back of the property in John’s slaughterhouse, situated some distance from homes. It may be he utilized the neighbouring piggery to obtain much of his meat and poultry.
After the carcasses were chilled (unless “hot-boned”), John would have had to select carcasses, sides, or quarters from which primal cuts can be produced with the minimum of wastage; separating the primal cuts from the carcass; trimming primal cuts and preparing them for secondary butchery or sale; and storing cut meats. Secondary butchery involves boning and trimming primal cuts in preparation for sale. Historically, primary and secondary butchery were performed in the same establishment, but the advent of methods of preservation and low cost transportation largely separated them. It would have been a messy job, not for the faint hearted, but one necessary to keep the growing Springwell population happy.
Next shopkeeper was David Berry but it is unknown what he sold. He was at 23 Glasgow Road from the early 1920’s for only a couple of years.
In 1915, the neighbouring shop at 21 Glasgow Road had changed occupants, being run by Mrs. Margaret Reid, a shopkeeper with James Allan, the tailor, no longer there. This was a short term arrangement, for by 1920, Mrs. Jeanie Lawson, a grocer was the shopkeeper, also renting for £16 a year. (This lady was not Alexander’s daughter Jeanie).
By 1930, Jeanie Lawson and her sister, Margaret had moved into the larger corner shop where they would continue their grocery business right up until WW2 at that location. Beyond that time, Lawson’s grocery shop was also run as a bakery, owned by relative Meg Lawson who may have acquired the whole building after Smellie. By the 1930’s, 21 Glasgow Road then became another house for rent, meaning there were 6 homes at 17 Glasgow Road, 8 homes at 19 Glasgow Road and 5 homes at 21 Glasgow Road, as well as the 8 homes at former McNair’s land.
Alexander Smellie lost his wife in 1921. He seemed to have done well building good quality homes. Smellie’s Buildings existed right into the 1970’s and many of the families who lived there doing so through several decades and generations. It’s noticed that many of the tenant surnames in the 1930’s were the same in 1905.
Today, the site of Smellie’s land is nothing more than a little grassy area, with some trees becoming more established, where once the yard was. There is no reminder of the tenement on the site at all.
With his quality homes built in Craig Street, even up until his death on 18th February 1935 in Larkhall, aged 83, Alexander Smellie would have undoubtedly been respected, well known with a good name in Blantyre.
Around 1898, Mr. Alexander Smellie bought a 1 acre plot of land to the south of his buildings. Upon it he built a hayloft, stables and a slaughterhouse, as shown in our highlighted map. Entrance to the properties would likely have been off Springwell Place, the road leading from Glasgow Road, just as it is today.
The hayloft and stables were rented out to assist the grocers who were renting his shop. Horses would have been kept to run the delivery carts and the square plot of land would have been an effective paddock. The fields to the south were still part of nearby Burnbrae farms, although by this time, not Springwell Farm which had gone by the late 19th Century. Hay would have been plentiful to buy to maintain the horses, perhaps acquired from these fields as our earlier picture of the field behind Greenfield Foundry showed.
The former slaughterhouse may have been wooden or brick built, a chimney on the map indicating it was the southern property in the paddock. It was initially let out to Joseph Scott, a flesher who may have been helping Alexander previously when he ran his business from Allison Place. It would have been the ideal location to acquire pigs from the neighbouring piggery at McDougall’s Land.
The rental arrangement did not get off to a good start, nor did the slaughterhouse. On Wednesday 12th April 1899, Joseph Scott was charged at Hamilton Sheriff Court for supplying diseased meat. Sheriff Davidson took no time in charging Mr Scott following the report from the Sanitary Inspector of the County. It was said that Joseph had a diseased carcass in high slaughterhouse, prepared for sale and intended for food. The Prosecutor learned that Joseph had bought the animal in Glasgow but transporting it back to Blantyre, it had died en route. It had been emaciated, thin and picked up disease quickly following death or from when it was alive. The carcass tested for tuberculosis which would have killed anybody who ate it. The judge was appalled and making an example of Joseph, convicted him and fined him £25 (around £3,000 in today’s money.)
This shocking news may have travelled fast in the thriving and busy hamlet of Springwell for Joseph Scott was not conducting business there for much longer, either through termination of his rental agreement, by choice, or being forced out due to lack of business!
Shortly after, when Alexander retired he clearly had no use for a hayloft or slaughterhouse anymore, selling the land and all on to John Tennant, also a butcher, one of his tenants who ran the corner shop on Smellie’s Land. By 1915, John had converted the slaughterhouse into a garage, indicating that he may have had an early mechanized delivery vehicle by that time or needed a workshop. As such, the slaughterhouse appears to disappear just before 1915.
Throughout the 20th Century, the property was heavily fenced off with large gates and for the most part of the area, it was left vacant. During the early 1960’s , it was a small refuse tip.
Today, at least one of those old buildings has been rebuilt in the same location and other larger pitched roof buildings now adjoin them. Use of the land appears to have changed in 2017, where some sort of scrapyard or place where many old dilapidated vehicles are now being stored.
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