Glasgow Rd (s5) – Herbertson to Church St

glasgow road

Every Building, every Century. From the book “Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.

Menu: Events | Streets | Glasgow Rd | Medieval Times | Deep History | Modern | Redevelopment | Road Accidents | Works Village | Livingstone Memorial Centre | Shuttle Row | Childhood | Environment |

South Submenu: Exploring Burnbank BoundaryBirth to Redevelopment | Burnbank to Auchinraith Rd | Auchinraith Rd to Herbertson St | Herberston St to Church St | Church St to Logan St |  Logan St to Victoria St | Victoria St to Stonefield Rd |  Stonefield Rd to Westend | Westend to Priory Bridge

North Submenu: Burnbank to Whistleberry | Whistleberry to Forrest St | Forrest St to Clark St | Clark St to John St | John St to Alpine St | Alpine St to Greenside St | Greenside St to Station Rd | Station Rd to Mayberry Pl | Mayberry Pl to Coatshill | Coatshill to Priory Bridge | Exploring Spittal Boundary

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From the illustrated social history book…

Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.

Alois Schlothauer (Slater)

    The Slater’s story at Merry’s Rows is an interesting one. Alois Schlothauer was born in 1866 in Germany, the son of German parents. He eventually married in Scotland and moved to Merry’s Rows in Blantyre in 1902, after obtaining a job at Merry & Cunningham’s Pit.

   In 1914, when war approached, Alois did not believe he would have to go back to Germany. After all, he had a growing family in Blantyre and at 48 considered himself too old to fight. That year, his wife gave him money frequently in order that he could become a British Citizen, but each time the money was spent on drink. A law was passed asking all foreigners in the UK to register and report to police.

   In the May of 1915, Alois duly reported to the local police station, with his personal belongings, on the same day his oldest son, John reported for military service and became a dispatch rider in the “Army Air corps”. However, Alois, being of German birth was detained, transported and interned in Camp Knockaloe on the Isle of Man (off the coast of England). The camp was built to hold 5,000 men but by 1917 it held over 20,000 people.

Camp Knockaloe

WW2 Camp Knockaloe, Isle of Man

   No letters or communications were allowed between him, and the family back in Blantyre. At the end of hostilities in 1918, he, along with 80% others interned, was deported back to Germany not to return. It was a brutal and severe ripping of a man away from his family and absolutely all family contact ended with Alois, on the day he reported to the police three years earlier.

   In 1918, his 2 sons in Blantyre went to Court and changed their surname officially to Slater, something many people did to hide the origin of their name. This was likely primarily for employment opportunities. In 1918, war was still rampant and more men were needed. A ballot at various collieries was conducted, relieving miners of their mining duties and asking them to report for service.

   In 1918 Alois’ son, John and his half German neighbor William Siegel also from Merry’s Rows both found themselves in court for failing to turn up when requested for the next round of their military duty. Each were fined £2 and handed back over to the military. You can imagine what they felt about War and perhaps especially what had just recently happened to their absent father. With thanks to Duncan Slater for this interesting insight into his grandpa’s life.

Origins of Elm Street

Elm Street

Licensed bought Aerial Photo 1950 of Elm Street

   Following the Lanarkshire Slum clearance drive of the 1930’s, and the clearing of Merry’s Rows, in 1950 town planners announced a new Street was to be formed where once the miners homes had been.

   These were to be modern, spacious double storey homes with gardens, indoor toilets and more than one bedroom.

   Elm Street was the name chosen, complimenting nearby new Hawthorn Place leading off and nearby Beech Place just off Auchinraith Road. These names were likely chosen just to reflect nature, greenery and outdoors, a world away from mines, coal and coalmasters and even had a long narrow play park nearby.

   Elm Street still exists today, broad and wide connecting Auchinraith Road to Glasgow Road but due to social housing problems, Hawthorn Place and Beech Place were demolished, the land sold off by the council to make way for private housing nearer the Millennium now named Nordic Crescent.

Masonic Hall / Elm Court Flats

   When the Masonic Buildings further west along Glasgow Road were demolished in the late 1970’s, the lodge built a new brick building at the bottom of Elm Street, where Sprott’s / Kidd’s Building had been. Their time there was short lived before moving out in 1988 to the lodge in High Blantyre, and the brick building was sold off as modern flats.

Masonic Flats

Masonic Hall , now flats on Glasgow Road pictured in 2016

Nazarene Church

   The Church of the Nazarene is an evangelical Christian denomination that emerged from the 19th-century Holiness movement in North America around 1907. The Holiness work in Blantyre began in March 1907, the following year the American movement commenced.

   It was originally called the ‘Blantyre Holiness Mission’ but changed name in 1910 to become the ‘Blantyre Pentecostal Church.’ When they initially formed they met in each others houses, those meetings known as “cottage” or “kitchen meetings”. However by 1909, just 2 years later they worshipped in the Caldwell Hall at the junction of Glasgow Road and the previous location of Auchinraith Road junction. The hall was shared with Stonefield Parish Church.

1952 Nazarene Church Blantyre

1952 Photo of Nazarene Church, Elm Street

   In need of a separate identity and to avoid confusion and conflicting service times, in 1910, opportunity arose to buy land and a large Nissan wooden hut was built. The hut was erected further west in Jackson Street and their inaugural service was held on 10th March 1910 conducted by Rev. George Sharpe, the first minister of the church. George was also doing work for the mission at Parkhead. In those early years anybody involved with the church had to abstain from smoking and drinking. The hut faced on to Jackson Street, the rear facing on to the miners homes of Merry’s Rows.

   Their religious work became a part of the Pentecostal Church of Scotland uniting with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1915, with other venue added at Perth, Uddingston and Paisley. In Blantyre the church became known after World War One as “The Nazarene Church”, those early names confined to history.

The first resident pastor was Rev. George Dempsie, appointed on 31st August 1910. Since 1907, a total of 24 ministers had served as pastors, the best known of whom was the much respected Rev. William Mackie, who served from 1967 until 1987. Rev. Mackie was a butcher in the Central C0-op on Glasgow Road and sometimes at High Blantyre. A large vacant field was adjacent to the mission hut or “Mission Hall” as it was shown on maps of the era. This field was still vacant right up until the 1950s. In 1924, the Pastor was Pastor McLaglan. By 1931, Pastor Wilkie. In December 1947, Pastor Leslie Roberts was in charge.

   When Elm Street houses were still being constructed in 1952, Mr. Bill Clayden, a member of the congregation asked the council to lay a small path to the rear of the church, so people could access it from the new street. With the council agreeing to the request, it was decided by the congregation, they would reverse the layout of the church entirely, amending the insides to suit. This was done with much enthusiasm and almost single handedly by Bill.

   After many years of meeting in the old Nazarene Church (hut) it eventually burned down in 1980. A new church, on Elm Street was built on the opposite side and officially opened by Mrs. Janet Mackie. It was dedicated on Sunday 24th October 1982. For nearly 100 years the witness was maintained in Blantyre; a ministry that concluded on Sunday 24th September 2006. The Church was officially closed in its centenary year 2007 when the building on Elm Street was sold to St Andrew’s Church of Scotland whose church is adjacent to it, and named, by the Church of Scotland, “Nazarene Hall”.

Nazarene now

Nazarene Church Hall in 2016, Elm Street

   The name lives on – and the work of making Christ known in that community continues. The Nazarene Hall is used every day of the week, for youth and children’s work, for Sunday School and community groups.

Elm Street Playpark

 This view of Elm Street looks north towards Glasgow Road and was captured on camera in 1978 by the late Neil Gordon, just prior to the extensive redevelopment

1978 Elm Street
To the right is Kidd’s Buildings, in front are the tenements on the north side of Glasgow Road and to the left is the former Stonefield Parish Church. In the foreground on the left is the Elm Street Playpark so popular with Blantyre children, although by the time of this picture, the play equipment has mostly gone. Rosie Law once painted a beautiful painting on the wall in the park, which remained there for a long time.

1990 Elm Street Park

Stonefield Parish Church

   The Stonefield Parish Church was located on Glasgow Road at the western corner of Church Street during the late 19th Century and through most of the 20th.

Church zoned

Stonefield Parish Church shown on the 1962 map

   It was originally noted as being a “Chapel of Ease” later to become known as Stonefield Parish. This “Chapel of Ease” came about as the Old Parish Church built at High Blantyre in 1863, was still subject to overcrowding. Some residents from Low Blantyre had far to walk and so it made sense that another church should be built, which would remain under Blantyre Parish Church. The Provost of Hamilton, John Clark Forrest, a prominent landowner in the town, donated the site for the Church in 1876 although it was not formerly bought until 1878. Like the shops and homes to the east, it was yet another building constructed in the late 1870’s.

   On 23rd April 1876, a Blantyre Session House record, recorded by Rev Stewart Wright of High Blantyre commented on the greatly increased population of Blantyre and how it now needed a new church. Rev Wright read out the following proposed letter, which was to be distributed throughout the Parish. “Every one acquainted with Blantyre is aware of the thorough change that has passed over the parish. A little time ago it was a retired, thinly populated agricultural district, but now it has become the important centre of a vast mining population. In 1871, the inhabitants numbered about 3500; a census lately taken shows them to have increased to 8000, and we may safely predict, from the evidence everywhere around us, that in five years more the eight thousand will have doubled.”

1950 Aeiral Stonefield Parish

1950 Aerial View Church

 Rev Stewart continued, “In these circumstances the minister and the kirk-session feel that there is the most urgent call upon them to be up and doing, so as to provide church accommodation for this vast multitude. Within the bounds of the parish there are at present but two churches, Established and Free, both of which cannot accommodate more than 1300 people. The United Presbyterians have a church on the coannes? Which can hold 400 more, and the Roman Catholics are about to erect a chapel for their adherents, perhaps numbering about 700; so there is thus a large and increasing population for whom it is incumbent upon the Church of Scotland to provide, without unnecessary delay, religious ordinances. Therefore, the minister and kirk-session send forth this appeal to all who love our Zion, and are concerned for the religious instruction of our people, to grant them sympathy and help, that they may, to some extent, meet those spirited demands of their parish.

   A site has been promised on the Glasgow and Hamilton Road, in the very centre of the district of Stonefield that is being so quickly populated. The proposed church is to accommodate 900 sitters, and will cost between £4000 and £5000. Grants in aid are expected from the Home Mission, the Baird Trust, and the Ferguson Request; but others, too, must be willing and ready to contribute as God has given them power, if we are soon to see erected here for His service, and to His glory, a “holy and a beautiful house.” Your name, as a contributor, will be gladly received by Stewart Wright, minister of Blantyre; or Mr. L. W. Adamson, Rosebank, Blantyre, treasurer. The manse at Blantyre.”

   The action was made to print this letter and to progress with the new Church to be paid for from funds in the Session accounts and refunded by subscriptions, i.e. it was to ultimately be paid for by the people of Blantyre.

   A letter by Rev Stewart Wright appeared in the Glasgow Herald on Friday 1st March 1878, stating, “SIR- Will you kindly insert in your journal the enclosed circular, which I recently issued, and in which I plead for subscriptions to defray the expenses of a new church that is now in course of erection in my parish. The population has so vastly increased that there is urgent need for this new church. The mass of the people are poor, being miners and their families, who consequently cannot afford to give much. The people of Scotland have nobly responded to the appeal, which I issued in behalf of the many families who were rendered destitute by the recent terrible colliery explosion. I feel assured that I shall not now plead in vain for sympathy and help to meet the spiritual wants of those who are still with us.”

Building the Church

   By 1878 subscription monies had been received to start the build. The Foundation stone was laid by Rev Stewart Wright and John Clark Forrest overseeing a small ceremony in May 1878. Mr. A. J. Smith of Glasgow, architect, drew up the plans for the church, which was 80 feet long and 47 feet wide, and the spire rose up to 100 feet from a large square pedestal feature. Built by William Adam Builders & Joiners of Main Street, High Blantyre, the church was designed in the Norman Gothic style and included an apse behind the pulpit to accommodate a choir and an organ, and all the side windows were of elaborate design with gablets (separate pitched roofs) over them.


Interior Stonefield Parish Church

   It was officially opened on Tuesday 29th June 1880 and including the galleries, could seat 900 people. It is unknown if the £5,000 budget was adhered to. The Church was entered from Glasgow Road via ornate large gates between stone pillars, the entrance on a walled perimeter. Rev. Thomas Pryde was ordained to be the pastorate of the church and was first to do so, when it opened.

   A note in the Kirk Session book on 7th August 1880, records the opening event as described by the Rev Stewart Wright of High Blantyre Old Parish. Noting the opening date and the aforementioned ordainment, it was stated that Rev Wright himself conducted the ceremony and services along with Rev Scott, minister of Bargeddie who spoke from the bible Matthew IX v 37. Rev Wright offered prayers.

   After the service the ladies of the Parish presented Rev. Pryde with a pulpit gown, hymnbook and bands. Rev. Pryde said his thanks for the gift and the young minister then shook hands with the leaving congregation. A note was also entered about the glorious church being constructed in such a populous place. It did remain under the Blantyre Parish Church control until 1890 when it was raised to a “Quoad Sacra” Parish with its own Kirk Session and Stonefield Parish Church was then recognised in its own right.

   In 1902 the bell from Blantyre mill, which used to summon David Livingstone to work, was presented to Stonefield Church as a coronation gift. It continued to be used as the church bell until it was given in 1922 to Low Blantyre (Stonefield Parish) School. After the 1970’s, it was returned back to the David Livingstone Centre, where it now is hung from the gable of Shuttle Row.

General Booth’s Visit to the Church   


General Booth’s Motor Car Tour of 1904 visiting the church

   1904 saw General Booth travel through Scotland is his much celebrated motorcar tour, a cavalcade of early cars travelling from Land’s End to Aberdeen. William Booth, the evangelist preacher, remembered for being the founder of the Salvation Army was on a grand adventure. This was at a time when motor travel was still in its infancy and Booth covered 1,224 miles in 29 days, speaking at 75 indoor, 36 outdoor, and 53 overflow meetings. During September, he stopped at Stonefield Parish Church to speak about the new car contraption and an audience of 1,500 people packed into the church (that could accommodate 900). Outside 3,000 people had assembled in the open air, quite a considerable percentage of Blantyre’s population, given the event had been advertised in advance. Dr Grant presided and afterwards the General was treated to tea.


William Booth addresses crowds on his motor car tour of 1904

Church Life & Ministers

   In 1909 the minister Rev. Thomas Pryde was also in charge of the Sunday school. At the same time the session clerk was Donald McLean. Secretary of the Sunday school was a Miss Gray. Choirmaster was William Steven. Harmounium player was Miss Steven.

   Treasurer of bible class was Miss Steven. Secretary was Miss J.W Steven.

   The Church also had a Senior Women’s Guild. During 1909, the President was Miss Shaw. Miss Gray was President of the Junior Guild. Positions of authority within the Recreation and Rambling Club included President, Rev. Mr. Pryde, Treasurer M. McArthur and Secretary George Gray. Rev. Thomas Pryde retired in 1919.

   On Thursday evening 21st February 1918, the Junior Choir of Stonefield Parish Church rendered the kinderspiel entitled “Don Quixote” in the Co-operative Hall, Stonefield, Rev. Thomas Pryde, M.A.. presided, and notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather there was a large turnout. The children rendered their several pieces with pleasing effect, and great credit was due to the conductor, Mr. Malcolm Young, for the excellent manner in which he had the young ones trained. By then the Church had address 139 Glasgow Road.

   During the 1920’s, Rev. W.H. McDiarmid was minister, but left to go to a church in Forfar in June 1929.

  During 1921 and 1922, this church faced a serious crisis and the building and congregation was the subject of discussion at the monthly meetings of Hamilton Presbytery. The fabric of the Church had been wrecked by underground workings and this forced the congregation to worship in temporary buildings built alongside the church some time earlier, which quickly became not watertight. A proposed restoration scheme of the old church was discussed at a cost of £4,000 held up extensively as the contractors asked for guarantees that they would be paid.

   The Scotsman on Wednesday 28th September 1921 revealed some things about problems at the Stonefield Parish Church – “The serious position in which the congregation of Stonefield Parish Church, Blantyre, now find themselves was the subject of discussion yesterday at the monthly meeting of Hamilton Presbytery. The fabric of the church was wrecked by underground workings; and for some time back the congregation have been worshipping in temporary accommodation, which in turn is now declared to be not wind and watertight. A proposed restoration scheme of the old church at a cost of about £4000 has met with frequent delays on the part of the Baird Trust and the Home Mission Committee, who ask for guarantees of security for the future. The reply to this is that to ask for secure foundations in a mining area like Blantyre is equivalent to asking for the moon. A remit has once more been made to the Committee already appointed by the Presbytery to consider the whole matter, with power to take expert opinion if thought desirable, also to estimate what financial assistance ought to be given by the Presbytery, and report.”.

   The church steeple was completely demolished in 1921 to make it safer and garden fetes were still being held in Summer 1922 to raise more money for completing the building repairs.

   In 1927, the pulpit of the old Village Chapel / School was transferred to Stonefield Parish Church for use there, a pulpit that David Livingstone himself would have cast eyes upon a century earlier.

   Jubilee Celebrations were held in summer 1930 and Rev. E. Sherwood Gunson M.A minister of New Monkland Parish Church during the afternoon service of Sunday 22nd June 1930, dedicated a handsome fumed Oak communion table and chairs, which were a gift of Mr. and Mrs Andrew Wright or Burtonlea, Blantyre. These were in memory of the late Rev. Thomas Pryde. The church that year had a ratable value of £109.

Post WW2 Years

   During the 1940’s the minister was Rev. Duncan Finlayson. M.A who lived in the Stonefield Church Manse in Herbertson Street. In the mid 1950’s it was Rev. R. H. Porter.

   The church was well attended by local GPs, businessmen and shopkeepers and had strong links with the Cooperative Society. It did not have halls next to it as every other church did but instead used halls a short walk away at the Caldwell Institute. The exception to this was the temporary hall erected in the 1920’s whilst repairs were conducted.

   The Church ran two Sunday Schools: a morning one for the congregation’s children and an afternoon one mainly for miner’s children. Sunday classes were at 12 midday and 6.30pm.

   Residents were surprised in December 1946, when many thinking the church congregation was in decline, witnessed the church filled to capacity and more when 1,000 people packed into the building. The occasion was a post war midnight service on that Christmas Eve, a celebration of peace and thankfulness.

   Stonefield Church could boast of having ‘the finest organ in Lanarkshire’. On the evening of Friday 20th May 1949 at 7.30pm, a service of thanksgiving and dedication took place at Stonefield Parish Church, on Glasgow Road. The occasion was also to acknowledge a most beautiful gift of a 3 manual pipe organ to the church was given from Hamilton Town Hall. With the Second World War ended, an inscription was thought appropriate to be inlaid into the organ itself, which read: “To the Glory of God. In thanksgiving for his safe keeping in time of stress, and as a memorial of those who, for us, laid down their lives 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.” The organ was made by Messrs. H Hilsdon Ltd of Glasgow. There were 3 manuals, 27 stops and 15 couplers making a total of 42 stops. It was a remarkable piece of equipment being all-electric. Andrew Wright & Sons Ltd undertook the builders work, T&W Roberts did the joinery, Robert White undertook the electrical work and Charles Messer & Son did the plasterwork. It is unknown what became of the organ.

   The organ attracted some of the finest organists. The most famous was ‘Hitler’s pianist’ (explored next). Mr. Hambock became organist of Stonefield Church from 1968-1970.

   By the 1960’s the last of the coalmines on which Blantyre’s prosperity and expansion relied upon, had closed down. This inevitably resulted in a high level of unemployment, which had a ‘ripple effect’ on many other businesses in the community. Church membership at Stonefield Parish Church never exceeded 600 at its height. This was maintained throughout the sixties, but by the mid-seventies was beginning to show rapid decline.

   In 1965, Stonefield Parish Church was united with the Burleigh Memorial Church to become ‘Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Parish Church’.

1979 Stonefield Church fire

1979 Stonefield Parish Church from Elm Street on the day of the fire

   In 1976, the Rev James Gregory became the Minister first of the linked charges then of the united congregation. A second union took place in 1978 when the Anderson Church joined the union. At that time the church was renamed St Andrew’s Parish Church (Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Anderson Parish Church would have been quite a mouthful!).

   On 3rd September 1979, Stonefield Parish Church suffered the fate of many other Blantyre church buildings and was accidentally set on fire. The roof was being restored at the time when a workman left his blowtorch on while he went for his lunch. The building was just 9 months away from its centenary! At first it was thought that repair would be possible with a new roof, but soon it was discovered that the whole remaining church would need to be demolished as a result of weaknesses in the wall and from the land disturbance caused by mining (the reason why the spire had been removed years earlier). The previous photo was taken from Elm Street looking at the back of the church on that very day, the sky thick with black acrid smoke.

   In truth, the whole incident was highly suspicious to many people, given the timing and clearance of all other buildings around it.

1979 Stonefield Parish Church

Stonefield Parish Church in 1979, a year before demolition. Photo courtesy late Neil Gordon

   Despite losing their church building, the congregation remained resilient. During the next 3 years they travelled further west and met in the Livingstone Memorial Church each Sunday afternoon, boosting the congregation there.

   However, the Stonefield Parish Church was a boarded up ruin in Winter 1979 and was demolished in 1980, the land cleared completely to make way for the brand new St Andrew’s Church. Stonefield Parish Church has fond memories for many people in Blantyre, especially all those happy couples who married or had children christened there.

   Source: Blantyre Project with minor content added with kind permission from St Andrews Church.

Rev Thomas Pryde

   Rev. Thomas Pryde, MA – Thomas was ordained on Tuesday 29th June 1880 as the first pastorate in the Stonefield Parish Church on Glasgow Road. Before Rev. Pryde was ordained by Rev. Mr. Scott of Bargeddie, Rev. Stewart Wright conducted a consecration service, although the church was not formally opened until the following Sunday, the 4th of July. The dinner was enjoyed after the service was held in the old Masonic Hall above the Livingstonian pub.

1880 Bible

1880 Bible shared to Blantyre Project from St Andrews Church

The ladies of the Parish presented a large bible to Thomas along with gown, cassock and hood. The leather bound bible complete with inscription is still with St Andrews Parish Church today. Thomas retired in 1919. A communion table and chairs was dedicated in his memory in June 1930, to coincide with the church’s Jubilee year. A year after retiring, Thomas handed back the bible in May 1920 to the Stonefield Parish Church. Knowing a detailed book about Glasgow Road was at last being written, the church has kindly shared this image of that very same bible.

Rev Donald Finlayson

   Rev. Duncan Finlayson (b1917 – d2012.) Duncan was a former minister of Stonefield Parish Church from 1944. Born in Elgin in 1917 at the end of the First World War, he was raised in Marybank and Strathpeffer.

   Duncan was the youngest in a family of three. His father was the factor in a local estate. Educated at Marybank Primary School then at Dingwall Academy, Duncan upon leaving school went directly on to Glasgow University where he gained his MA degree in English and Philosophy, choosing to continue with this Divinity training. He was proud to be awarded runner up in the University’s Boxing Championship, which may have occasioned his rather distinctive Finlayson nose! It was at this time in the early 1940’s, whilst war raged in Europe, that he spotted Jean in the University Choir and vowed he would marry her, something he did in 1943. Immediately after their marriage they went to Ayr when Duncan became Assistant minister, but it was Blantyre that called in 1944, when Duncan was offered his first charge as minister outright at Stonefield Parish Church on Glasgow Road.

Duncan Finlayson

1948 Duncan Finlayson

   The Church provided a beautiful stone manse at Herbertson Street nearby and it was an ideal setting for the couple to start their family, their first 2 children born there. He also had a cat called “Boots”. (pictured at his home in 1948 with his daughter)

   His time at Blantyre was relatively short when a move to Glasgow called in the very early 1950’s to Church HQ as Associate Secretary to the Foreign Mission Committee. He was then appointed Warden at the Peace Institute, which in 1953 brought him into close association with the Iona Community before another move this time to St Ninians in Musselborough. In 1963 Duncan, Jean and their 4 children (Pat, Duncan, Edward & Iona) moved to St Rules Parish Church in Monifieth, staying there for 6 years.

   Duncan had a great desire to tinker and fix things. He had a Mark 2/ 3.4 Jaguar car, which would roar out the manse but he lost it in a fire. For local children, he once tried to make a pedal car buggie but the wheels never quite worked, so he remodelled it into a boat, which never quite worked too, settling for overturning it to become a planter. In 1969 he was appointed first male Principal of St Colm’s College in Edinburgh (now closed). In 1978, he and Jean moved to Morvern overlooking the Island of Mull., before finally retiring back to Appin and Stathpeffer. He had come full circle back to the place of his birth.

   Duncan and Jean celebrated their diamond-wedding anniversary in 1993 in Tulloch Castle. Jean’s failing health prompted the move to be closer to children and Jean died in 2005. Duncan soldiered on his own health failing prompting a move to be close to Iona, his daughter. He passed away at Myrtle Cottage in 2012, aged 95. He was much loved and is said to have had a fun sense of humour, a glint in his eye and liked to exaggerate or fantasise in a playful manner with others.

St Andrew’s Church


St Andrews Church 1982

   On 21st March 1982, the Rev. John Handley, Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery, opened the new and current St Andrew’s Church on the same site of the former Stonefield Parish Church. Also in attendance were the Very Reverend professor Robin Barbour, former Moderator of the General Assembly and the architect, Mr. R. Robertson. It was built at a cost of £187,000.

   The main sanctuary has seating for 180, but a sliding partition connecting with the hall provides seating for 400 if necessary.

   With decline in numbers as part of the modern church’s challenge, St Andrew’s embarked on a philosophy of mission. The church became a ‘mission partner’ with St Ninian’s Centre in Crieff and a program of mission development began. The laity was challenged to become part of the vision building and the church was structured to develop mission. A Tea Room was established which has become a welcome community resource that continues to this day. A ‘Mustard Seed Prayer Group’ was formed and healing services were introduced. In 1992, Rev James Gregory retired. Congregation continue to attend this church each Sunday.

Hitler’s Pianist

   The organist at Glasgow Road’s Stonefield Parish Church from 1968 – 1970, was none other than Hitler’s pianist! It seemed an unlikely tale but I have learned to give an ear to the extremes of improbability, on the outside chance that it might just be true. A little research demonstrated though, that truth was behind this story. Walter Hambrock was indeed a concert pianist from Vienna, who had married Helen Weir, a lecturer from Airdrie, and had taken the organist’s job as the bread-and-butter base for his music publishing business which he ran from Scotland.

   His arrival in Scotland by the modest Woods of Strichen, Aberdeenshire was just a minor part of his highly colourful story – he had perhaps been more used to the Vienna Woods, within whose picturesque setting he had grown up in the early part of the 20th century. By the age of 10 he had mastered the preparatory music for the National Academy in Vienna and was playing the piano for the silent films at his local cinema. Studying music in Vienna, he would relax with a book by the tombstones of Beethoven and Schubert and counted among his companions a student called Horst Wessel, who composed the official song of the Nazi Party before dying in a street brawl in 1930.

   Moving to Berlin, Walter was heard by Goering and Goebbels, who recommended him to Hitler. Thereafter he played frequently for the Fuhrer, who gave him a signed copy of Mein Kampf. He could tell you about a performance of The Merry Widow where he saw Hitler sitting with the composer, Franz Lehar. It was at the beginning of 1940 that his world fell apart. On his way home from a performance in Holland, a Gestapo hand fell on his shoulder. “What’s the meaning of this?” he asked. “You’ll find out in Berlin,” he was told. Instead of returning to Vienna he was confronted by Martin Bormann, Hitler’s deputy, pointing a gun and spluttering: “You played for the Fuhrer and then you played for a Jew!”

   He was taken to Dachau and then to the dreaded Flossenburg concentration camp where he witnessed mass atrocities. His wife gained a divorce on the basis that he wouldn’t be back. And when he survived the horror and returned to their flat, he was met by another man – wearing his clothes!!

   Playing in the ballrooms of Vienna, he also started a music publishing business but, after his second marriage failed, he was at a low ebb when suddenly a Scots lady came into his life. Just as Walter was enjoying the Berlin Olympics of 1936, Helen Weir from Airdrie was rounding off her university career by teaching in Germany. She too was at the Olympics. But it was 26 years later before they met at a friend’s house, by which time she was lecturing at the College of Commerce in Pitt Street, Glasgow.


   When Walter came to Scotland to propose, Helen withdrew to her room to think about it. He sat down at the piano and began to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, said to have worked wonders in many a romance. The door opened and Helen came with her answer. Beethoven had won the day! They were married in Airdrie in 1962, went to live in Vienna but returned to Helen’s Scotland to live at Strichen, where Walter would run his Austro-Scotia Music Company. So that was how he landed in Strichen, with the perquisite of a splendid house which had been left to the kirk by Jeannie King, a cousin of Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister. But that meagre salary as kirk organist was just £48 per annum. 

   Five years later they were back in Lanarkshire, living in Newmains, where Walter’s pupils included talented pianist Tommy McIntyre as well as Neil Reid, who gained fame as a singer when he won Opportunity Knocks. Walter landed the job of being the organist for the beautiful organ at Stonefield Parish Church. He engaged in this employment every weekend during 1968 – 1970. So much talent, so much courage. But always an obstacle in Walter’s life. Misfortune dogged him to his last day in 1979. Having lived to see Stonefield Parish Church burned down that year, final misfortune fell upon him when a snowstorm caused a postponement of his burial at Clarkston Cemetery, Airdrie.

Youth Centre not meant to be

   In 1978, a new civic Centre was planned for the corner of Elm Street and Glasgow Road. The plans had been approved by the council and the site was chosen out as part of the Glasgow Road redevelopment plans. The complex project which was to include a community hall and play equipment did not reach the drawing stages, despite the noted need due to the closure of public buildings like the Masonic Hall and the Church Hall.

   The council felt some pressure to replace public meeting areas with a new building and budgets were set aside. The final decision was to be put to the Scottish Office.

   However, fate intervened, and in a twist of fate, when the Stonefield Parish Church burned down, plans for the new civic Centre were abandoned, when the Church needed to be rebuilt on the intended community Centre spot. Other regional community Centre’s were instead later proposed.

Lets Continue from Church Street to Logan Street >

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