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From the illustrated social history book…
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road South, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2018.
James Aitchison, headmaster
James Aitchison was another former teacher of Stonefield Parish School. He was born in Cambuslang on 6th September 1873, the son of John and Jane Millar. For the early part of his life, he lived on Cambuslang Main Street with his parents and many siblings including aunts and cousins at the same house.
By 1891, at the age of 17, he was engaged in education as an elementary teacher. His father John passed away in 1899 at the age of 56. By 1901, he was employed as a School Anchor news correspondent for the Greater Glasgow Area. It seems likely he came to Blantyre between 1920 and 1925, for according to the 1925 Valuation roll; James was occupying the Schoolhouse at 1 Victoria Street, adjacent to Stonefield Parish Primary School. James was the schoolmaster of the nearby Stonefield Parish School and was renting this house from the Education Authority of the Council of Lanark for the sum of £25 per annum.
On 1st June 1928, Mr. James Aitchison, according to local news reports was being considered for transfer to Whifflet Primary School in Coatbridge. However, this did not come to pass, and James was still the headmaster at Blantyre in 1930, living in the same schoolhouse at Victoria Street, teaching nearby for some time afterwards.
Clydeview Shopping Centre – West
In 1980, Clydeview Shopping Centre’s western block opened on the former site of Central garage, Nimmo’s Land, Bloomfield Cottage and the Stonefield Parish School.
Built of brick and slate in similar style to the adjacent joined ASDA supermarket, the shopping centre at this location has seen slightly more retail stability through the subsequent decades, perhaps due to its linkage with the actual store. However, it is undeniable that many, many businesses have traded for short times then gone.
We have identified 36 businesses to have traded there, some of them still there to this day. Asda, Asda Café, Citizen’s Advice Centre, Cheque Centre, Oliver’s Shoe Shop, Shoe Zone then Tandem Shoe Shop, Lightbody’s Bakers, Auld’s Bakers, Botterils Shop, Spar, Post office temporarily, Blantyre Special Initiative and New Routes regeneration, employment and training initiatives – occupied the large corner unit between 1986 – 1992 then Salvation Army Trading Co, Lorraine Harkin Hairstylist, Stefano’s Pizza Shop then Pappys Traditional Smokehouse, Glen Travel, Remax Estate Agents, Eddie Coyle Opticians, Weavers Wines, Victoria Wines, Optical Express, ‘Small pound shop, The Laundry’ Launderette, Mandarin Royale (Cantonese Restaurant), Ladbrokes then Mecca Bookmakers above the Mehran Tandoori Indian Takeaway early 90’s then Bombay Nights Indian Takeaway, Community Links, NHS Lanarkshire, Rascalz then Casper’s Nightclub and finally Blantyre Library at the Glasgow Road corner of Victoria Street.
We would need another book to write about the history of all of these businesses, so once again, let’s pick a few of the more well known and prominent businesses on the west side of the Shopping Centre.
Asquith and Dairies (ASDA) submitted plans in 1978 to open a new supermarket in Blantyre. Construction commenced in 1979 at a cost of £3m and they opened their massive supermarket new store in October 1980 to divided reactions.
The company had its origin even back to 1920’s as Associated Dairies. On one hand the boarded up premises along Glasgow Road had been demolished and a new, modern commercial hub had appeared in Low Blantyre. On the other hand, some businesses and individuals, including homes, were casualties of that development, either having to relocate or retire. Many shopkeepers however, could not relocate and felt that they would not be able to compete with such a giant coming to our town.
Part of ASDA’s development included the building of Clydeview Shopping Centre on redeveloped land between Logan Street and Victoria Street. Whilst some successful businesses have thrived in the location, there are many empty retail units in the shopping centre, primarily due to excessive rates; way beyond most local small enterprises would pay.
The large supermarket is open plan and has attached large warehouses, stores and upper offices and staffing rooms. Of course, rather than condemning ASDA, which many people do when they talk of Blantyre’s history and lost character, remember too, that ASDA have been a source of employment for thousands of people over the decades in Blantyre and still attracts many residents for their weekly shopping and fuel.
Asda became part of the Walmart chain in July 1999. In August 2009, Walmart “sold” Asda for £6.9 billion to their Leeds-based investment subsidiary Corinth Services Limited. Asda originally had a “simple and fresh” store format, which under Director Archie Norman’s team and the focus on a Walmart style strategy became more emphasised. The stores are generally white and green, with simplistic layout but built on a Walmart larger footprint format – Asda’s average store is almost 20% bigger than its rivals. In 2004, it introduced its George brand of clothing to the store. It is estimated ASDA alone have approximately 17.5% of the overall UK retail market share for food.
Even until only a few years ago, the ASDA Blantyre Petrol Station had a kiosk and was operated by staff, rather than the self-service we’re used to now. For staff working in the petrol station, it was an early start at the weekends, even before the store opened and no sign of any kind of self-service payment. Similarly there appears to be a trend towards self-service in the store too with several self-checkouts installed between 2011 and 2014 around the time of 24 hour opening, a first for any shop in Blantyre. Who would have thought in 1980, we’d one day be able to walk into a store and have technology trust us enough to pay without an operator?
Glen Travel is a contemporary business formerly located at Clydeview Shopping Centre. David Glen of Station Road established the Blantyre Travel Agency in 1973 with premises in Bellshill and Blantyre and along with staff moved into Clydeview Shopping Centre in the early 1980’s. Since then, their successful business has prospered and with many more staff now employed, it was time for them to seek larger premises. Staying in the local area, a brand and name we’re all familiar with, Glen Travel in Springtime 2017 bought and renovated the former Clydesdale Bank building, which closed in August 2016. The travel agents intend to move by the end of 2017 to this new location at the top of the road. One hurdle overcome in Summer 2017 was the removal of the former large bank vaults, which were removed entirely. These new premises are spacious, will be tastefully decorated and offer prime advertising space.
Casper’s Nightclub was a former nightclub located at the corner unit of Clydeview Shopping Centre at the junction of Glasgow Road and Victoria Street during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Prior to 1987, it was called Rascalz. When Caspers first opened it provided meals but only very briefly. It was in the building that is now currently Blantyre Library. It cost just £3 to get into the club each evening, free at weekends if you were in before midnight. It had an upper balcony overlooking the dance floor; sticky dark blue carpets wet from spilled drinks and a cut out of Casper the Ghost above the entrance.
The bouncers or security were notoriously difficult to deal with, not permitting entry with trainers. They were known to keep baseball bats in amongst the pot plants in the foyer. Also at the entrance was a full size replica telephone box.
Inside the club, the décor was blue velvet walls and seats and mostly carpets. The bar was located on the upper part near the balcony at the back of the building and had black and white tiles on front. It was often 3 or 4 people deep. The club could get so hot from being packed out, that condensation would drip from the mirrored walls and neon light fittings. The upper floor also had comfortable seats around the back walls and a staircase leading down on to a sizeable dance floor. During the late 1980’s, Geraldine McLaughlin was the manager who ran it very well.
The DJ box was elevated and located in the corner not far from the door. The DJs all worked for Mastercraft discos and included Chic McGuire, Chic Devine, John McDonald & Tom Crawley. Another local DJ, Davie Clegg was popular. Ross King and Gary Marshall, Radio Clyde DJs also did brief stints on the decks. The staff members were usually all local.
There was an under 18’s evening on a Saturday prior to adults arriving, but it was stopped due to too many fights. Popular drinks, served when adults arrived, were pints of Snakebite and Blackcurrent (or commonly known as a Diesel), which cost £1.25. Long vodkas were another popular choice.
The music in the late 1980’s was 50% Stock, Aitken and Waterman (More Kylie, Jason, Sonia, Hazel Dean), but in 1990, it was turning more towards more mainstream dance and soul era, with Technotronic, Rebel MC, Soul to Soul etc. Musical artists played week on week from the DJ box in this club included Big Fun, Betty Boo, Black Box, Adamski, MC Hammer and Neneh Cherry. Of course the occasional howler like Jive Bunny was thrown in, as well as old classics like “Dignity” from Deacon Blue and The Waterboys, “Whole of the moon”. The last song was a “smoochie” or slow dance, almost always, and usually a time when people ‘hooked up’.
On one occasion, when a fight started, Jude Lewis got locked in the cellar! Many clubbers would make their way to the adjacent Indian Takeaway for Pakora or a Pizza after the club closed at 3am , despite the late hour. Ex Celtic player Joe Miller was eventually the owner buying from former owner, Gerry around early 1990 and customers were excited to see him upon his debut, welcome night.
When Joe bought it over, all the previous staff left. Caspers burned down, some still say to this day done deliberately by disgruntled staff in 1991 and it lay empty for many years before becoming the Council’s ‘Blantyre Library’.
Ready to move on? Lets look at Victoria Street to Stonefield Road.
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