THE STORY OF THE HIGGINS FAMILY OF HAMILTON

The Higgins Brothers from Cadzow, Hamilton, were great characters who exemplified the courage and hardship of the time in and after the First World War. Miners and fighters all.

They lived in the Miners rows and also lived upstairs from the Ranche Bar, a famed miners pub in Eddlewood. There was 13 of them, including the children! Mary Higgins the mother, was Mary Murphy before she married and was a bleach-field worker in the Paisley mills. Her parents were Irish. Dominick Higgins, the father, came from an Irish family who moved into Hamilton probably at the time of the Irish famine.

The Ranche WM-19.PNG

They typify the families of the area, resilient, real characters, miners, and Irish. Mary Higgins, my grandmother, also worked at the pit-head and was every bit as tough (with a heart of gold). She moved to Hall Street and then to Arden Court before she died. She was a great character and lived until she was 93. Jim Higgins became British and Empire bantamweight champion in 1920 and won the Lonsdale belt outright in 1921 in a record time of under one year (the win and two defenses) which stood until the nineteen fifties when Peter Keenan missed the chance the to break it, but he didn’t do it, so it was never matched or broken.

It is said he was robbed of a lot of his winnings from his fights by his manager. It is said he sold his Lonsdale belt to an American sailor and is now in the states somewhere. It is unique, because it was the last belt won under the British and Empire Championship (before this was changed to just British). It is said the Higgins’s laid the foundation for boxing in Hamilton and one of the brothers maybe Jim or Terrance set up a boxing club there, where a Joe Gans, father of Walter McGowan learned from Jim Higgins. Jimmy died in his sixties after acting as a bouncer in a bookies shop in the Gallowgate in Glasgow.

Jim Higgins British and Empire Bantamweight champion
Jim Higgins
British and Empire Bantamweight champion

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins, a younger brother was also a famed boxer from Cadzow in the 1930s winning many professional and national championships. He was called Mouse because he was under five foot and weighed in at seven stone six pounds. A flyweight, he fought Benny Lynch for the British championship and he was only beaten by points decision, even though Benny was nine pounds heavier. He fought Lynch three times and Benny went on to win the World championship. Harry Lauder was in the Cadzow pits and he may have worked alongside the Higgins’s.

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.
Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.

There are newspaper cuttings from 1932 which tells of Harry Lauder taking him under his wing, Tommy becoming his protégé. Terence Higgins lived in Millgate in Fairhill and died at the age of 88. He was a great character, an old tough miner with a great spirit. His mother Mary (Murphy) Higgins sent him a postcard (attached) when he was at the Front in France, during the First World War, it says: “My Dear Son Terence Higgins. Only a Post card from your mother in Hamilton to let you know we all well. Hopping you are the same and hope to God, seeing by the Papers, the Gordons have led the way in this big charge. I only hope to God, my son, you are one of the lively lads and God has spared you to pull your hard Battle through . My Son Terrence May God Guide and Protect you and send you a safe return to you mother. Good night son and good luck and god bless you and I will have for you. Terry night and day so cheer up son and have a good heart and will rite soon again. Hoping to hear from you soon. Kiss From Mother.

Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.
Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.

This is so poignant because when she wrote the post card she wouldn’t have known whether he was alive or dead.

Tom Ogden3

He came home though, even although he lost an eye! His granddaughter advised that Terry (Higgins) had told his son (David Higgins) that out of ten pals that joined up only two came back Terry Higgins and Terry Murphy (his cousin) both had been shot four times. He said a young man called Kit Rocks was the youngest soldier from Cadzow to be killed.

Terrence Higgins was always proud of the fact that he was the only man in two wars to survive being shot “6 o’clock in the bull” which was the term used to describe a shot between the eyes! That was in 1914, he went back to war and lost his eye after being shot again in 1918!

THE FORGOTTEN GRAVEYARD OF HAMILTON

How many times have you driven down Muir Street and looked over to the back of the Hamilton town house and noticed the large car park. Perhaps you work at the library and park at the staff car park behind the building or do you even live at Back Row?

Grave Marker at the Library Car Park.
Grave Marker at the Library Car Park.

The Hamilton town house car park looks spacious and has a rectangle shape to it, however this area wasn’t built or designed this way to make space for cars. The land beneath the car park is actually an old graveyard. The tarmac was laid over the graves as the last coffin was laid rest over 100 years ago.

Before Smellie’s Auction House was built there was a United Presbyterian Church of Scotland that was large enough to hold 1050 seats. The church occupied the same area of land as Smellie’s at the corner between Muir Street & Lower Auchingramont Road and the graveyard was situated directly across the road from the church.

The former Graveyard today.
The former Graveyard today.

It was rumoured that the graves were all moved to the Bent cemetery after they removed the headstones from the graveyard, however there was over 300 graves at the car park and at the Bent there is only one marker stone that could possibly only hold four graves at a maximum.

The only evidence to this day that the graveyard even existed is a marker stone that shows where the burial place is of John J Thomson & Ann Watson who could have possibly been Husband & Wife.

Burial Marker of John J Thomson & Ann Watson who could have been Husband & Wife.
Burial Marker of John J Thomson & Ann Watson who could have been Husband & Wife.

Today I paid my respects to all the people of Hamilton who are currently buried at the old Hamilton graveyard under the car park of the Hamilton Library! The next time you drive past take a minute and spare a thought because this could be your ancestors that are laid to rest here.

Overlay of the graveyard with the modern day map.
Overlay of the graveyard with the modern day map.

GEORGE LLOYD MOTORCYCLES (HAMILTON)

We were looking for a picture of the George Lloyd Motorcycle supermarket in Peacock Cross (Which is now a Carpet superstore) as i understood they were one of the largest motorbike suppliers in the UK. We couldn’t track a picture down, however we did manage to hear a little bit about the Bike superstore.

The Muir Street Garage.
The Muir Street Garage.

I spoke with Yvonne Hamill who works at the Hamilton Motorcycle services and she did manage to track down a picture, she told us.

“In the picture is George Lloyd who is the one with the white shirt (far right) next to him on the left is Bert Sneddon then next is Hugh Adams only other one that I can recall is on far left who is Billy Strain.

George Lloyd died in 2013 and is buried in the bent cemetery. His business lives on through his wife and kids. This is the works shop the show room was in Cadzow street which became the rococo night club.

They then moved to their purpose build show room at peacock cross which is now a carpet shop. George Lloyd was the biggest motorcycle set up in Europe in the 1970s.

The last apprentice was a guy called David who served his time in the peacock cross hypermarket! He was there till they stopped selling bikes in 1987. Years later we opened Hamilton motorcycles in the 1st lloyds workshop. We opened Hms in April 2003”

The Garage as it is today.
The Garage as it is today.