I had a message from Janette McCallum & John Murray, asking about local “Hamilton Characters”, one of the Characters who was mentioned twice was a guy called Tommy Ward!
John Murray wrote:
“Who remembers Jimmy Hamilton? How about Tommy Ward? Both Hamilton characters, would love to hear from folks that remember them”
Janette McCallum wrote:
“Can anyone remember Tommy Ward who used to walk around with his little dog wearing woman’s clothes”
Now I had never heard of Tommy Ward as he was before my time, However we had another post from Margaret Murray that was copied from the Facebook page, “The two Larky mashers from Avon High Street.”
Here is the Post below:
“Tommy Ward- the World’s First Homosexual?
Mashers who frequented Hamilton Town Centre in the 1960’s may have heard of the name, Tommy Ward.
Remember this was a time when Gay was a descriptive word for Paris or described your mood on a night out after a few pints.
In fact The Sexual Offences Act 1967 became an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom (citation 1967 c. 60). It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.
To me in my Macho world Tommy Ward was all of the above and a ‘poof’ or any of the other words around at the time, and there were plenty, and worse.
I had heard of the guy, and the fact that he dressed up as a woman, but I had never actually seen him and as time passed I wrote it off as a myth.
Until one night coming up from the Splendid Hotel passing by the Chez Suzette’s Coffee Bar and approaching the Cross I was aware of someone standing in a doorway. I turned round, and I’ll be honest, got the fright of my life, It was him, Tommy Ward, not in woman’s clothing, but a tall man, dark hair with make up, very effeminate looking, a sort of Lanarkshire Liberace.
As I quickened my pace the insults from across the street from a group of lads grew louder, I think you can guess the tone and words used, but he got the works.
I saw him around Hamilton a couple of times after that, and it was always the same, abuse was hurled at him and to be fair he gave it back.
Thinking back he was a pioneer for gay rights in our area, he took the insults, and life must have been hard for him, but he obviously had guts. He was just born in the wrong era.
Did you know of him?
To me, he was Tommy Ward, the World’s First Homosexual.”
Who was the “Hamilton Character” that always makes you laugh? Let us know and share your memories.
The story below was written for Historic Hamilton by local author & Historian Wilma S Bolton. Wilma tells us of her time growing up in Mill Road, she talks about the a time in her life when she was a wee girl and she shares her childhood memories from the Cosy Corner.
The above photograph shows the bottom of Mill Road, Hamilton before it was widened by the removal of the site of the old Cadzow Colliery mineral railway line. The walls were the entrance to the avenue of large mansion house which we called Laighstonehall House. Originally known as Eddlehurst, it had been one of six large country mansions built by rich Glasgow merchants who wanted to distance themselves from the smog and dirt of the city. The house at one point became the home of the Sir John Watson second baronet of Earnock and the birthplace of his son and heir John who was killed in action aged only nineteen years in WW1.
Eddlehurst, like the other five mansions, sustained a lot of damage from subsidence due to underground workings and it was eventually divided into flats and let out to families. I used to play with a girl called Jacqueline Preece who lived in one of them. The floors were so uneven I felt seasick when walking across them. You were either walking uphill or downhill. Part of their flat was what seemed to me to be a large ballroom. It was void of furniture more than likely because it would have taken a kings ransom to furnish it. The house was built on the site of an ancient mill hence the name Mill Road. The mill lade can still be seen in the burn just up from the Cosy Corner.
Heading up the Mill Road and next door to Eddlehurst stood a large wall enclosed scary looking house which we referred to as McAffer’s. The family who lived there in the 1940/60s sold tomatoes grown in their large greenhouses. My mother used to send me to buy tomatoes and I would take my friend Wilma Alexander who lived next door the very short distance down to buy some. The doorbell of the house had a huge brass handle and we were scared to pull it in case we were hauled in by our necks and murdered. All the woodwork inside of the house was varnished dark brown and the inhabitants were Mrs McAffer, a small, genteel, pleasant woman dressed in black, her son Dr McAffer and a small exceptionally thin and scared looking daughter dressed in grey whom we all called Miss McAffer.
During one of our tomato trips Wilma dared me to pick a tulip from their garden on the way out and I was easily persuaded. Big mistake! Dr McAffer who must have been watching us from the window came charging out of the door like a man possessed and we took to our heels and ran. He grabbed me out in the street and shook me so hard that I wet myself. My mother heard me screaming and what followed was an altercation over him shaking a 5 year old untill she wet herself with terror. I don’t remember if I ever went back there. Perhaps I was banned, but somehow I don’t think so. We needed the fresh tomatoes and they needed the income from the tomatoes because as my mother said “they were poor rich”. Tammy Larkin a coal merchant who lived directly across the road from our prefab rented their garage for his coal cart and the stable for his horse.
There were another four merchant’s houses further up Mill Road, two of which are still standing. One is across from the back of St Anne’s school and is known locally as “The Majors” after a major who lived there many years ago. Its original name was Ivy Grove and at one time was the property of a lawyer named Hay. It was a lovely house inside and outside when I was in it in twenty five years ago, but it had historic subsidence damage as have many of Hamilton’s fine old buildings.
The first house on entering what is now known as Graham Avenue was called Hollandbush House and it was eventually purchased by the Church of Scotland to be the Manse for the South Church and it remained so for many years. It is now privately owned.
The next one was a twelve roomed house called Oakenshaw and was the one time home of Mr Colin Dunlop, jnr., coalmaster and iron smelters at Quarter village. It was also purchased by Sir John Watson Ltd, coalmasters and was eventually divided into flats and demolished sometime in the mid 1950’s.
Fairview was the last of these grand country houses and it again was bought by Sir John Watson Ltd, Coalmaster, to house his general managers. If only walls could talk for this house could have told many a tale as it was the site of a lot of unrest during prolonged strikes at Eddlewood Colliery.
The wealthy Glasgow merchants who built these houses to live in fresh unpolluted air could never have foreseen what was in store of them. They had quite literally gone out of the frying pan into the fire. New collieries were soon being developed almost on their doorstep and a busy mineral railway line running parallel with Mill Road was transporting coal at all hours of the day and night. The area became a mecca for thousands of people moving to Hamilton looking for jobs in the coal mines from all parts of Britain, Ireland, Germany and Eastern Europe. Conditions eventually became worse than living in Glasgow due to the smoke and pollution belching from the numerous colliery chimneys and locomotives. The stench from the raw sewage and pit waste being poured into the once beautiful Cadzow burn running behind the houses must have been quite overpowering. The peace and tranquility of their country residences vanished and all six houses were eventually sold and their original owners no doubt moved on to where the air was sweeter and there were no miners tunneling under their homes.
I had a wonderful childhood living in our wee prefab at 133 Mill Road. With two burns almost on our doorstep we spent many hours swinging on long ropes hanging from the trees, playing at “Dokies” (jumping the burn and generally running wild) and guddling for brown trout. The sewage from Eddlewood Rows was by then channeled into sewers the collieries had closed and the burn was a lot cleaner. We frequently fell into the water and we would go to my friend Marjory Laird’s granny dripping wet. Marjory lived with her and she was a woman who loved to see children enjoying themselves. We stood in front of her fire drying our clothes and then I could go home. My mother wonderful as she was, drew the line at me falling in the burn.
In early autumn we would light fires on a piece of wasteland behind the prefabs and which we knew as the “hutchard”. We roasted potatoes dug up with our bare hands from Mr Shearer’s garden. His daughter Alice used to cry in case he would find out but poor Alice’s pleas and tears were ignored. The smell of burning wood still brings back vivid memories of these nights for not only me but for friends who shared the experience. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realised that the “hutchard” must have been part of what had been the old Fairhill colliery and would have been the site of their hutch yard where they stored hutches used for transporting coal.
Autumn was a great time for us children. We watched the chestnuts getting bigger and threw sticks at them hanging out of our reach in the trees at the entrance to Laighstonehall House. We spent hours kicking piles of leaves over hoping to find any big shiny chestnuts which had dropped from the trees. We also collected what seemed to me like countless hessian bags full of fallen leaves for my father to turn into beautiful leaf mould for the garden, an autumn ritual which I still continue to this day. When my own four children were small I would waken them about six o’clock on a weekend morning if strong winds had been blowing during the night and off we would go down to the Cosy Corner searching for chestnuts and they just loved it and they all remember the excitement of finding one. I believe the origin of the name Cosy Corner was an Italian immigrant called Cocozza who used to stand every weekend at the junction of Mill Road and Bent Road selling flowers to people walking to Wellhall and Bent Cemeteries. When asked if he was not cold standing there he replied “no it is a nice wee cosy corner.” He eventually bought a piece of land and opened a shop and cafe called it the Cosy Corner.
The Mill Road was a magical area for children because there were so many different places to play. Even on the old Cadzow Colliery mineral railway line where the trains were still running. I suspect that they were used for the dismantling of the colliery after it closed on the 29th December 1945. We used to put pieces of broken glass on the line while we were walking up it on the way to Low Waters School and they were powdered when we came home. As I did not go to school until 1949 or 50 it may well have been used for other purposes.
I inherited a love of nature from my father and I spent many hours looking for birds nests. I vividly remember lying on top of the raised mineral railway lines with my hand reaching down into a hawthorn bush where there was a blackbird’s nest, when out of the blue I felt a hard tap on my shoulder. I shot to my feet with my heart pounding out of my mouth and found it was the local beat constable. “What are you doing on the railway line?” “Looking for bird’s nests.” “Your name?” Wilma Russell, “Are you Jimmy Russell’s lassie?” My father knew everybody! I confirmed I was. “Away up the road or I’ll boot your erse, you shouldn’t be here” and I was off like the wind.
Childhood flies so quickly away and too soon it was time to earn a living. I worked in a Glasgow office for two years and then went to work in Phillips factory on the Wellhall Road after my father died. At seventeen I was really only a wee lassie and my route to work was down Mill Road to the Cosy Corner and then on to Chantinghall Road. It was a very dark road and scary at half past five in the morning. On a foggy winter’s night it was even worse. I used to take to my heels and run like a greyhound from the last house in Mill Road to the end of the houses on Chantinghall Road. On a back shift I ran the same road but from the other end. I was petrified as there was frequently the inevitable flasher hanging about in the trees. A female police officer (Laura Thorburn) who became Hamilton’s first female detective used to walk the road in an attempt to catch him. Laura was a tall slim blond and he would have spotted her a mile away and try as she did, she never did catch him; but for me somehow, that childhood haunt lost some of its magic.
The wonderful people of this area contributed so much to my happy childhood. Mr and Mrs Alexander in the next prefab were good people and Mrs Davidson in the end one taught me how to tell the time while sitting at her kitchen table and her border collie dog Sparkie went everywhere with me. Even down to Ballantyne’s pig sty which was just across the road from the entrance to the Bent Cemetery and where I always went in to see the piglets on the way down to my father’s plots; now Mary Street. Sparkie never could resist rolling in the pig manure. The Larkin’s were a lovely family as were the two Lithuanian families the Bodwick’s and the Smiths living next door to them. Mrs Bodwick used to let me help collect her hen and duck eggs from the henhouse. She was such a lovely kindly woman and she always called me Velma and would press a threepenny piece into my hand whenever she met me after we moved from Mill Road to Bridge Street when I was about eleven. Good days, good neighbours and lovely memories.
Hamilton has seen some dramatic changes over the last 30 years and none more so that Almada Street. Almada Street used to have tenements that led from Peackock Cross and all the way down to the Barracks at bothwell road.
Today there are only two surviving blocks of houses that remain in Almada Street, they are situated at the peackock cross side of the street, with the recent corner block of tenements that were called Almada Hill being knocked down to make a garage car park!
The picture below was sent to Historic Hamilton by Andy Alexander & Steven Matthews. There is some debate that the picture was taken around the mind 1970s, however i believe that the picture was probably taken around the mid 1980s, the reason for this is that the Mk3 Escort was introduced in 1980 (white car) and the blue Mk2 Astra behind it was first introduced in 1984.
Back in the 1970s & 1980s this part of Almada Street was thriving. There was also a well known chip shop at the side of the Crown bar called KFC, this was situated at Saffronhall Lane and if you look just behind the blue fiesta then this is where Safftonhall Lane is situated.
The Crown pub later became Chambers Bar during the 1990s and other pubs like Ewings & the County were also busy pubs at Almada Street. Chambers bar closed down around 2010/11 and was bought by the current owner Manio Loia, who had the building extended and refurbished in 2012, he then built the current restaurant and called it Cafe Eataliano which now occupies the former site of the Pub. Prehaps in years to come, this establishment will bring back as many happy memories like The Crown & Chambers did for many people!
The tenements at the bottom of Almada Street were demolished at the end of the 1980s and this is now the site of the Job Center and Hamilton Water Palace. If you look at the no entry signs in the picture, then this is the current entrance to the Hamilton Water Palace and further on down at the bottom of the road is where the Furlongs are situated.
Below is a picture taken last week on Sunday the 3rd January 2015. This was taken approximately at the same spot as the one taken in the mid eighties.
What was your memories of Almada Street in the 1970s & 1980s?
It was reported in the Motherwell Times on Friday the 22nd January 1932: On the recommendation of the towns streets committee, Hamilton town council have accepted the offer of Mr Hugh B. Kerr, Contractor, Hamilton, for the removal of the old tram way rails and reconstruction the road between Covan Burn Bridge and Hamilton Old Cross.
The sum involved is £8131 10s 1d, (£494,009.89p in today’s money) The work will be done by unemployed men. Mr Robert Black, High Blantyre road in Hamilton, has been appointed inspector of works under the direction of Mr W.H. Purdie, burgh surveyor.
Places like Edinburgh are now bringing Trams back in to use. I wonder if one day we will see Trams brought back to Hamilton, I for one would like to see the Trams leading from the town centre out to all the surrounding areas of Hamilton.