Burnbank Cross




Burnbank Cross.

Taken in the 1920s we have a great picture of Burnbank Cross. As you can see this street in itself was a really busy place with a great choice of shops. Burnbank Cross had Forsyths fruit bazaar, an Italian cafe, an Italian fish shop, a wine shop with many more to chose from.

The Cross must have been a great place for the men to congregate, as you can see from the fountain at the left hand side of the picture.

As in many old pictures from around Hamilton you can also see evidence of subsidence from the underground coal mines. If you look to the right hand side of the picture you will see a squinty telegraph pole.

The fountain was removed a short time after the picture was taken and by the 1970s all of the tenements had also sadly gone to make way for the George court flats.

Jock o’ the Law

John Williamson 1855-1910
During the late 1890s John Williamson, or better known to locals as “Sir John Williamson”, “Jock O the Law” or “Jock o the Lum” was in his day, one of Hamilton’s best well known characters. Jock led a simple life and probably had mental health issues that would have been with him for a long time.
The poor man was usually a figure of fun and sometimes the kids in Hamilton were cruel to him. He was deluded and he thought that he was a Knight that rode a horse at the celebrations in Glasgow for King Edward’s visit after the coronation,but he was unseated when boys pricked his horse.
Jock was born at Kilbrachan in Renfrewshire to his parents John & Janet and he travelled around with his parents. In 1861 jock was living at Factory Close in Lochwinnoch with his parents and later in 1881 he was living at New Kilpatrick and his father was working as a collier.
In 1901 he was lodging at the  Lodging House at 10 Grammar School Square. He was earning a living as a Hawker. Jock was also known to be sometimes cruel, however this could have been down to his mental health issues.
Jock o the Lum Hartwood.
Burial record from Hartwood Hospital.
Jock was admitted to Hartwood Hospital at some point between 1902 & 1910, and he died on the 4th June 1910.  On his Burial Record from Hartwood Hospital it stated Pauper Lunatic, this was the stated term back then. The cause of his death was pneumonia.
Jock's final Restingplace.JPG
On his death cert there were no parents registered, so this would indicate that poor Jock was taken to the asylum by someone that never knew him or where he came from. The death cert did however state that Jock was married! Sadly I have not come across a marriage cert for him.
Jock O the Lum
John’s death certificate.
During a previous post that I have done on “Jock o the Lum” some our readers have told us that their  parents were still saying to their kids, “Who do you think I am? Jock O the Lum!” Indicating that they were not daft, this was still a well used phrase being said in the 60s.
Jock was such a character that even seven years after his death his antics were still spoken about and people still thought of him. The following report was printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 19 May                                                                                                     1917 and it read the following:
Ever ready with excuses, Johnnie had always something to advance in mitigation of the charge preferred against him. Was it drunkenness, then he would plead a “bash-on the head and bad cold, and he usually urged doctors orders for what he took in the way of liquor, only he did not wait until he got home before taking his prescription.
He had one memorable encounter with the late Bailie MacHale with smiling countenance and characteristic eloquence, Johnnie lined up before the Magistrate to answer to a charge of being drunk and incapable.
Without waiting for his offence to be stated to the Court, began -“Well, sir” –  But he was cut short with the query, “Are yon guilty or not guilty?” Nothing disconcerted, Johnnie replied—” Yes, I’m guilty; but. see, yer honour, I tak’ convulsions, and whiles ye wad think I had drink when I had scarcely ony. I even tak’ the fits in the hoose.” And you take them in the street times,” quoth the Magistrate, sympathetically. Oh, yes.” acknowledged Johnnie, with alacrity. And you occasionally require a barrow.” was the next comment of his Honour, whereat Johnnie became suspicious and launched into a story about a crowd of boys “grupping his barrow.” and putting him “in a great state.”
Even after being fined, and failing in his attempt to strike a bargain with the Court for the procuring of the money, Johnnie always remained bland and smiling, and in leaving the dock never failed to give a gracious salaam to all and sundry.
Johnnie, who latterly became known as ” Sir John.” has long since gone to his rest. Peace to his ashes. (Ref: Hamilton Advertiser 19/05/1917)
In my eyes, I see to this day quite a few  Jock o the lum’s still alive and walking about Hamilton, RIP John Williamson.

The Hero

The Hero…….

Ah yazed tae be a hero
wore the tartan trews
camped in far flung lands
an marched alang wi you.
We used to be twa hunner
but that wiz wars ago,
the sniper and the orders
through clouds of fire we go
some were left ahm sorry tae sae
so far away fae hame.
But ma freen your niver
too far away from me.
When that postin wiz dun
we marched across the world
camped at hamiltoon barracks
and drank till the sun went doon.
The heilen men were rampant
causin quite a stir, fur boys from Troon
they kept their time before they went to war.
They slept ootside the gates of course
such was their delight
We cut their hair and marched them oot
when we thought them fit.
Tae shoot a gun an march awe nicht
tae holmwood green an pitch their tents.
The sergeants men of honour tae
were camped at the Tillietudlem bor
alang wi auld yins who they say
fought the whirlin dervish and at Waterloo.
We remember the men from Troon
an awe thir tales o’ hame
of how their mithers were so proud
when they came marchin hame.
We used tae be twa hunner
but now we are so few
we bit oor tongues fur a better life
Oor reward wiz a in the pits
at least we were dry and warm
and in that place alone at nicht
my thoughts wid turn to them.
The strike we had to do fur the hoors were long
awe this talk from fighten men
workin roon the clock
The sojers came wae bayonets fitted
an cried when they saw we were
The men that trained them how to live
in some far off holy war.
Noo were the wanes who sleep ootside
fur the kings shillin wiz all gone.
When ah walk the back roads ah sometimes see forever
wee Davie Tam and shuggie marchin as in youth
fine athletic men were they and prood as ever can be
carved in Granite on the banks of Auchentibber.


The above poem was written for Historic Hamilton by John Stokes.

The Cooncil Man……….(To Hugh Hainey)

The cooncil man dressed in black garb
came noakin at oor front door
hiz point wiz vague fur us at furst
yasin forty wurds whin twa wid dae
Mah grannies broo goat furried when he left
oor days at the jungle wur no tae last.
Auld gran paw di had deed a miners wae
wae lungs awe black an riddled wurs thin
ony bullet scorched hero’s he dragged back tae hiz lines
when they asked him tae save oor souls back then.
aye a miner fur the Bardykes men
they pied us oaf wae lumps o’ coal and dust
the wains wur gone and merrit then
the hoose wiz big and lost its soul.
The cooncil man wiz good enough at furst
then spied hur goods and offfered his concern
aboot hur tea set from china wiz wurth a baubee or twa
she could sell fur hur furst weeks rent
gave hur a flat in scunner place Hillhoose
nae coal wiz needed nae gairdin either
wae electric light and a meter.
The means test man come tae pick at crumbs
to document all she had and wurth
to balance cooncils books wae pennies
taen fae mah grannies purse
Awe this from a wuman who reared seven wee yins
oan a miners piy she pied fur a lair tae rest hiz bones.
and watched them awe get called to war a second time.
The pennies the cooncil man took helped them to wurk
in a cozy nook up scunner st
tae look doon their noses at oor like
while they took the reserves warm seat
to offer support the best they could
who took their wurthless shilling tae provide
fur able bodied men to dee fur them
then take mah grannies pennies wan mair time
Mah Grannie telt us awe the day
the black garbed cooncil man hid cawed
and took oor life away.
So ah took mah bawe and dribbled oan
ah left behind awe that wuz mine
the silver river ah rode doon and settled in anither toon
oh ah look back awe right wae pride of course
ah never let oor side doon
ah fought in battles too cruel and wan
but the cooncil man won honds doon.
The above poem was written for Historic Hamilton by John Stokes.

Ah Wiz Back……….

Ah wiz back and past your hoose
mair corrs were parked than tumchies
in an Auchentibber field
Nae wains on boggies runnin loose

Ah noaked yir door and yir Maw came oot
She wiz jist the same and welcomed me
and talked with pride how you had done
your merrit noo wae wife and son
tae a lassie that you met in east kilbride
Yir pals urr awe the same she said
and some are deed and some alive
still drinkin at the same old pub
stuck in time in the graveyard shift
och it is a sorry state tae tell
they are not as weel as they might think
and old as men who think too much
bad drink has caused them much neglect

whits left is waste dereft of thought
ah left her there jist by the sink her time wiz runnin oot
my tears wir hid behind a smile as we said oor last goodbye
ah dribbled mah baw tae the toon

The street wiz wide and clear just like it always wiz in 1954
the wains are safer now i thought a place to play but i forget
about those who grew to auld and forget are now the sayers of
their truth without respect

ah looked in a bar and laughed what a sight
the patrons all in garrish wear wi track pants oan and trainers tae
competin fur whit ah say…the next drink
some wans mither telt me the toon wiz awfy quiet
she laughed at this and said nae heed
furr thae same folk urr living proof
that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat
the cooncil men it must be said are nae bodies fools
so they wear suits and ties but that’s because of self respect
they plan for the wains to live in peace from corrs something wee awe should not forget.

The above poem was written for Historic Hamilton by John Stokes who lives in Wellington, New Zeland.



Twin Tub Tongs.

Life has changed so much for women over the past fifty years and I sometimes sit and think of the differences in the lifestyles of young women today compared to the lives we in our sixties, seventies and eighties lived all those years ago. There are so many things which we take for granted now, but the younger women of today have no idea of just how hard it was for their mothers and grannies. Technology has improved our lives way beyond anything we could ever have imagined, not even in our wildest dreams; and thinking just what were the most important labour saving improvements in our lives, I offer you the following two items for your consideration.

A washing machine for me was just a dream and all the clothes were washed in the sink with water heated on the gas cooker and scrubbed clean on a scrubbing board for several years before my mother bought me a “twin tub”. Oh the joy of that machine but that elation only lasted several years for as my family grew I spent more and more time standing beside it transferring clothes from the washing section to the rinsing and spinning section. Still, this was so much easier than standing in a “wash house” with a scrubbing board and a big mangle as my mother had done.
With the death of a relative I acquired an automatic washing machine and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My friend Betty Walker came down to see it in action and we sat in front of it knitting and watching the machine for the whole cycle. It was so loud and unstable it almost shook the cups off the table but we were blind to this as we sat and stared at it with adoration while it washed the clothes. On hindsight we were like something out of Mrs Brown’s Boys. We could not believe what we were seeing. All I could say was “my granny would not believe this” and neither could we. With the introduction of the “automatic” women’s lives changed beyond recognition because we no longer had to spend hours washing clothes. To this day I still have my mother’s scrubbing board which she brought with her from Aberdeen when she moved to Hamilton 76 years ago. She used it for almost twenty years before she got a washing machine. Her first washing machine was an Acme and it was huge with a large wringer on top.



Today almost every home has central heating and long gone are the freezing winter’s mornings when it was so cold when you got out of bed you could see the huff of your breath and the windows of the house were frozen so you couldn’t see outside. Not only the inhabitants of the house and the windows were frozen. I remember making my four year old son’s bed one morning and finding out that part of the duvet was frozen to the wallpaper which ripped off the wall when I pulled it.

Memories of getting up at five o’clock on a cold winter’s morning are still vivid in my mind, for waiting was a coal fire needing to be cleaned out and set up with newspaper, sticks and coal ready to light. Holding your breath and crossing your fingers you would whisper a prayer when lighting the paper in the hope that it that it would catch first time. If it looked as if your efforts were in vain, the paper and sticks would be lifted up with up the poker and you would blow into the embryonic fire praying that it would burst into flames. A last resort would be the shovel placed in front of the fire and a newspaper held across it, the damper would be pulled out creating a draught which usually done the trick. The paper however could catch fire and vanish up the chimney in an instant and your heart nearly jumped out of your mouth in case it set it on fire. A chimney fire was quite a spectacular sight to see Pouring out of the top of the chimney was thick sulphurous black smoke and flames which could be seen for miles. To prevent the building going on fire you needed the fire brigade and so eventually you were summoned to court and fined.

So I say, God bless the men who developed the washing machine and central heating. They made the lives of countless women so much easier and I am one of them. …………Wilma Bolton.

Wilma, as always thank you for sharing your memoires!!!


A wish a wis in a toon, in Strathclyde” auld Hamilton” its the name,,
A wish a wis walkin aboot the auld toon, although it’s not the same,,
A wish a could be in Harrisons”, and bein fitted fur a brand new suit,,,
A wish a could wear it the morra’ fur am gawn tae a works night oot,,
A wish a wis in Friola’s” fur thir’ fish n’ chips, ur thir great ice cream,,,
A wish a wis back in the auld Baths ” aye noo that wid be ma dream,,
A wish a wis stawnin, in Skeltons ” bar n’ drinkin a wee pint of light,,
A wish a wis back wae awe ma mates, jist muckin aboot awe night,,
A wish a wis back in the Troc” ye’ll find me singin” along and dancin,,
A wish a could git a wee lumber, cause a miss awe that romancin”,,
A wish a could see the wee faces , of awe the great people passin by”,,
A wish a could hear thir’ magic voices, wae thir’ patter that wis wry”
A wish a wis in Hill St, cuttin through wee Hosies” tae git tae the Bing”
A wish a wis sittin Doc’s,bar n’ hear the great “Johnny No Cash” sing”,,
A wish a could go intae Bairds” shop n’ go up n’ doon in their big lift,,
A wish a could go back tae Woolworhs ” tae buy ma wee maw a gift,,
A wish a wis still young and fitter and be once more dead “gallous””
A wish a wis still workin “the Waltzer” n’ the fair’ came tae the Palace, ,
A wish a wis stawnin ootside “Burtons windae” day’in a Harry Worth”,,
A wish a wis back in auld Burnbank ” that great wee place of ma birth””
A wish a could bit a cannie! Because ye see thir’ isnae anything left”
A wish the Cooncil”a curse! Because thiv left this great place Bereft”
(Huba Huba)

The above poem was written for Historic Hamilton by Hugh Hainey.



With the struggle to eat, the chimney sweep was sometimes “forgotten” and the resultant fire meant the occupier had to appear at Hamilton Burgh Court. William Gray failed to appear and sent this poem instead.

I got up at three the ither morn, That’s as shair as I’m alive,
Tae sort ma fire and try and hae Ma kettle biled by five

I broke the raker up and then Slipped back into ma bed
For tae try anither twa oor’s sleep Tae ease ma aching head.

I wis dreaming of some happy days.When I heard an awfu’ roar, Wi’ a sudden leap I sprang richt Oot o’ bed on tae the floor
Noo, this is true, although Ye micht imagine I’m a liar Fae the bottom o’ my he’rt I cried My God, ma lum’s on fire!

I had nothing bit ma shirt on, And ma he’rt wis achin sore,
And tae mak’ ma misery mair complete A knock comes tae ma door,
When I opened it I gazed upon Two gallant men in blue,
So I whispered tae masel—My heavens! “Wull, yer landed noo.”

Bit tae gie the men their due They hadna very much tae say;
They took doon ma name And then they baith slipped away.
I kent they wid report it tae Some yin a wee bit higher,
And I’d likely need tae suffer For that auld lum gaun on fire.

I have travelled roon the world noo For three score years and mair, And noo this is ma first offence—Nae wunner ma hert’s sair
But I hope they show me mercy, For I’d be far better deid
Than them tae send me for A wheen o’ years tae Peterheid.

Noo the nicht before the trial I wid like ye a’ tae pray,
For the sentence tae be very light On your poet Willie Gray,
And I’ll tak dasht guid care That while I live in Lanarkshire
Nae policeman will ever see Ma lum again on fire.

Written by William Gray. 6/9/1928. Hamilton Herald and transcribed by Wilma Bolton.

I can’t help but think that this is something that Hugh Hainey would have done!!


Over the last few months, there has been a lot of talk on Historic Hamilton about our town centre becoming a ghost town. We have a lot of empty shops and with the soon to be closure of BHS where indeed does this leave us?

Cast your mind back to even 10 years ago! People travelled from afar to come and spend the day in Hamilton, you would come in to the town in the morning meet up with your friends and have a wander around the very best choice of shops. We had a choice of Sports shops we had designer clothes shops, joke shops and long standing independent shops like Bairds.

You would have come to Hamilton and visited one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants and had a bit of lunch or if it was a nice day you would have got your lunch from places like Olivers and sat outside on one of the benches and watched the world go by.

Gateside street and Low waters road still seem to be doing ok with many independent shops staying open and doing well, so what are they doing different? or could it be down to the fact that they are not based in the town centre?

Hamilton town centre is not alone with the closure of shops, this very same thing is happening an many towns across Scotland. The question is, What can we do to inject some life in to our once thriving town centre?

What do you think?


Hiv ye ever met a livin” legend? Well I’ve met some , quite a few,,
Ye never know, fur efter this wee poem, wan o’ them could you,,

A wis asked the other day tae write somethin” aboot Burnbank “
A new some ‘patter merchants ‘so if it stinks it’s them tae thank,

A always wondered where, some guy’s got thir’ wee nicknames, ,
I’ll bet you kin tell me ! So let’s go n” hiv some wee fun n” games,,
Windy Miller, Stoorie Moore, n” best of all that wee Stucky Stirlin”

God this list could go on forever, noo ma brains jist started Birlin”
Dae ye remember Muck Mc Knight? Aye, He always comes

Ask him any questions, n” always right, he’s never wrong? Yil find,,

I’ll jist mention wan mare name, he wis the “Jungles”famous man,
C’mon ye awe know who am talkin aboot, the one n’ only “Tarzan””

If ye kin think aboot anybody, don’t leave yir memories on the shelf,

We want tae know! Alive ur deed , promise, we’ll keep it tae oorself”

Right let c’mon then, who ur they ? Give is awe some wee surprises”



The above poem was written for Historic Hamilton by Hugh Hainey,

Tell us your memories of growing up in Burnbank, or even better have you got a photo that you would like to share?