In the first decades of this century, the populous area to the south side of the town could be said to end at Burnblea Street, with the three story tenement belonging to the Mirrlee’s, Chassel’s who also owned the public house at the corner of Portland Square. Except for the few properties and villas in Low Waters, grazing land stretching from behind Burnblea Street up past the school to the mining communities of Cadzow and Eddlewood.
Thomas Anderson, Beechwood, Portland Place, built a two storey tenement partly in Low Waters and partly in Morris Street which he opened up and named after his lovely wife, Lilias Morris who, before marriage, was the elected Belle of Cambusnethan.
At the foot of Burnblea Street was the town’s most popular playground which gave access to lovers’ lane and, of course, to Burnblea Street, the lower half of which was lined with attractive cottages. The other half consisted of tenements belonging to Chassels, Anderson,Paterson and Scott on the one side and to the Steel and Nicholson on the other.
A filed lay between Butterburn Park and Nicholson’s property. Half of this was owned by Robert Cockburn and occasionally contained a bull or a sick cow. Nicholson’s half was used mainly for poultry.
Sometimes, however, there could be seen a handsome race-horse or a glorious peacock whose gay plumage was a source of childish wonder and provided first-hand knowledge for a school essay. Whenever a menagerie came to Hamilton, which was not up to local expectations, Burnblea Children would boast that they had a better one of their own. Thus one talked of the Burnblea Menagerie.
With so many fields around it, Burnblea Street was an ideal one in which to rear children, many of whom now hold prominent positions in the professional and business worlds. It was a Street of harmony and contentment with a few colourful characters rising above the crowd. Johnie Nicholson, with his breezy alertness, councillor John Walker, with his cheery smiling face; “Paw” Peterson with his searching eye and unhurried gait; and old Andrew Scott, with his sense of humour and deep Christian fellowship-these are but a few.
The street had its quota of teachers, among them the Misses Harley, and tall, distinguished looking Robert Walker M.A. who was killed in the First World War.
The only foreigners were the Italians, the Delgrossos, who had a fish and chip shop in Chassels’ building. They were noted for their cleanliness, besides their delicious fish suppers and they became an integral part of a respected whole.
During the long strike of 1926, the residents rallied around their mining neighbours and supplied vegetables and potatoes which were cooked in one of Anderson’s washhouses. The washhouse was whitened and everything scrubbed and polished to transform it into a cookhouse or soup kitchen. After a large plate of good nourishing soup the men would have a sing-song or play cards to while away the long summer days. Luckily the weather kept perfect but by the time the strike ended many were heavily hopelessly in debt.
After the 1921 and 1926 strikes, some miners took advantage of the emigration schemes and crossed the Atlantic where, to their horror they found a depression as grave as the one they left behind. Cold, hunger and the inability to get other than casual labour accounted for one poor chap’s death.
After years of toil and untold suffering dreams. One in this category sent dollars to landlord and grocer to meet debts outstanding for almost twenty years. The money was promptly returned with letters of praise for the touching show of honesty and Scottish independence. But such was the type of people who called Burnblea Street “home”.