THE CANYON TOSSING SCHOOL.

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THE CANYON TOSSING SCHOOL.

The Canyon Tossing School was without question the most prosperous tossing school in Scotland albeit that tossing was only operational as a way of gambling in and around central Lanarkshire, Hamilton Palace was the most attended being that it run every day of the week and only closed on Christmas and New Years Day.

How and why the Canyon attracted so many well heeled punters at it’s Sunday session escapes me, however that was certainly the case. In the days before Tossing Schools became legal they were operated by men who ” could look after themselves” The Canyon which was located between the villages of Craigneuk and Netherton, the name was derived simply because it looked like a miniature canyon the surrounding small hillocks discreetly keeping it from public viewing. “The babber” that was the title bestowed on the guy who controlled and operated the school and kept it socially comfortable for those who indulged in this favourite and often expensive pastime.

Jake Kilrain assisted by Dinkey Hughes were the controllers at the Canyon, Jake had a prolific CV for this demanding position an ex pugilist with 76 professional fights to his credit and twice a British champion in the Welterweight division. His sidekick Dinkey did not have such a strong pedigree, only that he was the brother of a Scottish champion who was considered among the top 3 British Lightweight fighters. The Hamilton Tossing was in part run by John Daly Snr, and his son Dan Daly, both also possessing the required skills of a babber, old John having shared many rounds with British and Scottish champions Jimmy Higgins and Frank Markey, Dan having won British Army titles, but in the late 50s he, Dan that is, was more into football playing for a number of well known Junior Sides and attracting attention from the professional teams, he represented Lanarkshire and Scotland against Ireland playing as a strong, fast, and clever winger.

This man was also bestowed with a physique that replicated that of an Olympic gymnast all of these attributes more than compensated for his lack of height as he stood no more than 5 foot and 4 and a half inches. On a late summer Sunday morning, John Daly Snr, John Jnr, Dan Daly, Sammy Walsh, and a Glasgow hardman (more ruthless than hard) named James Kemp, were to make their way towards the Canyon with a view to taken control of it’s operations. It had been decided beforehand that Dan Daly would be the one to approach Kilrain and give him the news about his redundancy as the Canyon babber were over.

As this group of men were passing a sheet metal and nail works that lay beyond Craigneuk’s famed Cuckoo Bridge, James Kemp picked up a triangular piece of sheet metal and gave it a few practice swings. Dan instantly turned to him and said ” Put that down, or you go down” Kemp for all the reputation that he carried, acted as ordered and threw away the off-cut, Dan in turn said something along the lines of not doing things that way, and a few minutes later we were approaching the school. Dan walked straight up to Jake Kilrain and said “That’s it Jake we are taking over” Jakes reply as expected was along the lines of ” You will have to step over me first “, and that is exactly what Dan Daly did, but not before delivering a stunning right hand to Kilrain’s chin and down he went, felled like a log, as some would say.

This sudden and unexpected disruption to proceedings caused many of the gamblers to scatter and among them was Jakes sidekick Dinkey. For those who stayed behind an attempt at reorganising the school was made, but it soon fizzled out and an early finish to the tossing came to be. The Tuesday or Wednesday after that event the Daily Record (it may have been some other paper) made a report about Gangland warfare in Craigneuk Tossing School. However word had got about regarding Dan’s dismissal of Kilrain and that a return match at the same venue was to be held on the following Sunday.

Jakes support and entourage claiming that Dan had hit him without warning, therefore Jake had been taken unawares. Not only was there to be a return match but the princely sum of a 400 pound sidebet was to be picked up by the victor. And so it was on the following Sunday the Daly camp were certainly prepared for the day’s outing. That same Sunday morning the Sunday Mail newspaper ran a story on the Canyons Gangland warfare and warned they’re readers to stay away as the police were mounting a vigilance on the school and that anyone found resisting or engaging in it’s illegal activities was to be arrested.

The 3 Daly’s plus an associate from Hamilton named Pat McCourt however ignored this warning and made their way towards the Canyon, approximately 200 yards or so from the Cuckoo Bridge they were confronted by a number of police who told them to turn around as there would be no tossing this Sunday or for that matter there wouldn’t be any tossing on any other Sunday thereafter, John Daly Snr asked if this same message was delivered to the Kilrain Clan no reply was given.

Needless to say we took our time removing ourselves from the area in the hope that we would get sight of Kilrain but that was not to be. And so it was the Canyon was officially closed. there was for some weeks talk about it getting back to working order but it never did happen, likewise the showdown between Dan and Jake, rumours abounded that Jake would seek revenge by taking over Hamilton tossing which I suppose he could have attempted, but he never did. I believe that Jake knew he had little or no hope of beating Dan Daly after all Dan Daly had done to Jake Kilrain what only 3 out of 76 professional fighters had done and that was to knock him out, whether that be a King Hit or not it was done, just like the canyon done and dusted.

The above story was taken from John Daly’s book “Our Daly Bread” and was sent to us by Rab McMillan.

DAN DALY 1930-1990

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Jimmy Boyd, Billy Carrigan, & Dan Daly.. This picture was taken at the auld hoose in 1974. Picture Courtesy of Paula Carrigan.

Dan Daly was in his day, one of Hamilton’s most notorious figures; he was liked and loved by many people and also feared by many. If you had a problem, you went and saw Dan and it would be sorted. Dan was a local legend and known throughout Hamilton.

Dan left school and and got his first job working at the Slaughter House on Bothwell Road, he worked there for a while before deciding that he wanted something different. He was a keen boxer and later his boxing talents gained him respect in the streets of Hamilton.

Back in the day there were no licenced betting shops and pitch & toss was rife among the local hard working man, back street gambling was like a release for someone who had just finished a hard week at work. It took someone really ‘hard’ to stop fall outs and make sure that money was paid out. Before Dan Daly, people like Michael McNamee who was a bare knuckle fighter was known as the ‘head tosser’ in Hamilton.

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Michael McNamee the bare knuckle fighter and “Head Tosser”  from Hamilton 1900-1957.

Dan stepped up to the plate and gained respect from the local men in the town and he later ran the Tossing Schools in Hamilton. Dan Daly was only 5’7 in height, however through  his boxing training, he was heavily built and had a very wide chest and big shoulders and arms that were just as big.

He met a local Burnbank girl called Elsie Dunn and they soon got married in 1951, they had 6 kids, Diane, Brenda,Daniel,Irene, Peter & Paul.One story that was reported in the Hamilton Advertiser was titled ‘Notorious hard man head split by wife’ and it was from the time that Dan’s wife Elsie was charged for ‘bursting Dan’s head open’ and knocking him out with a frozen chicken. Dan had been winding her up for the dinner not being ready on time and she hit him over the head with the frozen bird. That old saying comes to mind….Behind every strong man is an even stronger woman……

Dan later became the manager at the Hamilton Hibbs Club, ran the doors, was in charge of the bar and he had his own team of guys that would back him up in any situation. Dan also ran busses to the Celtic games, he was a Celtic man through and through. He later ran the doors at the Double J and was mates with Jimmy Johnstone.

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Dan Daly (In the white Jacket) second from left with a group of unknown lads.
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The old pawn in castle Street across the road from Docherty pub, Now Demolished. In the picture on the left is Dan Daly, and on the right is Paddy Toner, Paddy was an old time music hall entertainer (song, dance, jokes, etc) performed in the old Hamilton Hippodrome, and Motherwell Empire.

One of the infamous stories that circulated was the time that Dan and his mates skidded up in a van, beside a group of guys at the Burnbank flats (where the BP garage is now situated) and they ‘done them in’ with baseball bats, it turned out that they had got the wrong guys and these unfortunate group of lads took someone else’s beating.

As much as Dan was feared, he was a gentleman and he looked out for his family, neighbours & friends and it was not uncommon for Dan to help people out during hardship and times like Christmas.

Hugh Haney was kind enough to share one of his memory’s of Dan, Hugh wrote:

“Dan Daly, whit a man, lots of people only heard stories about this guy, i remember as young lad runnin aboot the toon, my first run in with him was in the two up in Baileys Causeway, underage n’ bein a clever shite” he gave me enough rope, then a quick kick up arse,
sent me home while i still had some winnings left, soon after i thanked him, he would always call me Tiny Tim” you can ask the people of the Auld Toon, Dan had an idea that they should get a double decker bus for anyone goin tae the Auld firm match mixed tae save money, SMT bus , it never left the auld toon because the conductor shouted “Catholics inside, blue noses upstairs ” that bus had tae be towed away! Thir wis hell on, Dan went balistic,
Later i married and my wife was expecting our first child, i was in the Hibs one Wednesday dan asked about how things were ,,,,
I told him the wife wis in Belshill maternity, He dragged me up the street, knocked on the florests windae got a bunch o” flowers put me in a taxi paid the driver, n” sent me tae the hospital,,,to be with my wife Mary, jist some examples of whit a good man he was, But by no means a saint, jist a typical HAMILTONIAN””

Sadly Dan Daly died from a stroke & aneurysm  at the age of 60. When he died, the streets of Hamilton were packed and there were many famous faces at the funeral,including Jimmy Johnstone. He was buried at the Bent Cemetery.

We would like to thank Dan’s Granddaughters Ann Marie & Diane for telling us the story of Dan Daly. What was your memories of Dan Daly?

 

 

Little Udston Farm

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1896 Map of Hamilton.

Little Udston farm was situated right at the end of Hamilton, just next to Blantyre and is not to be confused with the Udston area of Burnbank. The farm was a working one with vast open spaces and a good panoramic view looking over Hamilton. Today the land where Little Udston Farm was situated, is at the top of Hillhouse, undeveloped  between Fleming Way & Townhill Road.

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Satellite overlay of 1896 map of Hamilton.

The earliest record for Udston that I have found so far, is on the 1654 map of Scotland, where it has been written as Utoun and the first house or dwelling was built between 1662 and 1773. By the 1892 Map the larger house no longer appears, so I assume it was demolished by then.

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1654 Map of Scotland.

Little Udston Farm was part of the larger estate of Udston House, which was owned by Lewis Potter. Lewis Potter, who was one of the directors of the City of Glasgow Bank until the disaster occurred, in the recession of October 1878.  He borrowed large sums of money for his land speculation. In the 1878 recession, the City of Glasgow Bank collapsed with debts of over £5 million. The directors were found guilty in January 1879 and Lewis Potter was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

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Lewis Potter 1807-1881.

Udston was a two Farm Steadings belonging to different proprietors & sharing the same name without any distinction whatever. The properties, respectively, of Mrs Jackson & Mr. Sinclair. The road to these Steadings is supported by the Parish to the extent of the Lands of “Udston” belonging to “Udston House”.

In the year  1816 there is a Mr Jackson who is listed as the owner and he was still listed as the owner of Udston in the 11th of August 1846 as there was a story written about him in the Hamilton Advertiser on the (03/08/1918) when he was elected chairman for the collections of poor relief. On the 1816 map there seems to be a substantial house next to Mr Jackson’s name. This would confirm that this was the main Farm House and Little Udston at this time was a small part of the estate.

On the Udston estate there was four farm houses, two at the Little Udston, Udston Cottage and Udston House, Udston House which was further down in what is now the Udston council estate in Burnbank.

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Udston House, one of the last surviving country houses that is still in use today.

When the rich coal seams were discovered under the ground at Udston  the little quiet farm became a really busy place with the opening of Udston Colliery and one of the entrance’s was situated right at the front of the farm and later a railway line that was used originally as a mineral line to Quarter, Eddlewood and Neilsland Collieries who transported their coal on it. The line was eventually extended to Strathaven. The Minerals rights were later owned by the trustees of the late William Jackson and now as well as having tenant farmers, William Dixon ltd & The Udston Colliery Company were also  tenants on the farm.

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Haytime at Little Udston Farm ,Burnbank sometime 1918 early 1920s . . The railway and Udston pit Bing is shown in the Background, Picture courtesy of Jim Chochrane.
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Annie Baird Main and her brother Alex Main . Little Udston Farm, BurnBank 1920s Udston Pit Bing and Colliery in the Background. Picture courtesy of Jim Cochrane  (Annie’s Grandson)

 

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Gran Annie Baird Main on the right and Her sister Christina Main. They Lived at Little Udston Farm Burnbank. This photo date from Approx 1930. Picture courtesy of Jim Cochrane.

During the lifetime of the farm there were many tenant farmers that worked the land and the last of the families that lived here was the Mains. John & Robert Main took over the Tenancy between 1905 & 1915 and the family worked her right up until the farm was bought by compulsory purchase  by the council. Robert Main  later moved from  Little Udston Farm around 1930 and they moved to Auchintibber for a while then managed to buy another place Rowantreehill Farm Braehead Forth where he settled.

The council had originally planned to have 2 Apartment houses built on the Udston farm site, however as they believed that this would cause overcrowding and scrapped this idea.

The following report was published in the Scotsman on the 12th December 1934.

Hamilton Housing – No two apartment Dwellings at Udston Farm Scheme.

Following representations by the Department of Health for Scotland , Hamilton Town Council decided last night to accept a recommendation by the Housing Committee that no two-apartment houses be included-in the scheme of 900 houses at Udston Farm site , near Burnbank .

“The Department , in a letter to the Council , which was read at a meeting of the Housing Committee , expressed its strong conviction that it was not desirable to have any two apartment houses in the scheme .

They pointed out that . according to the 1931 Census returns , 63 per cent , of the houses in the burgh are of one and two apartments , and that , in addition , there is always great danger of overcrowding where two-apartment houses are allowed , and that if three-apartment houses were substituted it would greatly facilitate the efforts of the Council to deal with overcrowding ”

In the 1940s/50s, the council built there new 900 home  housing estate on the land surrounding the farm and it is now known as Hillhouse.

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Robert Main Just after they moved from Little Udston Farm around 1930! Picture courtesy of Roberts Great Grandson Jim Cochrane.

We would like to thank Jim Cochrane for sending us his pictures of his Gran & Great Grandfather at Little Udston Farm & also to Paul Veverka of The Blantyre Project for pointing Jim in our direction.

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The former site of Little Udston Farm.