The generations of our ancestors who have over the past decades and centuries were definitely a tough bunch of people. People made do with what they had, and they also worked to the best of their ability to be strong in adverse situations.
In 1978 an old age pensioner called Hugh Scott was a direct example of a tough old Hamiltonian. He was born on the Eighteenth of December 1912 to parents John Scott, who was a coal miner and Mary Johnstone. Hugh was born in 82 Albert Buildings which would have been a tied house at Earnock Colliery. The house came with his father’s job as a coal miner.
At the moment I don’t have many details to go on about Hugh’s upbringing or what he did in his younger years. When he was an adult, he served in the Tank Corps during the Second World War and after the war, he worked as a loader driver at Drumclog Sandpit where he continued to work until he retired.
Sadly, Hugh’s marriage to Helen Mary Boyle broke down and this is where his run of bad luck started. He found himself homeless and although a succession of friends and relatives gave him lodgings he was eventually forced to live rough.
Hugh’s story made headlines in the Hamilton Advertiser in December 1978 where he fell on hard times and his birthday was the forthcoming week where was about to turn 66 years old. He told the reporter of the Advertiser that he wasn’t looking forward to his birthday, not to Christmas.
Hugh had become so destitute and he was living in a tent on the banks of the river Avon on the outskirts of the Town. He “Moved In” around 6 months prior while most people were taking their Fair Holiday, after spending some time in living in a cave under the nearby road bridge.
There were very bad storms in December 1978 and the small tent which Hugh bought from a Tinker had been his only shelter, and with the winter starting to set in he wasn’t looking forward to the New Year either.
Blankets and old curtains kept Hugh warm at night and protected him from the nocturnal prowling’s of his regular visitors, moles, field mice & weasels. He used a candle to give him light and he had a five-gallon drum as a fireplace while water for washing and drinking came from the river itself and a nearby spring.
Most of his meals came from various halls and hostels in Hamilton, while the animals around his tent made a regular habit of raiding his home for any available food, sometimes eating his soap. But it was just not four-legged predators which Hugh had to deal with.
At one-point children cruelly raided Hugh’s tent and threw his clothes and other items into the river. The storms also brought another threat of flooding.
However, Hugh who was a well-known figure in Hamilton did manage to weather all the storms, but he did not know how much longer he could last as the last storm to his nearly blew his tent away and the rising water was nearly up to his campsite.
The council inspected Hugh’s tent and told him that he couldn’t live in these conditions and they promised him that they would help, but a considerable time had passed since the inspection and there seemed to be no hurry to rehouse Hugh.
Hugh called to the council offices on many occasions only to be told that they did not have a house for him and that he had to try again later, so the Hamilton Advertiser enquired to the council on Hugh’s behalf and they told the reporter that “he was very close to the top of the housing list for a two bedroom apartment in Burnbank”.
It seemed that the council were indeed very aware of Hugh’s situation and they offered to alleviate his homelessness by putting Hugh into the Hamilton Home, but Hugh would have nothing to do with that. The Hamilton Home, or better known as the Poor House was the last resort for poor people who were destitute, and it was indeed not a very nice place to live.
Hugh Scott was a tough old soldier and he continued to live in his tent on the banks of the river Avon. He told the reporter of the Hamilton Advertiser “All that I need for a happy Christmas is to have a roof over my head, even if it’s a hut”.
I am sure that Hugh did get his council house not long after he appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser. Hugh was well-known in Hamilton I know that there will be a lot of our readers who knew him, so perhaps you could let us know where he got his new house?
Hugh continued lived in Hamilton and he lived to the grand old age of 84 where he died in 1997.
Did you know Hugh Scott, or do you remember the story of him living in the Tent on the banks of the Avon? Let us know!