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?
For a long time I have been fascinated by Hamilton’s history, I have read numerous books about my home town and as I drive from place to place, I always look out for old buildings or land where factories, houses or farms once stood.
I have often thought about the Hamilton Palace and its Dukes and it saddens me to think of what a credit the Palace could have been to Hamilton if it was still standing today.
Eight years ago my mum bought me a book written by local author and Historian Wilma Bolton, it was called “Black Faces and Tackety Boots”. I always knew about the coal mines of Hamilton, however, like most people I never knew about the horrific fatality’s of men and young boys, who were working underground. I read about the hardship on families as well as the good times and community spirit that the Miners had.
After reading Wilma Bolton’s books, once again I started thinking of Hamilton’s history and its people. I wanted to do something myself but didn’t know where to start. I stumbled across a website called “The Blantyre Project” a page set up by Paul Veverka. This is also a man really passionate about his home town of Blantyre. I got speaking to Paul and over a few months he gave me some really good advice on putting together a website and the best way to start my research. I spoke with my wife Emma and discussed with her about starting my very own website about Hamilton and its people and she was and still is very supportive.
On the 19th of April 2015 I set up Historic Hamilton as a Facebook Page. I intended to write about Hamilton and pack it with facts and stories about the town. I thought that I might get a couple of hundred likes, but after 4-5 weeks, the page rocketed and I was getting between 60-150 likes per day!
The page went in a totally different direction as to what I had planned out in my head, all of the group members started to send us their family photos and stories and before I knew it I was inundated with photos and requests.
As of now, when I write this, the page has 8,986 likes and when I do a story it generates between 2000 & 20,000 views. This is all down to all of you – the members of Historic Hamilton!
We have people in the group from all over the world and frequent contributors from Canada, USA, Dubai (UAE) & Australia. One thing that really makes me happy, is that the page has reunited families and old friends that lost touch many years ago. Please keep sending us your pictures and stories and they will be shared across Hamilton, the UK and the rest of the world.
One thing that I would like to see before the end of 2015 is the page hitting 9000 likes!! All we need is 14 more people to like the page, so tell your friends and family about Historic Hamilton and ask them to stop by and give us a like.
Looking towards the future I will be planning to put Historic Hamilton on paper and write a book about Hamilton and it’s people, so you never know, you or your family might just appear in it.
I hope that Historic Hamilton continues to take you on a nostalgic journey and bring you happiness when you stop by and visit our page.
As the end of 2015 approaches from my family to yours, we would like to wish you all a very happy, healthy & prosperous New Year.
At one point in time Hamilton had it’s very own brewery! The Brandon Brewery was situated on the east side of Quarry Road, which is now called Quarry Street.
The Brewery was listed as a “Small Brewery” and the gate keeper was called William McKenzie who lived at the Gate house between 1858-1861.
The Brewery was still here in 1913 as it appeared on the map of this year, However the next map that i looked at was an areal photo of the town taken in 1944 and it was no longer there.
The picture above taken from Google Street view is the former site of the Brandon Brewery. So far I have been unable to find any further information on the brewery, however this story will be archived and investigated in the future.
Up until the 1980’s the corner of Strathaven Road and Graham Avenue was dominated by a large red sandstone building comprising of shops, flats and on the prime corner was the site of Hamilton’s most famous public house, The Ranche. One of the features of the Ranche was the sloping floor which was caused by the collapse of the underground coal workings which honeycombed the area.
The Ranche was a favorite of the local miners and in 1926 there took place an extraordinary incident that is still spoken of today, eighty nine years later and is known as the riot in the Ranche.
The main character in the chain of events which led to the riot was a miner called Bob McTaggart, a powerfully built man with a neck and shoulders like a prize bull.
Altogether Bob, who lived in Low Waters and worked in the former Cadzow pit was definitely no angel, he was well thought of in the ‘Cadzow Rows’ that now demolished collection of over 200 miners homes situated off Strathaven Road.
But Bob had, as all mortals have, some failings; the main one being that after a few pints he liked to fight. You could call him the local ‘Hard Man with a soft Centre’
On a Saturday night after a few pints, 5ft 9in Bob would weave his way down past Cadzow Bridge into School Street. By the time he arrived he would be stripped to the waist; then standing in the middle of the street he would bellow his war cry to the tenement windows; Come oot and fight….I’ll fight the best man….Come oot…..
The neighbours, well accustomed to this ritual viewed it as their Saturday night entertainment, but it is doubtful if there were many who took up his offer as Bob also had quite a formidable reputation as an amateur boxer.
It was this penchant for a fight that got him barred from the Ranche public house in Strathaven Road which was the local for many Cadzow Row Miners.
On the evening of Friday the 27th May 1926, the owner of the Ranche turned up at the county police headquarters with a request fort the police to be present at the pub. Through the grapevine, he had heard that Bob McTaggart intended to partake of quiet refreshments that very night,despite being barred from the pub. Returning to the Ranche in the illustrious company of the police inspector and superintendent (both of whom were dropped off a short distance from the pub) the owner entered the premises and there, standing at the bar was Bob.
At the trial, according to the evidence of the owner, he told McTaggart that he was not welcome as he had been barred. At this, Bob alleged to have shouted; “you Bastard, you have insulted me. I’ll murder you” and then made a run for him. The owner beat a hasty retreat out of the door and Bob, hot on his heels, ran strait in to the arms of the law, who just happened to be out side; captured he was returned to the pub, where he was soon on the receiving the end of police batons. At the sight of this assault on one of their own, the clientele of the establishment attempted to release Bob from police custody and thus began, the riot in the ranche.
Before it was Finnish, the gantry, along with every window, mirror and glass in the pub had been smashed and police reinforcements had to be brought in from Hamilton and Blantyre police stations.
With an estimated 100 men fighting inside the pub and a crowd of approximately 500 men outside baying for police blood, the only way to restore public order was for the police to release a much battered but still defiant Bob McTaggart. This defused the situation just enough to empty the pub and calm the crowd down, but not for very long, soon the riot was in full swing again. The police and the Ranche came under fire from a fusillade of stones, bricks and anything else the crowd could get their hands on.
The arrival of the Black Maria containing 10 police officers from Hamilton Burgh police station and more men from the county police headquarters and Blantyre police station sent the crowd scattering in every direction ; through back courts, up closes, anywhere to get them out of the clutches of the officers.
Early the following morning the arrests began, there was hardly a house on Cadzow Rows where their wasn’t a man sitting waiting for the knock on the door. Police raided numerous houses in the area. Identity parades were held and eventually 11 men were charged with mobbing and rioting.
The trial at Hamilton Sheriff lasted three days. One by one the witnesses took their stand in the witness box all anxious to give their version of the riot. The one exception was William McMorran Symington, the barman who had been working in the Ranche that night and for reasons known only to him (and possibly the Cadzow miners) he had appeared to have developed amnesia when questioned about who was there and what took place.
At first he thought there could have been about 30 men present in the bar when the owner returned from the county police headquarters, but then he changed his mind, reducing the number to 20 men. Finally, he settled on only four people being present, protesting that he couldn’t see, as he had taken cover during the riot!
The owners chauffeur however, James Robertson, (A Blantyre Man) appeared to have a photographic memory. He said that having going in to the bar, he soon left after being struck by a pint measure. Outside finding that his windscreen had been smashed, he climbed in to the vehicle hoping that he could at some point, move it out of the way. Identifying Daniel (Gowdie) Hughes one of the accused, he said that he had come running out of the pub covered in blood from a head wound and had stood cursing and swearing at the door of the Ranche. He had to convince the jury that the that this Cadzow was shouting to the crowds outside “Come on you fellows; don’t just stand there; come in and pull the whole bloody lot out. Them dirty Bastards are using their sticks wholesale” and also said that Hughes was encouraging the crowd to break down the front door which had been locked behind him.
The chauffeur also identified another of the accused, Alexander Murphy, as being the man who pulled him out of the car by the throat and informed him that if he “attempted to go for help, his car would go down the brae wanting wheels….” Robertson said that the crowd by this time was throwing a hail of stones at the building and superintendent Taylor came outside and appealed for them to stop. The reply was more stones and he saw one hit the superintendent on the jaw.
He described how at this point Taylor drew his baton and then watched with amazement on his face that w wee man dressed in blue , marched up and down the pavement in front of him firing questions at him. (The bar room lawyer?)… The chauffeur identified this man as Owen Martin. Another man Robert (Bobby) Mount was identified as also being in the vicinity when superintendent Taylor’s baton was pulled from his hand. (It was never recovered.) Robertson told how the officer started to chase the culprit, but he was knocked down, surrounded and then attacked by the crown, eventually being rescued by inspector Mutch who came to his aid and managed to get him back in to the Ranche.
Having done his best to jail half of the accused, James Robertson was allowed to stand down from the witness box.
Some of the defendants pleaded alibi and produced witnesses to prove it. One, James (Wee Pea) Canning in an attempt to scale down the size of the riot, put it to the Jury that the crowd outside the Ranche had not actually taken part in the riot; they were merely passing the pub on the way home from the devotions at the local Catholic Church.
At the end of the trial, 10 of the accused miners, including Bob McTaggart, received a six-month prison sentence, the other miner James McGhie got four months and the legend of the riot in the Ranche slipped into the pages of Hamilton’s History.
Several years after the riot Bob McTaggart with his wife and children emigrated to Canada where he lived intill he was in his seventies and died after losing a leg in a lift accident.
The above story has been taken with full permission from the book Black Faces & Tackety boots written by local author Wilma Bolton. Please visit http://www.wilmabolton.com for information on where to buy her books, packed with stories from the local coal miners of Hamilton.
The Angus Hotel was situated across the road from the Avonbridge Hotel and it occupied the piece of land where flats are currently built.
The Twaddle family owned the Avonbridge Hotel and the Angus Hotel was the annex. The family sold the Avonbridge to Mr Martello in the 1980’s but kept and ran the Angus as their main business.
David Laurie worked at the Angus Hotel in the mid 1970’s when Ken Twaddle and his sister Morag ran the business. David was a part time barman and he worked there for extra cash and he told Historic Hamilton that it was a fun place to work!
The building later fell into disrepair and had to be demolished. I wonder if it would give the Avonbridge a run for it’s money if it was still there today.