Agnes Scott’s Monument of Memories Part 4 Printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 24 June 1966.

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In the late twenties, William (or Bill) Anderson, a grandson of the aforementioned Thomas Anderson, became aware of the health-giving benefits derived from physical training and started a course of gymnastics. Others got curious, then interested, so Bill and his cousin William Allan, at present town chamberlain of Campbeltown,  together with John Neilson and Adam Steel, founded Burnblea physical culture club which met nightly in the Anderson home. Unlike the scouts or Boys’ Brigade, where the leaders were older men, this was a club run by youths for youths, and it proved an instant success.

So many young men wanted to join that the founders commenced a search for premises. Mr Sherret, the butcher who had taken over the farm-steading when Bent farm was vacated by Abie Brownlie, let them have the barn for 5 Shillings per night. Aladdin oil lamps were bought to light the place and bales of hay were used as mats. For the sum od sixpence per meeting, members enjoyed every minute of their strenuous exercise and quite a number became proficient weight-lifters. Part of the fun was a dip in the big boilers of cold water.

The barn was not the choicest of premises, however, and with the ever-growing membership a friend suggested that Anderson contact Mr A K Foulis of Hamilton Estates. Bill did this and permission to use the riding school was granted in 1930. This proved an ideal arrangement and the 150 members met for three hours every Tuesday and Friday evening. For the nominal sum of 10 Shillings per month, lighting, heating and bathing facilities were included.

DUKES FANS

The lads were delighted with this generous offer and the Boxing Marquis, the present Duke of Hamilton, became their hero.They were well acquainted with johnnie Brown, who sparred with the Marquis, and they now felt they knew the nobleman too. Later they maintained a lively interest in the Duke’s flying adventures, especially his flight over Everest.

A number of young ladies heard of the success of the club and asked Mr Anderson to form a female group. Bill was hesitant at firs, but when a deputation of girls from Gilchrist’s Bakery approached him he was persuaded and so in 1932, with a membership of 30, Hamilton’s first league of Health and Beauty was formed. Members paid an annual subscription of two shillings, plus sixpence attendance fee. An ante-room in the old Town Hall was rented and the ladies met there once weekly. After a few weeks, larger premises were necessary and the Masonic Hall was rented for one evening a week at 12s 6d per night.

Every kind of training apparatus was purchaser and the membership  rose quickly to 120. Social evenings, dances and hiking expeditions brought the sexes together and both clubs had a continued run of success until they terminated, the physical culture club because of the war and the league of Health and Beauty because of the many other interests of the founders.

One fellow, James Lang still has his membership card which he carries around as a memento of the many happy evenings spent in congenial company. A few have a better reminder for they found romance. Bill Anderson and Adam Steel fall into this group, as they married members of the League of Health and Beauty.

BIG CHANGES

Like most of Hamilton, Burnblea Street is undergoing big changes. Police houses have long since replaced Chassels’ tenement and during 1963-65 burgh houses and a new self service Co-operative licence store were erected on the vacant field and on Nicholson’s site. The other tenements  have been ear marked for early demolition and soon all individuality will have been erased from the street. Instead of the once beautiful stone tenements, one shall find new brick and roughcast dwellings; inferior in my opinion, but for the fact that they contain kitchenettes and bathrooms. A few people, however, are reluctant to move when they compare their present rentals with the high rents of the council houses, for therein  lies a problem far greater than the lack of a bathroom.

Agnes Scott’s Monument of Memories Part 3 Printed in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 17 June 1966.

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.

COLOURFUL CHARACTERS

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.

STRIKE AID

Burnblea Soup Kitchen.
The transformed washhouse then known as the Burnblea Soup Kitchen with residents of Burnblea Street taken during the Strike of 1926.

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”.

 

 

Agnes Scott’s Monument of Memories Part 2 Printed 10 June 1966.

Thinking of the now headquarters of the British legion and Toc H, I walked up Quarry Street to the site of the old town hall. There I took a seat, as the burgh has placed several benches around as a temporary means of beautifying and utilising the spot while awaiting development. 

In imagination I was soon inside a packed hall listening to the Albatross Singers who came periodically to delight audiences with their sacred music.  The faces of Hamilton songsters and talented entertainers flagged before my eyes, among them Messrs Gold, Millar & Black, also Miss Pug, Mrs Thompson and a special friend Miss Tina Brunton, a contralto of some repute. For several years before her death Tina was partially blind but she maintained a courageous front and remained cheerful to the end.

I also recalled many amateur dramatics and the words of one little girl making her stage debut ran through my ears…..”Duncan and a’ sodgers made o’ wid?” Somehow I have never forgotten that line or the child’s resounding voice.

 

MEN’S SUFFERING

 

I, however, associate the Town Hall mainly with the First World War, the War Pensions Office held therein and the suffering of the men who queued for their disability pensions. Full treatment allowance at that time was £3 per week for a single man, as compared with a basic allowance of £6.15 Shillings today plus the various other amounts to which he may be entitled.

All types were dealt with among them hard cases who knew every trick and device by which they could obtain something for nothing. Others were so grateful for a crumb  of comfort that they almost worshipped the staff whom they would occasionally make a small gift. I still cherish such a present, beautifully embroidered by the wife of the war veteran called “Thomas Barr”.  He had heart trouble and was crippled by  rheumatism, yet one never herd him grumble.

To observe these men and note their reactions to certain circumstances was an education in itself. Returning to “civvy” street totally totally or partially disabled was always a problem and a number could not adjust themselves. Some refused to wear their artificial limbs. One man in particular came in almost fortnightly and threw his artificial leg on the counter accompanied by a torrent of abuse not so John Robertson of Meikle Earnock. Despite severe agony he preserved and for years one did not suspect that he had an artificial leg. Now over seventy his disability tells but he remains a fighter and a hero.

Many disabled accept government grants or had their pensions commuted for a lump sum which to set up in business. Dozens did this but I can name only one who made a success of it. Opportunities were also given for a collage education.

Two men, both joiners, accepted the challenge and they became woodwork teachers at the academy and St Johns respectively. They too deserve praise for making a new life for themselves. Although in retirement now they are still outstanding citizens ans model ex-servicemen.

But it was in a large measure due to the insight and understanding of the various sectaries of the war pensions committee, that the pensioners found new hope. The first was Walter Henderson, depute town clerk. He conducted business in an office in the municipal buildings ans continued from there until work grew to such dimensions that he could not cope with two jobs satisfactory, so he resigned. A new salaried secretary was elected in the person of J Glen Boyd of Lanark, and business was transferred to a larger premises in the Town Hall.

Walter Henderson who died recently, held many positions of trust, including that of county clerk. He was a tireless worker and could not tolerate laziness and inefficiency in his staff. Able and just he was respected  by staff and colleagues alike and if I were asked to name the perfect boss it would be Walter Henderson.

Glen Boyd, who suffered a hand injury in the war, had a charming personality.  He was tall and handsome, broad shouldered and solidly built. His blue eyes under well groomed fair hair could split fire if necessary. But “Glennie” was a big man in every way and became a very popular secretary. He resigned to become the secretary of the sick children’s hospital in Glasgow. His marriage partner was Miss Constable, a teacher at St. Johns.

John Robertson of Blantyre was the third secretary. He was an older man, whose benevolent disposition prevented him from getting tough with any client, however trying the circumstances. His term of office was short for the Hamilton War Pensions office was closed in December 1922 and all work transferred to Motherwell, the area office.

THE DOCTORS

Before I close the door on that part of the Town Hall’s history, mention should be made of the medical referees, Dr Hugh Miller of Auchingramont Road and Dr Robertson of Union Street. The latter always breezed in with his reports, his military training evident in his bearing and his air of authority, whereas Dr Miller was polite and unassuming. Both were well liked by the pensioners.

Dr Robertson vaccinated the staff during the smallpox scar, and the penny-sized dent in my arm is attributable to him and a constant reminder of those far off days. In Mr Henderson’s time Dr J Murray Young was referee with all the traffic on the Town Hall stair, cleaning was no easy task but this was ably undertaken by Mrs Robertson, widow of Charles Robertson, the renowned Town Office and hall keeper. Mr Robertson was allowed to retain the latter post as long as health permitted.

By this time of course, Alfred Duke was the town officer and caretaker of the municipal buildings. I knew Mr Duke and admired him as a smart, intelligent and affable officer. But he is associated with a different story…….

 

 

Agnes Scott’s Monument of Memories Part 1. Published in 1966

Published in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 3rd June 1966.

Agnes writes about James Mackie the town Chamberlain, Edith Forbes of the library, Sweet the painter, and the famous “Black Doctor” of Regent Street who mad snowfire ointment a household word; plus a number of “Weel Kent” faces in the vicinity of the old Town Hall, now demolished to make way for the £2m shopping precinct at the New Cross.

One can see the face of Hamilton changing day by day as buildings are demolished and streets wiped out. Often, and for too long, there is an aching void into which associations disappear leaving no trace behind. But past and present are inseparable, so while the new town spreads and lifts its head to the sky, let us pause and pay a tribute to the old and to those worthy citizens of yesterday who helped create the Hamilton now passing.

Death, whether of person or place, is always sad and the sharing of poignant memories is both an outlet for emotion and a memorial to the dead.

As i watched demolition squads at work in the area around Holmes Street, the floodgates of memory open and i saw myself in the Burgh Chamberlain’s office being served by Mr James Mackie, senior. He was the epitome of efficiency and pleasantness and one sensed that the finance of the burgh was in capable hands. The office was small but showed character and solidarity. One distinctively felt that here, if anywhere, communal interests were safe, and that their custodian did not take his responsibilities lightly. His work was his life.

Outside again, I crossed the street and followed Mr Thomas Cameron, secretary of the Glasgow chamber of commerce, into his mothers comfortable little house. Mt Cameron was married but the bond of love between mother and son was a joy to behold. Over afternoon tea, I heard stories of big business on the one hand and words of praise and  adoration on the other. He made a conspicuous figure as he cycled with a pole and pail from job to job. At present his son-in-law carries on business from the workshop.

The shop of Sam Pollock, another-well known name, is also no more where it was but Mr Pollock has been lucky enough to secure the premises in Chapel Street which were formerly occupied by Jean Frame.

The window of the supermarket in Regent Street shone clean and bright but I did not see the goods displayed. Instead I saw in memory twenty people surrounding the stance of the Black Doctor who was demonstrating his corn cure on the foot of a man obviously the worse of drink. The drunk was the only spectator bold enough to take off boot and sock and he kept the crowds hilarious as the doctor accidentally tickled the sole of his foot.

The doctor sold a variety of medicines, including a rub for rheumatics, pills for all ills, and a sure cure for baldness. Quite a number swore by his remedies and returned regularly to obtain further supplies.

Although the doctor made his own compounds, he introduced one man to snowfire.  It proved so effective for cracked lips and chapped hands that he recommended it to his workmates. It was used unfailingly thereafter by every stonemason in Hamilton during the winter months. It was easy to apply and cost only 2.5 pence a block.

FROM FARM TO FAIR

Continuing down memory lane, I passed the corner pub outside which Jock, and Jennies from the Fair danced with joyous abandon. They led a hard tough life and a day away from the Farm was freedom indeed. It was “Feeing Day” and perhaps a new job would bring greater happiness.

Most of the lads sported a “Monkey” in their caps and their pockets bulged with bottles and coconuts. The Jennies too were laden with articles their partners had won for them. The music and noise from the showground was deafening so I turned into Allen Place and found sanctuary at the Yuills.

From their parlour window I could see Mrs Forbes and her children in the garden opposite. Mr Forbes was the local inspector for the prevention of cruelty to children. The cruelty Man, as he was called, had to deal with many pitiful cases and his work taught him to be a shrewd judge of character.  His wife survived him and lived till well over ninety, being ably taken care of by her daughter Edith who was admirably suited for her job.

PADDY’S FRUIT

On fair days and at the weekends, the Regent Street of past, saw many Street Hawkers, their barrows piled with fruit. One hawker called Paddy Sinclair came out with his float from Glasgow every Friday and did a roaring trade. His bonnie red-cheeked wife could wheedle an order from any man while Paddy had a way no woman could resist.

Gazing beyond the cars parked on the derelict I pictured the shop of James Sweet, affectionately called the lightning painter and the poor man’s friend,  because he was quick reliable and kept his charges moderate. He was always in a hurry…..

 

Agnes Scott 1901-1987.

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Agnes Scott 1901-1987.
 
Agnes Anderson was born at No.8 Woodside Walk on 7th.June 1901 and her parents were William Anderson & Mary Allan.
 
After leaving school Agnes was a shorthand typist. She worked for T J &W A Dykes Cadzow  Sreet Hamilton.When she was about 20 years old she went and worked for a businessman in Malaig. His wife was a doctor.
 
She later came back home to Hamilton to live with her family at Beechwood house, 41 Portland Place. Agnes got married to James McNeilly Scott, they got their first house at 11 Fairhill Place Meikle Earnock and this is where her son Neil Scott was born. The family then moved to No.15 Fairhill Place as they required a bigger house.
 
Later in life Agnes became a keen historian and she started to document her life growing up in Hamilton. Her stories grabbed the attention of the Editor of the Hamilton Advertiser and from the 3rd of June through to December 1966 the Hamilton Advertiser published Agnes’s memoirs.
 
Neil Scott who is Agnes’s son has kindly donated his mums book to Historic Hamilton for us to publish her stories. We will be doing this soon. We would like to thank Neil for sending us his mums memories of growing up in Hamilton.