BECKFORD STREET PREFABS 1946.

Beckford Street Prefabs 1946.

The new consignment of Prefabricated house started to arrive in Hamilton in 1946. In March 1946 Beckford Street was a very busy place when people of all ages were flocking to Beckford Street to see the new prefabs which were erected.

There was a consignment of 18 Houses built on the site and the first tenants were to move in April 1946. All the Tarran Type Houses were built with the walls constructed of concrete slabs bolted together at the back.

Each block was a house in its self with front and back doors and the houses consisted of a Livingroom, two bedrooms, kitchenette, bathroom, wc and a lobby. The prefabs only had one fire to heat the whole house and the bedrooms were fitted with plug sockets so that an electric fire could be plugged in.
Hot air from the fire in the living rooms was passed through channels near the ceiling to each of the bedrooms. The hot water in the prefabs was transported from an electric boiler in the kitchenette.

In 1946 the kitchen equipment was at the time installed with the most modern cupboards with hooks, shelves or racks. A coal bunker was also provided and it was situated at the back door and they also came with sheds for storing prams, cycles and garden tools.

In 1946 Prefabricated Houses were being turned out at the rate of 50 per week at the factory of Messrs Tarran, Ltd, at Mossend. Some months later a new machine was installed at the Mossend plant and they would increase their output to 100 Prefabs per week.

The Beckford Street Prefabs paved the way for these types of Houses to be built in Hamilton. They proved to be very popular with people who were wanting a change from their old tenements with shared toilets.

After the Beckford Street prefabs were built, Hamilton received altogether another 54 Tarran type Prefabs. The prefabs were later constructed at May Street, Cadzow Square and Glebe Street.

With this proving popular Aluminium Houses were also Built at throughout Hamilton which consisted of 12 at Holyrood Street; 10 at Rose Crescent; 11 at Mill Road; and 10 at Donaldson Street & George Street.

Did you live in a Hamilton Prefab, or do you have a picture of one? If you do, then Let us know.

Beckford Street 1919.

Beckford Street Primary School 1919 Moyra Bass.WM

Moyra Bass from New Zeland sent us this fantastic Picture of Beckford Street.

Moyra told us:

“Sure this school says Beckford St School 1919. My granny Sarah Campbell would have been 10 in this photo, 3rd from bottom far right.”

Do you have an old school picture tthat you would like to share? Please send them to us and we willshare them with everyone around the world.

Eric Cullen 1965-1996.

ERIC CULLEN

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The following story was posted on the Beckford Street Primary Page and was written by David Cairns. I have really thought about Re-posting this for a couple of days and I’m sure that it will generate a lot of mixed comments, however, this is a Hamilton story and I would like to share David Cairns story with you all.

I got my first computer about 2000, so I bought some computery user type magazine, and on the cover , there were two internetty type pages causing a bit of a stooshie, one was Google, “now rated better than Ask Jeeves and any other search engines”…the other was Friends Reunited…so I type Google and then type Friends Reunited…and fucken hell !! It was technology gone mad… here was my school..and if I typed in the year..folk I went to school with..Rodney Barbour and Julie Cornish spring to mind…ghosts from a past life… all here.. on this page.. alive !!

Friends Reunited had a page for famous former pupils, there were folk like Dougie Donnelly (wan for the oldies there !) and Craig Broon the manager…but nae Eric Cullen..I got a bit lippy about it on the page, about how poorly his funeral was attended, and I remember Paul Hendry from Quarter, quite rightly, ‘pult me up’ about it…He said “..We might not have gone to the funeral, but maybe it was because we didn’t want to be seen as ghoulish and imposing..maybe we just wanted to mourn respectfully at a distance… it didn’t mean we didn’t care !”…very true Paul. Point was taken. I went to his funeral because I sat next to him on his and my first day at school in August 1970, at Beckford Street Primary School Hamilton……

” So what are those then ?” …”WHIT ..THOSE !!”…” Yes, those two round things “…. ” TITS !..THOSE ARE TITS…HUV YE NO’ SEEN YER MAM’S TITS ?”…and that’s how my innocence ended. I sat next to wee Eric Cullen, the seating arrangements must have been alphabetical..and on oor first day at Becky School, with a trigger happy, violent auld boot called Mrs Forrest as our teacher, we counted blocks onto string, got a drink of milk oot the blue and white pyramid tetra-paks….and had tae draw a picture of our mums and da’s.

Eric was so small, my mum told me years later, that he actually had a hem up on his blazer. Blond straight hair, cut like a helmet, NHS roon’ specs, and grey school flannel shorts…wi’ a hem up oan them as well !! We got paper and pencils and were given the task of ..” SHUT UP !! NOW DRAW YOUR MUM AND DAD…OR ELSE”…so we set about stick drawing oor parents… when I glanced across at Eric’s…both my mam and da’ were… em.. ‘sticky’..but Eric’s Dad was ‘sticky’…but his mum was..’boxy’..Eric’s mum was quite big..(a Ward Sister at Stonehouse I think)..and in the middle of the big ‘box’ below the face and curly hair, were two round ‘devil’s dumplings’…” Aye..my mam’s gote tits…has your mam no’ ?..she must have..have a look”…so ..as my first day at school ended…I found myself mentally undressing my mother as she walked in the lower school gates…and it was all Eric’s fault…we were best friends almost all the way through primary, pals in different classes at secondary, then a gap, then old friends, then my oldest friend..and then..they just become part of you friends like that, don’t they ?

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He was marked out as ‘different’ straight away…being so small..through Becky, he was called..”Ecky”, “Wee Ecky”..”Smout”..”Small Fry”..”Midget”..”Inch High, Private Eye”..and that was when folk were being friendly..he might have been wee but he could mix it..apart from his specs getting broken mair often than not..sometimes with tape holding them the gither..he could fight, swear and spit like the rest of us. He WAS shite at fitba though..he got blooterd in the face with a size 5 Mitre fitba’ (AKA a ‘WIDOW-MAKER) every time he tried to play…simply because his face was more or less at the same level as any blootered shot..and off the pitch he’d traipse again, greetin’, his specs broken in two..again..but he was well known in the school…

He won the bulb competition aboot 4 years in a row, and got in the Hamilton Ady every time. Ye see, we got a scabby bulb..took it hame, stuck it under the bed, forget tae water it, took it back a month later , and presented a three inch high deid daffodil for the bulb show in the toon hall…whereas Eric’s Da’ was the groundsman at the Teacher Training college..(Noo, posh hooses ca’d ‘The Furlongs’ and posh Hamilton College)…and he grew thoosands of the bastards in a big greenhoose every year…so Eric got the pick o’ the greenhoose… cheating wee shite !!

I used tae go down and stay for a week at the time in the holidays because Eric had two sisters, Janet and Joyce, but no brother tae play with ( He had a brother he never met called David but he died of Leukemia ). Joyce was much older, and Janet was a bit of a honey..my first older ‘wummin’ thing…but I got over her when she was the School ‘Prom’ queen (whit did we call them back then..it wisnae ‘Prom’) in 1978 when she was in third year, and she got to pick a song of her choice at the end of year disco…and we were all screamin’ for the Pistols or summin’…but she chose ‘Wuthering Heights’…’ck’s sake !! We had great fun doon there..his hoose looked ontae the starting line at Hamilton Races. The campus had a swimming pool, a ski slope…we used tae take his terrier doon and hide in the bushes on the golf course and knick the golfers ba’s..it was aboot that time he started drama classes on a Saturday morning..Janet his sister, was going, but Eric’s mum thought that it could, potentially, be useful to him as he had been diagnosed with achondroplasia..a type of dwarfism…and he was never going to achieve full adult height..show-business..acting.. may just be a career for him in the future..but it turned out, the future was just around the corner..

Eric was cast to play ‘Wee Jaikey’ in Huntingtower..a BBC adaption of the John Buchan novel. He played the smallest and youngest member of the ‘Gorbals Diehards’…a gang on a camping holiday who help to foil some Scooby Doo type shenanigans…he filmed it in term time when we were early in our Hamilton Grammar first year. They broadcast the first episode on a Friday night, when we were supposed tae be at the 2nd Hamilton BBs…(undoubtedly Hamilton’s best Boy’s Brigade)..but we all dogged BBs tae watch it…I think Eric, with his pay from that show, bought the family a very early design ‘Video Recording’ machine..Betamax …(hahaha)…but he recorded it..and I watched it down there at his house as well. I asked him at the time about the other child actors…he said he didnae really get on with them all like it was on screen, but he did like the lad that played ‘Napoleon’..a wee lad called Iain Stewart fae East Kilbride (now Dr Iain Stewart that presents rocks and earthquake stuff oan the telly noo). Life changed for Eric .

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He was public property after that..we would walk down the bottom cross for Keyboard lessons, and all the Holy Crossers, insteed of battering or chasing us, would rub Eric on the head and say…”Alright Wee Jaikey”…that was the first time that he ever started tae get…a wee bit..well..’posh’. He would stand and look indignant and say..”..for GOODNESS sake !” in a loud haughty voice…and people would kind of know they’d overstepped the mark…at Beckford Street he would tell them tae ‘fuck off’.
A paedophile ring got their grips on him at this time. An uncle and another sick cunt called Francis Currans. Eric, who was an adopted child, was told by his uncle that he was going back to ‘the home’ if he opened his mouth. Eric had a great family. He kept quiet.

He mastered the keyboard and played the organ at the West Church. Showbiz settled down a wee bit. At that time, about 1981 when we were 16, we started going to great parties at Roddy Murray’s and Callum Bain’s..The parties would would become ‘all-nighters’…and as we were too young tae go ‘all-night’, we’d pretend to my mum that we were camping in the garden.

So me, Eric and Alan Hinshalwood would camp oot…say goodnight, then fuck off oot the back of the tent in Meikle Earnock, and fuck off doon tae Hamilton tae a party. He met and fell in love with a Grammar lassie called Lorna Green at this time…it was unrequited.. he said he was gauny ‘jump off the Grammar balcony’ if she didnae go oot with him…but she didnae…and he didnae… he was just being..well.. ‘dramatic’.. that was his job after all !!

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He had a few ‘wee’ roles in some Scottish Comedy shows, did panto with Ricky Fulton and the like, studied at Motherwell College, went to Glasgow, and did well academically…then Hollywood called..Eric was too tall to play R2D2 in Star Wars, but George Lucas remembered Eric from then, and cast him as the lead in a Ron Howard directed big budget Hollywood movie ‘Willow’. After two weeks filming, the initial ‘rushes’ weren’t good…Eric was ironically, still too tall..he was replaced by Warwick Davis.
Eric was then cast as Wee Burney in Rab C Nesbitt. The role that defined him. He did theatre tours and filmed abroad…he made a wee bit of cash tae..

He moved intae a posh wee cul-de-sac in High Earnock..he got a designer in tae tart the hoose up..if I remember right it cost ten grand for the make-over. The curtains were one long length of material, wrapped roon the curtain pole at the tap, (no’ on hooks,) and the material rolled down the side of the windows and reached the floor with a bit extra, purposely billowing across the floor (it was the mid nineties,…gie him a brek)…when his mum was shown around..she said quietly “I think yer curtains could dae wi’ a wee hem up son!”. His family kept him grounded.

This was when the paedophile gang came back tae bite him. They never let him go. His uncle Jack and Francis Currans appeared at his Earnock home one night. They ordered him to keep a box in his house. Eric put the box in a room in his house. The next day, his house, acting on a tabloid tip-off, was raided by the cops. They found a box. The box had videos of boys being anonymously abused.

The videos were fingerprinted. Eric’s prints weren’t on any. The street was cordoned off. The rozzers were in in their crime scene suits. The media were camped outside. The quiet cul-de-sac was in uproar. In the midst of this, his neighbour, an older man who had rarely spoken, approached Eric’s house, and was permitted by the police, to speak to Eric.He opened the door..the paperazzi camera motors were whirling..” Oh God Mr Burns, ye’d better come in..I’m really sorry about the upheaval…how are the neighbours..are they mad…I can assure you, the papers have it all wrong..it’s me that’s the victim..”..and Eric told this neighbour about his troubled past…and as he was approaching the end of his life story of abuse, the old boy said, …”…Eric..can I stop you there,,,you see, I’m in a hurry, and I just came round to ask if I could have a quick lend of your lawnmower…I was eyeing it up last week…and it looks rather lovely..Margaret and I were thinking of buying one”… I remember when he told me that, he couldnae get tae the end withoot greeting…wi’ laughter…aww fuck’s sake, it was funny man !..

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I wrote him an old fashioned letter (on paper with ink on it), when the shit hit the fan and he went into hiding..I have to say, I was like most of Scotland..couldnae believe it, and prepared to believe it , sadly,..cos it said so in the papers.. But my mam phoned at night. She said ” I don’t believe a word of it..I’ve known that wee boy since he was 5, there’s not a bad bone in him…when your dad took his stroke…who was first at the door after school?…Eric !..fucken papers…it’s lies.” I never heard my mum swear like that. That gave me the courage and belief to write. I told him, that his mates were behind him. He phoned. My son was born then, so we went down to Hamilton, and I went over one night, we drank gin and beer and sat around his dining table, with the curtains still withoot the hem up, and he told me how he always had his table set for two. He just wanted someone to share his life with.

We got plastered and talked for hours aboot Beckford Street and the Grammar….about going up tae the County cafe and blawin’ oor dinner money in there, insteed of buying something healthy like chips or going to Greasy Mary’s at the Grammar…and when we used tae stay at his hoose…and ye could see the mausoleum oot his windae at night…and he’d tell me ghost stories and I’d shite it…and that was the last I saw him. His mum phoned me about three weeks later. She told me he had a twisted bowel, his operation was going to be a big thing, and she wanted me to know. He survived the surgery, but died two days later of a heart attack.

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He was a great wee guy. I went to his funeral. I met Lorna Green, and poignantly, Ruth Hay, who has sadly just passed away. We were troubled by the lack of former friends, but Paul Hendry was right. He was funny, articulate…but rough as fuck as well, sensitive, a worrier ( he’d sit right on the edge of his couch so as almost standing..staring into nowhere..biting his nails), generous, a gin-drinking rabble rouser…he once got barred from Disneyland Florida..aye…banned for life..but the newspapers never got that wan… and it stays locked up that story…but it was a cracker), a performer, but a bit unsure of himself, up himself but insecure. Loved his family. Loved by his family.

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I know it’s easy to criticise and troll this post. But the guy was a victim. And he’s passed away. He got two of his abusers locked up, one died in jail..so he goes to heaven in my book. Twenty years since he died. Can’t believe it. Forty six years since he told me my mam’s got tits. I still can’t believe that either.

Written by David Cairns on the Beckford Street Primary Facebook page, 16/07/2016.

THE HAMILTON TOLBOOTH 1642-1954

THE HAMILTON TOLBOOTH 1642-1954

Like many towns in Scotland Hamilton had its very own tolbooth. The tollbooth in Hamilton was so grand that some thought it was a church. It was noted that in its day, this jail was one of the grandest jails in Scotland.4

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The tolbooth was erected in the reign of Charles the First, around the year 1642, there is no actual exact date for the construction but the old tolbooth stood as a silent reminder of the days of long ago.
When the tolbooth was still standing in 1941 a newspaper account in the Hamilton Advertiser read “The vicinity of the jail has changed much since 1642, no doubt then it would be the civic centre of the town. Anyone having a look at it today can see evidence that the levels of the adjoining roadway have been raised more than once since its erection.”
The north-east corner had been splayed off and corbelled over when built. This would indicate that at the time of its being built there were other buildings very close to it and the splay on the corner would be made to give room for persons passing through. It would have been one picturesque feature still left of the ‘Old Hamilton’.
The old jail would was at the heart of the town and it sat between the Hamilton Palace and what we now know as the Old Town. To put things in to perspective, the old Jail sat on the land that now occupies the roundabout between Asda and the Museum and the Kids play park on the palace grounds.

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Today if the jail was still standing, you could walk down Castle Street and see its imposing tower.
The old jail of Hamilton in 1642 was one of the most ornate buildings in the town and you would think that the men of Hamilton in 1642 must have loved a jail more than they loved a Kirk, but to be fair to our own fellow townsmen of that time, it should be noted that very likely Hamiltonians in 1642 would have no hand in the erection of the Jail. It was more than likely to have been built by foreign hands.
There was a French look about the building, in the time of the Stewarts there was much coming and going between France and Scotland and no doubt French artisans had a hand in the building of the old jail.

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The Tolbooth acted as the most important building in the burgh as it was the council chamber, court house and jail. The town council fitted a clock in 1656 at a cost of £314-13s-8d (Roughly £23,777.47 in today’s money) and four years later, a further £45 was spent on a new Tolbooth bell, weighing 8 stones 8lbs.
In 1666 John Pate who was the town officer, was paid an annual salary of £30 “For keeping of the clock and ringing the bell” On the ground floor of the Tolbooth there were three booths, or shops, which were let annually, providing extra income for the burgh revenues.

Outside the Tolbooth were the burgh stocks where wrongdoers were padlocked by the ankles. In the year 1670, James Hamilton, a merchant, was “to be brought publicly to the market cross, and be laid in the stocks” for striking his parents and uttering “Vile and Unchristian expressions”.

The council chambers which were recognised by many throughout the nineteenth century were built in 1798 and this building joined on to the tolbooth and not only was it the council chambers, it was used as the court house and jail.

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On the balcony of the old jail, the prisoners were shown to the abusive public and later on towards the end of the nineteenth century life inside the jail was not always without its comforts; visitors were allowed to bring food and drink and “Merry Parties” were held, with the compliance of the poorly paid jailers. However, for some it was a short last walk to the Gallowshill.

Accounts of life in the old jail make interesting reading. The penalties for what are now regarded as comparatively trivial offences were severe to the point of being vicious. There is a record of a woman “an Egyptian,” being convicted of the theft of wine and sentenced to death. One of her accomplices was ordered to be whipped “on the bare back.”

Capital sentences were carried out at the top of Muir Street, the Gallows being at what was variously known as “Doomster’s Hill,” Gallows Hill,” and the “Deil’s Elbow.” The location was roughly opposite the present site of the Bay Horse.

The tolbooth was the seat of “Justice” for not only Hamilton but for the whole of the old middle Ward of Lanarkshire. In addition, the offenders against criminal law who were dealt with, there was a proportionately large number of debtors. Public punishment was inflicted, and many a prisoner had the terrifying experience of being the target for sundry missiles from an angry crowd.
As stated there appears to have been no restriction on feasting and drinking and it was a commonplace to see bottles handed in and out without hindrance.

There was only one turnkey and hard labour was unknown. Indeed, the jailer seemed to regard his charges as decent fellows who ought not to be imposed upon any more than was absolutely necessary. His “coigne of vantage” was a shop he occupied under the belfry, from where he could see all that was going on.

Debtors in the jail led what was, in the circumstances, quite a jolly life, with eating, drinking, singing and dancing. Accepting their loose confinement with more than resignation, they showed little grief. Perhaps they were relieved whom they owed money.

Prisoners were, on occasion allowed out of the tolbooth for a walk or to attend a funeral. Some must have been favoured by the jailer, for it is on record that one so abused his privilege that the jailer threatened to lock him out if he persisted in returning late!

Figures available for the years 1823-1835 give an idea of the proportion of the prisoners in the tolbooth who were debtors. (The figures do not include all Hamilton offenders, however, as some were dealt with in Glasgow.) In 1823, of the total number of inmates, 45 were criminals and 50 were debtors. The following year debtors numbered the same, but there were five fewer criminals.

From then debtors tended to decline and criminals to increase. Only once in 1831, were there over 100 criminals, the number being 102. Then there were 48 debtors, an advance of 17 on the previous year. The following year saw an increase of six debtors, and a decrease of four criminals, but for the first half of 1835 debtors were reduced to a bare 23, with 61 criminals.

In 1835 it was reported that the building, although handsome in its day, had deteriorated and would “soon all be removed, except the steeple, town clock, and bell.”

Despite the rather farcically lax treatment of some prisoners, however, life in the tolbooth was grim. At long last it aroused public feeling and in 1839 the new court and prison was built in Beckford Street, leaving the tolbooth a rare relic of the days when law was sternly enforced.

Plans for the extensive alterations to the tolbooth and old council chambers in 1860 are still in existence. They show that a new clock face was to be installed and the upper part of the tower to be reconstructed. The plans were drawn up in the Hamilton Palace.

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The first indication of the perilous state of the building was revealed in the summer of 1949 when a Hamilton man, who was examining a plaque fixed to the wall of the tolbooth (The plaque read: Drs Cullen and Hunter practiced in premises across the street) at its junction with the old council chambers fell through the ash footpath when it suddenly subsided. At this point the Cadzow Burn is conducted under the building by a culvert, and examination showed that this was in a very dangerous condition, probably due to mineral workings and also through erosion from the action of the Burn.

No sign of damage to the culvert had been apparent and it was reported to the Town council. Regret was expressed in the town council that the old Jail was doomed, the foundations having been damaged to such an extent by flooding that the building was liable to collapse.

Following this an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the building taken over as an ancient monument, the cost of the repair work being prohibitive. An inspection at the end of 1949 revealed that there were no signs of fracture in the stonework above ground level on the clock tower, although part of the foundation would require to be examined further when the jail was removed.

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The tower five inches off the plumb in one direction and three inches in another. This did not mean however, that the building was not stable. It was anticipated that it would be possible to retain the tower.

The council made plans to underpin and strengthen the foundations of the tower as it was in a very bad state of repair and it was hoped that the remedial measures which are to be taken would prevent the need to demolish it.

A certain amount of the tolbooth wall was to be left to give the tower support and this was also going to be underpinned.
Messrs John C Burns of Larkhall were appointed the job of demolition of the old council chambers.

They were to carry out the work at the end of January 1951 weather permitted. As part of their contract they were allowed to take the stone, but it was not allowed to use again for building, it was to be used as rubble.

 

When the old council chambers were being taken down workmen discovered in the foundation stone, near a fireplace on ground level a Scroll on which was written, in meticulous and still-legible hand writing: “This Town House was built in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Eight. And in the Thirty-Eight year of the reign of His Majesty, King George the Third.” The scroll also contained the names of the civic dignitaries of the day.

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It is unknown where this scroll is now kept, Hopefully in the Hamilton Museum.

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Hamilton’s link with the old past comes to an end.
The Tolbooth was finally demolished on the morning of Thursday the 21st of January 1954 when a charge of 25 pounds of gelignite exploded at the base of the old tolbooth steeple and sent it tumbling to the ground.

Its fall was witnessed by scores of people, some of them within the Palace grounds and others at vantage points in Castle Street, Muir Street and even in Cadzow Street. To set the appropriate funeral note, one of the workmen climbed to the belfry and for about half-an-hour until 11:18 a.m. tolled the Bell. As this sound, has not been heard for several years, the attention of many more people than would have watched was attracted.

Those who saw the final touches being put to the preparations for the big bang included the Provost Mrs Mary s. Ewart, The Town Clerk (Mr James Kelly), the burgh surveyor (Mr James A. Whyte), senior police officers and a group of pupils from the Hamilton Academy, who were accompanied by the rector, Mr E. G. MacNaughton, M.A.

After everyone had been asked (and some persuaded) to go beyond the danger limits, a whistle blew at 11:43 a.m. Immediately came the deep-throated roar of the explosion. The base of the steeple, where a number of holes had been drilled to take the gelignite, was shattered instantly and within a few seconds the whole structure had crumbled before everyone’s eyes.

The steeple came to rest exactly where expected, with the weather vane which for so long had topped the proud and once-handsome tower at the foot of a small tree. It had been feared that the rubble might block the course of the adjoining Cadzow Burn and that part of the stone culvert might collapse with vibration, but only a little of the stonework entered the water, and the culvert remained intact. Surprisingly little rubble fell in Castle Street.

When the remains were examined immediately after the demolition, the clock bell was seen nesting among the masonry, and it was still intact. The bell bore the inscription “Thomas Mears, London. 1802.”

Close by were the shattered dials of the clock, with its cogs and wheels scattered around. Clear of the main mass was the weather vane, on which before the explosion a sparrow had alighted for a brief moment.

There was a plaque that was attached to the base of the tower commemorating the fact that Drs Cullen and Hunter practised in premises across the street was removed an hour before the demolition. (Hopefully this plaque is kept safe at the Low Parks Museum)

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The bell from the Tolbooth was later earmarked to be installed at the Municipal Buildings (The Hamilton Town House & Library) as the old bell from the Townhouse was sold to a Glasgow firm. It is unknown if this actually did happen, or if the Bell went straight to the Hamilton museum.

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