GINGER STEWART 1920 – 1990.

Robert Ginger Stewart.

GINGER STEWART 1920 – 1990.

Hamilton has produced some great fighters over the years and one of our best was a lad called Robert Ginger Stewart who was a professional boxer and he was active between 1936 and 1950

He boxed at featherweight; lightweight; welterweight; middleweight and took part in 83 professional contests. Carrying the nickname of a 19th-century boxer, Ginger Stewart fought professionally from 1939 to 1950 and he was the Scottish Area Welterweight Champion from 1939 to 1946.

Robert fought seldom in the wartime years and he had to reclaim his title each time after his absence from the sport, this was probably due to his military service. His career record was 61-13-3, with 26 knockouts delivered and he only received six knock-outs.

Robert was born on the 14th of June 1920 and he was the son of John & Margaret Poulson; his father John was a foundry employee. Robert in his day was a celebrity in Hamilton and he was never out of the newspapers, he loved his boxing, but also loved his time in the army.

He joined the army at the age of 15 and he served his time in the army and made it to the rank of Bombardier and in 1949 he was drafted to Malaya. When he was in Malaya, Robert was in the wrong place at the wrong time! At this moment I do not have the full details of what exactly happened, but he was accused of killing a native of the country.

The incident happened in either at the end of 1950 or the beginning of 1951 where he was accused of shooting a local Malayan girl. The newspaper accounts from 1951 which I have so far come across only seem to cover the story of his mother Margaret, who had to make the long 8,000-mile plane journey to see her son.

Robert’s parents first heard the news of the impending trial when a letter came to their house written by the Rev W. J. Campling who was based at the Roman Catholic Parade in South Malaya.

John and Margaret Stewart were astounded to hear of this terrible news, as Robert had never in his life been in any sort of trouble. The trial was set for the 6th of February 1951 and John’s mother Margaret flew over to be with him.

I have to assume here that Robert was not found guilty of the Murder charge, as he was back home in 1952 where he continued his career as a Boxer. Perhaps someone in Malaya was trying to make him a scapegoat.

At this time I don’t have much more on what became of Robert ‘Ginger’ Stewart after his boxing career ended. I did find some reference that he moved down to Blackpool and became a fruit merchant, but I can’t be certain of this.

I do know that Robert Died 20th October 1990, and I would like to tell the story of this Hamilton fighter whose memory should not be lost in the mist of time. If or when I do find a relative who can tell me more, I will update this story of him.

Do you know what became of Ginger Stewart? If you do, then please let us know and we will share with everyone on Historic Hamilton.

Garry McCallum
Historic Hamilton.

Walter McGowan dies, aged 73.

Walter-McGowan

The Hamilton fighter won Scottish, British, European and Empire titles before defeating Italy’s Salvatore Burruni at Wembley over 15 rounds to land the world flyweight title in 1966.

Walter McGowan.

In McGowan’s next fight, he won the British and Empire title at bantamweight when he defeated Alan Rudkin, again at Wembley.

He won 32 of his 40 professional fights before retiring in 1969.

McGowan had been in poor health in recent years and was living in a nursing home in Bellshill.

Walter McGowan1

He died peacefully at Monklands Hospital on Monday night.

One of 10 children, McGowan is survived by a son and daughter and a grandson and grand-daughter.

Our thoughts go out to his family.

THE STORY OF THE HIGGINS FAMILY OF HAMILTON

The Higgins Brothers from Cadzow, Hamilton, were great characters who exemplified the courage and hardship of the time in and after the First World War. Miners and fighters all.

They lived in the Miners rows and also lived upstairs from the Ranche Bar, a famed miners pub in Eddlewood. There was 13 of them, including the children! Mary Higgins the mother, was Mary Murphy before she married and was a bleach-field worker in the Paisley mills. Her parents were Irish. Dominick Higgins, the father, came from an Irish family who moved into Hamilton probably at the time of the Irish famine.

The Ranche WM-19.PNG

They typify the families of the area, resilient, real characters, miners, and Irish. Mary Higgins, my grandmother, also worked at the pit-head and was every bit as tough (with a heart of gold). She moved to Hall Street and then to Arden Court before she died. She was a great character and lived until she was 93. Jim Higgins became British and Empire bantamweight champion in 1920 and won the Lonsdale belt outright in 1921 in a record time of under one year (the win and two defenses) which stood until the nineteen fifties when Peter Keenan missed the chance the to break it, but he didn’t do it, so it was never matched or broken.

It is said he was robbed of a lot of his winnings from his fights by his manager. It is said he sold his Lonsdale belt to an American sailor and is now in the states somewhere. It is unique, because it was the last belt won under the British and Empire Championship (before this was changed to just British). It is said the Higgins’s laid the foundation for boxing in Hamilton and one of the brothers maybe Jim or Terrance set up a boxing club there, where a Joe Gans, father of Walter McGowan learned from Jim Higgins. Jimmy died in his sixties after acting as a bouncer in a bookies shop in the Gallowgate in Glasgow.

Jim Higgins British and Empire Bantamweight champion
Jim Higgins
British and Empire Bantamweight champion

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins, a younger brother was also a famed boxer from Cadzow in the 1930s winning many professional and national championships. He was called Mouse because he was under five foot and weighed in at seven stone six pounds. A flyweight, he fought Benny Lynch for the British championship and he was only beaten by points decision, even though Benny was nine pounds heavier. He fought Lynch three times and Benny went on to win the World championship. Harry Lauder was in the Cadzow pits and he may have worked alongside the Higgins’s.

Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.
Tommy (Mouse) Higgins.

There are newspaper cuttings from 1932 which tells of Harry Lauder taking him under his wing, Tommy becoming his protégé. Terence Higgins lived in Millgate in Fairhill and died at the age of 88. He was a great character, an old tough miner with a great spirit. His mother Mary (Murphy) Higgins sent him a postcard (attached) when he was at the Front in France, during the First World War, it says: “My Dear Son Terence Higgins. Only a Post card from your mother in Hamilton to let you know we all well. Hopping you are the same and hope to God, seeing by the Papers, the Gordons have led the way in this big charge. I only hope to God, my son, you are one of the lively lads and God has spared you to pull your hard Battle through . My Son Terrence May God Guide and Protect you and send you a safe return to you mother. Good night son and good luck and god bless you and I will have for you. Terry night and day so cheer up son and have a good heart and will rite soon again. Hoping to hear from you soon. Kiss From Mother.

Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.
Postcard from Mary Higgins to her son Terrence.

This is so poignant because when she wrote the post card she wouldn’t have known whether he was alive or dead.

Tom Ogden3

He came home though, even although he lost an eye! His granddaughter advised that Terry (Higgins) had told his son (David Higgins) that out of ten pals that joined up only two came back Terry Higgins and Terry Murphy (his cousin) both had been shot four times. He said a young man called Kit Rocks was the youngest soldier from Cadzow to be killed.

Terrence Higgins was always proud of the fact that he was the only man in two wars to survive being shot “6 o’clock in the bull” which was the term used to describe a shot between the eyes! That was in 1914, he went back to war and lost his eye after being shot again in 1918!