Torheads Farm and Lake.

Torheads Farm and Lake.
By Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton.

Torheads Lake1.JPG

The large lands, once owned by the Watson family, stretched over 2000 acres all the way from Earnock past Torheads and down to Fairhill and Meikle Earnock and at Torheads, there is very little written about this part of Sir John Watson’s land. I wanted to tell you the story about the Torheads lake but when I started to research the lands of Torhead I thought that I would do this area of Hamilton some justice, and tell you about the people who once lived here.

Torheads Lake takes its name after Torheads Farm, which was a farm steading situated south of Hamilton Town Centre and the farmland stretched across 57 acres and it was surrounded by fields and woodland as far as the eye could see.

The first owner that I have found was a farmer called William Gardiner who was born on the sixteenth of September 1810, to parents William Gardiner Snr and Janet Hart. William Gardiner who from 1841, owned the farm and he lived here with his wife Margaret Wilson and their nine children who were called William, Janet, Margaret, John, Jane, Andrew, James, Robert and Bethia.

It seems that William was an outgoing social person, who liked to take part in things within his community. One thing that he always took part in was the local Annual Ploughing matches, where in February 1849, he judged a Ploughing Match in Hamilton and later on in 1856, he appears in the Glasgow Hearld as coming in 4th place in a ploughing competition where the Duke of Hamilton was in attendance handing out medals to the winners on this day.

William Gardiner had owned Torheads from at least 1841 up until 1863, where things seem to take a turn for the worse for William as in April 1863, he files for Bankruptcy and he loses his Farm at Torheads. At the age of 53, poor William after working at the farm his whole life is left with nothing. Torheads Farm was later overseen by the Heirs of D. Marshall Esq and was factored by Thomas Dykes of Hamilton. After 1863, the trail goes cold and I can’t find any further info on what became of William and his family.

Ellen Wilson Born at Torheads 1873.

Moving on, the next family that I found living at Torheads was the Wilson Family. In 1865, the farm steading was leased to John Wilson who was a man from Avondale in Lanarkshire and he took over Torheads and became the new tenant farmer.
John Wilson who was married to Elizabeth Blackwood leased Torheads from 1865, up until his death 17th May 1884. In the time that John and his wife Elizabeth lived on the farm, they had six children born at Torheads who were John, James, Elizabeth, Ellen, Robert & Euphemina.

As Sir John Watson started to extend his coal mining empire, he snapped up all of the land and properties around Midstonehall and Earnock, which began with the purchase of the Midstonehall Estate in April 1871. Sir John Watson wanting to put his own stamp on Midstonehall House then changed it’s name to Neilston House taking the name from a nearby Farm Steading which was to be then locally known as the Old Neilston House.

Tor Lake 1877 WM.JPG
Sir John Watson moved on and extended his land portfolio and bought the land at Torheads and in the year 1873, he arranged for a water supply pipe to be run from Neisland Mansion House to the Torheads marshy land which surrounded Torheads Farm at this time. The area was formerly known as the “Tally Ho” and it was transformed into a small lake. When the lake was constructed, a varied selection of trees were planted to form an arboretum on both sides of the glen and a rockery was also created to give it a much grander appearance.

I have to mention that the name “Tally Ho” could possibly have been used in reference to a hunting ground, but this is just my thoughts on it. The Tor Lake was more than likely designed by a Dundee man named David Mitchell, who was a former gardener of the Duke of Hamilton. David Mitchell had also helped build the beautiful gardens at the Grand Neilsland House.

In the year 1895, a man named Robert Maxwell, who was a road foreman, is now living at Torheads and renting from Sir John Watson. As Robert was a foreman, I would say that the house at Torheads was a ‘Perk of the Job’ house. Robert Maxwell, even though was living in the farmhouse and as I stated, was not a farmer, he was a Foreman and did not seem to have lived here for long, as only 10 years later the land at Torheads, is being used once again as a working farm. Robert Nisbet who was a Dairyman is now the tenant farmer and running Torheads as a milk dairy. He is now leasing part of Torheads from the Watsons and once more this tenancy is a short one as Robert died of heart failure at the age of 47, on the 21st of November 1908.

1905 Map of Torheads1.
After the death of Robert Nisbet, the farm is partly leased – yet again from the Watson’s and it was a cow feeder who went by the name of Alexander Baird, who was now overseeing Torhead Farm. Now, I know that a lot of you can relate to the name Baird as they have been a long established family of milkmen in the town.

The Bairds worked on Torheads farm from around 1910, and I have traced this family still living here in 1930, where around this time the lease seems to change hands and there is now a man named Alexander Robertson who also seems to be involved in the farm. The Bairds in Hamilton are still to this day a family of milkmen, they have Dairies in High Patrick Street, Portland Place and I believe that they have farms around the Muttonhole Road area.

Torheads Walk..JPG

I have still got much research to do on Torheads Farm and Lake and I will probably update this story for Historic Hamilton when I gather more information on it. On Sunday the 23rd of April 2017 I visited the swampy marshy land with my two sons Daniel and Ryan and as we approached the field we were greeted by two big deer, which unbeknown to us were standing watching as we walked past.

When we got as close as about 200 yards they bolted and both jumped over a big high metal fence to get away and I don’t know who got the biggest fright, them or us.

Torheads Swamp..JPG

As we approached what was once called the Taly Ho and walked down through the fields and eventually reached old Torhead Lake I was trying to imagine the fun that the Watson’s would have had when they were entertaining their guests with a game of curling. We only managed to get as far as the edge of the lake but it was a hard obstacle to tackle as the overgrown hedges and trees stopped us from going straight through. This area has now been left to mother nature.

Torheads Bricks..JPG

When I went on my trip to Torhead Lake, I was trying to find if there was still evidence of the Boat House that was seen in the picture of the Watson’s curling on the Lake. I never got as deep into the swamp as I would have liked to, but this will be another adventure for another day.

Brick at Torheads..JPG

I would like to ask our readers who live in Pembury Crescent – have you noticed any evidence of brickwork through the dense overgrown trees? For those of you who didn’t know, if you live in the row of houses from 17 to 37, where your back garden looks onto trees, you face the old Torheads Lake.

Torheads Farm 1971.1.JPG

A PLANK OAN WHEELS ? AYE ? AYE- POPEYE !

The following story was sent to Historic Hamilton by David Cairns.

Jimmy Scott fae Ratho Park was the first guy ever-ever in the history of the entire world inside my mind, to imagine, design and build a plank on wheels…he even invented the name…”Skate-Plank”…the name never stuck..but his invention did…today…kids the world over…call it a ‘Skateboard’…the best, crazy-fast craze to come and go I ever saw growing up in Hamilton.

Early summer 1977, I saw Jimmy Scott wheeling his way doon the path that ran fae the top of Balmore Drive over tae Ratho Park…he wisnae on roller skates..they were for lassies..and it wisnae a bogey…too wee for a bogey ?? I decided I needed tae go over and talk to Jimmy aboot this contraption. Jimmy was 2 years older than me, and we were only pals part-time…other times, we wurnae on speaking terms…last time I saw him, he’d been oot on the skite in Hamilton aboot 1986 and he was staggering hame at three in the morning in a tee-shirt…and it was freezin’..I gave him a lift..he was a nice guy..wish I’d played with him mair…

Anyway, this ‘ thing’..plank hing ?..it was a dod of plank, and two halfs of a roller skate nailed through the dod …and that was pretty much it. He pushed off at the top and was travelling about a quarter the pace my granny wheeled a supermarket trolley full of cans of prunes, and by the time he got half way doon the slope..he was flyin’ aboot as fast as I could swim…and then jumped aff…cos of the speed…I mean…you could die…Jeezo…this was real breakneck stuff.

Mair and mair kids were coming for a shot..bless him, Jimmy let everybody have a go. Within a week, my next door neighbour Stuart Baird’s maw went oot and bought him an £18 clear, blue SKUDA board..with a kickboard tail. We were all now in an arms race…like it or not…anybody in the scheme who’s birthday was in the summer or Autumn, was getting a skate-plank…everybody else had tae get an emergency wan….oh, the embarrassment…the shame…we got wan oot the Catalogue Clubby book….a ‘SuperFlyerDeluxe’ widden monstrosity with a rubber bung on the underside heel. It was aboot two foot long, made of wood, and had the logo painted in blue on the tap…all the paint came aff in a week, all the rubber came aff the wheels in a fortnight, and all that…for £6-99.

The wheels wore doon intae a sideywyse ‘v’ shape. The ‘trucks’ were hopeless, and if ye went faster than 10 mile an hoor, ye gote a deadly speed wobble and fell aff….
During that time, ye could only see skateboarding on a wee snippet at the start of ‘World of Sport’ with Dickie Davis on a Saturday before the wrestling. Britain had some guy called Tim Levis who could slalom in and oot o’ tin cans and was going tae the world skateboarding championships in California, where the Yanks claimed, it had been invented…wis it fuck, it was Ratho Park, Meikle Earnock.

That sent ye oot ontae Meikle Earnock’s famous hilly paths, but, as it was September by then, the paths were already covered by Cooncil issue winter road salt. We had tae come doon oot of the altitude of Meiky tae find the best path in Hamilton…the long, path that ran fae Eddlewood Boolin’ Club, doon ower the Fairhill bing and ran steep doon tae Fairhill Avenue at Mill Road..that path was fucken dangerous. A speed wobble was the speed at which a board began to vibrate in the ‘trucks’..but if ye could control it AND were brave enough…ye could get through it….so on that lower path, headin doon parallel tae Buchan Street…I went through the first wobble…and went full pelt tae the bottom…but got another wan at twice the speed..I shit it…and jumped aff…and accidentally broke the world triple jump record en route tae a triple somersault and a triple salchow before skidding tae a halt with blood pouring oot all the new holes in my wooly jumper..it wis fucken magic.

Roon’ aboot that time, a new ‘ Skate-Park’ opened in Kelvingrove Park in Glesga, and Jimmy Scott was the guest of honour and opened it. Ye had tae have safety gear if I mind right, so my mam got us fucken auld yellow miners helmets. Even worse, some folk had skate pads on their elbows and knees made oot o’ auld socks.
It was a special treat that day, going to the park in Glesga, but fuck me, we were oot oor depth..kids were wheechin’ aboot upside doon and back tae front and never came aff…not like today, when they seem tae spend a’ their time jumpin aff the fucken hing.

Back in Hamilton, Christmas was coming, and I had my eye oan a £15 board oot a wee shoap near Woodside Road in Hamilton. Oor Scott on the other hand, was after a ‘Grentek Coyote’…I think that had to be ordered oot a magazine? it was £15 tae..and it was a much better board. Murray Clark and seven of his pals got in the Hamilton Ady for forming an ‘Octomaran’ where eight of them joined together and went doon a hill.

The Cooncil then gote tae work building us a long overdue ‘Skate-Park’..wan tae be proud of. They picked the site…Fairhill Bing !! doon on the grass near the bottom. The story wis at the time, a company were gaunae put in Snake runs and Torpedo Bowls and a half pipe and what have ye, for aboot £15,000…the Cooncil worked oot wi’ a bookies pencil oan the back of a fag packet in Skeltons, that they could dae it for aboot ten thoosand…and so , it came tae pass, that a concrete fucking carbuncle was built over a weekend…and before the concrete set, the locals in Fairhill threw bricks, shoes and auld wellys, car batteries and a shopping basket, two cookers and a Labrador intae the setting concrete…and totally fucked the project up afore the fuckin thing was built. It lay like that, collecting rainwater for about two years…then it was bulldozed…ye can still see a big bump at the bottom of the hill where it wis , I heard they buried a couple of Cooncilors in there tae.

That Christmas…everybody and their aunty woke up tae Grentek Coyotes, proper knee pads and helmets, skateboard annuals full of the best Californian Parks and pictures of skimpy bikini clad groupies…and seven fit snaw drifts…wish I’d got a fuckin sledge !

THE STRANGS OF MEIKLE EARNOCK & MEIKLE EARNOCK BURYING GROUND.

Fairhill.13
The former burial site of the Strangs of Fairhill. 

Continuing with our graveyard story at the former burial site in Fairhill, Wilma Bolton has transcribed an article from the Hamilton Advertiser dated 7/5/1887.

Sir, I am curious to know the origin and age of the small graveyard on the confines of the Fairhill property and adjoining the road from Earnock to Meikle-Earnock. Might I ask the author of the “Recollections” which frequently appear in your publication if he can find on the shelves of his memory any impress of the facts relating to it and its dismantled state? If he could also tell me the history of the ruined wall on the north side of the village of Meikle-Earnock. I should be under an increased debt of gratitude to him. QUAERO.

The following reply was printed on the 14/5/1887:

Sir, having read in Saturday’s Advertiser a letter from a correspondent seeking information about the age and origin of Meikle-Earnock Burying-Ground. I, along with a few friends, visited it on Sunday night, as I have often done in my lifetime before, and I must say that I was greatly shocked with the state in which I found it, It seems to me that in this awful race for riches the old proverb holds good, “Better a living dog than a dead lion.”

Fairhill.11

The Indians of North America put us to shame in the way they respect the sepulchres of the dead. I must inform your correspondent that according to tradition the origin of this old burying ground is lost in the mists of time Everything points to Meikle-Earnock as being a very ancient place , there being an ancient tumulus, which, though much larger at one time still measures 12 feet in diameter and 8 feet high. There have ben found several urns in it from time to time.

It appears the ancient inheritance of Fairhill and Meikle-Earnock was held by a family of the name of Strang, of which our energetic councillor is a lineal descendant. So far as I have been able to discover, when the old parish church of Hamilton (of which many of your readers of your readers will remember the portion that stood up to 1852, and was used as the burying place of the Hamilton family) was removed on 1731, the Laird Strang of that day built here a place of sepulchre like Abraham of old, in the shape of an octagon tower wherein to bury members of the family. Of course there had been Strangs’ buried here before this, as witness the inscription on two flat stones in good preservation: — “Here lies James Strang, of Meikle-Earnock, who was born July 20th. 1654, and died 31st March 1746, in the 92nd year of his age” –also “Here lies Robert Strang, younger of Meikle-Earnock, who was born 31st October, 1687 and died 6th of May 1737. The Mathers of Meikle-Earnock, who held the estate for a considerable time, came through it by marriage.

One of the Lairds of Meikle-Earnock married a Mather, and at his death the estate lapsed into that family, and was held for a time by a Mr Dick, of Glasgow, and is now the property of the much respected laird of Earnock, and I have no doubt if Mr Watson’s attention were called to the state of this old burying ground, he would perhaps hedge it round and plant a few trees in it. I more readily suggest this, knowing that few gentlemen in Scotland have done as much for the improvement and beautifying of their estates, and I have no doubt if this were done he would earn the eternal gratitude of every well-disposed Hamiltonian. With regard to the high wall at the north end of the village, so far as I am able to judge, and so far as the older inhabitants remember, it was the garden wall connected with the old mansion house. Yours, Etc. KINGSTON.Fairhill.12

Hamilton Advertiser. 21/5/1887:

Sir, Having seen a letter in last week’s Advertiser. Signed “Kingston,” regarding the above burying ground, would you kindly grant space for one or two additional facts which he, as well as others may not be aware of. The ground in question seems to have been taken off the lands of Fairhill, perhaps from the fact of the tumulus referred to being situated as that particular spot, and which has always been supposed to belong to the Roman period. The oldest information we can get concerning it is perhaps what it reveals itself when we find one James Strang, who was born on 1654, having been buried there in 1746.

Seventeen years later, however, in 1763 when the estate of Fairhill (which then formed part of the estate of Meikle Earnock) was sold by a later James Strang. The burying ground is carefully reserved, and there referred to curiously as the “new burying place,” which does not point to a very great antiquity. Eighteen years later still, viz., 1781, we find it portioned out between four members of a family of Strangs as their respective burying places; and the present tomb was not built for nearly 20 years later still viz., about the year 1800, and not by a Strang, as Kingston tells us, but by a Mather, and who was himself the first to be laid within its walls—one or two old residenters being still alive who remember having seen his funeral.

It was built and secured by him as a burying place for members of the family bearing that name only; and from that time it has been gradually filled up by them, as each in their turn paid the debt of Natures immutable law; and at the present time there still remains one or two spaces to be occupied should the present representatives ever choose the spot as a last resting place—their father being the last Mather buried there. If they have ever given up their rights, as “Kingston’s” letter suggests, it must have been very recently. As regards the present state of the burying ground.

I knew that the year before last it was put into a state of capital repair by the present representatives—strong boarding’s being put up inside the windows, the door made thoroughly secure along with many other needful repairs. But no sooner were these done, than a gang of young ruffians (you can call them nothing else) from the town and surrounding places visited the spot—Sunday being a favourite day for the display. The boarding’s are battered down from the windows—the door is wrenched open –head stones are thrown down and broken—and the very ashes of the dead disturbed and exposed to view; and not once only but repeatedly. And try to interfere without a policeman at your back! This is our nineteenth century civilization! “Kingston,” in his letter, speaks about North American Indians, but we have a generation of Vandals growing up around us that would put to blush any dusky Indians that ever handled the tomahawk.

If they have any religious notions at all, its symbols are the tobacco pipe and a sand jig, with a clog dance thrown in by the way of variety. The police authorities have been applied to at different times, but without result; and so the vandalism is repeated. Perhaps the above may account for the condition your correspondent fount it in. How to put a stop to such savagery is another question. I have not the least doubt but if our own beautiful cemetery was not carefully watched and tended it would ultimately share the same fate. Yours W.A.

It just go’s to show that vandalism is not a modern day thing, it was even happening back in the 19th Century.

GHOULISH VANDALISM AT MEIKLE-EARNOCK.

Skull

The following story was reported in the Hamilton Advertiser on the 20 April 1895.

“Cadzow” writes to the Glasgow Herald; Please give me space for the following statement of facts. In a secluded corner on the confines of Fairhill and Earnock estates, within two miles distance of Hamilton Cross, there lies a small burying-place of some old Meikle Earnock families.

It has long since been disused, but a sweeter and more peaceful resting place it were hard to find, or apparently one more unlikely to be disturbed. What was my horror then, sir, on taking a quiet walk along the road that passes this God’s acre to find a human skull lying on the side walk, and grinning in all its ghastliness at passers-by! I reverently lifted the “thing” intending to replace it in the hallowed ground, when I observed that the door and window of the mausoleum which stands within the graveyard had been forced, and on looking into the interior saw that the stone cists round the walls were prized open, the coffin lids wrenched off, and the remains of their contents scattered over the place.

In my hurried glance I saw three skulls and several thigh and arm bones, and a bystander informed me that shortly before I came up some youths had been enjoying a game of football with the hideous relics. Great shades of Yorick! and this on the evening of a beautiful Easter Sunday in the latter end of the nineteenth century! I have no doubt that those more immediately interested will take steps to bring the perpetrators on this gross outrage to speedy justice.

I may add that the scene of this ghoulish vandalism is quite near to where, not long since, a young man, after spending a convivial Saturday evening with some friends, was playfully kicked to death by his boon companions. (The condition of this burial place has long been a disgrace to all interested in it.)

The next day on the 21st April 1895 the following was written:

“Before Hon. Sheriff Patrick, yesterday, John Murphy, pony-driver, Eddlewood, was charged with malicious mischief in connection with the recent desecration of Meikle-Earnock graveyard.

The libel set forth that on 14th inst., be abstracted from a coffin in a vault in the old graveyard a human skull and bones, and, taking them outside, broke the skull with the bones or stick, and kicked the fragments up and down the graveyard. He pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned for trial.

John Murphy, pony driver, Eddlewood, was tried at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Tuesday 30th April 1895 before Hon. Sheriff Patrick–on a charge of malicious mischief, committed in the old graveyard, on 14th April. Murphy, a boy of 14, pleaded not guilty, and was undefended.

Five witnesses were examined for the prosecution. From the evidence of four young lads, companions of Murphy, it appeared that on Sunday afternoon they met, and one of them gave information that the vault in the old graveyard was open. They went down to see the place. Arriving there, they found a number of other lads congregated.

Accused went into the vault, and, according to one of the witnesses lighted a match. He went to one of the coffins, which was open and contained a number of loose bones, and then opened another coffin. According to the same witness, he inserted his hand and extracted a skull from one of the coffins, this he brought out on the end of a stick, and threw it to the ground. Remarking that he wished to know what was in the skull, he broke it with a stick.

Again he entered the vault and was about to bring out another skull, when his companions remonstrated, and he gave up the notion. Constable Steel of the County police, said two days before the day libelled he had visited the graveyard in consequence of a report that the vault was open. He found that this was correct. The door had parted from its fixing in the wall for a space of about six inches, through the effect of the underground workings, he fixed the door in such a way as to secure it, and communicated with the representatives of the owners who promised to see the door put right. On the Tuesday following.

On information he received, he again visited the vault and found the place broken into, and the coffins and bones in a disordered condition. He further stated that five years ago the vault had been broken into and coffin cords taken away, which the girls in the village used as skipping ropes.

Accused, when asked for an explanation of his conduct, simply denied that he had lighted a match. His Lordship said the evidence disclosed an extraordinary state of affairs, and but for the circumstances that the accused was only one of a large company, all young and thoughtless, and that the place was improperly secured, he would have passed a severe sentence. But he learned from the Fiscal that the present prosecution was brought more as a warning, so trusting that such sacrilegious misdeeds would not be repeated, he would only impose a fine of 15s with the option of 10 days’ imprisonment.

The following story was donated to Historic Hamilton by Wilma Bolton.

The Burial ground on Millgate Road

Tumulus
The Tumulus in Millgate road could have possibly looked like the one in this picture.

“A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli also are known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgräber, or kurgans, and may be found throughout much of the world. A cairn, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, might also originally have been a tumulus.”

For the people who live in Millgate Road, take a minute or two to stop at the piece of open land in between 94 & 96 and spare a thought!! This is the site of an old burial ground and an even older Tumulus.

The first visual record of the Tumulus is found on the 1843 map of Hamilton and it was situated on the lands of Meikle Earnock.  The burial mound was located between two buildings, one called Fairhall and the other called Fairhill,  Fairhill being the grander of the two, with lovely gardens and even had a sun dial listed on the map.

Mound5

 

There was a document  written in 1845 by W Meek and W Buchan and it read:

“This tumulus is at present about 12ft in diameter and 8ft high. It was formerly much larger and hollow at the top. When broken into, several urns were found, containing cremations with human bones, some of them accompanied by the tooth of a horse”

Mound6

Next to the Tumulus there is an area, still on the farm of Meikle Earnock and there appears to be another area enclosed for a burial ground by the proprietors of Meikle Earnock around the beginning of the 18th century. There  was an account written in 1874 stating that the oldest tombstone observed having the date 1727, a plain mausoleum, has been more recently erected inside it, but it, and the wall, surrounding the cemetery have become much dilapidated.

Mound3

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Modern satellite overlay on the 1843 map.

The land was re-visited again in 1974 and another document read, “This is a spread earthen mound about 12.0m in diameter and up to 0.8m in height. It is surrounded by a modern housing scheme. Visited by OS (JLD) 22 March 1961 This cairn, situated between Millgate Road and Neilsland Road in the S part of Hamilton, is a grass-covered mound of earth and stone measuring about 10m in diameter and 0.8m in height.”

Mound.
Google Street View of where the Burial mound & Grave yard are located.

I spoke with Paul Veverka of The Blantyre Project and he and I have come to the conclusion that there must still be bodies buried on the site of the old grave yard! Paul who has done many years of research in Blantyre said that if the bodies were removed, then the council would have built on the site of the old grave yard.

I don’t know if there is marker on this site to say what is here, but perhaps South Lanarkshire Council should have a monument as a sign of respect to the people who are buried here.