Old Neilsland House1

On Wednesday the 3rd of September 1902 The Hamilton shooting case, which caused quite a sensation at the time of its occurrence, came up for disposal before Lord McLaren, in the Glasgow High Court. Justiciary Buildings, Jail Square. This Shooting had taken place on the Third of July 1902 at the Old Neilsland House.
The accused was a pleasant looking servant girl called Janet Laird, who was 20 years old and was smartly attired in a blue costume, and had felt her position keenly, and wept bitterly while she sat in the dock. She was charged with having, on the 3rd July in that year at Neilsland House, Hamilton, occupied by Colonel Rutherford, discharged a breech loading gun, (A Shot Gun) charged with cartridges containing powder and pellets at Alfred Annette, who was an officer’s servant, with intent to murder him.
Mr Morton, who appeared for accused, tendered on her behalf a plea of guilty assault with intent to do serious bodily harm. This plea was accepted by Mr Dove Wilson who prosecuted. The Accused, he said, was about 20 years age, and went into domestic service with Colonel Rutherford, commanding the 71st Regimental District, 28th May that year, bearing good recommendations from her previous mistress.
The only other servant in the house was Alfred Annett and after Janet entered Colonel Rutherford’s service her habits became somewhat idle and dirty, and this led to friction between her and the other servant, who had occasionally to some of her work. Eventually Annett complained to Colonel Rutherford and the complaint was made about June 27, however, Colonel Rutherford seemed to have postponed his decision to dismiss Janet until the 3rd of July where Colonel Rutherford sent for the young woman and dismissed her from his service, giving her a month’s wages in lieu of notice.
The Colonel left that evening do some regimental duties, and shortly after his departure Annette, who from the evidence did not appear to have been on good terms with the Janet Laird, went into a small room to write some letters. He sat down with his back to the door, which shortly afterwards was opened by Janet, who said: “You have done me harm; I will now do you harm.” At this time, Janet Laird had in her hand a double-barrelled Shotgun which she had taken from the wall Colonel Rutherford’s bedroom.
The gun was not loaded it the time, but three cartridges happened to be on the table, and Janet had evidently taken them. As soon as she had spoken she discharged the gun, and from the position of the chair in which Annette sat, it was little short of marvellous that he was not killed on the spot with the pellets from the cartridge just missing him. His face, however, was marked with powder.
Mr Morton said that the case was in some respects as sad a one as had ever engaged the Court. Although he could not set up plea of Insanity there was doubt that Janet was distinctly weak-minded from the time she entered Colonel Rutherford’s service until she left.
It would have come out in evidence that Colonel Rutherford himself came to the conclusion that Janet was not right in her mind, not that was insane, but that she was weak. He then gave instances of some extraordinary things that Janet had done while at Hamilton and argued that they seemed to point to the fact that Janet was somewhat erratic in her behaviour.
On the morning of the affray, she gave one of the silly little laughs which were characteristic her. She was not in a temper and did not appear like one to commit a crime. It was quite clear that she was not at all a person of ordinary mental capacity, and the Colonel although he did not say as much to her, had evidently formed that conclusion also.
The gun had two cartridges, but after firing the first cartridge she threw down the gun and ran off. Janet had never been in trouble before and the Judge thought that the ends of justice would be met with a short sentence.
Lord McLaren in sentencing the accused said that he was sorry to see a respectable girl like Janet to be in court. He was willing to give all the weight he could to what had been said in her favour. If the case had gone to trial, and she had been found guilty of assault with intent to murder, he would have dealt seriously with Janet. But as it was, it was a case for substantial punishment. Lord McLaren could not take it that the gun went off by accident, but it had been discharged with intent to do mischief. In these circumstances, he sentenced her to Six Months Imprisonment. Janet was carried off to Jail in a sorry state.
It was also noted that some of Janet’s friends were prepared to take care of her when she got out of prison. She had already spent the past two months in jail.
How things have changed since 1902! Today if you tried to kill some with a double-barrelled shotgun, you would most certainly get life in prison and not just six months. I wanted to know what became of Janet Laird and Alfred Annett so I decided to go and see what I could find.
Alfred was born around 1876 at Banbury, London. He was the son of James & Charlotte Annett; his father was a butcher in London. He came from a large family and in 1881 he was living at Islington, London. He joined the Army in 1894 and this is possibly where he met Colonel Rutherford. At some point between 1895 & 1902, he left the Army and gained employment at Neilsland House working as Colonel Rutherford’s servant.
After the shooting incident, a year later in 1903, Alfred married Janet McGregor in Hamilton. In 1905, he later moved to 27 Kirk Road in Cambusnethan where he is now working as a Postman. In this marriage, he had 5 children.
Between 1906 & 1907 Alfred moved back down to England he settled at Sunbury in Middlesex. He died on the 17th of January 1952 at Sanbury.
Unfortunately, after the court case, the trail go’s cold and I can’t find any further info on Janet Laird.
** The word Slovenly is what your great aunt Mabel might call you if you came to high tea without a necktie. It means “messy or unkempt,” but is a word you probably won’t hear messy or unkempt people using. This is not a word often used in modern day.


Neilsland Colliery1.JPG

On Wednesday the 26th of April 1916, a tragic incident occurred at Neilsland Colliery, owned by John Watson and sadly five men were killed. The coal miners went to work not knowing what tragic events were about to happen that day. A party of men were selected to work in one of the old shafts, when one of the worst pit accidents that had occurred in the district for many years took place about midday, when an old shaft at Eddlewood collapsed and entombed the workmen.

The shaft was formerly Eddlewood No. 3, but some five or six years previous, it was filled up, and the coal to which it gave entrance, was worked from Neilsland. On Wednesday five men were employed in driving roads into the Eddlewood ell coal, take out the pillars which still remained in the workings around the old shaft. Their names were:
Hugh Scott, in charge of the party, married, 30 Low-waters;

Robert Robertson, married, 229 Low-waters;

John Shaw, single, 136 Eddlewood Rowe;

Robert Leadbetter, married, 103 Beckford Street;

George Stewart, married, 187 Low-waters.

Robert Brownlie, a shaftsman, who was giving Hugh Scott a hand, had finished his shift and was leaving for the surface. When he got some distance off, he heard a loud rumbling noise, and fearing an accident he sent word to the officials. Mr James Cook, the resident manager, and Mr James Houston, under-manager, who were in another portion of the pit, immediately proceeded to the scene, but found their course barred by an irresistible river of soft glutty debris flowing like a stream of lava through the workings and filling up every available space.

Acting with commendable promptitude Mr Cook and Mr Houston got the men in the other sections warned, to make their escape and they all succeeded in doing so. The five men employed in the old Eddlewood Ell coal were cut off, and from the first, no hope was entertained of finding them alive.

When the flow of material had subsided, every possible effort to reach the missing men was made by the management and many willing hands. About ten o’clock the body of Robert Robertson was recovered. He had apparently been swept forward by the rush of the incoming debris and was well within reach. The body, embedded in mud, bore no injuries death having resulted from suffocation.

When the serious nature of the accident was revealed, Mr Robert McLaren, H.M. Inspection of Mines, and Mr J. B. Thomson, the manager for Messrs John Watson (Ltd.) were communicated with, and were quickly at the scene of the calamity, bringing their experience and knowledge to bear on the work of rescue.
A rescue brigade from Coatbridge was summoned, but owing to the hopelessness of the situation, their services were not used. Mr John Robertson, miners’ agent also visited the scene.

The next day on The Thursday, the huge cavity caused on the surface by the falling in, of the loose filling-up material was several fathoms deep, (12.8 Meters) and the management had it fenced round. Vigorous efforts were maintained both on the Thursday and Friday to discover a trace of the other four men, but without success.

Public Enquiry

On Wednesday, the 7th June 1916 a public enquiry was held and it was stated that the body of Robert Robertson was recovered late on the same day, but the others have not yet been found, though the efforts of the management have been unsparing, and are still being prosecuted vigorously to reach the place where the four workers were caught in the irresistible inflow of washer sludge.

Mr Robert McLaren and Mr McElhanney represented His Majesty’s Inspectorate; Mr Craig, writer, Glasgow, appeared for the coal masters; and Mr Robert Smillie represented the interests of the miners. Duplicate plans of the workings and of the section where the accident occurred were shown during the evidence, followed by all the parties, including his Lordship and the jury.
The first witness was Robert Brownlie, shaftsman, Eddlewood, the last of those who escaped to see the deceased alive.

He had been commissioned to assist the five men now deceased who were employed driving mine through the Ell coal in the vicinity of the old shaft. The men were working in accordance with the regulations that is believing that they were nearing the old shank they were boring the strata to a depth fifteen feet straight ahead and on both flanks, in order locate the shaft and keep clear of it.

Nothing in these bores, as Robert Brownlie said, indicated conditions beyond the normal, the little water issuing from the holes being, in their opinion, but the expected accumulation in the rock. Besides assisting in the bores, witness putting up brattice cloth deflect the air current. His shift being finished about midday, he left the party to proceed to the pithead, the others coming out of their working place to take their “piece.”

He had gone some distance on his way when heard a terrific noise accompanied by the crashing of wood and the overturning of hutches. He realised what had happened, and fled, pushing forward a workman (Penman), whom he met, but to whom he had no time to make an explanation, and shouting on others. Mr Robert McLaren. H.M. Inspector, said it was to Robert Brownie’s coolness that Penman’s life was saved.

In reply to the Inspector, the witness said that he was satisfied there was at least 15 feet of coal between the workmen and the old shaft, but as the roof was soft thought the bursting in may have come from that quarter.

A few other witnesses were examined, including representatives of the management, Mr Robert Smillie said the jury could see their way to add to their verdict that considered it very dangerous practice to fill disused shafts with liquid sludge from the washers, and that the matter should be further looked into, he believed they would doing a service to the mining community by at least making the Government give this matter their attention.

When Mr Craig had set out address the Jury, his Lordship made a suggestion for a rider which met the views of all parties. The, jury thereafter unanimously found that the men had met their death by the sludge from the disused shaft bursting into the workings and overwhelming them, but there was not Sufficient evidence to enable them make a finding the precise cause of the accident.

In accordance with Lordship’s suggestion, added a rider to the effect that there was sufficient evidence to warrant them calling attention the danger which might arise when disused shafts were filled with liquid sludge and the approach thereto of mineral workings.