Dressed to impress.

Elizabeth Turney2

Elizabeth Turney sent us this picture of her mother Elizabeth Lang. The picture is taken on Quarry Street on what looks like a nice sunny day.

Elizabeth told us, my mother on the right hand side, with sister in law and niece. The guy on the left is her first husband Frank or Francis Wilson, Professional footballer.

Do you have any old family pictures that you would like to share? Send them to us and we will host them on our website for all to see.

Quarry Street 1885.Above is a picture of Quarry Street taken around 1885. This picture is a real snap shot in time, the house on the left that is tucked behind the tenements is no longer there. Also the little cottages on the right are long gone. Notice the old gas lamp on the right.

Picture courtesy of Paul Veverka.

The Old Hamilton Town Hall & Police Station.

Robert Moore asked Historic Hamilton what the Building was before Bairds was built. So, I thought that I would send you some pictures with a brief detail of what the building was.

The old Town Hall.

Old TownhallWM

The old Town Hall stood on the site of Bairds Department Store and it stood pride of place on what was called the new cross, today known as the top cross and its entrance was at the corner of Duke Street & Quarry Street.

With its tall steeple and fancy appearance, it could have passed off as a church and the old town hall was indeed a grand building and like many of old Hamilton’s bygone buildings, its demise started with underground coal mines.

It was built in 1861 and it was used as the Town Hall and later the police station. At the top of its steeple, it had a weather vane the same as the one that is on the Old Parish Church and the now demolished old Tolbooth. Like many tall structures in Hamilton, the underground coal mines made these buildings unsafe and fear of collapse.

Hamilton Town Hall.WM.4.JPG

The Steeple of the building was the first section to be removed when it started to lean over Duke Street and it became in such a dangerous condition that in the 1950s it had to be taken down brick by brick.

The old town hall later was used as a police station and as the years went on it fell into even more disrepair. It was reported that the floor was so rotten that a police constable’s foot actually went through the floor.

Hamilton Town Hall.WM.4

The old building was finally demolished in 1963 making way for the brand new Bairds department store. The building stood on the same site for a total of 102 years. Soon the Bairds department store will become a new Wetherspoon’s hotel and restaurant. This will hopefully inject some life back into the top cross.

Old Townhall Bairds..JPG



Written by Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton.

Tommy Ward, who in his day, was a man ahead of the times. He was a nice man but one not to be crossed, if you did cross Tommy, then you would see Tommy’s aggressive side and by sure, you would know all about it. Tommy Ward, might have been the toughest man of all, he was often seen walking around in drag and being harassed by the teenagers in Hamilton, however he gave as good as he got, and would not be afraid of chasing his verbal aggressors up Quarry Street, swinging his handbag and chasing them to the Top Cross.

Tommy had a wee dog which he named Judy, and there were many a day where he would have been seen walking through the streets of Hamilton, and shouting ‘come on Judy ya wee bitch, move yer arse up the road, or move it ya wee hooer’. Tommy was often seen out and about down the bottom Cross, and he sometimes liked to wear, what looked to some, as a net curtain around his neck, the man loved his lipstick and mascara and back when this was time where it was unacceptable for a man to do this, he did it anyway and got glammed up and went out on the town.

In today’s world, a lot of young guys don’t go on out without a touch of their “Man-scarra”! Young lads don’t leave the house without their hair all styled and maybe if Tommy, was still alive today, he wouldn’t have looked so out of place.

Tommy Ward, wouldn’t change his appearance for anyone and as a result he did get funny looks from the public and as mentioned he got even more verbal abuse from the homophobes in the town, or from people just wanting to wind him up and even the secret closet men, who actually envied Tommy, but could never be brave enough to do what he did, but none the less, most people in Hamilton, accepted him, and he was one of Hamilton’s, characters who was very well known in the town.

He was tall with long dark hair and was flamboyantly dressed and lived in the Auld toon. He frequented the pubs without shame and went to the off-sales for a carry out, just like the rest of us. Maybe he loved the attention that he got when he walked in a room and all eyes were on him.

A few years ago, I came across a story about Tommy Ward:

“Tommy Ward- the World’s First Homosexual?


People who frequented Hamilton Town Centre, in the 1960’s may have heard of the name, Tommy Ward.

Remember, this was a time when Gay was a descriptive word for Paris or described your mood on a night out after a few pints.

In fact, The Sexual Offences Act 1967, became an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom (citation 1967 c. 60). It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales, and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

To me in my macho world, Tommy Ward was all of the above and a ‘poof’ or any of the other words around at the time, and there were plenty, and worse.

I had heard of the guy, and the fact that he dressed up as a woman, but I had never actually seen him, and as time passed I wrote it off as a myth.

Until one night, coming up from the Splendid Hotel passing by the Chez Suzette’s Coffee Bar and approaching the Cross I was aware of someone standing in a doorway. I turned around, and I’ll be honest, got the fright of my life, it was him – Tommy Ward, not in woman’s clothing, but a tall man, dark hair with makeup, very effeminate looking, a sort of Lanarkshire Liberace.

As I quickened my pace the insults from across the street from a group of lads grew louder, I think you can guess the tone and words used, but he got the works.

I saw him around Hamilton a couple of times after that, and it was always the same, abuse was hurled at him and to be fair he gave it back.

Thinking back, he was a pioneer for gay rights in our area, he took the insults, and life must have been hard for him, but he obviously had guts. He was just born in the wrong era.

Did you know of him?

To me, he was Tommy Ward, the World’s First Homosexual.”

The author of this story is unknown.


So, over the decades Hamilton, has had its fair share of characters, a once in a generation person, who everyone had known in one way or another and still to this day everyone talks about.

In recent years, there have been people like Silvertonhill man?? John Reynolds, AKA “Juke Box Johnny”, “American Joe” from the Glebe, Bert McAdam from Burnbank and auld Mr Peacock from Hillhouse & The Hamilton Accies super fan Ian Fergi Russell, who were all well known in the town and in 30 years from now, people will still be talking about them.

In Tommy Ward’s day, there was another couple of colourful characters that were known to most, they were called ‘Jimmy Hamilton’ who was well-known in the town centre, and Jimmy Young, who was the Burnbank man with the Parrot on his head and before all of these people there was also a well-known man called John Williamson, who was better known as ‘Jock o The Lum’. Jock o the Lum, or Jock o the Law were his given nicknames by people. This man was from Hamilton, but was later admitted to Hartwood Hospital where he died in 1910. And even as the late 60s and early 70s, there was still an old saying in Hamilton, where someone would say “Do you think I’m Jock o the Lum” This meant Do you think I’m Daft. This just goes to show how a character from Hamilton, lives on in people’s memories, for years after they had passed away.

People like Tommy Ward are a once in a generation person and sadly, I don’t have a picture of him to show you all what he looked like, to put a face to a name.

If you have a picture of Tommy Ward, that you would like to share, then we would like to add it to our ‘Hamilton Folk’ album. Tell us your memories of the Hamilton’s first Cross Dresser, Tommy Ward.

From Italy to Hamilton.

Angelina & Enrico Fusto c1917, WM.

Anne MacNicoll who lives in Canada sent us some pictures of her maternal great grandparents who immigrated from Italy to start a new life in Scotland. In the early 1900s, there was a lot of prejudice held against Italians and many families found it hard to start up businesses and some were even left with no option but to change their names to avoid persecution.
We would like to tell you the story of two families who moved to Hamilton from Italy for a better life. This is the story of the Rossi & Di Duca family told in the words of Anne MacNicoll and part researched by Historic Hamilton.
Here is Anne’s story:
This is a plan of the Hamilton Palace where my mother’s family, (Di Duca) along with twelve other families were housed from 1924 when their home and business on Quarry Street were slated for demolition. She had written on it the area of the palace where they were housed and the names of the other families. Many of them had shared toilets, no electricity only gaslight and burned wood in the fireplace.
Hamilton Palace Floor Plan WM.
Floor Plan of the Hamilton Palace.


My maternal grandparents, Francesco and Carmella (nee DiDuca) Rossi along with Maria and Angelina DiDuca Immigrated to Scotland from Italy around 1906 where they moved around a bit before finally settling in the Hamilton/Bellshill areas. Francesco and Carmella lived at no. 8 Lamb Street where my mother, Rosa was born in 1914 the youngest of four siblings. Carmella died just three years later and all four children were fostered by Angelina (aka Julia) and her husband Enrico Fusto (aka Harry).
Julia and Harry kept the DiDuca name for the children after marriage as it was supposedly a more prominent name back in Italy. The four children were Donato (aka) Donald, Angelina (aka) Lena, Gaetano (aka) Guy and Rosa (Rose). All attended St. Johns School where Guy was Dux of the school three years in a row but was passed over for a university scholarship in favour of the headmaster’s daughter. The children’s father returned to Italy where it is believed he remarried.
There is a little discrepancy as to where their shop actually was but it was either in Quarry Street or a little farther down on Castle Street. Not sure if they just sold ice cream or if it was also a grocers. They lived above the store but in 1924 the building was slated for demolition and they were housed temporarily in the Hamilton Palace but it turned out that they were to live at the Palace for seven years. It was a very hard time for them and the children would chop up the old window frames and make penny bundles of kindling to sell and would also sell the old lead pipes. Harry tried very hard to keep the business going and would make the ice cream in the old palace kitchens by night and then load up his barrow, rain or shine and take it to the same spot in the park (palace grounds?) he did this for years.
Hamilton Palace.
Rosa Rossi dressed for a Russian dance. This picture was taken in the Hamilton Palace c1925.


Julia spent her last years at 18 Grammar School Square with Lena and her daughter Celia until she died in 1954. Lena and Celia emigrated to Canada in 1956 and Lena lived to the grand old age of 102. She died in 2014. Donald moved to Glasgow where he opened a fish and chip restaurant, before moving on to Ayr still continuing on in the restaurant business.
Guy worked for many years around the Hamilton/Glasgow areas before opening his first fish and chip business in Edinburgh after which he moved to Johnstone and opened a general store. It was around this time that the family decided to change their surname for Rossi to Ross. Because of the prejudice still held by some in Scotland against the Italians, it was very difficult to get a business license when you had an Italian name but after the name change, all was well. Later he opened two more successful businesses in Glasgow before emigrating to California in the early 1970s where he opened a coffee shop in Beverly Hills. He later retired and stayed in California until he died in 2000.
My mother Rose married Richard Allan a miner’s son who came from Larkhall. After the war, he worked the rest if his life at the Clyde Iron Works. We, my brother Rikky and myself (Anne) along with my mum and dad lived at 11 Morgan Street in the old tenements until they were condemned and torn down which I believe was around 1959.
Morgan Street 1937, WM.
My father died early from cancer at the age of 58 after which my mother emigrated to Canada to be with her sister and also spent a lot of time with brother Guy in California, she died at age 90 in 2005.
Di Duca Family. This is Carmella and Francesco Rossi with the two oldest children, Donald and lena.
A birthday party in the tenements at Morgan Street, 1953. Some of the names there is Celia Ross and Margaret Queen from Grammar School Square. Susie Hodgson (nee Gratziani) and Candy from Duke Street, Rose and Anne and Anne’s brother.


I would love to see any photos of these particular tenements in Morgan Street if anyone has any, and if any of the many kids that lived there remember either Rikky or myself I would love to hear from you. Rikky now lives in England and I am in Canada.
My mother and her three siblings were cousins to your “White Knight” story that you previously wrote about, Peter Coia and his three brothers. His mother Maria was a sister to my Nonna and she and her husband Augustino Coia settled in Bellshill also in the ice cream/restaurant business of course!
As well as the Cross Cafe in Quarry Street Peter opened a fish and chip shop next door and also had a billiard hall. Peter was an international table tennis champion and sports promoter and was president of the Ice Cream Assoc. of Britain and Ireland. A very benevolent man he opened the Hamilton Cross Club and worked tirelessly for the men and women of the armed forces. Sadly, he was killed in an aeroplane crash on his return from London in 1950. His son Peter also ran a business in Hamilton, can’t remember where but I’m sure Ice Cream came into it somewhere.
Di Duca Family. Taken in Low Patrick St. Nellie Chicky's shop front. Rose Allan with Anne 1949
Taken in Low Patrick St.”Nellie Chicky’s” shop front. Rose Allan with Anne 1949
Anne, thank you for telling us about your family’s time in Hamilton, I did some further research to see what I could find for you and I started with the 1911 census where I found your Grandparents living in Stonehouse. They were living at 42 King Street and your grandfather Francesco was working as an Ice Cream Vendor. Your grandmother Carmella and their son Donato was also living here.
Carmella and Francesco Rossi with the two oldest children, Donald and lena.
You had mentioned that Francesco went back home to Italy after Carmella had died, however, I could not find any evidence of this. I found a Francesco Rossi leaving the UK at Southampton onboard a ship called the New York on the 2nd of August 1913 and the age seems to be correct, but I can’t confirm if this is the same person as your Grandfather.
I also had a look to see where the family shop was and I can confirm that I managed to find where it was located. The family shop wasn’t on Castle Street, but you were close enough. The family shop was actually situated right at the start of Quarry Street and the address for the shop was 9 Quarry Street. The family’s address from c1915 until they were evicted was 1 Quarry Street, so they lived right on the Bottom Cross.
I have one picture that shows a part of the building before it was demolished. If you look at this picture of the Bottom Cross you will see to the right the start of the old building. After the demolition of these old houses, a Burtons department store was built on the same spot.
Bottom Cross WM.
Anne, I would like to thank you for sharing your story of your Italian family and also for sending us these fantastic pictures. These will now be documented and stored on Historic Hamilton for years to come.
Garry McCallum
Historic Hamilton.

Jan Wladyslaw Stepek 1922-2012.

Stepeks First store opening 1959-60.WMjpg


JAN Stepek was one of the most remarkable examples of an immigrant’s ability to survive and prosper in a foreign land, in his case Scotland. He was born on a farm in Maczkowce, Poland, on 13th September 1922 and his early years, during which his father Wladyslaw and mother Janina struggled to bring up their three children Jan, Zofia and Danuta, were happy ones.
This hard but happy childhood was shattered in September 1939, when Poland was caught in a pincer movement. The Nazi invasion from the west was bad enough, then Stalin sent the Red Army in from the east. Wladyslaw was on a Red Army “hit list” of potential resistance leaders, so he fled to Southern Poland. Jan was never to see his father, who died from cancer in 1943, again.

Stepeks Store late 60s WM..JPG

Jan later enlisted in the Polish army but was struck down by typhus and had to leave for a short time. He recovered, rejoined the Polish army, but in early 1943, training in Basra, he contracted a tropical illness in Iraq, so he transferred to the Polish navy.

In February 1943 he sailed for Liverpool, before first setting foot in Scotland when sent to Kirkcaldy for training, then moving to Plymouth for further training as a radar operator.
He studied electronics at the Royal College in Glasgow and also undertook an agricultural course, before putting his war-time radar training to good use, buying parts and repairing radios. He quickly established a reputation as a reliable radio mechanic. At this time he also met, courted and in 1949 married a Rutherglen girl, Teresa Murphy. With her support, he entered the television supply business in 1952.

In 1960, a year after he took out British citizenship, the Stepeks moved to Hamilton and he branched out into car sales, travel agencies, property and financial services, while his name became known beyond his business heartland of Lanarkshire and Glasgow, through his company’s STV advertisements in association with other independent electrical retailers, Glen’s, Robertson’s and Hutchison’s.

Stepek WM..JPG

In 1970 he was invited to join the board of Hamilton Academical and almost immediately he was plunged into a battle for survival as he helped stave off the advances of Clyde, who wanted to merge the two clubs. Accies were struggling at the foot of the old Second Division; Mr Stepek became chairman and set about taking Accies to the Premier League. In 1987, having achieved that aim, he stepped down as chairman, to become honorary president of the club.

He suffered three strokes in 2002, when aged 80, but recovered and was soon back on the golf course and tending his garden, before the ill-health which blighted his final two years forced him to stop.

Stepek Last PictureWM.

Jan died 26 October 2012, Sadly his wife Teresa died less than a month after Jan, going into a coma less than a week after his funeral. He is survived by his 10 children, 22 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.

One of his sons, Martin Stepek contacted Historic Hamilton and kindly donated some family pictures. This is his story:

“Hi, there are three photos of our family business shop in Quarry St. The slightly torn one is the mid to late 1960s and the middle one is when it first opened in 1959 or 1960. The last pic is my Dad (left) with I think Larry Marshall and definitely Jimmy Logan on the right. These two were at the height of their fame so caused a bit of a stir when Dad managed to get them to come and open the Quarry St shop.”

In the days before large super markets dominated the High Street Stepek’s was the place that you went to buy or rent your TV. I can recall walking into the store, looking around and seeing all of these amazing electrical objects like food blenders and American fridge freezers etc, the store was massive.

Once again I would like to thank Martin Stepek for sharing his father’s photos. They are a real snapshot in time and it allows our young people of Hamilton to gain a small insight into how a real family business was set up and ran in the town.


Paul's New Shop.
On the 17th of May 1958, it was advertised that a brand new shop had opened up in Hamilton Called Paul’s. Paul’s sold Baby clothes and today, they are still trading in the same premises.
Paul’s can boast as Hamiltons longest serving independent shop. Please correct me if I am wrong with this statement.
As you all know Paul’s shop is situated at Quarry Street why not pop in and have look around.
Pauls New..JPG