In August 1946 Sad news ended an anxious wait for the parents of Alexander M. Muir. Mr & Mrs John Muir of 10 Whitehill Road in Burnbank had known that their son was reported missing following the fall of Singapore, but the sad news came that he had been killed in March 1943.
Gunner Muir joined the Royal Artillery in August 1939 and went overseas in 1941. He was a native of Hamilton he was educated at Greenfield School. He later moved to Rosewell in Midlothian where he gained employment as a machine man in one of the local collieries.
He was survived by his wife and his six-year-old son. His only brother who was called John served with the 7th Hussars in Libya and was discharged with war wounds in June 1941.
Alexander Muir was another Brave Hamiltonian who gave his life to his King and country.
There are many streets in Hamilton which are long gone, and the names have been lost in the mist of time. One of these streets was called Watson Street.
Watson Street was a street situated off Whitehill Road in Burnbank. It consisted of 8 tenements Which housed 4 on each side of the Street and it included 1 Shop. The tenements were built between 1875 & 1885.
The tenements in Watson Street were 3 storeys high and in 1915 the shop in the street was rented by John Lees, and he ran the shop as a confectioner. This would have been the wee shop in the street that sold tins of food and day to day household goods.
The valuation rolls listed the houses on one side as 1-23 and 2-24. The shop was situated at number 9-11.
Apart from John Lees, all of the men in 1915 who lived in the street worked as Coal Miners, so it is possible that they all worked at the same colliery.
In 1915 the Rent for a house in Watson Street was between £6 & £7 per year depending on what house you lived in. The shop was rented at £10 per year.
The Shop at Watson Street changed hands between 1920 & 1925 when William Clarke is the new tenant and he is running a greengrocer, however, this was short-lived, as in 1930 a Mrs Grace Harvey is now renting it. Grace continued to run the shop up until at least 1935.
So, Watson Street in Burnbank was a working-class Street and from its construction and even up until 1935, all the working men who resided in the street were all either coal miners or they worked in connection to the coal mines.
In the local area, there was Greenfield, Earnock, Cadzow & Whistleberry Collieries which all surrounded Burnbank but they all started to close when the coal seams were exhausted. On the 1st of February 1935 Greenfield Colliery, Burnbank, became the last pit in Hamilton to shut permanently.
This would have affected almost all of the families living at Watson Street. Most would have found work in other areas and would have moved away.
The old tenements were eventually demolished to make way for the new industries that were springing up in the area. New flats were built across the road, which was to be known as Sing Sing, so it is possible that a lot of the tenants were relocated across the road and on the site of Watson Street a new factory was built by the M.E.A.
If you are wondering where Watson Street was, then it is where the entrance to Copperwood Crescent is.
The Tenants in 1915 were:
Numbers: 17 Margaret Allan. 13 Thomas Hailstone.
18 David Bett 21 Andrew Hamilton.
7 Dennis Burns 10 William Hamilton.
3 William Carleton 5 Daniel Hassan.
19 John Clark 15 James Hoey
6 Joseph Divers 20 Thomas Hunter
8 David Downie 2 Patrick Kearney
4 John Green 1 John Kelly
9-11 John Lees (Shop) 14 John Macluckie.
23 Jane Maxwell. 12 Alice Smith
16 Thomas Tolland. 22 Robert Weir
24 James Williamson.
Burnbank House was one of the first grand houses to be built in Burnbank and through time, it had many influential people who owned or lived at the house. The land the building sat on is now used as a public park, situated between Whitehill Road & Burnbank Road. An old wall can still be seen from Yews Crescent that I believe was part of the original boundary wall surrounding the lands at Burnbank House. To put things in to perspective, Burnbank House was situated in the garden behind the flats across from the BP petrol station on Burnbank Road.
Burnbank House was documented as being a superior dwelling house with extensive gardens attached and it was built around c 1715 and it’s first documented owner was a man called McMath. There is very little information on McMath but he was the owner from 1718 to 1744, where it was later owned by a Robert Hamilton and then being sold jointly to John Dewar an Edinburgh tobacconist & the Rev James Hamilton who was the minister at Paisley, where Burnbank House was noted as being a “Summer House” out in the country.
John Dewar sold the house to Bailie, John Aiton of Burnbank on the 20 May 1773 and he owned the house up until his death in 1788. Colonel David Muirhead of the honourable East India Service then bought the house on the 10th of April 1789, however his time at the house was short lived as he died in 1791. His trustees sold the house in 1801 to a wine merchant from Hamilton called Charles Gordon and yet again the house was only shortly owned by Charles for four years, as he in turn sold the estate to Charles Campbell in 1805, Charles was a Glasgow Silk Merchant.
A series of occupants lived at Burnbank House, as Charles Campbell rented it out; Charles would have been probably living at his main house in Glasgow. The people who rented the house were: Captain Moodie, Captain Brown a Mrs Campbell (probably Charles’s wife) and a surgeon called William Weir. On the 5th March 1832, during the time when Captain John Brown Esq was living at Burnbank House, his youngest daughter Elizabeth was married there by the Rev William Buchanan, minister of Hamilton to Lawrence Brown Esq of Edmonstone. This must have been a beautiful place to be married within the grounds of Burnbank House along with the stunning gardens and vast open countryside surrounding the house.
The house was finally sold (apart from 4 Acres) to Patrick Stevenson who was another Glasgow Merchant, it looks like the sale of the house is now being kept in the Glasgow Merchant clique. The 4 Acres that were sold off separately, was acquired by a William Nelson, who was a spirit merchant in Hamilton, who seems to have gone bankrupt. The Stevenson’s, Jamiesons and even Peter W Dixon and D.R Robertson, men with great wealth and high respect also had an interest in the land until it was bought by the Glasgow merchant and banker Lewis Potter in October 1859. It was this man’s enterprise more than anything else that was to transform Burnbank and its neighbours – Greenfield and Udston into a thriving community which in its boom years reached some sixteen thousand people.
Lewis potter at the time was living over at Udston House, not far from Burnbank House. When he bought his new property he had a tenant already living there – Sheriff Veitch, who lived there from 1837 right up to 1861. The house seems to have been sold again c 1874 when Robert Lalston is registered as the owner and he rented it to Major George Hamilton who lived here until 1882. The last tenant to live at Burnbank House was William Clarkson who was living there in 1920, by this time the house was divided and it was agreed that demolition was was to go ahead. Burnbank House was demolished in the 1930s.
Prior to its demolition it seems to have been used as a Hostel, I am unsure if this was official or if the house was inhabited by squatters. By this time, the London, Midland & Scottish railway (L.M.&S) seem to have now acquired the house and surrounding land and the Hamilton Burgh are now wanting to buy the land from L.M&S, to build houses. The Hamilton Burgh buy the ground, extending to 2,292 acres, including Burnbank House, but excluding the Smithy at the corner of Whitehill Road & Burnbank Road, for the sum of £2,000 with certain conditions as to upkeep of fencing etc. The Hamilton Burgh later built flats on Whitehill Road, which were later known locally as Sing Sing.
I would like to thank the staff at the Hamilton Reference Library for helping me find the information on Burnbank House, as there isn’t much on line that can be found on this once beautiful grand and historic building. Some of the notes were also written by the late William Wallace who was one of Hamilton’s finest historians.
The flats at Whitehill Road, or better known locally as Sing Sing, was a street in Burnbank, however, to the residents it was more like a separate community. The flats ran from Burnbank to Whitehill and Sing Sing was said to have taken its name from the Correctional Facility in Ossining in New York.
Some people who lived outside Sing Sing often said that it was a scary place to walk past and it was noted that the police would never go to the flats without back up, however, many of the families who lived here had fond and happy memories of the flats and they all looked out for one another. Some of the people and families known to have lived at Sing Singe were Rab McGhie, Big Liza, Carol Hughes, pearl Anderson, Betty Whitelaw, Dennis & Rose Cassidy, Anne Farmer, Maggie McNamee, Dane Rodger, the Poultons, the McCluskey’s, the Cannons, the Foley’s, the Haley’s, the Steele’s, and the Aitken’s.
Sharon Allan was born at Sing Sing, Tilda Jack lived at number 72 and Arthur Belk used to have his window open wide and was renowned for music blaring which could be heard by people when walking over from Burnbank to Whitehill, Arthur’s mum was big Liza. Other characters who lived here were Shug n his barrow, Rex and Ann Pan. Most of the families living at Sing Sing were connected to each other in one way or another.
There were sad things too, tragically the young boy Foley was playing between the wagons (just as most of the kids did) when they were shunted and he got caught between the bumpers and was killed outright, everyone was warned to keep out of the railway but no one could the keep the kids away from the tracks and the burn as the tunnel under the railway was a short cut to the public park.
During the Second World War Burnbank suffered at least one attack by the Luftwaffe, when a bomb was dropped near Sing Sing at the railway works on the Whitehill Road, however, I believe that the flats were not affected by the bomb.
The families were eventually moved and re-homed from the flats and Sing Sing was finally demolished in 1973, and the excuse that was given to the residents was that the council was wanting to widen the road and extend the bridge over the railway, the railway bridge used to have a foot path at the side, like the bridge over just up from the portakabin next to the express way in Blantyre.
I spoke with a former local resident James Poulton who is a relation of mine and James told me:
“The people in it were great to get on with but the police were not welcome, the place was one big family and a lot of crooks stayed there but everyone got on and it was a great place for the children with the railway and a burn at the bottom of the drying green everyone who stayed there would have gone back given the chance the place was a community everyone knew everyone else and a lot were connected in one way or another”