Memories of growing up in Blantyre

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Memories of growing up in Blantyre

Some memories of when I was growing up in Blantyre.
I hope you find them of interest.

Blantyre Co-opAilean McLeman (Roberts) wrote, “It was great to see the pictures of Glasgow Road in Blantyre on your website, especially the one of the’ Number One’ Co-op building situated part way up Herbertson Street and round onto Glasgow Road towards Jackson Street.

I spent most of my younger days in Herbertson Street in the ‘Roberts’ building which is mentioned elsewhere in your website. My maiden name was Roberts and my dad was William (Bill) Roberts who for many years ran the joiner’s business (which was originally his father’s) from the workshop next to the Co-op building in Herbertson Street. The house we lived in was right next to the joiner’s yard, so Dad did not have far to get to work each day.

The garden at the back of our building backed on to the garden of the tenement at the top right hand corner of Jackson Street. All the kids from Herbertson Street and Jackson Street used to play in these gardens and we had many a ‘back green’ birthday party which everyone attended… any excuse for a get together, which included bringing the furniture out of the houses into the garden… no fancy garden tables and chairs in these days!!!

I remember the Co-op building very well, especially the Co-op Hall. When I was very young and growing up in the late 50s into the early 60s ( I was born in 1950), my great ambition was to be old enough to go to the dances held in the Hall on Friday nights. I used to lie in my bed and listen to the music and later on the laughter coming from the dancers leaving to go home. By the time I was old enough to go dancing I am afraid my interests lay further afield in Hamilton! As my Mum (Betty) and Dad were both members of the Blantyre Choral Union, their annual concerts were held in the Hall, so I at least got as far as going in there to listen to the choir and also to help dad prepare for the concerts as he usually built up the stage!!

No 1 Co-opI do remember the Co-op shops which were next to the Hall. Going down Herbertson Street from our house, there was the shoe shop, and then the draper’s shop on the corner with Glasgow Road, next to that was the butcher, then the grocer. There was great excitement when the grocer became a ‘self-service’ where we had to leave our shopping baskets in a wee locker and use the numbered shopping basket to go round and help ourselves. I remember following the renovation, some of the marble counters from the old grocer’s ended up in Dad’s yard and my pals and I had an endless stock of ‘peevers’!! Next to the self-service was the fish shop, then the fruit and veg shop and finally at the corner of Jackson Street there was the electrical shop… at least I think that’s what was there!!! Oh! And of course the Co-op offices were up the same stairs as the Hall and we got our dividend made up there!! At the back of the Co-op building up Jackson Street, was a big blank wall against which my pals and I used to play ‘tennis’ for hours on end and I remember that near there one of the men who worked in the butcher’s shop (I think) used to have an aviary where he kept budgies!

East Free ChurchBack in Herbertson Street, opposite our house, on the corner with Glasgow Road, was the Burleigh Memorial Church, another building where I spent a great deal of my time up to about the age of 15. My Mum was the church organist at that time and Dad was a church elder, so every Sunday would find Jim (my brother ) and I at church and Sunday School and later on Bible Classes. The church hall was at the side of the church and most week nights for me were spent either at Brownies then the guides, country dancing classes, youth fellowship or singing at the women’s guild (one of the drawbacks of having a Mum who played piano for most of the organisations using the hall!). The Burleigh Church eventually, due to dwindling numbers ( I think), amalgamated with Stonefield Church and the name disappeared. I think it may now be St Andrew’s Church.

Next to the Church on Herbertson Street was a wee bungalow which used to house the telephone exchange, but I don’t remember it ever being in use as a telephone exchange when I was young ( obviously before my time!). I just remember a very eccentric old lady living in part of the house.

Finally, next to my house at the top of the street on the corner with Auchinraith Road was the ‘big house’ which was the manse for the Stonefield Church. It had a great big garden attached and we kids loved playing in there with the minister’s family.

I used to go to Auchinraith Primary School (when
it was situated at the top of Craig Street), so each
school day meant a walk up Herbertson Street, then
turn right into Auchinraith Road for the uphill walk
to school in all weathers, about 15 minutes away.
No such thing as getting dropped off at the school gates by Mum or Dad!!

I think Reid’s the printers and a wee industrial estate are now where Herbertson Street used to be. I recall us having to move out of Herbertson Street (around 1970) to a house in Bardykes Road, by that time, I was a student at Hamilton College of Education (teacher training), and the buildings in the street were all due to be demolished.

I moved to Erskine in Renfrewshire in 1973, so visits to Blantyre became fewer and lots of changes then took place in the town. My Mum ( now 93) is now in a care home in Hamilton, so on occasion I go back to see the old place”.

Ailean McLeman (Roberts)

April 2014


Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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