I was recently looking at the history of Auchentibber Inn, Auchentibber Road on the upper, southern side of Blantyre. The Inn is often described as being the property of J.B Struthers. However, I wanted to tell the story of its former and initial owner, Miss Flora McIntyre. The story is in my own words. I hope you find it as interesting to read, as it was to write. Pictured is The Auchentibber Inn in 1900, around the time of its acquisition by J.B Struthers from Flora McIntyre’s estate.
Flora McIntyre was born at Port Charlotte on the isle of Islay in 1827. Her younger sister Lucy was later born in 1843. When Lucy turned 18 in 1861 she came to Blantyre with Flora, presumably to make their fortune. It is unknown why they chose our town, but what is known is that the sisters were both in Blantyre by 1861, working at Shott Farm, High Blantyre. Flora was working as a servant woman, aged 34. The source of this is the 1861 census, which incorrectly lists her as Flora McIntipe (no wonder this was a difficult story to research!)
That year, Flora worked and lived at Shott Farm, along with her younger 18 year old sister Lucy. Assuming Lucy had travelled there to work alongside Flora, it is likely that this was around this time in 1860 or 1861 that the sisters came to Blantyre for the first time. Lucy McIntyre is also incorrectly listed as McIntipe in the 1861 census and was a domestic servant girl living within the farmhouse.
Shott Farm during 1861 was owned by 60 year old Thomas Maxwell, respected property owner and farmer of 44 acres employing 6 men and a boy. Two of these men lived in the farm. 25 year old John Reid from Cambuslang and 30 year old Duncan McColl. Duncan was born in Appin and clearly he pursued Lucy, for just 5 years later on 21st December 1866, the couple married, just 4 days before Christmas. A son Donald McColl, followed shortly after in 1868.
However, Flora was not to remain in the domestic servant business and her High Blantyre contacts and friends led her to her own opportunity. A future advert suggests in 1899 Flora had been the owner of The Auchentibber for 30 years, meaning she had owned the Inn since 1869. This was good confirmation that certainly by 1869 she had left the profession of working on a farm and had set up her own business. Unmarried, her father had died just a couple of years earlier, and I suspect left a sum that she inherited and Flora was to use wisely in buying the Auchentibber Inn around 1869.
In the 1871 census at the age of 40, her brother in law Duncan McColl, was back in Appin that day visiting his elderly mother. The pull of home may have attracted him and Lucy back to Appin, but it was only temporary, for they are shown as living back in Blantyre by 1881 and integrated into Flora’s business.
The 1875 Valuation Roll, shows 47 year old Flora living at a house in Auchentibber and her profession is noted as “grocer and spirit dealer”. Unmarried, she had a lodger at this time, Matthew Hamilton, a labourer, who may have been her employee at the Inn. By this time, she also had a shop.
In 1879, Flora McIntyre is noted in Naismith’s Directory as being a spirit merchant at Auchinraith. I wondered about this entry. Did this mean she had another business in Auchinraith or is the record incorrect and should have read Auchentibber? It is possible she had another business in High Blantyre. Rivals at the time like JBH Struthers owned spirit businesses in both High Blantyre and Stonefield. This time period coincided with an influx of population to Blantyre, real boom times for starting any business, with population trebling in just 10 years. Her success perhaps rubbed of on her sister and brother in law.
In 1881, the census indicated that married Duncan and Lucy were living at Auchentibber along with their son Donald. Flora, being single, may have had some comfort to her to have her sister’s family around her. Auchentibber would have seemed a good choice for them all to settle. A brand new school had just opened up, which was a stone throw away from their home, ideal for her young nephew. Her brother in law, Duncan’s occupation is noted as being a Spirit Salesman and he was likely doing Flora’s main selling and promotions. He was 50 during this year, Lucy was 36 and Donald 13. They lived in the same property as Flora McIntyre, whom by this time was 54 years old and noted as again in the census as being a “spirit dealer”.
I believe Flora never married and was always referred to as Miss Flora McIntyre in every reference I found.
On Monday 23rd January 1888, an advert appeared in the Glasgow Herald stating that Flora was selling the detached house and the shop/ Auchentibber Inn due to her ill health. This may also have been due to her brother in law changing profession or losing that sales assistance. Further competition in Blantyre with many pubs opening up, may also have prompted the decision. Included in the price was a licensed business and fittings. There was also a large garden and some vacant ground attached, perhaps later to become the quoiting green. The advert is very specific in stating that Miss Flora McIntyre operated the business had been operated for many years. Flora appears to have rallied around from her sick bed.
In the 1891 census, 64 year old Flora is living at “Beechfield Cottage”, Auchentibber and is noted as being a spirit dealer. This is the first mention of Beechfield Cottage belonging to her, so she may have bought this home after the 1888 advert. The Auchentibber Inn though looks like it did not sell in 1888, remaining in her ownership. In 1891, living with her is her 47 year old sister Lucy who was the spirit shop assistant and 23 year old Donald, Flora’s nephew who was making his way in the world as a Railway Clerk. With them all was 21 year old Christina Craig, working as the house servant, and was a niece of Floras. Strangely though, no Duncan McColl was present in this census. He would have been 60 at this time.
The 1895 Valuation roll has Flora living by herself at her house in Auchentibber. It is alleged by this time the Inn was in a deplorable condition and in much need of renovation. The Directory of Scotland has Flora McIntyre as a spirit dealer in Auchentibber during 1896.
Flora died aged 72 on 26th May 1899 at Auchentibber. She died of pneumonia which she had for 2 months , and had previously 5 days earlier suffered heart problems. Her death certificate was signed by nephew Donald McColl.
On 21st July 1899, 2 months following her death, The Auchentibber Inn was up for sale by a private owner. Flora had been a spinster so the private owner may have been sister Lucy or Donald McColl, perhaps who were left the dilapidated Inn in Flora’s will. The fact the advert not only includes fittings, but also stock and goodwill of the current customers, suggests the Inn had been used right up until the time of Flora’s death. Offers were to be lodged by 28th August 1899.
It is shortly after this time (post 1901 but certainly before 1905), that J.B.H Struthers was successful in acquiring the Auchentibber Inn, who would go on to renovate the building, change its fortunes and create the Italian Gardens and Quoiting Ground in the vacant nearby land.