William Galbraith was born on September 9, 1782, in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, the child of William and Isabella. Making his way out in the world, he started working at Blantyre Works, in particular at the mill in 1798, perhaps attracted by that new industry being so close by to his hometown. This required a move to Blantyre and little did he know he was embarking on a career with the mill which would last 72 years!
He married Isobel Swap on 28th August 1807 and between 1808 and 1814, they had four children together (2 boys and 2 girls). However, at the age of 35, whilst giving birth to their fourth son, his wife Isobel died in childbirth. William, aged 32 was left a single father of 4 young children.
However, he soon remarried and in 1823 had one daughter, Mary Galbraith with Catharine Twaddle.
By 1851, 68 year old William was noted in the census of that year as being a “starching tenter” living with his wife Catharine and one female lodger, Elizabeth Robertson their niece. In 1861, Catharine had died, and William was living near Station Road at 6 Front Row, still working away, aged 78 as a cotton-mill jenter. With him was daughter Mary and his granddaughter Janet.
Old Willie claimed that he remembered the day that Emperor Alexander III of Prussia came to Blantyre and visited the Blantyre Mills. The Emperor did in fact visit Glasgow when Henry Monteith (the mill owner) was the Provost of Glasgow and presided over the reception held in the city to honour the Emperor. The Emperor expressed a desire to visit a manufacturing town and it is not unlikely, although not proven that Provost Monteith invited him to inspect his works and newly created village at Blantyre Works.
William Galbraith, in service to Monteith for 72 years died on March 17, 1870, in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, having lived a long life of 87 years.
Pictured in Alexander III, Emperor of Prussia