William Downie Senior

1859 Downies BuildingsMr. William Downie (Senior) – b1812-d1885. According to Slaters Directory is noted as being a grocer and spirit dealer.

The family name is associated with the old Downie’s buildings on Main Street and School Lane in the triangular piece of land, that later became Matt Boyle’s House.

William Downie was born in Kilmarnock Ayrshire in 1812. By 1841, he had moved to Blantyre and is noted in the census as being a shopkeeper.

By 1844, he had married a lady by the name of Helen from Blantyre, who was 10 years younger than him and they had a son William Downie Junior in 1845.

The 1851 census notes that William Downie Senior was a storekeeper and his wife Helen or Ellen, his assistant. Living with them was a servant girl, aged 17 named Ann Reid. William is noted in the 1862 Handbook of Hamilton, Bothwell, and Blantyre & Uddingston Directory as being a grocer at High Blantyre.

By 1879, William Downie Senior is listed in Naismith’s Directory as being a grocer and spirit merchant in Kirkton. He was running a public house at Downie’s Buildings on the north side of Main Street near Kirkton Cross.

In 1881, William Downie Senior was 69 years old, Helen 58 and William Downie Junior who lived with them above their public house, was 36. They owned a few houses in Kirkton by that time as well as their grocer shop, a smithy, store and public house. In 1885, William Downie Senior died, on 8th July aged 73 and that same year, and so did Helen, his wife.

His will was read in Glasgow on 12th October 1885. Within his will was £7 of furniture, £30 possessions in his house, £285, 5 shillings rent owed to him by 31 different local individuals and businesses including but not limited to at Kirkton, Blantyre Parochial Board, J Struthers shoemaker, W Aitkenhead, W Adam, Buchanan and Co. Also at Hunthill, J Cunningham, W Sillar and J MacFarlane. At Stonefield, some of the highest rents due at over £20 included Todd, Muir, Hogg, Clark, Thomson and Watson. To put this in context, the total rent money alone owned to him at his death in today’s money would have been over £40,000.

He had been an investor in railways too, with stocks in the Caldeonian Railway with over £193 due to him in dividend and a further £47 due to him from other Railways. Incredibly, a further 107 people and businesses owed him money for all his other business transactions, amounting £498 and 15 shillings. This would not appear to simply be a “tic” book list of customers, for included within it are the School Board and the Rev Stewart Wright.

In all, William Downie Senior’s assetts were worth £1,565, 10 shillings and 6 pence (that’s about £275,000 today). Of course his debts to others had to come off this figure. William owed £219 to others including a debt to a Glasgow Coach-house. And £5 was set aside to pay Smith’s Funeral Services. This left as estate of £1,340 17 shillings and two pence, a considerable sum in those days, equating to almost quarter of a million pounds today. His wife Ellen had died earlier that year, so William Downie Junior, his son was the executor of the will, confirming these details in writing in Hamilton and being the sole inheritor of the Downie estate.

William Downie Junior therefore found himself inheriting the Downie’s shop, Downie’s Public house and houses to rent out in Kirkton, Hunthill and Stonefield from October 1885.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017

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