From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
Our Herbertson Street diversion over, lets get back to Glasgow Road. Prior to the existence of the current Police Station at Calder Street, Blantyre had an earlier police station at Stonefield.
During the mid 1870’s with population expanding rapidly, a growing requirement for keeping order and permanent police presence was needed for the expanding mining town. A police building was needed.
In 1875, the ‘Commissioners of Police Supply’ acquired a plot of land on the main Hamilton to Glasgow Road, near the corner of a track, which would eventually become Herbertson Street. The Police station was one of the earliest buildings in Stonefield, Low Blantyre centrally located between growing areas of Springwell and an expanding Stonefield. Built of stone, of s storey solid construction with a slate roof, it opened out on to the Hamilton to Glasgow Road. A wall was built around the perimeter and the main access in to the back courtyard was through a large stone framed gate approximately 12 foot high (presumably to accommodate slim police wagons of the era). This entrance was at the corner of what would become Herbertson Street and Glasgow Road.
At the rear of the building were two buildings, one co-joined with the station by a tall wall which almost certainly was the jail (the older term ‘gaol’ frittered out a few decades earlier.) Another smaller building looks to have been a wagon house or stores.
Certainly there are newspaper stories of police officers responding to incidents in Blantyre as early as 1875, a constable of that year being Mr William Oliver. It is highly likely though that police officers lived in Blantyre prior to this, although were employed out of Hamilton or Glasgow.
Even upon its construction, police officers could never have anticipated just how rapidly Blantyre was to grow that coming decade and incorporating just 3 houses for constables would have seemed adequate.
Walking along this side of the emerging Glasgow Road between 1875 and 1880 must have been an astonishing sight! To see open fields and hedgerows suddenly becomes rows of shop and houses would have been an exciting prospect for incoming miners seeking employment and housing.
The station was situated beside the Avon Buildings immediately adjacent to the west as pictured, although the station itself was detached. In 1880, the mission hall was built directly across from the station at Herbertson Street and just over a decade later, Roberts Land was built to the rear of the station. With Blantyre so populated in the 1880’s, there are several stories which highlight the fact that 3 or 4 officers, simply weren’t enough.
Murderous Assault on Police
Blantyre is no stranger to a party, or a rammy for that matter, but in the early hours of Sunday 16th September 1883, an evening party at a Stonefield residence escalated into argument and quarrel resulting in some disgraceful scenes. Whilst on duty, Blantyre police Sergeant Stewart and Constable McLeod heard the commotion going on outside the party house and decided to intervene, arresting the two combatants. However, the other people at the party were having none of this and clearly taking sides, struck the Sergeant on the back of the head with a brick. When McLeod dropped his prisoner and came to assist, the police officers were pelted in a fury of stones by some ten people. During the pelting, the Sergeant was struck down and stabbed through the left ear, on the left arm and below the chin, with what could be described as a pocket knife. The police, fearing for their lives, and admitting being outnumbered, left the scene and their prisoners jeered in freedom.
In such days before telephones or police radio, the only way to get back up, was to return to the station, where if you were lucky, other officers would be on duty or could be recalled.
At the Blantyre Police Station, the bedraggled officers stumbled in to the shock of their colleagues. Thankfully, luck was on their side and two other officers were unusually on duty that weekend. Constable Morton and a young Constable Bruce from High Blantyre were both in plain clothes, but at least were on hand. The four officers proceeded back to the scene of the disturbance and quickly pinpointed one of the people they had tried to apprehend. Incredibly, as they approached the house, directly opposite Mr Scott’s shop, Irishman John Kane was violently smashing in his mother’s door with a pick axe and was clearly overcome by drink.
When the police officers tried to apprehend him, John Kane smashed the sharp end of the pick on to Officer Morton’s skull, in two sharp and quick blows. Kane closed in as Morton fell to the ground clutching his bloodied head. As Kane moved in again, he had to be beaten off by Constable Bruce, a man half his age, and armed with only a small wooden police baton. Upon seeing her “boy” being beaten by officers, Kane’s elderly mother lifted the pick axe and made swinging motions towards the officers. The pick was quickly disarmed by the other officers and Mrs Kane restrained, only making John Kane more angry. With Kane’s mother is custody, Kane did the cowardly thing, and ran away.
The police officers saw quickly that officer Morton was insensible and delirious and decided to head back to the Station on Glasgow Road with the apprehended lady pensioner. Morton needed medical attention as quickly as possible. On the way there, Morton became unconscious and had to be helped back. This task was made more difficult as by now the house party and spilled out into the street and seeing Mrs Kane being led away, the small crowd decided to pelt the police officers with stones. Back at the Station, Dr Cooper asked for Morton to be transferred to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow where that evening, upon halfway there, he regained consciousness. The cut to his head was an ugly one and a lot of blood was lost. In an ironic twist of fate, reporters later found out that Morton had only been at the Police Station that evening in his plain clothes, to hand in his notice and leave the police! It was also found out that John Kane, some 2 years earlier had been sentenced to 3 months under the Crime Prevention Act for wielding a pick at another person. Sergeant Stewart was confined to bed and apparently better the next day.
Speaking of which, as Sunday daytime arrived, a huge force from the neighbouring village came and promptly apprehended Patrick Kane, John’s brother who had instigated the stone throwing. Mrs Kane was released without charge due to her age. Police Commander McHardy stationed at Coatbridge arrived in Blantyre later in the day to take charge, citing that an example of force should be made and attacks on the police would not be tolerated. The report ends with John Kane still missing, but with the entire surrounding police force looking for him.
On 7th and 8th February 1887, miners in Blantyre rioted in the streets smashing shops and property. At one point, the Police Station was attacked with so much damage done that the local police constables had to release the 2 prisoners in the cells. Many civilians and reinforcement police were hurt in this lively and troublesome commotion
In 1886 Charles Wilson was in charge of the whole station which then had a rateable value of £45. By 1895 the Police Station and the 3 houses were owned by the County Council. Police officers stationed there were George Taylor, William Lochart and David MacAulay all renting for £5, 4 shillings.
In 1899, Mr. John Braid was a Police constable there, his wife Mary Braid died young on 26th May 1899 at 34 years old at the Police Station. By 1905 Robert Munn was constable, David Richardson the Sub inspector and John Miller another constable paying rent between £12 and £13 per annum.
The Police Station was then allocated the address 105 Glasgow Road, although the address as police premises was short lived, for in 1909, the Glasgow Road Police station was abandoned. Unfit for purpose in those Edwardian Times, with inadequate jail cells, police transferred to a new, larger custom built Police Station at Calder Street at the corner of Victoria Street. Newspapers record the new police station being almost ready on 22nd March 1909.
In this exclusive unpublished photo from 1908, Blantyre Police officers are pictured with other Lanarkshire officers, although the location is not thought to be Blantyre.
The old Low Blantyre Police Station was bought by the Blantyre Co-operative Society following lengthy negotiations and then entirely demolished in summer 1915, during WW1. They bought the land to build their Central Premises. We end this article putting the station into a modern context.
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