From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017
Blantyre Co-operative Society Central Premises
Blantyre Co-operative Society’s Central premises was a former large L shaped, impressive building in Low Blantyre, which contained several Co-op shops, their Head Office and large community hall at the western side of the junction of Glasgow Road and Herbertson Street (opposite Forrest Street.)
Construction had commenced at the start of WW1. Located on the former old police station site, the ‘Memorial Stone’ of their new Hall, shops and offices was laid on the afternoon of Saturday 6th November 1915 and construction lasted throughout 1916 and into 1917.
Mr R. Lyon, president of the society, performed the ceremony in the presence of the committee, representatives of the Educational Committee and Women’s Guild, three of the local contractors engaged on the buildings, Mr Lochhead (architect), and Mr Dow (measurer). Mr Andrew Wright, the builder, on behalf of the architect and himself, presented Mr Lyon with the sliver trowel, suitably inscribed, with which the ceremony was performed. The company afterwards adjourned to the Board Room, where Mr Lochhead presented Mr Lyon with a handsome gold bracelet for Mrs Lyon, associating Mr Wright and Mr Dow with himself in the presentation.
The new buildings, which had been designed by Messrs Cullen, Lochhead and Brown, of Hamilton, were estimated to cost around £10,000, and when they were completed, formed a prominent architectural feature of the town.
The new premises were formally opened by a series of soirees, concerts, and cinema entertainments, which took place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday , 12th, -15th February 1917 and again on the same nights the following week. The soirees were given free to members. Mr Thos. Gray, president, occupied the chair during evenings, and was supported on the platform by the local clergy and doctors. A splendid tea was provided, thereafter a fine musical programme was submitted, the following very talented artistes contributing :— Miss G. Amory (soprano) and Mr J. L. Hilton, (tenor), with Mr Jas. Buchanan as accompanist. Addresses were given by a number of co-operators from Glasgow. During intervals in the programme a cinema display was given by the Society’s own cinematograph. Altogether, the opening ceremonies proved very successful and were thoroughly enjoyed by the large audiences each evening. Handsome samples of cigarettes and soap, kindly presented by the S.C.W.S., were also distributed during the evening.
The new premises, which were signed with “Blantyre Co-operative Central Premises” incorporated architectural additions in an early art-deco style and included a large upper hall with good access. The façade made the building much more prominent from other nearby two-storey tenements and shops. Amongst the first uses of the halls, were Burns recitals, concerts, speeches, women’s guild and meetings by Blantyre Golf Club. The General manager was Mr. George Muir. The new Central Premises accommodated their own dedicated shops and offices, without having to rent.
It is here we pick up the story of adjacent Avon buildings, also owned by the Co-op. Together, from 1917, the whole building became known only as owned by the Co-op. A formidable line of shops was suddenly apparent, and although not quite the longest frontage of shops in Blantyre, certainly was one of the largest. A great place to do your shopping.
Of course, there wasn’t much to celebrate in those first few years. Britain was at war with Germany. On 3rd March 1917, The Co-operative Women’s Guild (Blantyre Branch) entertained seventy wounded soldiers from Gateside and Caldergrove Hospitals. The entertainment took place in the Society’s new Hall, at Herbertson Street. Mrs Lamond, Guild president, in a few words, welcomed the boys as they sat down to tea. A splendid programme was then submitted, in which the following took part :— Misses Scoular, Mrs Hunter; Mr Smythe, elocutionist, Larkhall; Misses Scoular, Meikle, and Houston (who delighted the audience with their delightful dancing); Miss Porter, pianist; and Mr Higgison, violinist. The guests were then given a cinema entertainment, followed with whist, hat-trimming, and nail-driving competitions, with prizes. A second tea was provided, and the boys each received a box of fifty cigarettes and the nurses boxes of chocolates. On the call of the sergeant, the men gave three ringing cheers to the Guild members who had provided them with such an enjoyable afternoon. Great credit is reflected on the members of the Guild Committee who organised the entertainment. Through the kindness of Mr Moller, general manager of the Lanarkshire Tramways Co., a special tramcar conveyed the soldiers to and from the hospitals.
The Co-op’s registered office changed from 1 Jackson Street to 4 Herbertson Street upon the building of central premises. The property had address 105 – 125 Glasgow Road.
In 1920, the Co-op shops in the whole Central Premises (also known as Co-op number 1) block were as follows: The lesser hall at 8 Herbertson Street, Office and board rooms above 4 Herbertson Street which had a dressmakers on the ground floor (although this became a shoe shop in post WW2 years). At the corner at 105 Glasgow Road was the drapery department, at 107 Glasgow Road the fleshers, 109 was the grocery department. Next continuing to head west on Glasgow Road was a tailor’s shop and workroom, at 115 was the dairy, 117 was the fishshop, 121 was hardware, 123 boot shop, 125 fruit shop, across from 127 bread shop on the opposite corner at Jackson Street.
The large entrance to the offices and halls located on Herbertson Street across from the Burleigh Church led upstairs. Members could collect their dividend from the upper offices, spending their loyalty bonuses. Dances were held often in the upper halls on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays but license did not go beyond midnight. Functions and community groups of all types were often held on the other evenings.
‘Rammy’ outside the Hall
The halls were no stranger to trouble. A significant rammy occurred outside the hall on the evening of Saturday 30th January 1926. Seven young men from Burnbank had come over to Blantyre to attend a dance in the Blantyre Co-operative Hall. Whilst in there, growing concern and rumour was whispered amongst the males at the dance that there “was to be trouble outside” afterwards. The hall keeper concerned, closed the doors quickly that evening after the dance ended and things “kicked off outside”. After the dance the Burnbank men had went outside and a crowd had assembled around them. It is unknown what they had done within the dancehall to antagonise so many males from Blantyre. Being pursued, the Burnbank men tried to board a tramcar back to Hamilton, but were surrounded and had to defend themselves, being pursued by a small crowd of men from Blantyre.
What was described then as “regular battle” started on Glasgow Road both on board and off the tram. The car was held up and the driver prevented from moving forward. Blantyre Police arrived and promptly arrested 2 men from Blantyre. When the 2 Blantyre men were arrested, the Blantyre crowd turned on Police with a threatening attitude and started throwing stones at them. During the arrests, the 7 men from Burnbank ran off towards Springwells, but were later apprehended further up the road by police. At Hamilton J.P. Court on Monday 1st February 1926 the seven young men from Burnbank and two from Blantyre were charged with committing a breach of the peace by conducting themselves in a disorderly manner and using obscene language.
The Justices found the charge against one of the men not proven, but all the others were convicted, each being fined £2 each or £1 depending on their involvement.
Central Premises remembered
In 1930, the Co-Op owned and occupied the Hall and Rooms at number 6, (which was let out at £100 rent a year) the lesser hall, office and boardroom at number 4 and a shop, millinery, petrol pump and tank also at number 4 Herbertson Street. Their gent’s department store was at number 2 Herbertson Street. The Glasgow Road premises remained unchanged in use for several decades. An exception to this was the corner shop at Jackson Street. During the 1960’s, the corner shop at 125 Glasgow Road became an electrical shop as technology evolved and electrical goods became popular.
Many entertainers performed in Blantyre at the Co-op Halls. Robert Wilson the Scottish tenor played at the hall, to the delight of a Blantyre crowd.
On Wednesday 22nd October 1930, the 188th quarterly general meeting of the Blantyre Co-operative Society was held, which ranked as one of the largest and most uproarious ever held the Society’s history. The origin was the fact that the committee had dismissed seven of the grocery salesmen in the Central premises one just a fortnight before and the other six the previous Friday. It was fully expected that such a phenomenal dismissal of the servants would create more than ordinary interest. Hence a meeting numbering from 600 to 800 was held. When the time came for general business, the chairman was bombarded with questions relating to the dismissals, and motions and counter-motions were made all at once and pandemonium prevailed until the chairman, Mr. Matthew M’Phail brought the meeting to an end. There was a motion put at the meeting to abide by the committee’s decision, and another that the matter be remitted back to the committee with a view to the reinstatement of the dismissed servants. The former motion received scanty support, but for reconsideration a perfect sea of hands responded, and so the whole matter had to be reconsidered by the committee.
In 1949, the Co-op hugely extended their halls and premises at the back, primarily used for stores and further offices. During the late 1950’s the grocery department became self service and like many shops in the UK, this caused quite a stir at the thought of actually being able to be trusted to touch the goods before they were paid for!
Following the winding up of Blantyre Co-operative Society in 1972, the property shops were privately let out to local businesses.
“Wheels” was a former cycle shop in the 1970’s at 6 Herbertson Street, near the corner of Glasgow Road. Owned by Martin Johnson, it was a cycle repair shop on the lower ground floor. The shop branched out into selling motorcycles in a short lived run up to Christmas 1978.
107 and 109 Glasgow Road became JR Reid Printers, who traded from this location before being moved in 1979 to the same location in the new Auchinraith Trading Estate. They would later move again to custom premises nearby in the late 1980’s. 111 Glasgow Road became Glen Travel and 113 was the ‘Lucky House’ Chinese Takeaway as shown on James McGuire’s photo above. 123 became Godfrey’s Shop.
Following final approval when the council acquired the building by compulsory purchase order in the 1970’s, it was demolished by summer 1979. Today, the former Co-op Central premises is the site of the small modern Auchinraith Trading Estate at Herbertson Street. A last comment. Some Blantyre history enthusiasts have got this following photo wrong. We’ll take the opportunity to correct it. It’s not a photo of Blantyre Gaol, the Police Station or Roberts Building being demolished. Taken in 1979, this is the Central Premises and its large hall being pulled down. The excavator sits on the edge of Roberts Land, which was out the picture to the left.
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