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From the illustrated social history book…research paid for & compiled by Paul Veverka
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
JR Reid Printers
J.R Reid Printers was a former printer based on Glasgow Road. They were founded on 13th November 1972. From 1973 they were based at the former Central Co-op buildings at the corner of Glasgow Road and Herbertson Street. When the Co-op building was demolished in 1979, they moved nearby to new premises at Rosendale Way (where the industrial clothing company now is) and remained there till late 1989 when they moved to their own custom built building at the corner of Auchinraith Road and Glasgow Road. The new large building with good frontage on Glasgow Road, is located on the former site of Springwell Farm House, Henderson’s Buildings and the former Burleigh Church.
The custom building is brick built with a red rolltop corrugated roof and highly visible from Glasgow Road. It sits at the bottom of former Auchinraith Road.
A little earlier in the 1980’s, the very end of Auchinraith Road junction with Glasgow Road was blocked off and Auchinraith Road traffic forced to go down Herbertson Street, near to new industrial units. This meant that very northern part of Auchinraith Road was not open to traffic and ran through the carpark of the printers. It is still visible today in the carpark, untouched due to several services, primarily gas, running through it. What location once the Horseshoe Bar and Glasgow Road shops in Henderson’s Buildings, is now within the imprint of the printers. This modern satellite photo is overlaid on 1898 Blantyre map to show this.
In 1992, JR.Reid acquired the assets of McClure, McDonald & Co. They saw several other changes becoming Ltd on 12th December 1995 and becoming JR Reid Printing Group Ltd on 5th April 2000, a month later becoming Reid Print & Media Group Ltd. On 12th March 2007 they became JR Reid, Print & Media Group Ltd and in 2009 later merged with the current printer, Gavin Watson Printers. A remaining part of Reid’s, not trading from Blantyre, finally fully dissolved on 23rd January 2015.
Many people utilized Reid’s for their printing services and they were a good employer of local people in their time in Blantyre. Reid’s address at these premises was 79-109 Glasgow Road.
Gavin Watson Printers
Having moved to Blantyre in post Millennium years, Gavin Watson Printers is based in the former JR Reid’s Printing building on Glasgow Road opposite the slipway on to East Kilbride Expressway. They have address 79-109 Glasgow Road and telephone 01698 826000. The entrance from Auchinraith Road leads into a modest sized car park. The business name is well known and recognised in Blantyre but the company has roots from much further back and away from the town.
Gavin Watson Printers were founded over 150 years ago in 1863, halfway through Queen Victoria’s reign, when Bismarck ruled Prussia and Napoleon the Third was Emperor of France.
The business remained in the Watson family until after the Second World War and was believed to be the first company in Scotland to purchase a lithography printing press which was used to initially specialise in the printing of ornate share certificates. Over the years, the company has gained an enviable reputation in wet glue label market for its customer service.
After considerable investment and hard work from all their staff they have gained a formidable reputation for being one of the best wet glue label and commercial printers in the UK. From their purpose built factory they currently produce in excess of 1.3 billion wet glue applied labels annually for clients such as Highland Spring Group, Nestle UK, AG Barr Plc, Diageo, Innocent, Britvic and Baxter’s Food Group to name but a few. With direct access to the main motorway networks, they can produce export labels throughout Europe.
Gavin Watson Printers also offer services for security printed products, themselves being part of the GT4 Group, as well as foil & embossing, labeling, flexographic printing, packaging and more regular printing and scanning. The best way to get an idea of the scale of what Gavin Watson does is to look in your kitchen cupboard. If there is anything from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco – or perhaps Harrods – the likelihood is that the label first emanated from the family-owned print shop in Possil or later from Blantyre.
In 2002, managing Director Drew Samuel spent over £1.5m on state of the art machinery, investing in the equipment to secure the future of the company. At the time he was overseeing the printing of 20 million labels per week, that’s over a billion a year!
Food and drink labeling for major multiples and producers all over the UK accounts for nearly 85% of Gavin Watson’s production. It provided a pre-tax profit of (pounds) 150,000 on turnover of just under (pounds) 4m in the financial year to January 2001. Speaking in 2002, Samuel said, “The remainder of production at the 65-employee firm is in security printing – cheques, pass books, giros, and so on, all with specialist security features such as UV threads in the passbooks. That is a smaller part of the business now, but we can say that we have been in security printing for 140 years,” said Samuel. ”The original Gavin Watson’s business in Ingram Street in Glasgow printed those lovely, ornate Victorian share certificates on the first litho press in Scotland – which was made of stone.”
The firm was bought by the Bissett family after the war and inherited by Johnny Bissett’s daughter and Samuel’s wife, Mary, who became chairwoman. Samuel joined as managing director in 1990 at the suggestion of management consultants, leaving behind his successful architectural practice. In 2009, JR Reid’s was merged with Gavin Watson Printers, the signage at Glasgow Road changing that year.
In 2015, GT4 Group, owner of Glasgow-based labels and packaging printer Gavin Watson and creative agency GT4, acquired fellow Scottish commercial printer Creative Colour Bureau (CCB) in an all-share deal. CCB directors Angus MacDonald and Mark Coll joined the board of GT4 Group, as they planned to consolidate CCB into the larger Gavin Watson site in Blantyre, 10 miles away from their Glasgow premises.
GT4 Group chairman Ian Johnstone said in 2015 that the deal was not expected to result in any redundancies at either printer, which collectively employed around 80 staff and turned over more than £10m. He added, “It made sense to have the two businesses but one lot of fixed costs.”
Johnstone founded GT4 together with chief executive Tom Brown in 2003 before acquiring Gavin Watson around 2007. CCB was the group’s first acquisition since then, although Johnstone said the firm had invested around £3m between 2010-2015, “mostly in the labels business”. Quoted in 2015 he continued, “We do a lot of labels for whisky clients and they don’t just need labels, they need boxes, cartons, booklets, neck collars, swing tickets – there’s a whole load of value-added marketing material that goes along with it and that’s something CCB can give us. It became apparent that we were printing different things but on similar equipment and aside from the whisky industry there’s very little crossover in our clients.” He added that the all-share deal had suited all parties, adding: “If we had wanted to buy for cash they would probably have been less enthusiastic as they wanted to be part of this packaging group we are creating.”
Tom Brown, added in 2015, “The relocation of CCB to Gavin Watson’s site would take around eight weeks and that the company would then look to invest in some additional finishing and wide-format print equipment. We’re looking to invest in some more specialist finishing equipment for things like lamination and spot UV, which a lot of companies just put out. Our philosophy is to deliver to clients on time in full, so we need to have control over production.”
He added that while CCB had roll-to-roll wide-format devices, it didn’t have any flatbed printers and that that was probably an area the company would look to invest in, with the combined spend on that and finishing expected to come to around £500,000.
Brown added that both companies were looking to replace an older litho press – in Gavin Watson’s case a six-colour Heidelberg CD 74 – and that GT4 would look for a single press to replace both devices, probably towards the end of the year “once we’ve made sure the specification fits what both companies need”.
Following the merger to a single site, the company went from a 24/5 to a 24/7 operation.
Since their arrival in Blantyre, Gavin Watson Printers have been avid sponsors of several community events, often leading their charitable support to local community newspaper Blantyre Telegraph as well as undertaking printing, often donated for free to Blantyre Community Committee Gala events, Blantyre Oscars and printing for the town’s festive events, something greatly appreciated by all organisations.
Situated between Henderson’s Building and the United Free Church (Burleigh Church) was the former Anderson’s Buildings. The 2 storey tenements were constructed between 1902 and 1904 by Thomas Anderson, a bicycle maker.
The property was directly across Glasgow Road from Grant’s Building and made of stone, consisted of 2 shops on the ground level, opening out on to Glasgow Road pavement and 2 houses above. They were directly attached to Henderson’s Buildings but slightly lower and of different appearance. There were 5 narrow windows on the upper storey facing out on to Glasgow Road, with chimneys at either end and the middle of the building. The garden at the back consisted of a long, narrow plot of land. Access to the upper floors were on stone steps at the rear yard, entered from nearby Herbertson Street behind the church.
Constructor, Thomas Anderson was a Cycle Agent who made bicycles in those boom times when trams had just started running and lack of motor vehicles. Born in 1865 in Old Monkland, he was an incomer to Blantyre around 1900, noted in the census of 1901 living at Stonefield with older brothers John and Matthew. Clearly his parents were religious people, naming their sons after saints. With them were cousins, the Richardson and Robertson families.
In 1905 first occupants in the 2 houses were Denis McKay a spirit salesman and Matthew Anderson, the brother of Thomas. Matthew was a pitheadman who moved specifically from Springwell to these buildings once constructed, renting from his younger brother. In the shop nearest Henderson’s Buildings was Mrs. Ann Robertson, a greengrocer and cousin of Thomas. She rented for £10 per annum.
In the other ground floor shop, next to the church wall was Thomas Anderson himself, conducting his business as a cycle agent. On the outside of his shop was a metal bicycle wheel, which could be seen at a distance by customers, as pictured here in 1903.
Around 1910 postal addresses were allocated to Anderson’s Buildings, and from that time onwards the buildings was only known, certainly in census and valuation rolls by the addresses 97, 99 and 101 Glasgow Road .
Tenants and Change of Ownership
In 1915, Thomas was renting out the 2 upper houses, both with address 99 Glasgow Road to William Cunningham a miner and continuing to rent to his brother Matthew. At 101 Glasgow Road the end shop near Burleigh Church was no longer run as a bicycle shop, but instead was occupied by John Marshall, a merchant (possible printer) who lived at the house behind the Burleigh Church Hall on Herbertson Street. John’s rent was £18, 10 shillings that year. Whilst researching this era, we found a long lost Blantyre pub, which was situated in Anderson’s Buildings at 97 Glasgow Road. Robertson’s greengrocers was now Robertson’s spirit dealership, immediately adjacent to Henderson’s Buildings. The spirit shop was formed between 1905 and 1915 but was short lived and gone by 1920.
By the end of the First World War, ownership was to change and Matthew R Anderson, a pitheadman who lived at 99 Glasgow Road in the upper floor was the new owner, buying or inheriting the property from his brother, Thomas. The other house in 1920 still occupied by William Cunningham. The spirit shop was then John Marshall & Son a grocers shop. The other shop was also John Marshall & Son, likely a printers. The Marshalls therefore rented all shops in that building, but again only for a short time with shops to change occupancy frequently.
1925 saw Matthew Anderson, still owner at 99 Glasgow Road but in the other house was James Botteril, a boot repairman. The name Botteril is interesting given the Botterils ended up owning and running shops here later in the Century. The ground floor shops of Anderson’s Buildings in 1925 were occupied entirely by Hill Brothers Ltd, pawnbrokers, renting the larger premises for £28 and the smaller shop for £22. Again, though only for a short time, vacating Anderson’s Buildings in 1927.
1930 had Matthew Anderson living away from Blantyre at 134 Dredis Street, Airdrie. His former home occupied by Frank Lyon, a stocktaker. James Botteril occupied the other house. At 97 Glasgow Road the shop was by then James McTavish’s Butchers. The larger shop at 101 at the opposite end was split, one half empty, the other half occupied by Charles McElhone, a pawnbroker and competitor of the previous tenants Hill Brothers. Matthew died in 1932 in Airdrie, aged 75 with tenant James Botteril buying his building.
You may think the economic depression of the 1920’s gave rise to pawn shops in Blantyre, but they existed far before that, and indeed can be traced back to the 1870’s. Families like the Fegans, McLindens, Hills all were involved in the pawnbroking industry in Blantyre, some of them like the Fegans even earlier in nearby towns.
Charles McElhone married into the pawnbroking business. He lived at 114 Glasgow Road on the north side of the street with his wife Anne Fegan, the daughter of more established and well known Hugh Fegan pawnbroker. The McElhones ran their own pawn broking business from 120 and 122 Glasgow Road until Anne passed away in 1927, after which Charles moved to Anderson’s Buildings. He ran the shop until his death in 1947.
In January 1940, a terrible fire gutted some of the adjacent homes at Henderson’s Buildings which must have made Anderson’s tenants very concerned. At the back of Anderson’s Buildings around this time a small greenhouse was built and 2 outbuildings which may have served as stores for the shops.
Anderson’s Buildings existed beyond WW2 with popular shops on the lower part like Botteril’s shop, subdivided into Annie Botteril’s fishshop and Nancy Botteril’s business. Houses remained on the upper level into the mid 1970’s when the whole building was demolished. Finally, to put all this into context, here is our overlay of Anderson’s Building where it would be located today at the western end of Gavin Watson Printers.
Burleigh Church (United East Free Church)
The Burleigh Church was a former church also known as the East Free Church or East United Free Church at Herbertson Street corner of Glasgow Road, Low Blantyre. Before the church was built, the congregation met in a mission hall, which evolved over the years. The story is exclusively revealed by this book.
The Beginnings: The church had its roots back in 1876, at a time when Stonefield and Springwell was in its infancy. At that time in need of further religious outlets, a small mission was set up. Requiring a venue for worship, during its first years, church members rented Dall’s Shop in Gilmour’s Building on the north side of Glasgow Road for £25 per annum, before moving temporarily in 1877 into a larger shop in Henderson’s Buildings for 7 months.
Next, in early 1878, the mission moved temporarily again to the Masonic Hall above the Livingstonian Bar on the corner of nearby Forrest Street and Glasgow Road. (Which would later become the Blantyre Electric Picture Company). It is safe to say the group were choosing locations carefully centered around this area.
Mission Hall: Whilst the mission was at the Masonic Hall, work began on creating a more permanent mission hall nearby at the corner of Herbertson Street and Glasgow Road, Low Blantyre, directly across the Glasgow Road from Gilmour’s Building. Construction took place at a similar time to the construction of Henderson’s Buildings to the east. A small plot of land was secured at the corner of Glasgow Road and Herbertson Street and by May 1878, a new mission hall had been built, as pictured in this widely distributed photo just over a decade later.
The hall was a significant building, made of stone and slate, with large windows at the east and west in the shape of a cross. This was a tradition in church and chapel building where windows were carefully positioned to welcome and see out the light of the day. Four more windows on the north side let in plenty of light. It was heated by coal with fireplaces at each gable. A wooden picket fence was erected around the perimeter and a small tended garden. The entrance was from Herbertson Street where the door faced out upon. Across Herbertson Street was the former Blantyre Police Station, the entrance to which can be seen on the right of the photo. Beyond were fields all the way to Birdsfield at High Blantyre.
The first recognized minister, rather than preachers was Rev. John Burleigh who commenced there in September 1889.
Requirement for a Church
The Church: The small mission flourished and a short time after John Burleigh arrived, the Free Church assembly raised the status of the mission to full church. Plans were drawn up for a permanent church, which was to be built on the ground already bought to the north, encapsulated by the boundary of Glasgow Road and Herbertson Street and immediately nearby to the mission hall. The new church was to be named the ‘East Free Church’ and would seat over 500 people. The existing mission building next to it would not be redundant but instead would function as a hall only and used as a Sunday school. During 1890 and 1891, a significant budget of £1,620 was raised, which is around a quarter of a million pounds in today’s money.
The first foundation stone for this permanent church was laid on 12th March 1892 and the church was finally opened on Saturday, 3rd December 1892. It is unknown if it met budget requirements. The new church was a prominent feature and had later allocated address, 103 Glasgow Road, situated on the south side, directly across Glasgow Road from Gilmour’s Building. The hall, part of Herbertson Street. In 1895 the church was managed by the Free Church Mission, through Robert Beveridge, treasurer who lived in Hamilton. In 1900 the Church became ‘The Blantyre East United Free Church’ or EUFC managed by the Trustees of the Evangelical Union Church through John Bryan, a shoemaker in Burnbank. Behind the mission hall in Herbertson Street was only ever one other building on that side of the street. In the early 20th Century it was Blantyre’s first telephone exchange.
The early 1900’s saw the church have its up and downs with regards to debt on the church buildings and problems with underground workings.
Mr. James Gilmour was the session clerk at the Burleigh.
Rev John Burleigh lived at the Burleigh Manse house, more commonly referred to as Abbeygreen, which was further west at 2 Church Street, which we’ll explore later in this book. During his time as minister, he married many, many couples in his church.
Pre WW1 Years
On Thursday 8th February 1900 Mr. George Kelly and Miss Maggie Robertson on the occasion of their approaching marriage were made the recipients of gifts from their fellow members of the choir of the East Free Church. News reports of the time commented, “The company met in the hall adjoining the church. After tea, the Rev. Burleigh spoke in flattering terms of the respect that Mr Kelly and Miss Robertson were held and in the name of the choir, presented them with a walking stick and reading lamp respectively. Mr Kelly then gave a speech of thanks. During the evening, songs were sung by Messrs T Eadie, J Robertson and Andrew Robertson, bottler of the Springwell Factory. Miss Taggart showed excellent elocutionary power in her rendering of ‘Oor Folks’. Games were entered into with great zest and altogether a very enjoyable evening was spent.”
On Thursday 26th March 1900 a service of song entitled “General Gordon” was given in the Blantyre East Free Church, by the juvenile choir, under the leadership of Mr. Andrew Robertson. Rev John Burleigh presided. The piece was also illustrated with limelight views. The entertainment on the whole was much appreciated with proceeds in the aid of the African war, for local soldiers families. A nice sum of money was handed over after meeting expenses.
In 1909, the Church roll call was as follows: Minister was still Rev. John Burleigh; Choirmaster, Jas. Robertson; Session Clerk, Jas. Robertson; Clerk of Deacon’s Court, Daniel McDade; Church Officer, James Wright; Sunday School Supt., James Murdoch. Agencies: — Sunday Morning Guild — President, Rev. John Burleigh; Minister’s Bible Class; and Guild of Help.
Post WW1 Years
On Friday 2nd October 1914, Rev Burleigh gleefully told the congregation that the church was at last debt free. It was welcome relief and heartening news, given that all news at the time was war related. That same day, the church celebrated 25 years of Rev Burleigh being minister.
In 1915, the church was owned by Trustees of the Stonefield East United Free Church per George Baird, 10 Hospital Road, High Blantyre, a situation that would continue until 1929.
In November 1918 when the armistice and end of WW1 was sounded, the 3 united free churches in Blantyre including East Free came together for a joint service at the larger Livingstone Memorial Church, with ministers from all churches attending and large crowds descending upon the building. What a sight that must have been in Blantyre as the Church Bells rang out in victory and in the name of future peace.
There was great sadness in the congregation when Rev. John Burleigh died on 28th October 1922 and some relief from that grief when Rev. Alexander Ross took over.
Like the Anderson Church at Stonefield Road, The East Free Church joined to form part of the new Church of Scotland in 1929, dropping the terms “free” and was thereafter known as ‘Blantyre East Church of Scotland’ According to the valuation roll of 1930, the congregation of the “Blantyre East Church of Scotland” owned the church and indeed the nearby mission hall.
During the first week of September 1931, egged on by a companion a Blantyre boy smashed several ornate windows of the church but was later caught out and put on probation.
As you would expect from most churches and halls, several community organisations took place in and around the building. Scouts, Brownies, Sunday school, Women’s guild are to name a few.
Around 1945, the “Blantyre East Church of Scotland” was again renamed this time to “Burleigh Memorial Church of Scotland” in honour of the man who had served as the first minister for 33 years.
During the mid 1950’s, the pastor was Rev. J. M Barker. Mrs. Roberts became the church organist, a member of the well known family living across Herbertson Street. The Roberts family were regulars at the church, some of the men being elders in their time.
According to former elders, due to dwindling numbers, the first union and readjustment in the town was in 1965 when the Burleigh Memorial Church was united with Stonefield Parish Church to become ‘Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Parish Church’. It was decided that the Burleigh would be used as the halls of the new congregation and that the larger, Stonefield building to the west would become the church for Sunday worship. The Burleigh Church Hall was well used for family functions, brownies and guides, wedding celebrations, youth fellowship classes as well as other entertaining and educational pursuits like country dancing, music and singing classes.
As with other churches in Blantyre throughout the 1970’s, mysterious fires set their fate most likely caused by widespread vandalism that decade. In 1973, the mission hall at Herbertson Street burned down and was unsalvageable. A year later in January 1974, the Burleigh Church burned down also.
The beautiful ornate mosaics salvaged from Cochrane’s Chapel, Calderglen that had been in the church in 1925 were thankfully salvaged, cleaned up and then gifted to Hamilton Town Hall, where they still are today above the entrance staircase.
I was astounded by the scale of them! The two mosaics have been lovingly restored and are so colourful with the utmost fine craftsmanship visible in the detail. Vibrant colours jump out and they are each well over 2.5m tall by 1.2m wide. It looks like the original wood backing was lifted out with them. Amazed, I took several photos but felt very sad on two counts. 1. Why are the mosaics in Hamilton now and not still somewhere in Blantyre? 2. Why was there no plaque or story beside them.
To any passers by they are just two random mosaics, when in fact they have wonderful history attached to them from another town. The history is lost in Hamilton and I feel irrelevant there. In that location they serve only as nice decorations on the library wall.
Following the fire, the stained glass windows of the church were allegedly saved also and moved to Ayrshire. The ruined buildings were then demolished a few years before other Glasgow Road tenements. The site of the Burleigh Church is now the western part and offices of modern Gavin Watson Printers.
Rev John Burleigh
Rev. John Burleigh was born in Lesmahagow at a scenic area named Abbeygreen. He was the minister in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century of the Burleigh Church. He was the first minister who commenced at the church on 24th September 1889. John married Marion Braid, the daughter of Andrew Braid a grocer, and he lived with his wife and her father at his home at Coatshill Cottage in 1891. In 1892, Marion had passed away and this coincided with the building of the Church. His daughter married a Mr Fyfe, also in the clergy a minister of Bellshill. John lived with his wife and family at Abbeygreen Manse, at 2 and 4 Church Street, the manse house of the Burleigh Church. He was a 50 year old widower in 1901 and never remarried. He died on 28th October 1922.
Wedding of Miss Burleigh
Before we leave the Burleigh Church, there’s a wonderful description of a 1920’s wedding that took place there. None other than Rev Burleigh’s daughters wedding! Sadly, Rev John Burleigh had not lived to see it.
Miss Jean Murdoch Burleigh’s marriage was solemnised in East U.F. Church, Blantyre. On Wednesday, April 14th 1926 Rev. Jas. Stanley Fyfe, Duns East U.F. Church, and Miss Jean Murdoch Burleigh, elder daughter of the late Rev. John Burleigh. Much public interest was taken in the event, and at the hour of the wedding, 11.30am, the congregation almost filled the church while many assembled outside to witness the coming and going of the bridal party and guests.
For the occasion, the church had been decorated with roses, tulips and ferns, and made a charming setting for the bride who wore a gown of cream crepe de chine, with lace overdress, and veil with orange blossoms. She carried a sheaf of lilies, and was given away by her mother. The bridesmaids were Miss Elizabeth Burleigh, sister of the bride; and Miss Margaret Fyfe, sister of the bridegroom. Their dresses respectively were of peach and powder blue crepe de chine, and each wore a string of pearls, a gift from the bridegroom, and carried bouquets of lilies, roses and sweet peas. The best man was Mr John Broadfoot, and ceremony was performed by Rev. W. A. Ross. Ushers were Messrs Wm. Hunter and Shannon.
As the bridal party entered the church, Mr John Danskin, jun, played the Wedding March by Wagner. The congregation sang the 2nd paraphrase, and the hymn ‘The Voice that breathed o’er Eden,’ and at the conclusion the doxology, ‘The Lord bless thee and keep thee,’ was sung. As the wedding party retired from the church the organist played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. After the ceremony, the reception was held at Abbeygreen at the corner of Church Street, Blantyre and later in the day, Rev and new Mrs Fyfe left for their honeymoon, the bride travelling in a wine coloured two piece suit, with hat and scarf.
Ready to move on? Let’s Explore Herbertson Street to Jackson Street.
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