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An A to Z of Rutherglen Then and Now

Researched by Bill MacLennan

The Royal Burgh of Rutherglen has a long heritage of historic episodes and developments.

This series presents photographs and texts which relate current features in Rutherglen, to people, episodes and developments in the recent and not so recent past.

Links, shown like this, provide additional information on external websites. 

© 2018 by Rutherglen Heritage Society. 

What's in a Name?

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Historians and linguists have given much attention to the origins of the name Rutherglen.  A public house on the Main Street has been named ‘An Ruadh-Ghleann’ the Gaelic version of Rutherglen. One meaning of An Ruadh-Ghleann is the mundane ‘Red Town’ but a more exciting translation is the ‘Town of Roderich’. According to Saint Mungo’s biographer, Joycelin, writing in the 13th. century, the man in question was a 6th century King of Strathclyde. It is stated that he was the king who befriended Saint Kentigern and allowed him to establish a Christian settlement on the banks of the Molendinar, the the site of present-day Glasgow. He also made a name for himself by driving off Anglo-Saxons who tried to invade his country.

J. D. Wetherspoon's public house in Main Street bears the town's Gaelic name. 

A to Z

Boundary Stones

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From Medieval times, marker stones were placed round the town boundaries to prevent neighbouring burghs from encroaching its land. These were checked every three years by council officials who perambulated the boundary to identify and replace any missing stones.They usually had a following of many locals who gradually turned the procedure into an entertaining ritual.  ‘Redding the bounds’ was no easy task, since burns and tracts of forested, overgrown and boggy ground had to be crossed. Local landowners often set up refreshments or meals to help the weary travellers on their way.  Many of the stones have disappeared over the years.  Their number has fallen from a peak of around 350 to less than 60 at present.  Some of the surviving ones are of considerable antiquity, The oldest, now known only from photographs, dates back to to 1574.

Left, 1709 boundary stone at Farme Cross.

Boundary stones survive in other Scottish towns, notably Aberdeen and Lanark and many border towns have ‘ridings’ or ‘marches’ round their boundaries.  The ‘redding’ was discontinued in Rutherglen but  members of the Rutherglen Heritage Society continue to explore the boundaries to identify and enumerate the stones and record the details of those which have survived.

Right, boundary stone dated 1727, living rough in Cambuslang Road


Burgh School

Right, the 1876 school building, now the Burgh Business Centre, 75 King Street

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From 1778 to 1805, the school was held in the tolbooth.  It was then moved to a house in Chapel Street at the west end of the burgh.  In 1876 it moved to a substantial building on King Street.  It has three storeys and a cruciform plan in a renaissance style similar to that of many other burgh schools of this period.  This is now the Burgh Business Centre following the school’s move to the current building in Victoria Street.

Left, the present Burgh Primary School building, 19 Victoria Street.

The first record of a burgh school was in 1590.  In the 17th century the school was initially held in the parish church but the town council subsequently provided funds for a building and for the salary of a headmaster.  To supplement his small income, the headmaster also took on the duties of a reader and precentor at the church.  The council controlled the appointment of the headmaster and recruited visitors who produced regular reports on the school.  Copies of these were forwarded to the kirk session. 



Burnside Blairbeth Parish Church

Burnside Blairbeth Parish Church

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The church, designed by Stewart & Paterson, stands on elevated ground at the corner of Church Avenue and Burnside Road.  It has an unusual history in that it was built between 1909 and 1911 as Saint Gilbert’s Church in Pollokshields.  Between 1950 and 1954 it was demolished and its masonry moved to Burnside where it was rebuilt

Designed in the Gothic style, it has red granite stonework and a rectangular plan with gables facing north to south.  The north façade has a large three light window. To the west there is an aisle with a porch to the north and a transept to the south.  On the west side is an octagonal transept with a doorway into a gallery linking the church with its halls.

Burnside Cinema

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As regular visits to the cinema became increasingly popular, companies extended the distribution of cinemas out into the suburbs.  The Rhul cinema was opened in Burnside in 1932.  Like many other suburban cinemas, there was a decline in attendance as television became an alternative source of entertainment. 

Left, Stonelaw Road, Burnside, 1930s, The Rhul cinema is on the left.

At the same time many cinemas in city centres were reconstructed to provide multiple auditoria in the one large building.  The Rhul finally closed it doors in 1960. The site is now occupied by a Tesco supermarket.

Right, Stonelaw Road today. Tesco is on the site of the Rhul cinema.



Rutherglen Castle stood at the junction of King Street and Queen Street north of Main Street.

This was the Royal castle which Alexander II gave to his wife Joan in 1221 as part of her marriage settlement. The English occupied it during the Wars of Independence but Robert the Bruce's brother Edward, recovered it in 1313.  It was damaged when Regent Moray attacked it in 1568 after Mary Queen of Scot’s defeat at the Battle of Langside.  It fell under the control of the Duke of Hamilton, a Royalist but was seized by Cromwell’s troops in 1651 after their invasion of Scotland. The last occupants were the Hamiltons of Eliston who abandoned it in 1710.  It became ruinous a was demolished later in the same century.

Right, Castle Street, near the site of the castle.

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Plaque in Castle Street marking the site of the castle. This plaque, like the castle, has now disappeared!.


William James Chrystal

A plaque in King Street on the wall around the Old Parish Churchyard, right next to Dr. Gorman's statue, relates to William James Chrystal.  He was a chemist, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry and of the Chemical Society, and grandson of John White of Shawfield, co-founder of J. & J. White Chemicals.

He joined that firm as a chemist and was involved in the development of chromate of potassium. He was a member of the Glasgow Philosophical Society and was a keen yachtsman. Acquiring an estate at Auchendennan, he restored the house there.

The plaque, erected by the Corporation of Rutherglen,  refers to a plot of land next to the Old Parish Church.  Chrystal purchased this and then demolished buildings on it to provide access to the newly built Old Parish Church.


William James Chrystal plaque in King Street.

(See also Whites Chemical Co. entry on this page.)

Clydebridge Steel Works


Clydebridge Steelworks from the south, off Bogleshole Road

A decline in business led to closure of the works in 1978 with the dismissal of around 3,500 workers.  Afterwards, the site was acquired by the Liberty Group who specialised in the treating and quenching of steel plates.  This only employed 45 workers and processing took place in the large shed shown in the photograph.

In 1871, Walter and Hugh Neilson established the steelworks but ownership was later transferred to David Caldwell.  The plant stood between Rutherglen and Cambuslang within the south side of a loop in the River Clyde.  It specialised in the production of steel plates.  The plant covered a large area and, in 1887 its equipment included four open hearth furnaces, ingot reheating furnaces, slab shears, slab reheating furnaces, two plate mills, two plate shears, a steam engine and a battery of boilers.  A railway, operated by the Caledonian Railway ran into the unit, delivering coal and pig iron for the manufacture of steel. Once fully operational, the works employed several hundred workers.

During the First Word War the works increased production when it was involved in the manufacture of casings for high explosive shells and the continued production of steel plates for ships. 


Subsequently its plates were used for the construction of liners including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.


Coal Mining

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Location of coal pits around Rutherglen. Map by Bill McLennan.

Coal mining became one of the major industrial activities in and around Rutherglen in the 19th Century.  All of the mines eventually closed, their shafts blocked and the surface workings demolished.  Most of their sites lie under buildings erected during urban expansion.  Details of them are as follows:

  • Farme colliery lies, buried under in an industrial wasteland, 0.6 km south west of Dalmarnock Bridge.

  • Toryglen pit lay 0.8 km south of the Clyde and 0.5 km west of Glasgow Road.

  • Bankhead pit lay 0.3 km north of Croftfoot railway station.

  • Stonelaw pit no. 1 lies 0.6 km under buildings south of Rutherglen railway station.

  • Stonelaw pit no. 3 lies 0.1 km under buildings east of Rutherglen railway station.

  • Eastfield colliery stood at the roundabout at the south east end of Cambuslang Road.

Mine Safety

The following is a list of accidents recorded in coal mines in and around Rutherglen between 1855 and 1870:

6th April 1855, Bankhead Colliery.  A mine explosion injured a man and three youngsters.  This was due to marsh gas being exposed to a naked flame.

27th September 1859, Bankhead Colliery.  Part of a tunnel wall collapsed killing a miner.  Another miner was seriously injured and not expected to live.

28th September 1860, Dixon’s Colliery.  Three men were killed and two injured following an underground explosion.  Although safety lamps were used, they had not prevented gas from reaching their flames.

16th March 1861, Eastfield Colliery.  A number of youngsters indulged in horseplay at the top of a mineshaft.  One fell down the shaft and was killed.

16th May 1861, Stonelaw Colliery.  A young man was killed when part of a coal face collapsed on him.  Later, on the same day another man was seriously injured when a large stone fell from the roof and hit him.

6th February 1862, Stonelaw Colliery.  Another young man was killed when part of a coal face fell on to him.

11th October 1862, Dixon Colliery.  A gas explosion killed a roadman and burnt two miners.  The use of a safety lamp did not prevent the explosion.

13th January 1863, Eastfield Colliery.  Whilst three men got stuck in a cage 12 m from the bottom.  A fire at the below, designed to improve ventilation gave of clouds of smoke. One scrambled safely out of the cage.  The other two, affected by fumes fell from the cage.  One sustained a fractured clavicle but the other broke both legs.

14th April 1869, Stonelaw Colliery.  A miner was killed when a large stone from the roof fell on him.

20th August 1869, Stonelaw Colliery.  Another miner was seriously injured when a stone from the roof hit him.

12th October 1869, Stonelaw Colliery. There was an explosion when a miner went to retrieve a hammer from an abandoned shaft.  When he tried to escape the blast by jumping 4 m down the shaft, he sustained multiple fractures.


Accommodation available to miners at the Farme colliery included flats in Rutherglen tenements.  Close to the mine, were two sets of miner’s rows.  In the first there were 15 units, two with three apartments, two with two rooms and the remainder with one room.  Each unit had a front yard, an outside privy, a single stand pipe and a midden for which a scavenging service was available.  The other row was 90 years old and had 20 units, one with three rooms, two with two rooms and the remainder with one room. Each had an outside privy and a midden.


There is no information on the quality of the accommodation but a report from another colliery in 1842 stated that the accommodation for a miner and his family measured 12 square feet.  The furniture in it consisted of several stools and two beds with worn blankets.  The ground around the building was covered in filth and there was an appalling smell. The four children were dirty and had ragged clothing.

There was a marginally better report from 1918 which stated that, in another colliery a miner and his family lived in a unit amongst dreary rows of houses surrounded by outside privies and a wash-houses.  On returning from work, the miner bathed, without privacy in a tin bath while his wife tried to dry off his soaking clothes.  Despite this and despite a leaking roof his wife, with a heroic effort managed to keep the house clean and tidy.

For more information about miners' housing conditions in Rutherglen, see the Scottish Mining Website.

Dalmarnock Bridge

In the middle ages and early post-medieval periods, a ford across the River Clyde connected Rutherglen with Dalmarnock.  This was replaced by a stone bridge in 1848.  This was reconstructed to give a wider carriageway in 1891.  The latter is flat and supported by iron piers filled with concrete.  Along each side is a wrought iron trelliswork parapet.  In 1965, the bridge was strengthened by installing weather resistant steel beams under the carriageway

Dalmarnock Bridge today

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Domiciliary Care for Older People

One of the major developments in medical and social care over the last half century is that it was established that disability in older people was often the result of reversible medical conditions and adverse social circumstances. One of the responses to this was the development of day hospitals and day centres as an alternative to hospital or residential care. 


One such unit is the Harry Heaney Day Centre at Carrick Road in south west Rutherglen. Open seven days a week, it helps to maintain older people with disabilities in their own homes. Regular attendance provides companionship, company and training in skills to maintain independence.  Run by the South Lanarkshire Department of Social Work, it maintains close liaison with general practice and community nursing services.

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Harry Heaney Day Care Centre, Carrick Road.

Nairn Cowan, Rutherglen’s Medical Officer of Health was a leading figure in defining medical problems in older patients. During the 1960s, he developed a clinic for the medical assessment of men and women over the age of 55. 

Collaborating with Sir William Feguson Anderson, the first Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Glasgow University, he published many studies defining the disorders associated with reduced function and disability in older people. Such was the reputation of the centre that it was visited by many experts from all over the world.

Farme Cross Terraced Housing

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Both sides of the terrace at Farme Cross

The rapid development of heavy industries in Scotland’s Central Belt produced a shortage of houses for workers and their families.  One of several responses to this was the formation of the Glasgow Working Men’s Investment and Building Society.  It was a workers’ co-operative designed to provide individuals in the coal and iron industries with affordable housing. In the 1870s the organisation commissioned the construction of several single or two-storey terraces of houses near Farme Cross.  The entrance to the ground floor flats of the two-storey houses was at one side of the building while, on the other side an external stair led to a door on the floor above.

Farme Estate

The history of the Farme estate is particularly complicated, involving many families at the centre of Scottish events.  It was one of Robert the Bruce’s royal demesnes but he granted it to Walter, High Steward of Scotland whose descendants reigned as the Stuart Kings of Scotland.  During the reign of David II its ownership was transferred to the Douglasses, one of the most powerful families in the 14th and 15th century.  As the power of the Douglasses waned, the Crawfords took over ownership.  It was they who built the castle in the late 15th century. 

In 1611, Martin Stewart succeeded to the estate when he married the Crawford heiress.  Subsequently, chaos descended on the estate during a conflict between a successor, Sir Walter Stewart and his son, Ludovic.  Order was only restored in 1678 when St William Fleming succeeded as owner.  Subsequently, the Earl of Sutherland, a son of the Duke of Hamilton gained ownership and it passed from him to a later Duke of Hamilton, the most senior peer in Scotland.

He, in due course divided it into three farms, one of which was the farm of Farme. The Farie family, long associated with Rutherglen acquired this and it was they who established a colliery there in 1805.  A successor James Farie effected extensive changes to the castle in the late 1874.


Farme Castle

Farme Castle at this time consisted of a central keep with several recently constructed extensions all within a courtyard surrounded by a high wall.  In the 20th century its status was reduced to that of a store for mining equipment and it was finally demolished in 1960, a sad loss of one of the few surviving medieval buildings in the area.

Farme Castle drawing by Bill MacLennan

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Fire Brigade

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This is a photograph of an N-type Dennis Merryweather Fire Appliance, dated to 1914 on display at the Riverside Museum. Glasgow This was far more sophisticated than equipment available to the Rutherglen Fire Brigade from the same period.

Rutherglen Town Council, concerned about fires in the increasing congested factories and houses in the burgh established a Fire Brigade Committee in 1892.  It proceeded to appoint a superintendent.  His remit was to recruit suitable personnel and train them in the use of equipment available to the brigade. 


In the event of a fire a police constable would contact the police headquarters at the town hall.  This would then send a messenger out to contact appropriate members of the brigade.  If necessary, the men would then hire a horse from a local stable, roll out an appliance, hitch it to a horse and then proceed to the fire.  This all took a long time and it is likely that the fire wound have died out or caused irreparable damage to a building by the time the brigade. 


In the late 19th century, the brigade consisted of only three fireman who dragged an appliance in a hand cart with them.  By 1913 the staff had been increased to five firemen, six tradesmen and a mechanic who cared for a Dennis Motor Pump.

There subsequently was here was a massive improvement in the training, staffing and equipment available to the Rutherglen service. 


In 1970 this was moved to a station in Cambuslang, and in 2011, under the aegis of Strathclyde Fire and Emergency it moved to a state-of-the-art fire station in the same town.  A year later this became part of the Fire and Rescue Service of Scotland.

Gallowflat Mound

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Gallowflat mound from Richmond Court, off Rutherglen Main Street

Further afield, south east of Cambuslang there were the traces of the horseshoe shaped inner and outer ramparts of a hill fort measuring 80 m by 65 m.  Inside are traces of a wall surrounding an enclosure which is 40 m in diameter.

In and around Rutherglen there were pre-historic monuments dating to the Bronze and Iron Ages.  The only prehistoric monument in Rutherglen itself is a large mound in Gallowflat.  This is a large low-set mound up to 1.6 m in height and is surrounded by a circular ditch.  Archaeologists found a Roman patera, three oval beads, and part of a stone used for grinding corn.  The unusual mixture of Iron Age and Roman artefacts suggests that, in the late Iron Age farmers from that time either traded with or received gifts from the Romans.

Hugh MacDonald (see separate item on this page) writing in the 1850s in ‘Rambles Round Glasgow’ stated that there were several burial mounds on Cathkin Braes most of which have been destroyed by cultivation or stone robbing.  One, built of stones was 80 m long and contained a burial chamber.  There also was a stone cairn which was about 6 m high, 40 m in diameter and contained a stone coffin and a cremation urn.  This lay on Queen Mary’s Seat, one of the many vantage points which Mary Queen of Scots supposedly viewed the Battle of Langside.


Glencairn Football Club

Non-league (junior ) football has been an important part of the sporting heritage of many towns in Scotland.  In 1886, when Scottish Junior League Football was established there were 39 teams in it.  There was a rapid growth in its popularity and, by the 1922 to 1923 season the number had expanded to 412.  Rutherglen Glencairn Football Club was established in 1896 with its stadium at Southgate to the west of Glasgow road, Shawfield. 

Early successes included winning the Glasgow Junior League in 1897 to 1898 and the Glasgow League Cup.  More recently the team won the Championship of the Central League District in the 2008 to 2009 and that of the Super League Division One in 2009 to 2010. 


When the stadium was demolished to make way for the M74 extension, the club moved to the Celcius Stadium north of Toryglen Road.  This has a covered stand and stepped terrace on either side with a capacity of around 1,000 leaving its clubhouse near the site of the old stadium next to Glasgow Road. 

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Rutherglen Glencairn's Celcius Stadium with the high flats at Prospecthill Crescent in the background.

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Glencairn Social Club, 151 Glasgow Road.

Dr. James Gorman

The statue at the corner of Main Street and Queen Street of a man sitting in a chair with a pile of books at this side, is that of Dr. James Gorman. Born in Rutherglen in 1832, he qualified in medicine and joined his father’s practice in the town. He soon established a reputation for clinical excellence. Indeed, a Glasgow Professor of Surgery stated that if he fell ill, Dr. Gorman would be the man he would go to.

In addition to treating private patients, he took on the role of parish doctor whose duty it was to provide free treatment for patients on the Poor Roll. It was known that even if a patient was not on the roll but of limited means, Dr. Gorman would charge a reduced fee, or even no fee at all. He also assumed the role of factory inspector and was often first on the scene of an industrial or mining accident.

Such was the town’s high regard for him, that after his death in 1899, the citizens collected funds for a memorial, and commissioned the sculptor John (Johan) Keller, Professor at the Glasgow School of Art,  to produce the statue we see today.

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Above, Dr. Gorman's statue, corner of Main Street and Queen Street.


Above, Dr. Gorman's house today, corner of Main Street and Victoria Place, over what is now Marini's chip shop. Thanks to Zen Boyd of Rutherglen Heritage Centre for her help in identifying this location.

Dr. Gorman lived in a house at the corner of Main Street and Victoria Place, above what is now Marini’s chip shop. He inherited the property which comprised a surgery and domestic accommodation,


Although he did not marry, his was still a large household. In 1881, it consisted of: himself; his brother William, an unemployed accountant; his brother Charles, manager of a pharmacy; his cousin Mary Gribbin, who was the housekeeper; William Fisk, a dispenser in the surgery; and servants Margaret Pollock and Janet Stuart. Dr. Gorman is buried in Rutherglen Old Parish Churchyard.


Horse Fairs

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The charter establishing Rutherglen as a Royal Burgh in 1126 gave it the right to hold Fairs. This in due course evolved into a Cattle and Horse Fair. This was held on the Main Street which was made particularly wide to cope with this. The development of the internal combustion engine resulted in a rapid decline in the trade and the Fair was discontinued after 1901.

A report of the Fair at Rutherglen in 1882 stated that there was a slow start in the sale of cattle but that this picked up later in the day.  There was a satisfactory trade in draught horse but little interest in lighter mounts.  A report from another Fair reported that one of the horse's owners became so inebriated that he was unable to identify his horse;

Left, Rutherglen Main Street today

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Right, Victorian horse fair, Main Street

Stan Laurel

During the early years of the twentieth century Arthur Stanley Jefferson, better known as Stan Laurel moved with his parents up from Ulverston in Cumbria to Rutherglen, when his father was appointed manager of the Metropole Theatre in Glasgow. While living at Buchanan Drive, Stan attended Rutherglen Academy. His first appearance on stage was at the age of sixteen, at the Panopticon in Glasgow, in 1906.

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Right, Stan Laurel c. 1920. (Public domain photo)

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Left, the house in Buchanan Drive, Rutherglen, where Stan Laurel lived between 1905-1907

Google Maps image

Hugh MacDonald

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Hugh MacDonald monument, Glasgow Green.

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In Glasgow Green south of the People’s Palace, there is a memorial to Hugh MacDonald (1817 -1862). He was the author of Rambles Round Glasgow which detailed features of ecological and historical interest to be found in walks around Glasgow and the surrounding area.  Born in Bridgeton his he initially found employment in the calico-print works of the Monteith Brothers in Bridgeton.  However, it soon became clear that he was a talented writer and this led to his appointment as deputy editor of the Glasgow Citizen.

Items of particular interest in the section of his book relating to Rutherglen and Cathkin are as follows:

  • In 1593 the local Presbytery of the Church of Scotland sanctioned the behaviour of the parishioners of Rutherglen when they broke the sabbath by playing bagpipes, paying bills and fishing for salmon.

  • In 1604, the local landlord, Sir Claud Hamilton interrupted the service of the minister and shouted abuse at him.  One of Sir Claud’s followers escalated the situation by holding a cutlass against the minister’s throat.

  • In the late 17th century the parish minister was driven from the manse for refusing to adopt an episcopal liturgy.  He was imprisoned on the Bass Rock but was eventually released and restored to his parish.

  • On the eve of a fair on Saint Luke’s day, it was the custom for women to make sour cakes. Sitting in a semi-circle they processed sour cakes. One of them then baked the cakes.  They were then offered to their neighbours.

  • There was the tale that there was a tunnel which ran from Rutherglen to Glasgow Cathedral.  Supposedly, a piper went into the tunnel with his dog.  He was never seen again but witnesses in Dalmarnock often heard his pipes.

  • One night, a minister  came across parishioners in the churchyard as they paid homage to a man in dark clothes.  On seeing him, they raced after him.  Though petrified with fear he escaped them but returned to his manse, a broken man.

(Rambles Round Glasgow can be viewed in our Book Library section)

Right, photograph of Hugh MacDonald taken from Rambles Round Glasgow

Main Street 1869


The Stirrup Cup,  183 Main Street.

150 years ago, Rutherglen Main Street would have been very different from the one of today.  The new town hall had only recently been completed and the church on the north side would have been the one completed in 1792.  There would have been no tenement blocks and any shops would have had a modest frontage compared with the large and colourful ones that we see today. 


The few two storey buildings still visible on the north side, like the Stirrup Cup public house and Padano restaurant, would have lined the whole length of the street in earlier times. 

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Padano Restaurant, 209 Main Street

In the back land north of Main Street there would have been many small buildings, such as the one pictured right. Most were related to stables or offices associated with the Horse Fairs.  On the broad Main Street there would have been horse drawn vehicles such an omnibus, a private carriage or a wagon.

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The Mercat Cross

In the Middle Ages, the mercat cross marked the place in towns where markets were held. It also was the place where the town crier made public announcements and where civic ceremonies were held.  There has been a market cross in Rutherglen since the 12th century but a later one was demolished in the 18th century.  In 1926, the town celebrated the 800th anniversary of its foundation by installing a replica.

In 1679, the Rev Thomas made the Rutherglen Proclamation at the cross and affixed a copy to it.  This stated that that, contrary to the command of King Charles II, the Covenanters intended to adhere to their Presbyterian faith and worship in a liturgy appropriate to this.  A band of Covenanters subsequently defended themselves against government troops at Drumclog but a larger force was subsequently defeated by a government army led by the Duke of Monmouth at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge.

Right, the Mercat Cross, Main Street

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Old Parish Church

All that remains of what was the second church on this ancient site of worship is the tower and steeple.  There is a tradition that on the site of the church, Saint Conval, a disciple of Saint Kentigern established a Christian settlement in the 6th century.  The first medieval church, the Church of the Virgin Mary was built here in the 12th century.  It consisted of a nave measuring 19 m by 7.5 m with a choir to the east measuring 10 m long was added.  As the drawing (below) illustrates, five columns ran down each side creating a nave and two aisles.  To the east of this, a tower was added in the 15th century with an upper level added a century later.  The medieval church was demolished in 1791 but the tower was preserved.  A new building was constructed against the tower.  This in turn was demolished an the most recent church built in 1902 some distance to the west of the tower.

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Medieval church before the addition of St. Mary's  tower (right). Drawing by Bill. MacLennan. 


Old Parish Churchyard

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In 1663, an arch was erected over the front entrance to the church-yard on Rutherglen Main Street.  This consisted of a moulded lintel supported jambs on either side decorated with segmental patters on either side.  Inside and on either side of the arch is a chamber used to collect offerings from the congregation. 

Several historic events happened in the yard. William Wallace negotiated a truce with the English in 1297 and it was here, in 1305 that the Scottish noble, Sir John Menteith betrayed him to the English.  The church itself was host to the Scottish Parliament in 1300.

Entrance to the churchyard from Main Street (Kirk port)


Many of the gravestones and memorials in the Old Parish Churchyard relate to families and individuals who played an important part in Rutherglen’s heritage. 


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An example is a stone against the north wall of the church tower on which the names of the Farie family are inscribed.  These are as follows:

James Farie, 1712 to 1805, his wife Catherine nee Scot, died 1783 and their children David, Margaret, Janet and Catherine; James Farie, 1776 to 1839, his wife Margaret and their children James and George; James Farie, Coal Master and Landed Proprietor, 1800 to 1876 and his wife Janet nee Scot, 1804 to 1879 and their children Isabella, Jane, George, Claude, and Thomas; and James Farie and his children Agnes, Margaret, George and James.

The Faries originated as an Anglo-Norman family found in Lanarkshire from the 11th century onwards.  James Farie was provost of Rutherglen in 1739, 1741 while James Farie, his son James and his grandson James were coal masters and proprietors of the Farme estate.

Farie gravestone


This gravestone has multiple names of the Pinkerton family incised on it.  These are the following – James Pinkerton, 1756 to 1822; Mary Pinkerton nee Morrison, 1749 to 1817; James Pinkerton, 1786 t0o 1854; James Pinkerton, 1805 to 1839;

And Ann Pinkerton nee Hamilton, 1811 to 1868; Pinkerton, 1814 to 1893; and Robert Pinkerton, 1814 to 1845 along with six other members without dates.


Pinkertons who were Provosts of Rutherglen in the 17th century were Andrew Pinkerton, 1617 and 1620; John Pinkerton, 1621, 1622, 1623, 1624, 1627, 1628, 1629, 1630, 1631, 1632, 1633, 1634, 1637 and 1639; and Andrew Pinkerton, 1650, 1659 and 1660.

They do not appear to have been related to Allan Pinkerton, born in the Gorbals in the 19th century and founder of the American detective agency.


Pinkerton gravestone

Daniel Rodger

Above, flats at the corner of Greenbank Street and High Street, on what was the site of Rutherglen Evangelistic Institute, also known as Rodger's Institute

Rodger made a living as a partner in Smith & Rodgers, a company specialising in wood-finishing.  He was popular with his staff by ensuring that, when the company prospered this was recognised by the award of generous bonuses.  An endearing habit was that he made a noise before entering a room so that he could see all within working by the time he entered.

His contribution to Rutherglen was recognised by him being appointed an honorary burgess and Guild Brother of the burgh in 1926.

Daniel Rodger was a prominent member of the evangelical movement in Rutherglen during the late 19th century. Born in Greenock, he moved with his parents to Rutherglen eight years later.  In his youth, he attended a Sabbath school in Mill Street, went to evangelical meetings on Sunday evenings and attended a bible class in the Mission Hall.


By 1885, he had become a leader of the Evangelical Movement, and with the support of Lord Overtoun, established the Rutherglen Evangelistic Institute. At an inaugural meeting, Daniel Rodger conducted a Sunday service to a packed congregation.  After this, open air evangelical meetings attracted large crowds.  It founded a Gospel Temperance Society, a Boys Brigade and a Penny Bank to encourage financial planning.  In 1885, Daniel Rodger married Jean Young, a woman who also made a major contribution to the movement.

During World War I, the Institute organised support for the troops by corresponding with individuals and sending them parcels.  By the end of the war, this amount to 24,000 letters and 20,000 parcels.


Although the main Institute building was demolished, this related building in High Street (right) with 'Evangelistic Institute 1901' inscribed on the front, survives.

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Below, Rutherglen Evangelistic Insitute

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Rutherglen Academy

The academy opened in 1886 under the name of Stonelaw Public School.  It then received a number of name variants including the word ‘Stonelaw’ until 1926 when it was renamed Rutherglen Academy.  The change may have been related to the date being the 800th anniversary of Rutherglen becoming a Royal Burgh.  It went on to have an illustrious career until its closure in 1970 and the foundation of Stonelaw High School on a new site at Calderwood Road. Rutherglen Heritage in Rutherglen Library has a several issues of the School Magazine from the 1960 and of events associated with the school from this period.

The Academy was designed by J. J. Craig, Master of Works and Rutherglen Burgh Surveyor.  It was a square stone building with two storeys and capacity for 568 pupils.  Extensions subsequently added increased its capacity to 900.







Many of the school’s talented and hard working pupils made great contributions to society in their subsequent careers.  They included Janet Brown, an impressionist; Andy Cameron, a comedian; James Davidson, Managing Director of the Clyde Port Authority; Mamie Morrison, a prominent journalist; Jim McColl, entrepreneur; Sir Ian MacGarry, a physician who made a major contribution to the treatment of malaria; Edwin Morgan, a National Poet for Scotland; Alexander Pollok, MP; John Rae, chief executive of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Sir Alan Thomson, founder of British Caledonian Airways; musician, Midge Ure and, of course, Stan Laurel (see above).


Two personal acquaintances are Neil Hopper, a talented footballer who played for Queen’s Park, and Alec Muir who was both a pupil and teacher at the academy before his ordination as a Church of Scotland minister.  Called to churches in the Western Isles and far North of Scotland, he combined a strong Presbyterian faith with a lightness of touch.  This was exemplified by a visit to the Castle of Mey when, at the request of the Queen Mother, he thrilled her when, accompanied with his guitar with a rendition of the ‘Jeely Piece’ song.

Associated article: Rutherglen Academy Ballads Club

In 2001, South Lanarkshire Council sold the building to David Lang, a property developer and former pupil who converted it into 36 high quality flats with 60 houses in the surrounding ground.

Among the more widely known teachers at Rutherglen Academy were Norman Buchan, MP for Paisley South; Alistair MacLean, the well known novelist and Adam McNaughtan, a talented folk singer, famed for the ‘Jeely Piece Song’.

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Left, Rutherglen Academy building, corner of Melrose Avenue and Stonelaw Road, now private flats.

Rutherglen Bridge

The Clyde at Shawfield was originally crossed by a ford, but in 1776, James Watt, as a civil engineer supervised the construction of a stone bridge with three arches.  This was replaced by another with three arches in 1883.  This has a 18 m wide carriageway with pavements for pedestrians on either side.

Right, the 1883 Rutherglen Bridge

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Rutherglen Bridge  built 1775 Abram Burn

Left, drawing of the 1776 'James Watt' bridge by Abram Burn from Reminiscences of Rutherglen and Suburbs by Hugh Muir, 1890. 

Sanitary Inspectors

Current provision for hygiene in Rutherglen is far ahead of that 150 years ago when many houses had an outside water closet and few facilities for washing or bathing.

The Public Health (Scotland) Act of 1867 gave local authorities the power to appoint sanitary inspectors.  These had the remit of identifying and dealing with sources leading to the contamination of food and water supplies.  The rapid increase in the size of towns during the Industrial Revolution had led to a high incidence of potentially fatal epidemic diseases.  Sanitary inspectors had a high level of training.  Currently they attend a course lasting two years before sitting an examination set by the Royal Sanitary Institute.


Details of their duties included identifying and reporting cases of epidemic disease, organising the fumigation of houses occupied by victims, and to assess the sanitary status of domestic accommodation, poor houses, shops, dairies and slaughter houses.  They also had to liaise with the local cleansing department to ensure that streets were swept clean and that rubbish was removed from closes and back courts.  In Glasgow, particular attention was given to identifying overcrowding in domestic accommodation and ensuring that the number of residents did not exceed the maximum permitted.


Minutes of the Rutherglen Town Council indicate that particular issues involving the sanitary inspector included the following:

  • Identifying leakage of sewage from pipes and ensuring that the owner of the property dealt with this.

  • Ensuring that owners of property had installed the number of water closet proscribed by law and reporting failure to comply with this to the sheriff court.

  • Identifying individuals who had acquired an epidemic disease and fumigating their accommodation.

  • Evaluating standards of hygiene in shops, dairies and cattle sheds.


Most sanitary inspectors were under considerable pressure in meeting their commitments.  One of the officers broke down and was dismissed for assaulting the Town Clerk while drunk. Though inexcusable, the episode may have been precipitated by the fact the he was also expected to perform the duties of supervising the council laundry service, and functioning as a council officer and master of works.


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He moved into the field of shipbuilding and established a yard at the outlet of the River Kelvin but in 1856, transferred his business to the south bank of the Clyde at Rutherglen. The yard was at a bend of the river which maximised the width available for launching vessels.  Even though his vessels had a low draft he had to wait for maximum levels in the river when his employees spent several days on its banks dragging ships down to tidal water.

Thomas Bollen Seath ran a ship building business at Rutherglen.  Born in Prestonpans, he started work as a steward on a Clyde steamer in 1842. Over the next ten years, he gained sufficient experience and accumulated enough funds to own and navigate his own paddle steamer.



Early on, his yard was associated with the construction of the Cluthas, ten small passenger steamers used to transport workmen from ports up and down the upper reaches of the Clyde and in Glasgow. These went out of service as the development of the tramway service and construction of the subway provide alternatives to journeys around Glasgow.

The company also specialised in paddle steamers used for trips around the Clyde estuary, Loch Broom, Loch Maree, and Ullswater in the Lake District.  It also manufactured a number of small cargo steamers.  Such was his reputation that he built steam yachts for both the King of Burma and the King of Siam.  He also built the Oaks, a steam yacht for himself in 1861.  This had a schooner sailing rig and was 43 m long with a beam of4.5 m.

During his career, Seath built over 300 vessels.  The Rutherglen yard, finally owned by Rennie, Richie & Newport, closed in 1923 when the construction of a tidal weir at Glasgow Green impeded the navigation of larger vessels above this point.

Associated articles:

Seath's Shipyard

Seath's Pocket Watch

Left, location of Rutherglen shipyard on the south bank of the clyde near Seath Road.

St. Collumbkille's RC Church

St. Collumbkille's Church, Main Street

St. Columbkille's Catholic Church is on the south side of Rutherglen Main Street. The present building was designed by the architects Gillespie, Kidd & Coia and was consecrated in 1940. 

There is a high façade with three doorways across it. Above these is a row of five long windows followed by five statues depicting Christ in the centre with two statues of apostles on either side.  There is long nave with an aisle beyond an arcade on each side.

The history of the Catholic parish in Rutherglen is that in the early 19th century there was an influx of Catholics from the Highlands and from Ireland.  John Shaw was the priest who initiated and developed the parish.  Born in Banfshire he trained in Blairs College in Scotland proceeding to seminaries in France where he was ordained as a priest in 1845.  He then returned to Scotland where he worked in the Mission in Glasgow and the moved to St. Mary’s Church in Calton.  Many communicants from Rutherglen walked to attend services at  Calton while Fr. Shaw visited needy members in Rutherglen. He then set up a parish in Rutherglen where the congregation purchase a plot of land next to the Main Street.  Initially he held services in a stable, later moving into a hall. 



During this time the construction of a church building was instigated, and completed in 1853. This measured 25m by 11m providing space for a congregation of 600. It had a belfry with a cross on top of it and a statue of St. Columbkille in front of it. Fr. Shaw’s other achievement was to establish a school and recruit a schoolmaster.  He died, as Canon Shaw, widely respected by his parishioners, in 1885.

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Stonelaw Tower

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Right, section of perimiter wall at the site of Stonelaw Tower, off Stonelaw Road

All that remains of this building in Burnside are sections of the wall which surrounded it. The tower was erected in 1835 and was initially occupied by General John Spens, a local landowner.  It consisted of a square central tower surrounded by single storey mansion attached to a round stair tower.  The square tower had single rooms at each level and at one time contained a wide range of antiques which included suits of armour.

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In the early 20th century, a local Masonic Lodge purchased it but did not actually occupy it.  Between the 1930s and 1963 it was occupied by Alan Tilson, a strong proponent of Scottish Nationalism.


Purchased by the Shell Petroleum Company, it was demolished in 1965 and replaced by a service station on Stonelaw Road.

Left, Stonelaw Tower

The Temperance Movement in Rutherglen

In 1876, the Glasgow United Evangelical Association opened its doors to bring the message of Christianity and provide practical guidance and support those who were disadvantaged or afflicted by the effects of heavy drinking.

In the 19th century the huge influx of people from rural areas in Scotland and Ireland to industries in South West Scotland was associated with overcrowding, high levels of infectious disease, social disruption and adverse working conditions.  Many, in their misery and despair resorted to alcohol as an unsatisfactory panacea. 


Many individuals, in more comfortable circumstances responded to this by setting up temperance organisations.  One of the early activists was John Dunlop, a landowner, an advocate of moderate drinking and controlling the production of alcohol set up a temperance movement in 1826.  Many, in subsequent groups advocated the more stringent approaches of total abstinence and a ban on the production and sale of alcohol. 

Material from early editions of the Rutherglen take us into the world of temperance activists.  Some views were remarkably innovative while some were patronising and bigoted.

1877 – A letter expressed that there had not been progress with a project setting up a temperance public house.  Little had been heard from the organising committee.

1877 – Two advocates of temperance had made little progress in introducing measures to control the supply of alcohol by the drinks trade.  It might be better to introduce measures to reduce a craving for alcohol. Drunkards should be treated as patients rather than deviants.  Few opportunities for recreation enhanced the risk of heavy drinking.

1877 – A correspondent opposed the encouragement of moderate consumption of alcohol.  He quoted the Old Testament which stated that the when the Lord looked upon red wine, he recognised that it would soon lead to anger.  In the New Testament, Christ had said, ‘Fear not those who kill the body but those who kill the soul.’ 

1896 – At a meeting of the Loyal Order of Abstainers there was an excellent repast.  The chairman announced that a further 50 members had joined over the last year.  The talk was followed by songs and a monologue.  A visitor from another lodge praised the rapid progress the lodge had made. 

1899 – The Dawn of Freedom Lodge held a temperance demonstration. The MP for Govan stated his long interest in temperance and hoped that the new lodge would break the fetters of strong drink.  He then gave examples of total abstainers who had prospered and heavy drinkers who had ended in the workhouse.

1901 – The Band of Hope met in the town hall to celebrate the reign of Queen Victoria.  There was a flourish of trumpets and drums followed by a solo, a choral piece and a recitation.  A cinematograph covered aspects of the Queen’s reign.  The celebration concluded with children displaying a pageant praising the glories of the British Empire.

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"My wife's grandfather was a lay preacher at the Tent Hall.  On one occasion an aggressive drunk attacked him.  Laying him low with an uppercut, the saintly man stood over the prostrate body with his arms in the air proclaiming, 'The Devil is Conquered'! "

Bill MacLennan

The former Tent Hall in Turnbull Street, Glasgow (part of the Calton Heritage Trail.)

Tenement Housing in Rutherglen

Rutherglen's problems with housing were similar to those of Glasgow where industrialisation attracted vast numbers of workers and their families to areas with insufficient housing to meet their needs.  Most families occupied flats with only one or, at best two rooms.  More than one family often shared a flat and tenants often accepted lodgers to cover costs.  Much of the accommodation was dilapidated, with inadequate sanitation and access to water.

Glasgow responded by demolishing houses in slums and attempting to rehouse those at danger of being displaced.  The City Improvement trust was set up to provide good quality housing with affordable rents.  This resulted in the construction of well designed and constructed tenement blocks.  These were commonly occupied by tradesmen and their families but unskilled workers were often unable to pay economic rents for these.

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Tenement block in Farmeloan Road

Tenements provided the bulk of housing for families in the late 19th and early 20th century.  They had large rooms with high ceilings but the bulk of families lived in flats with only one or two rooms.  They usually had a kitchen sink but the lavatory was outside on stair landings shared by neighbours and few flats had a fixed bath.

There was a hierarchy of tenement flats ranging from one or two rooms for most tenants up to flats with six bedrooms for the wealthy.  Another mark of status was the tiled, ‘wally’ close.

The Town Hall

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Left, Town Hall from the West. Right, detail of the oriel window.

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From the 16th century, the Tolbooth was the centre of administration in Rutherglen.  The town council met there, Justices of the Peace held courts there and a small prison was attached to it.  The Tolbooth was rebuilt in 1766 and, in 1862 it was replaced by the current town hall, designed by Glasgow architect Charles Wilson.

It has a Scottish baronial style and has a gable facing the Main Street.  This has a large oriel window illuminating the main hall. To the east is a square tower decorated with turrets.  Inside, a spiral stair runs up to a cap house at the top which is decorated by turrets.  Beyond this is a range with a Jacobean design and windows with decorative mouldings.

The Town Hall was converted into offices in 1967, and then closed to the public in the 1980s after which, the Grade-A listed building fell in to disrepair. In 2001 funds were obtained to embark on a programme of reconstruction completed in 2005.  Since then the building has been used as a centre for the celebration of weddings, community council meetings, cultural workshops, dances and theatrical productions.

The Vogue Cinema

The cinema played a central part in the social lives of many Ruglonians and was an undoubted catalyst to many budding romances.  My own personal reminiscence is for the Odeon Club where, for a sixpence we were entertained by songs and a cornucopia of short films.  The highlight of the morning was the club anthem which began:


‘We come along on Saturday morning

 greeting everybody with a smile’


as a black ball bounced along the words projected on the screen.  The morning ended with us galloping home as Hopalong Cassidys on imaginary horses.


Above, the Vogue cinema, now the Mecca Bingo hall, 58 Main Street. The last surviving of six cinema buildings in Rutherglen 

Left, Art Deco detail on the front of the building. The architect was James McKissock.

In 1936, the George Singleton Circuit commissioned the construction of the Vogue Cinema at the west end of Rutherglen Main Street.  It had an exciting façade of white and cream tiles which diminished in width by large steps as it rose upwards.  There was a wide entrance leading to a foyer lined with Corinthian columns.  Steps at the back of this led up to the auditorium with stalls and a capacious balcony.  This also was lined with columns and had concealed lighting.  In 1937, the Deutsch Odeon Company acquired the cinema, changing its name to the Odeon in 1946.  The Rank Organisation took over and it finally closed as a cinema when increase access to television reduced its audiences.



Water Supply

Clyde tidal weir, East of Crown Street bridge.

through a pipeline from Loch Katrine.  The Council accepted his plan and initiated a massive civil engineering project in which Loch Katrine was linked to Glasgow by 26 miles if aqueduct, 13 miles of tunnels and 4 miles of lead piping.  Water moved along the system by gravity because the height of water at Loch Katrine was higher than that at Glasgow. Queen Victoria inaugurated the completed project in 1859.


The provost of Rutherglen, anxious that a proportion of the supply should be diverted to his burgh, approached the Lord Provost of Glasgow who initially rejected the proposal.  In 1875, Rutherglen and Glasgow finally reached an agreement and piping was laid down to initiate the diversion.

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Water from Loch Katrine to Rutherglen flows from pipes running across a gantry over the tidal weir on the Clyde from where a proportion of the water to south Glasgow is diverted to Rutherglen.

In the early 19th century Glasgow obtained water from surrounding streams and wells. The drains in the city were inadequate for its needs so that most sources of water were contaminated with sewage.  This resulted in a high death rate from water born infections such as cholera and typhoid. Rutherglen faced similar problems.

Glasgow Council commissioned John Bateman, a highly regarded water engineer to produce proposals for improving the supply of water to the city.  His suggestion was that water should be collected


In the late 19th century weaving was a leading trade in South West Scotland.  Most

weavers were self-employed. They worked at home with a loom set up at ground level

with domestic accommodation on the first floor.


There were about 250 weavers in Rutherglen at the end of the 18th century. Most were

prosperous, producing muslin rather than standard cotton fabric. All that changed with the

invention of machinery to speed up and simplify spinning and the use of water to power

linen and cotton mills. 

The increased cost of fabric drove independent weavers out of business, with less skilled

posts in mills going to women and children.  There was a great deal of unrest amongst weavers and their families. 

At Calton in 1787, there was a riot in which troops firing on the crowd killed six of them.  

There were many further demonstrations in which the ringleaders were either arrested

and  transported abroad or executed.

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Weaver's cottages, Carmunnock.

Western Heritable Investment Company

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MacTaggart & Mickel maisonettes in Curtis Avenue.

He negotiated the construction of tenements in Hyndland, Broomhill, Alexandra Parade and Shawlands and, in 1919 collaborated with Glasgow Corporation by increasing its stock of housing by around 1100 dwellings over the next few years.

In 1919, his son along with architect Andrew Mickel was given control of the construction component of the company.  In 1930, they negotiated a contract with Glasgow Corporation to build large estates of rented accommodation in Kings Park, Glasgow and Bankhead, Rutherglen.  Most of these consisted of blocks with two downstairs and two upstairs maisonettes.  Each had a bathroom with a w.c,, two bedrooms, a dining room, a sitting room and a small kitchen.  Such amenities were far in advance of those of the one or two room tenement flats occupied by most tenants in Glasgow.  Almost 90 years later, now in private ownership, these properties remain in sound condition.

My personal connection with the company was working for several years as a builder’s labourer during university vacations. Any pretensions to a life of harsh independence were compromised, somewhat by the fact that my mother, a book keeper in the office was there to keep an eye on me.


Bill MacLennan

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Sir John Mactaggart established the firm in 1896 but in 1925 the section on building construction was separated from it as Mactaggart & Mickel. The company continued with the remit of maintaining the company’s rented accommodation throughout Glasgow.  There was increased activity in the 1950s and 1960s when the company embarked on a major program of repairing and updating its property.

MacTaggart had a major impact on increasing the availability of affordable housing in South West Scotland.  Born in 1867, he started work as a clerk with a timber merchant. His employer soon recognised his accountancy skills and, by the age of 22 years he had become the chief account.  He went on to establish his own company in property management by the time he was 31, concentrating on the development of affordable housing for people on limited incomes

Whites Chemical Co. / Clydeford Chemical Works

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Site of Whites Chemical Works today

The enterprise was extremely successful as their products found a market as ingredients in paint and dyes and as coating for metals. At its peak the factory covered 17 hectares and employed 550 workers.


A down side was the adverse working conditions within the factory.  It became clear that the chemicals were extremely toxic, causing dermatitis and skin ulcers and cancers amongst the workers.  When the company ceased production in 1967 it left vast swathes of land heavily contaminated with chrome waste.

Right, part of Whites Chemical Works pictured in June 1955. The work's Planet steam engine is shown in the middle distance.

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John White established the Clydeford Chemical Works at Shawfield in 1810. His son, John II, joined the firm in 1832 followed by his second son, James.


John II's son James II (James White of Overtoun) was  followed in turn as head of the firm by his son John Campbell White, later Lord Overtoun, In 1851. Lord Overtoun donated the public park to the people of Rutherglen, which bears his name to this day. He died in 1908, leaving the equivalent in today's money of almost £71 million.

The company, known also as the Shawfield Chemical Works and Whites Chemical Company, initially concentrated on the manufacture of soap and soda but later specialised in the production of chrome and related products.

Text and original photographs by Bill MacLennan. Photograph captions and additional photographs by Carrick McDonald.

Background map by Timothy Pont c. 1583-96, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

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