Rutherglen Heritage Society
Above, Heritage Society members Des Garrity and David Jackson at Landemer Day 2013, flanked by John Esslemont (l) and Bob Kennedy (r)
Image credit: Gill Owen
2022 sees the 10th. anniversary of the foundation of Rutherglen Heritage Society.
The origins of the society go back to the Story of Rutherglen exhibition which ran in Rutherglen Town Hall from 2005 to 2009. Members of what was to become Rutherglen Heritage Society were closely involved in putting the exhibition together. Members were then involved in the archaeological dig at the site of the Caledonian Pottery works on Farmeloan Road between 2007 and 2008 which took place there before it was covered by the new M74 extension.
Above, the Caledonian Pottery works photographed around 1912. Image credit: Glasgow City Archives and Special Collections
This project was supported by South Lanarkshire Council Museums service and Arts Development team. The dig uncovered the foundations of the factory’s kilns and workshops as well as many fragments of the pottery produced there. These were displayed in exhibitions in Rutherglen Library and Town Hall.
Right, kiln base uncovered at Caledonian Pottery excavation in 2007
Image credit: Gill Owen
Once the Caledonian Pottery dig was complete, some of the local people involved continued to meet and research Rutherglen’s history, initially as the Caledonian Pottery Group, and from 2010 as Rutherglen Heritage Group. Gill Owen, one of the group’s early members, recalls one of her fellow members:
‘I remember being really impressed by Des Garrity’s knowledge of Rutherglen and the amount of research he had done on original documents in the Mitchell Library.’ Gill Owen
Des Garrity was a very valued member of the original group, his many contributions included research into the workforce of the Caledonian Pottery.
In 2010, the group commissioned a single commemorative Ru’glen Broon teapot. This was created by noted Hungarian ceramicist Sandor Dobany who was at the time a visiting lecturer at Glasgow School of Art.
Broadening their research from the history of Caledonian Pottery, the group turned their attention to Rutherglen’s Royalty boundary stones and began surveying and recording the stones still known to be in place. This ongoing project was supported by the West of Scotland Archaeological Service who shared with the group the information they had about the boundary stones.
Left, Des Garrity pictured next to an 1863 boundary stone in Blairbeth.
Image credit: Des Garrity
In due course, it was resolved that the group adopt a more formal structure as a constituted society. A Constitution was duly drawn up and adopted on 31st. May 2012, and the inaugural meeting of the newly named Rutherglen Heritage Society was held at Rutherglen Library on Thursday 16th. August 2012.
The first office bearers appointed were: Convener, Lillian Macdonald; Vice-Convener, John Esslemont (who is currently the only original member of the Caledonian Pottery Group still involved in the Heritage Society); Secretary, Jim Bolton; and Treasurer, Gill Owen. Up until then, the group had been steered by Joyce Brown of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Museums service. Joyce continued to attend Heritage Society meetings but stepped back from the leading role.
Above, Rutherglen Heritage Society's Constitution
The Management Committee elected were David Jackson, Des Garrity, Anna McGinn, Joyce Brown, Bill Maclennan and Ian McKissock.
‘The formation of RHS owes much to the enthusiasm and hard work of Joyce Brown from South Lanarkshire Museums Service. It was her suggestion that the group of volunteers involved in the Caledonian Pottery Project should continue researching the history of Rutherglen and form a properly constituted society. Joyce worked with Jim Bolton and Lilian Macdonald on the constitution for the society. Joyce really looked after her volunteers, including organising trips to museum stores in Strathaven and Hamilton to view Caledonian Pottery items and to exhibition openings.’ Gill Owen
‘During the formation of the Heritage Group, (before we formally became a Society), we discussed many different possible projects. I had been a councillor in the old Royal Burgh Town Council before the 1974/75 local government reorganisation. As I had taken part in the last Redding of the Marches in 1974, I suggested to the group that it would be an interesting project to pursue as I had complete lists of the last three Reddings.
Some members took it up as a project and surveyed most of the locations to check if the stones were still in place and found that some had disappeared, and others had been moved and relocated during housing and roads redevelopment.
About five years ago I was approached by CamGlen Bike Town and helped them to organise a cycle tour round most of the stones during Landemer week. These three events were attended by 15 - 20 cyclists and others in cars.’
The Heritage Society continues the boundary stones project to the present day. In 2019, members added to their knowledge using information contained in a notebook written by Jasper Brown, Rutherglen’s Town Officer in the 1920s, which yielded much information about the boundary stones in place at that time, many of which have since vanished. The notebook is part of the Rutherglen collection at Low Parks Museum, Hamilton.
Founding member David Jackson’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Rutherglen’s history and his enthusiasm were of great benefit to the group in its early years as Gill Owen recalls.
‘The success of the boundary stones project owes much to the dedication and determination of the late Davie Jackson. His knowledge of Rutherglen’s history was amazing.
'He had volunteered with Alastair Gordon at the Rutherglen Museum and was determined that Rutherglen should have its own museum again. Davy was never afraid to ask other people for favours. It was his driving force in 2012 that brought the replacement of the boundary stone on
Left, David Jackson holding a fragment of Caledonian pottery in 2013
Image credit: Gill Owen
Glasgow Road to fruition - Reigart Construction donated the stone, the mason at Glasgow Cathedral carved it and South Lanarkshire Council installed it. I ended up driving the hired van to collect and deliver the stone, never having driven a van before.’
Des Garrity recalls, ‘I did spend hours and hours in the Mitchell Library back in the day, but Davie was the one who really had the memory and the information.’
Right, replacement boundary stone in Glasgow Road. Image credit: Gill Owen
Since inception, the Heritage Society has taken a stall at Landemer day and more recently held Open Days in Rutherglen library. Those events gave members an opportunity to share their knowledge of local history with people who have an interest in local history.
Above, Des Garrity and David Jackson at Landemer Day 2013, the first time the Heritage Society had taken a stall at the event.
Image credit: Des Garrity.
‘Taking part in the surveys of boundary stones was the most enjoyable part of being in the RHS even though it was often cold and wet!'
Right, Gill Owen with David Jackson, Ian McKissock and John Esslemont on a boundary stones survey in 2011.
Image credit: Gill Owen
'I discovered areas of Rutherglen I had never been in before and spent a lot of time splashing up streams in wellies looking for stones.Excavating stones to find inscriptions was always exciting and there was great elation if we discovered a “new” stone or one that was thought to be lost. I also spent a lot of time in the Mitchell Library researching original documents for information on Reddings of the stones and the burgesses (they had to donate stones and their initials were often carved on the stones). Reading the council minutes from the 17th and 18th centuries revealed some fascinating stories.’
In 2018, Heritage Society members Bob McDonald and Colin Findlay put plans in place for a mining memorial in Rutherglen. Funds were ingathered to meet the cost; designs were drawn up and planning consent obtained. This project has still to be completed, as it has been greatly delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Above, Heritage Society members Bob McDonald, John Esslemont, Bill Maclennan and Bob Kennedy at Landemer Day 2019
Also in 2018, the Heritage Society set up its own website which has grown steadily in content and number of subscribers. It contains a wide variety of articles on local history written by the Society’s members and website subscribers. A number of ex-pat Ruglonians have submitted queries via the website on various local history topics.
The original meeting of the Caledonian Pottery Group in 2010 comprised 7 people. The Heritage Society now has a membership of 24 and its website has over 200 subscribers.
The Heritage Society’s largest project to date is the writing of a new book on the history of Rutherglen. It is almost 100 years since W. Ross Shearer, then the town’s librarian, wrote Rutherglen Lore, still regarded as the most complete history of the town. With the 900th. anniversary in 2026 of Rutherglen being made a Royal Burgh, members of the Heritage Society thought this an ideal opportunity to put together a new history of Rutherglen to mark that event.
With many thanks to Gill Owen, Des Garrity, Jim Bolton and John Esslemont.
© 2022 by Rutherglen Heritage Society.