Joiner and Builder
Crawford Smith, who first contacted us in 2020 while in the process of moving house in England, sent us some papers which he thought we might find of interest, relating to the business of his grandfather, Wylie Shields (pictured above in his later years) who ran a joiners business in Rutherglen. These papers, which include invoices, receipts and estimates, date mostly from the 1930s, and are typical of the everyday documents of trade which would have been found in the filing cabinets of the dozens of businesses operating in the town in the years immediately preceding World War II.
Photograph of Wylie Shields courtesy of Crawford Smith
I am a descendent of an old Rutherglen family named Shields. My grandfather, Wylie Shields lived in Park Drive and had a joiner’s workshop between Ewing Street and Mill Street. I can still smell the glue pot on the gas ring.
One of his sisters, great aunt Meg Shields had a haberdashery shop somewhere near the current indoor market in the Main Street.
The 1901 census shows Wylie Shields then aged 22, as one of six children of parents John and Elizabeth Shields, living at 38 Crosshill Road. His date of birth is shown as 'about 1879', and his occupation as 'Joiner'. His sister, Crawford's great aunt Meg, is named in the census as Maggie B. Shields, aged 19.
John Shields was, to the best of my information my great grandfather. I could forward a picture of a the inauguration taken 24th April 1906 of the Ruglonians' Society.(1) There are approximately 50 people in it plus all their names, one of whom I think is John Shields, 2nd back row, 5th along with the heavy black beard.
By the 1930s, Wylie's joinery business appears to be doing well. The 1935 Valuation Roll shows him as Proprietor Occupier of a workshop and office at 180 Mill Street. He is listed as Tenant Occupier of the house at Park Drive mentioned by Crawford. One of the business papers he sent to us is a 1959 receipt from the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen for 15s and 9d being the annual Feu Duty for that property.
The Valuation Roll also shows Wylie owning several dwellings in Bankhead Road. He also owned ground nearby, and there is a Minor Warrant Certificate among the papers, issued by the Dean of Guild Court in November 1928 granting him consent for the erection of a 'Motor Garage' in Bankhead Road.
Wylie also spent time out in the South African gold fields. Large-scale gold mining in South Africa began in the 1870s, leading to an influx of workers like Wylie from around the world. During World War I, he worked as a master joiner in the Clyde shipyards.
Wylie Shields died in 1969, aged 91.
His various business papers are grouped together in the picture gallery below. Click on the < > direction arrows at either side to scroll through them.
Many thanks to Crawford Smith who sent us the business papers belonging to Wylie Shields and who very kindly donated to Rutherglen Heritage Society a copy of Rutherglen Lore by W. Ross Shearer which had belonged to his grandfather, along with a rare photograph of the inauguration of the Ruglonians' Society. (1)
Shearer's book, published in 1922, contains a reference to a property owned by the Shields in the chapter called A Look Back: 'Turn the corner of the Crosshill or Bankhead Road, and amongst the many tall erections of recent date you will doubtless regret the obliteration of the "Quality Raw", but one real bit of old-world Ru'glen will still greet you in the appropriately named "Farl-o'-cake" abutment to the Shields' property. (2) Many of the older Ruglonians will have a vivid recollection of this old Bankhead Road.'
There is another connection to Wylie Shield's family contained in Rutherglen Lore. Facing page 33 in the book is a photograph, shown below, presumably taken by Shearer himself, which he describes as 'Driddledirt Fair - from the corner of Mill street' (3).
It is thought that the little girl in the left foreground wearing a white pinafore and a hat is Isabella Crawford Cook who would grow up to become Wylie's wife.
Wylie was married to Isabella Crawford Cook who I believe is the young girl in the picture. Isabella was born in September 1880.
Isabella's date of birth suggests that the photograph in Rutherglen Lore was taken around 1890.
Crawford also sent us a copy of a share certificate in Isabella's name (shown left) for two shares of £50 each in the company which owned the Steamship River Clyde. (4) The share certificate is dated 1912 when Isabella would have been 32. The nominal value of the shares at that time would be around £12,000 in today's value, a significant sum even now.
Image courtesy of Crawford Smith
1. The Ruglonians' Society was inaugurated in 1906. According to an article appearing in the Glasgow Evening Times four years later, the Society 'have successfully and assiduously furthered the aims for which it was established, viz., to cherish the traditions of the Burgh, to conserve the individuality of the natives, and to preserve local antiquities.' W. Ross Shearer and John Shields were both founding members of the Ruglonians' Society.
2. On The Dictionaries of the Scots Language website, a 'farl' is defined as a three-cornered piece of oatcake, and is perhaps a reference to the shape of the structure referred to in Rutherglen Lore.
3. 'We have also heard the town stigmatised as " Driddledirt," but that sobriquet, most applicable in the days of horse
fairs, when the mud-lined highway, churned by the abnormal traffic, sometimes became almost impassable,
was at first intended of course to designate a market, held in the rainy month of November. Hence, in course of time, Rutherglen and Driddledirt became synonymous, at least on that particular day.' (Rutherglen Lore p.17)
4. Built by Russell & Co. in Port Glasgow as a general cargo vessel nine years before these shares were registered to Isabella, the SS River Clyde was subsequently purchased by the Admiralty, converted for troop landings and beached at Gallipoli in 1915. Abandoned by the British, it was salvaged and repaired following WWI. The ship operated as a tramp steamer in the Mediterranean before being seized by the Nationalists in 1937 for service in the Spanish Civil War. She was eventually broken up in 1966.
Rutherglen Lore, W. Ross Shearer, 1922.
The Dictionaries of the Scots Language website Click here
Scottish Built Ships website Click here
Minerals Council South Africa website Click here
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