Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blantyre Parish

Today Blantyre is a parish in South Lanarkshire located about 12 miles southeast of Glasgow. In 1835 Rev. James Anderson described the area:

"The Clyde is here a majestic river, of considerable depth, and of a darkish color, gliding smoothly and silently along between the lofty wooded banks and beautiful and richly adorned undulating fields of Bothwell and Blantyre. Immediately below Bothwell Bridge, the banks present a thin sprinkling of wood, with occasional orchards. About a mile and half farther down, in a snug retreat, almost concealed by rising grounds on either side, the lofty walls of Blantyre works appear; where a busy population, and the rushing noise of machinery, contrast strangely with silence and repose of the surrounding scenery, and seems as if intended to bring into competition the works of nature and of art."

At the time Rev. Anderson wrote his statistical report about Blantyre, there were about 3,000 people living in the parish. Once it became cost-effective to mine coal and ship it to the Glasgow markets, the population boomed, climbing to about 14,000 in 1881. Prior to coal mining, Blantyre was a mill town. There were about 600 looms in various factories, some powered by water and some by steam. Mill laborers worked five days a week from 6:00 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. They received 45 minutes for breakfast and an hour for dinner. On Saturdays, they worked a 9-hour day.

There are two ancient buildings in the parish, which were ruins at the time our ancestors lived in Blantyre. One is the Blantyre Priory, which was a victim of the religious reformation in the 1500s. William Wallace is said to have taken shelter there when trying to escape his pursuers.

Blantyre Priory is in the foreground and Bothwell Castle in the distance
at the top of the hill; photograph is copyrighted by the Royal Commission
on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

The other is Bothwell Castle, one of the finest 13th century castles in Scotland. It sits on a steep bank overlooking the river Clyde and played a key role in Scotland's Wars of Independence.

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