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Helen Moir - Worthies Tales

 

 Helen Moir is a Local Lanarkshire historian, author and dear friend,below are a few of the short stories and memories Helen has compiled over the years. Helen has currently 2 books out regarding the local Larkhall Legend " the black lady". Further information can be found here

 

DAMP, DANGEROUS, DARK WORLD OF JOCK THE BRUTE.

Did you know Jock the Brute? It was the nickname given to a miner, and Larkhall, like all the small mining communities, produced many, Jock the Brutes. The village also had its share of miner’s rows, such as Summerlee, Boag, Merryton and Allanton. Mining, in fact, played a large part in the industrial growth of the area along with domestic and industrial weaving. Many worked in the pits and the mines.

Larkhall sits on rich coal seams, and fathers took their sons to follow in their proud footsteps, down into the bowels of mother earth. There they worked with pick and shovel in damp and dangerous conditions, where gas was a problem.

My father, his Father before him, uncles, grandparents and generations previous were the pioneers of the pits. In times past, women worked with their children as yong as nine. My mother told many stories about the miner’s rows. The shining winding engine houses, the cleanup for the Larkie Fair to ring in the New Year Bells and the dreaded whistle, that took women and children running to he pitheads. That meant an accident or gas explosion had occured and, to many women and children, the death of a husband and father.

My mother could remember the pit cages, some double cages comming up with a man or lad's body on it held by fellow miners or family with love and pride, relieved if they has been spared--a pitiful sight. The dead were respectfully covered with another man's jacket, often their cloth cap lying at the side of the dead body.

On one such night in Larkhall a disaster struck the Home Farm Colliery. The year was 1877, just into the New Year, when miner David Hynd walked the route to his pit on that cold January night. He was 36 years old, married with 6 children and had already spent 25 of those years, working in the bowels of the earth, often in 3ft seams, body battered and bruised. Working in damp, horrendous conditions associated with mining in the 1800s, the miner's role was a hard one, and equally hard on their wives and families. They were looked down on as the least in society and nicknamed Jock the Brute.

Most miner’s cottages were built a little way out of te town or village, creating little communities of their own. In these miner's rows, grew a caring, binding bond between families. They shared their joys, and all too often their sorrows. On Saturday nights, families would gather at each others houses for a simple meal and refreshments. The entertainment was self made and usually included a favourite ballad, or perhaps a poem . At the end of the evening a prayer and a passage from the bible would be read out.

On that particular night David called in to his sister, Mrs Ballantyne in Wellgate. They enjoyed a cup of tea and sang a hymn together, this was a normal procedure as family bonds and faith were closely linked. The hymn that David chose that night was "I Shall Soon Be At Home Over There". He left to do his shift at the Home Farm Colliery, but how poignant that hymn was to become, for this was to be David’s last shift.

In the early hours of the morning, the floodwaters of the Clyde hit hard. The devastation caused by the waters pouring through the pit was overwhelming, smashing and carrying everything in its path. Miraculously men escaped and others not on that shift, risked their lives for their fellow miners, much to the relief and tearful gratification of the women. But for 4 of those women, hope was soon to be lost. Their loved ones were gone forever. David Hynds widow received 2 shillings and 6 pence a week to keep her and the six children. The youngest son David, was my Grandfather.

He was only 6 months old when his father was killed on that fateful January day.

A few decades later, David junior was a miner living with his family in the miner's rows, number 11 Summerlee in Larkhall, but David junior always had a horror of the pits. The pits were also the destiny of his sons. He knew many tragic moments during his life, the death of children in infancy and the loss of a fine son, William at the tender age of 17, also a miner. His wife Elizabeth, died on her 48th birthday and her 14- year-old daughter, my mother Marion (Morn) Perrie, became carer and mother to the family. Little could David Hynd Senior possibly have known, walking contentedly to the pit to join his friends and workmates, that he would indeed, soon be at home over there far away from the dark, cold damp that encircled Jock the Brutes.

I could not end this story without mentioning the other 3 men who lost their lives in the Home Farm Colliery disaster. They were John McNeil aged 39years, who left a widow and 2 children, John McAlister aged 50 years, he also left a widow and 2 children and John Toll or Gregory aged 51 who also left a widow and 2 children.

If you enjoy local history and general knowledge, come along to the Larkhall Heritage Group meetings and find out more. Bring your knowledge with you, you will be made very welcome. We would like to archive as much local history as possible and you could help us, before it is all lost to the mists of time. Take pride in our pasts history, we have a right to be proud. Hopefully, we can return to what was once a caring, friendly, spotlessly clean village.

Helen Moir 2009

 

The Applebank Inn at Millheugh Larkhall, can be found listed in old documents dating back as early as 1714.

Millheugh is older than Larkhall and was once a small separate village.A picturesque place, where people used to come to visit and sit and have a picnic at the river Avon’s edge. Many a fisherman's tale was told down there.

Larkhall was once known as the Hamlet of Machan. The Hamlet of Machan had been in existence since the 14th century, as a cluster of small farmsteads living and beholding to the Hamilton Estate.

In Point's map of 1645 the name "Larkhoufe" appears - houfe being the old Scots word for house - Larkhoufe to Larkhall perhaps.

We have often heard the expression, " they are only looking for a houfe" (a place to stay).

Other names appear on the map, such as Milheach, Raplock, Craigbank, Brunehill - millheugh, Raplock, Craigbank and Broomhill. In general Roy's map of 1747 the name Laverockhall appears - Gaelic for "Lark on the Hill" - so Larkhall could be another derivation.

A ferry used to cross the River Avon all those decades ago, it was the safest point of crossing.

Naturally, an Alehouse such as the Applebank would be a welcome sight for the weary travellers. At one point in Scotland, you needed 2  licenses, one for spirits and one for ales. The Applebank was an alehouse.

In 1714, it is listed as Applebank Alehouse, hostelry and stable, Millheugh, Parish of Dalserf in the lands Of Machan.

The woman who owned it was called "Big Lizzie". The mind I admit, Boggles.

In the 1861 and 1871 census, the Applebank was owned by Isabella Morgan and her Family.

John Morgan was a retired Sea Captain, and the Applebank was also known as "Lady Morgans" hence Morgan Glen. The family Bequeathed Morgan Glen, after purchase from the Broomhill Estate, to the people of Larkhall.

It is a safe walk that many people of Larkhall have taken. They have picnicked on its green grassy slopes, watched kilted dancers at the old, now gone bandstand, and listened to concerts (or geggis,as they were known).

They have seen excited young Gala Queens crowned there and many young hopefuls started off at the Geggi, including the Alexander Brothers.

The Applebank is listed as a Haunted Pub, the haunting supposed to be caused by Larkhall's own "Black Lady"-That’s another story.

The connection between the Black Lady and the Applebank, is the Lintel of Broomhill house, which sits in the pub.

The inn has retained much of its character and history, and is well worth a visit if you come to Larkhall. The service is cheery and the staff are friendly and the food is excellent. Ask anyone in Larkhall and they will point you in the correct direction for the Applebank and Millheugh

  

Worthies Tales. - By Helen Moir.

If you belong to a small village, indeed, even if your roots are in tenement buildings. The length and breadth of Scotland, each village or town had its characters each tenement had theirs. Many a romance blossomed at the mouth of the close under the cover of darkness.

Many a mother or father’s stern voice was heard to shout.: Jeannie its time you were up the stairs and you laddie its time you were awa hame to your ain hoose.

Relationships between families, friends and neighbours was really no different in the small villages and towns to the large bustling cities.

No keeping up with the Jones's then, they were all in the same boat, but though times were hard, their outlook bleak, the one thing that sustained folk was their strong sense of community spirit and strength of character.

Man, and woman alike, also their great ability to laugh even in the depths of despair.

Life was not always harmonious, for goodness sake it would have been very boring if it had.

Arguments and fights did occur with usually two women ending up pulling each other by the hair of the head biting and scratching like cats.

Men had fisti cuffs, my mother has often told me how she held men's jackets for a penny a whole penny, in fact, mother became quite an entrepreneur in the holding of jackets, she called it her own jacket business.

Usually these differences were short lived and peace and harmony was very soon restored.

The one difference between cities, towns and villages in the large Smokey industrial cities communities did form. A good example of this was in Glasgow, the Gorbals, Easterhouse, Rutherglen, Govan, Dennistoun, to, name a few.

Unlike the small villages and towns folk were inclined to live and work in their own locality.

They married through one another with quite often near relatives, cousins second cousins marrying, this caused in-breeding which produced simple but very harmless folk “The Worthies.”This in breeding made gossip very difficult but never stopped it.Nine times out of ten the person you were gossiping about was related to the person you were regaling the story to.

My village of Larkhall Lanarkshire, in which I have spent most of my life, just as the past generations of my family have. Larkhall had its fair share of worthies, in fact it was a common saying that all the folk in Larkhall – Larkie as the locals call it were related through the Co-operative horse or the Co-operative book no less.

Unfortunately, I have never been able to trace who began the story, still it is just harmless fun like the imaginary wall around Larkhall.

Outsiders claimed it was to keep the daft folk in not so say the natives the opposite to keep the daft folk out.

 

The Orange and the Green- Scotland and Ireland relationship

The orange and the green the gers the Celts.

In Lanarkshire, indeed in the west of Scotland that influence has been at times a hindrance to the general peace of the community and a stick to beat our own backs with.

The reason for the strong orange and green influence in the west of Scotland was the very large Irish influx into the west of Scotland of both denominations bringing with them their beliefs and culture and their funny idiosyncrasy's.

Unlike us Scots who can be a shade dourer, the Irish have a wry cynical humour able to put comedy into the most desperate of situations.

The one thing Scots and Irish have in common in each culture is the gift of song and poetry

My mother has often remarked she wished the pill had been around then, many of the children died in infancy, she was no different in that respect to the other womenfolk of her class the working class.Except to her Scottish womenfolk friends and neighbors she was a tall black raven haired Irish colleen with vivid green emerald eyes the color of her native Ireland.

Her date of birth as I have stated before the 17th of March St Patrick's Day. That date was also to be her date of death aged 48.

Her superstitious Irish father her DA said she would be ill fated and gifted or cursed with the second sight depending on how you look upon it.

His premonition was proved correct her life was ill fated and her physic ability strong even to the point of foretelling her own death. More of my granny's story shall be revealed later.

 Snippets

Miners children were segregated from the other children in school playground. One teacher was heard to shout her family owned a bakery.: All of you from the coal bings move to the other side of the playground:

My granny soon gave her a flea in her ear saying.: If it wasn't for us from the coal bings you would have no dammed bakery: Good old brave granny.

 My mother remembered the boys and girls in the rows including herself sliding down the pit bing on shovels. To be chastised by their parents for ruining the little clothes they owned.
 A man who was always cutting through the cemetery to take a short cut home.The people in the rows decided to play a trick on him one night. They hid behind tombstones one covered with a white sheet he was also wearing the mask of a beast. He jumped out on the drunk waving and making awful noises. Then saying to the drunk. “I’m old nick ,I'm old nick” The drunk puts out his hand to shake the devil's hand and says. Shake hands I'm married to your sister.
 There was a man in the village called Harry. Poor simple Harry who ran for miles with his cleik and gird. He was still wearing short trousers in his 30s. He was sadly killed by a bus.
 Sarah and Jimmy's parents were often played tricks on by the children in the rows.They were quite often smoked out by the children putting turfs on the low roofed chimneys Never a dull moment very poor but content and happy with their lot.
 

How some of the children walking from the rows, my mother and younger brothers included. When crossing the bridge, they heard strange noises coming from underneath the bridge.

Underneath the bridge were the local police inspector and his girlfriend. The children oblivious to the sexual act going on below. One girl's suggestion. Maybe he is murdering her: Maybe we should go for the police: One boy said, dinnae be daft he is the police:

The couple continued to have sex against the wall. He was very tall she was very short he used to stand her up on 3 bricks what a sight.

 

A woman who had so many children 21 in all, with many dying in infancy, as did many children in the rows, the infant mortality rate very poor.

She used to wash her children in the wash house at the end of the rows, each end had a wash house. She washed one child after another making them run back to the house naked. It must have been very cold and embarrassing no thought to their health or modesty.

 

Jimmy again being chased by police runs into his small humble home. He asked his sister to help hide him.

She helps him into a cloth sack and ties it tightly which she then drags over and places on the floor in the corner of the room. The police search the house then ask Sarah what is in the sack her reply. “Glass things officer” A voice comes from the sack. “Tinkle tinkle tinkle:”

 

A woman in the rows who had six illegitimate children.She went on to marry a retired sea captain, who took her on and all her children.

They had no more additions, no more patters of tiny feet. On her wedding night, she was seen standing outside in the street, in her nightgown throwing pails of water about her window, when she was asked what on earth she was doing her reply. “Well the captain cannae sleep unless he hears the noise of the water”

 

A man who died suddenly in the rows leaving a wife and six children behind him.This man had beat his long-suffering wife and children on a regular basis for years usually a Saturday night after returning from the pub.

The funeral sermon was given by a lay preacher who did not know the man or of his past behavior. He gave him a glowing report as a husband and father. His widow sitting beside her eldest son was heard to request her son to open the coffin lid to make sure it was her husband the preacher was speaking about.

 

During the general strike of 1926, two men from the miner’s rows stole a lamb and killed it.

I am sorry for the poor wee lamb but you must remember folk were starving.

The police came down and raided the rows looking for the lamb, accompanied by the enraged farmer.

A bairn was taken from its wooden cradle to be replaced by the wee dead lamb.

A woman sat calmly rocking the cradle back and forth with the evidence in it. The lamb had a bairn's bonnet on its head and covered by a hand knitted blanket, nae Mothercare in those days.The police turned the houses upside down looking for the dead lamb to no avail much to the disappointment of the irate farmer and police.

The lamb was prepared and consumed talk about the story of the loaves and the fishes.

 

A simple lassie by the name of Sarah or Sara as they called her here.

By the way this is the sister of Jimmy, Jimmy of the hen run fame.

Sarah had two illegitimate children. When she was asked by the doctor at the first birth who the father was. Sarah's reply, “It was a man wearing a blue jumper”

All the miners in the rows at that time wore blue jumpers. The next day when this information had circulated through the rows, news traveled fast in those days, the men came out wearing different colours of jumpers some with none at all.

On the next occasion, it was a more up market affair. When Sarah was asked again by the doctor who the father was her reply.” It was a man with a pearl ballot button on his trousers.”

The identity of the father or fathers remained unknown, but a lot of gossiping to uncanny similarities to certain men in the rows was something to discuss for many a day after.

The same Sarah belonged to the Salvation Army, in fact Sarah was a wee shade overweight for her uniform,so to see her with her tambourine belting it off her arms and head and her behind with such great gusto was quite something to see.

While the Salvation Army band was playing at a street corner in the village one evening Sarah was asked quite seriously what hymn she would like her reply.”I Would like him whae the big drum” Obviously Sarah was thinking of Onward Christian Soldiers that night.

 

The local worthies’ tales continued

Now wait till you hear this as I tell you something of the local Worthies Tales.

Believe me these stories were related to me by my mother, some comical tinged with sadness. All done and said by harmless folk the worthies and all very true.

A man by the name of Jimmy. By the way this is the same Jimmy who asked the naval recruiting officer. :If they had run oot oh boats:

He built a hen run by a busy railway line of all places, the hens kept being killed by wandering onto the railway line. Jimmy went striding up to the railway station and got himself a timetable. Marching back down to his hen run carrying a hammer and nails. Jimmy went into the hen run and nailed the timetable up.

Turning to his hens after doing this and he was heard to say this “if ye get killed noo it's your ain bloody fault”

  

The Worthies Heroes.

Scotland Ireland has had its fair share of heroes and I do not just mean the likes of the Duke of Wellington an Irishman, General Gordon of Khartoum a Scotsman or Lord Nelson an Englishman, whose famous last words. “England expects this day that everyman shall do his duty”. A comment made by us Scots and Irish. We do not need anyone to remind us to do our duty:

I would like to do honour to the ordinary men and women the privates, corporals, sergeants etc who went fearlessly into battle. None more so than the fighting Jocks.

The Jocks who have played a great part in Britain's war machine. The Jocks usually at the front line of any confrontation. All be it a Lowland or Highland regiment all have claim to honour and glory and rightly so.

The regiment for Lanarkshire the Cameronians the Cams, their name coming from Richard Cameron of covenanting fame who proudly wore the Douglas tartan. Some never to return they paid the supreme sacrifice.

In village's towns and cities at every shout of your country needs you men flocked to answer the call.

 One worthie by the name of Jimmy fearlessly offered his services, he went post haste to join the navy at the outbreak of the last war. The naval recruiting officer seeing Jimmy's harmless affliction asked him who his next of kin was. Jimmy's earnest truthful answer to him was “his simit” that in the west of Scotland is a slang word for vest.

The recruiting naval officer let Jimmy down gently,when Jimmy realised he was not to be in naval uniform asked, the trying to maintain his cool exterior, officer-- hae you run oot oh boats?.

Here's to all the heroes known and unknown and to the Worthies who not in the front line worked in the munitions to produce the ammunition's to defeat the dreaded enemy.