Holmlea, Glasgow Road, Blanefield
1911.This picture is captioned “Mr and Mrs D Muir, First Sunday to Church after Marriage, 1911”. The couple are local builder Daniel Muir and his bride Mary. They had been married in her home parish of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire. Mr Muir built Holmlea and the newly-weds lived there for a time. With his gloves, top hat and stiff high collar, Daniel is every inch the Edwardian gent. Mary in her huge dark hat appears to be carrying her wedding bouquet. Tragically, she died only seven years later in the flu pandemic that swept the world after the end of the First World War. It was the first involving the H1N1 virus (the second was in 2009) and is estimated to have claimed 3% of the global population. Unusually, many of those who succumbed to it were healthy young adults.
2012. This is Jean Keddie, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2018 and was Daniel and Mary’s daughter. She lived in Holmlea from 1955. Jean was born in the village in 1918 only two months before her mother died. “It’s sad. I never got to know my mother,” she says. She was raised by her father plus various friends and aunts, and sometimes accompanied her father to work. “I had a job the day I was born,” says Jean, with justified hyperbole. By the age of ten she was tackling the washing, ironing and mending, while her elder brothers Arthur and Victor did other household jobs. In 1944 Jean married Alexander Keddie, who died in 2001. Though Jean was using two sticks when this photograph was taken in 2012, she declined to be photographed with them. As she said: “I don’t want to look old and broken down!” She adds: “I’ve seen so many changes. In the beginning there were very few houses except along the main road and there were a lot more shops.” Jean passed away in 2020. (Photograph Martin Shields)
Crosshill Cottage, Glasgow Road, Blanefield
C1900. This building, beside the Edmonstone Hall, bears the date 1894. It was constructed by Irish navvies who were lodging in Blanefield during the construction of the second aqueduct through the parish between 1885 and 1896. They were partly paid for the work with barrels of beer! The lady in the hat is Mrs Margaret Muir, the great-grandmother of John and Kenneth Muir, who ran the local plumbing business for many years. She is flanked by her daughters Agnes and Kate. The construction of the house was overseen by her son, Daniel Muir (as in “Danny’s Brae”, which runs down the side of the house). The home was his first project after completing his builder’s apprenticeship. The girl on the right with the two dogs at her feet may have helped out in the drapery shop that Mrs Muir ran from one of her front rooms to supplement her income. Mrs Muir’s granddaughter Jean Keddie said: “Women were widowed early in those days. For men, about 50 was the sell-by date!”
2012. According to historian John Guthrie Smith, the area was known as Crosshill because an old cross once stood there. It is where the parish church comes into view. The building was split into two semis and for many years was occupied by employees of the Water Board, now Scottish Water. In 2010 the right-hand unit was bought by Sarah Bridge, a gas engineer, keen runner and Harley Davidson enthusiast, who hails from Grimsby. This picture was taken in 2012.(Photograph Martin Shields)
1897. Strathblane has existed as a parish since the 13th century. It had a church, was endowed with tithes or teinds and possessed valuable land. There has been a church on the site of the present church since the 15th century. According to local historian John Guthrie Smith, the oldest gravestone is dated 1482. The current church was built in 1803 with stone quarried from the Kirklands Quarry, situated at Muirhouse Farm. In the 1870s, the church underwent major alterations. Improvements included increasing the pitch of the roof and recasting the bell, as well as the installation of more comfortable pews and the removal of the guard house, where the bodies of the newly dead had been guarded, in case of body snatchers. A water-powered organ was installed in 1910. The Edmonstones of Duntreath have a mausoleum. This photograph was taken by John Cameron Graham of Ballewan in 1897.
2023. The recent photograph shows how little the church has changed in the intervening century, though a cemetery was added to the churchyard. A plaque erected by Strathblane Community Council in 1997 commemorates the four people, including two children, who died when a German landmine landed on Sunnyside during the 1941 Clydebank Blitz. By 2023 the cemetery too was nearing capacity. In 2017 the Reverend Murdo Campbell became only the 15th minister since the church was built. Past ministers include the Rev William Begbie Moyes, who served the parish for 47 years between 1886 and 1933 and the Rev Elizabeth Sutherland, the only lady, who held the reins during the most recent vacancy. (Photograph Stevi Jackson)
1893. This cottage, on the Pipeline Track between Blanefield and Killearn, was built in 1784 as a shepherd’s bothy by the Grahams of Ballewan. In his 1886 history of the parish John Guthrie Smith merely records: “On the Ballewan Estate is Cantywheerie, where two families lived”. The curious name may be the marriage of two Scots words meaning “a jolly whim”. The photograph belongs to Angus Graham and features his grandfather, London circuit judge John Cameron Graham and his Auntie Peggy (then aged six and known to her family as “the Pearl of Strathblane”), along with Peter Clerk, who worked at Ballewan: “The rails were laid to bring in the stone for the building of the aqueducts.” As it was taken in 1893, this must be for the construction of the Second Aqueduct, which was completed in 1896 and supplied the Craigmaddie Reservoir. It includes an eight-span bridge at Cantywheery. These aqueducts, still in use, are a testament to Victorian engineering.
2012. With its crowstepped gables, Cantywheery is still a familiar landmark for the many walkers, runners and cyclists who ply the track. Here Liz McFarlane and Grace Woods, friends who live in Lenzie, pass the cottage en route for a pub lunch at the Old Mill in Killearn. “It’s one of our favourite routes. We can walk one way, get a bite to eat, then take the bus back. It makes a great day out,” says Liz. (Photograph Martin Shields)
The Old Smithy, Blanefield
C1900. In his essay on life in the parish in the early 20th century, John Campbell wrote: “Because of the very nature of road transport at this time, the local blacksmith carried on a thriving business at the local smiddy, situated at the east side of the burn near the old school…Boys from School used to gaze spellbound as the sparks flew from the hot metal on the anvil and the fire being blown up with the huge bellows. Here horses were shod, wheel rims made and other metal fashioned, and the young people were not forgotten, there being a brisk demand for runners for sledges and also those large hoops with cleeks, affectionately known as girrs.”
2012. For many years the smiddy operated as Gifted, a popular gift and craft shop. Later it became the Smiddy Gallery. Proprietor, Natalie Harrison poses beside the old bread oven (since removed) where local housewives could bring their dough for baking. Just as Edenkiln became absorbed into Strathblane, Netherton was gradually swallowed by burgeoning Blanefield. Local historian John Guthrie Smith wrote in 1886: “Nothing is now left of Old Netherton save the smithy and the school house, and its very name seems likely to perish, for the factory, originally called Blane Printfield, has expanded to such ample proportions and covered its environs with so many workers’ houses, that the whole of Netherton and neighbourhood, with its post-office and railway station, is now usually, but improperly, called Blanefield.” (Photograph Martin Shields)
3 May 1958. Passenger trains had stopped running on the Blane Valley Railway in 1951. This photograph was taken in May 1958, when a “steam special” was organised for rail enthusiasts. The boy leaning over the gate on the left and looking towards the camera is Willie Wallace, son of the local slater, who later took over the business. Jim Craig, who later became a driver, worked regularly as a fireman on this line during and after the Second World War: “I remember coming through here with a double header and 40 vans full of ammunition. On a typical morning, we’d come up from Eastfield with an engine and a guard to Blanefield to pick up five coaches and took them into Glasgow, stopping at every station to Maryhill.” On one occasion he remembers taking a whole farm down to England: “They took their sheep and cattle in trucks, their furniture in a freight van and a carriage for themselves.” In this picture the signal box is already partially dismantled.
2012. In this 2012 photograph, Willie Wallace and the late Jim Craig, who retired to Strathblane, retrace the route of the Blane Valley Railway, which is now a public footpath. The wooden station building was burned down during the 1960s. Only Station Cottage and the remnants of the printworks siding survive as a monument to the lost era of steam.
1926. The Blane Valley Railway, which came from Glasgow via Kirkintilloch, was opened in 1867. The station finally closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and to freight in 1959. The station building burned down in the 1960s, though the station house survives as a private home. The men on the platform in this 1926 photograph are station clerk Robert Love and porter Cameron Cuthbertson, whose father Walter was for many years the stationmaster.
2012. This is the site of Strathblane Station. Alastair Wallace, pictured with his dog Parsley, grew up and in 2023 still lives in the adjacent Old Manse, built in 1828. He remembers his sister Ruth taking delivery during the 1940s of a pony, which came by train all the way from the New Forest in Hampshire and was delivered to Strathblane Station. Today part of the line of the old railway has been replaced by a Sustrans cycle track (also popular with walkers and joggers) to Kirkintilloch. (Part of National Cycle Network Route 755.) (Photograph Martin Shields)
1886. In 1797 Walter Weir established a block printing business in the area of the parish then known as Netherton. After a break in production a new fabric called Delaine – a cotton wool blend – was produced on the site in the 1830s. By the 1850s Anthony Park Coubrough and his family were sole proprietors and employing 500 men, women and around 50 children at their printworks. Usual working hours were 6am to 6pm. In 1864 an explosion killed seven workers, including a 12-year old boy and injured seven others. Five years later, Anthony Sykes Coubrough, son of Anthony Park Coubrough, told Lord Tremenheere’s inquiry into working conditions in printworks that it was becoming difficult to persuade people to send their children into the works as most were sufficiently well off not to do so. (There were objections to the prospect of having to send children to school more than twice a week for four hours, as block printers had to stop work during this time!) In 1875 the entire printworks burned down but was rebuilt, despite a pollution case brought by Sir William Edmonstone of Duntreath. By 1897 the printworks was on short time, due to a famine in India and unrest in the Levant and South America. It was sold and closed down the following year. The building in the background with smoking chimneys is the old school.
2012. It is very hard to believe that the recent photograph was taken close to the same spot. For those who think of Blanefield as the epitome of a rural idyll, it may come as something of a shock. Virtually all that seems to connect them is the line of the Campsie Hills in the background. A screen of trees obscures Blane Crescent and Blane Avenue, which now occupy the triangular area between Jenny’s Burn (beside Station Road), and the Blane Water (which it joins behind Blane Crescent). This is where the printworks once stood. Station Cottage and a glimpse of Lorne Place are all that link this scene to its industrial past. (Photograph Martin Shields)
Blanefield Post Office
There was a Post Office in Blanefield by the time John Guthrie Smith published his local history in 1886. However, this building, on the main road, was built in 1893 by two brothers who operated it as a grocers before it became the local Post Office. For more than 40 years the sub postmaster was George Marshall, whose postcards of local views and buildings produced between the wars, continued to be sold long after he had sold his last stamp.
Lena Gove, a spinster, took over the business in 1947 and it remained in her family for a further 57 years. In 1973 Isolbel Gove, the wife of Lena’s nephew Joe took on the role. At this time customers still had monthly accounts and Isobel and Joe – often accompanied by daughters Lorna and Ailsa – made weekly deliveries of groceries in all weathers on foot or by pushbike, until they acquired their first van in the early 1980s. The post-mistress’s day began around 5.15am when she lit a coal fire in the shop and got ready to take in aand sort the mail and newspapers. There was a big pot of porridge to make for the four posties and the newspaper boys. Local weddings would bring flurries of telegrams to transcribe. In 2000 Isobel and Joe retired to Uddingston, handing over to daughter Ailsa and her mother-in-law Fiona Murray. In 2004 the Post Office function was transferred to Strathblane Post Office and the building became an award-winning craft shop and gallery. It is now a private house. The building is little changed, though the elegant tall chimneys have disappeared and trees hide the view of Dumgoyach. (Photograph courtesy of Stevi Jackson)
Auld Wives’ Lifts
About a century ago, Robert McNeil produced an image of 17 men around a geological curiosity on Craigmaddie Muir, north of Glasgow, known locally as “The Auld Wives’ Lifts”. He sold a hand-tinted version of the image as a postcard in Strathblane, where he ran the local post office. Roll on 100 years and Strathblane Heritage, challenged the women of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club to recreate the image. (The LSCC, founded in 1908, is the oldest all-women climbing club in existence.) Photographer Stevi Jackson did a recce of the site to identify the exact spot from which the original had been taken and secured access via a privately-owned farm track. The group assembled on 21 June 2023, midsummer’s day, and the deed was done. Their luck was in because the notoriously boggy area around the stones had dried out in the recent heatwave and a stiff breeze kept the midges at bay.
Legend has it that the grey sandstone boulders were carried to the site in the aprons of three women who were competing in a trial of strength. The largest stone rests on top of the other two. Several human faces have been carved in the surfaces, as well as much Victorian graffiti, and it has been suggested that it was once a Druid altar. A more likely explanation is that they are part of the random detritus left by a retreating glacier at the end of the Ice Age.
(Photo courtesy of Stevi Jackson)