Baillieston & District a History

Some things you might have never known

Baillieston is Beautiful

..... So It Is

By Elizabeth Sutherland

Published in the Scots Magazine, December 1980

Elizabeth Sutherland Marshall, lived in Baillieston for ten years when her husband was rector of St. John's church. She is a writer and decided to write something about the history of her surroundings. So in early 1980 she contacted the editor of The Scots Magazine (oldest published magazine in the world) and told him she felt they only published stories about "pretty country places" and challenged him to publish an article about a not so pretty one. To his credit, the then editor Maurice Fleming  published the following article about Baillieston. Elizabeth does not claim it to be a definitive historical account but a human interst story within an historical context. Elizabeth is to be admired for putting Baillieston in a respected publication that has a worldwide circulation. thought it would be a valuable contribution to the Historical Accounts and that it deserved exposure on the Internet. Elizabeth quickly replied to our letter and kindly gave permission for us to publish.


When, six years ago, we told our friends in the Black Isle we were moving from Fortrose  one of the prettiest and most historic royal burghs in the north to Baillieston on the eastern edge of Glasgow, one said, Baillieston? Where is that ? and another cried but Baillieston is just a place to go through to get somewhere else!

Scenery, amenities and history are like poverty comparative, and only the other day a woman living in the top flat of a condemned close in Garthamlock said to me wistfully, I’d like fine to get a hoose in Baillieston. Baillieston’s beautiful, so it is.

In June, when after 61 years, Baillieston Juniors took the Scottish Junior Cup by beating Central League rivals, Benburb, 2-0 in an exciting replay at Hampden, the words on everyone’s lips were, Baillieston’s brilliant!

Yet as recently as 1795, Baillieston was no more than the name of a mansion house once owned by the Baillies of Provan, Prebendaries of Glasgow Cathedral.  Set in marshy farming country between the tiny hamlets of Swinton, Crosshill, Bargeddie and Barrachnie, the house had magnificent, unbroken views over the Clyde Valley to the south, the Campsies to the north and the peaks of Arran and Ben Lomond to the west.

Owned at one time by the monks of Newbattle hence the name of the parish Old or West Monkland the district contained no more than 200 souls living in the angle between two important lines of communication from Glasgow east to Edinburgh and south to the Clyde Valley. The tollgate was situated to catch three-way traffic in what is now the heart of Baillieston’s Main Street. In those days it was certainly a place most people went through without stopping.

Now barely 200 years later, it is the centre of a densely populated area of over 15,000 inhabitants. So what put Baillieston on the map ?

To find out, I called on Miss Mary Robertson who had just celebrated her 80th. Birthday. Mary who lives in Swinton, is a local historian of repute with a prodigious memory and a vital sense of fun. A few years back she was a regular contributor to the Easterhouse newspaper The Voice. Her column, “Village Memories”  was written to give newcomers to the vast housing estate just north of Baillieston a sense of  the history and background of their new home.

Mary had told  me it was the hand loom industry that gave Baillieston and the surrounding hamlets their start. In West Maryston, known as The Hole where she was born, there was the Dandy Row, and in Baillieston, society and Pender’s Rows. Rent was a shilling a week and the weavers toiled from six in the morning till ten at night for small recompense.

When the lower roller which received the cloth was full, the weaver shouldered it to the nearest market to exchange for much needed cash. The coming of the power-looms gradually finished the hand-loom industry and by 1893 the last of the weavers had gone.

What really caused the villages to expand was the opening of the Monkland Canal in 1790 and at the same time the sinking of the first pits along its banks. James Watt supervised the construction of the canal and it was his steam powered pump which made it possible to mine coal at hitherto untried depths.

By 1832 the demand for coal was so great that pits were opened farther afield and therefore the first railways of the district were laid down, not as passenger lines but as an ancillary service to the canal. The station at Easterhouse, though greatly altered in appearance, is the only left from a network of lines that criss-crossed the area.

In its heyday the canal crowded with barges travelling bow to stern, carrying not only coal but iron ore out to the blast furnaces at Gartsherrie and returning with loads of pig-iron to the city. Timber, too, much of it from the Highlands, was delivered to Smellie's Sawmill which once stood on the present site of Inshaw's Tube Works at Easterhouse. The timber was made into cart wheels, furniture and "pit lids" to insert at the top of the props to keep them firmly in position. Smellie's also provided much of the wood to build Quarrier's Homes.

By the middle of this century the canal had declined into a silted, rubbish filled breeding ground for mosquitos, but in April, 1980, it underwent a strange resurrection when the final section of the Monkland Motorway was opened by George Younger, Secretary of State for Scotland. This marvelous feat of engineering is as busy and necessary to the industrial life of Glasgow as its predecessor used to be. Baillieston Interchange, with its soaring bridges and curving slip roads, is an imposing gateway to the city and the whole of the West of Scotland.

But it was coal mining that dominated the development of Baillieston and changed its country face into a bing scarred industrial site. Miners were imported from as far away as Ireland and England to man the pits and in the 40 years between 1851 and 1891 the population doubled from 1,943 to 3,636.

At one time there were at least 32 pits in the area. Some of them had bye-names. There was the Juck Pit, the Monkey, the Sandpit, Jessie and the Whusky, so called because of its proximity to a public house and the engineman's habit of winding the cage over the "horrals" when he had taken a "wee swallow".

The early miners were rough, tough men. They had to be. The hours of work were long, the wages niggardly. In the very early days they were thirled to their pits and wore collars riveted to their necks stamped with the coal owner's name. They could not leave their pit no matter what their grievance might be. While they cut the coal, their wives and children carried it to the surface. It took two Acts of Parliament to restore them their full freedom. The women carried the heavy baskets on their backs with straps round their chins which altered and distorted their features. Within living memory, women were still working at the pit head.

The rapid increase in population, the poor wages and appallling housing conditions in "raws" with open drains were responsible for three cholera epidemics, the third and most serious occuring in 1879. Local joiners became coffin makers and the bodies were buried in trenches at Crosshill and Old Monkland Churchyards under tar.

Of the 32 deaths recorded in St.John's Church records in 1853 only two in their forties. The majority under thirty were either killed in the pits or died as infants from teething, croup or convulsions. A child's diet consisted of soup, potatoes, sour milk, vegetables, bread and porridge with perhalps the top of an egg at Easter and a scrap of meat on holidays.

Those were hard times indeed that persisted well into the 20th.century when practically the only employment for men was in the pits and for women in the weaving industry at Shettleston or as farm or domestic servants locally. But at least there was work to be had. A fifteen year old girl said to me last week, "I'm dreadin' leaving the school wi' nae' job to go tae'"

Mary Robertson left school when she was thirteen to work at Springhill Farm for 6d or 9d a day. In winter when it was too wet for farm work she was sent by the labour exchange to a "wee factory in Shettleston" that had installed some of the first knitting machines. she stayed with Blake Bros. and later with McCallum and Craigie for 46 years. A kaleidescope of fashion passed through her hands from woolen gaiters worn by children in the winter - I well remember their cosiness and my cold toes beyond - and by women to protect their sheer silk stockings, to plus-fours and tweed skirts. She showed me a beautiful, fully fashined black coat she made in 1934 which is as good as new today.

The decline in the coal industry began shortly after the First World War and many young men emigrated at this time. Mary had two uncles who went to Nova Scotia when she was a wee girl. As soon as she could form letters her granny told her, "You're to write to oor Tam and oor John." This gave Mary her first interest in writing. She would have liked to have been a school teacher if only circumstances had permitted but her wages were needed, especially in the hungry 'thirties when her father became ill and she was the breadwinner of the family. But teaching was in her blood, and she was soon training the young machinists in the factory which was to win the Royal Warrant for its blankets. She's teaching still in her happy optimistic way those who want to know about the past, and though  she can't get around the clubs and guilds the way she used to, she can still make light of her troubles. "The Lord gave me twa sair legs so he'd ken whaur tae find me," she laughed.

Trouble in the mining industry reached a climax with the strike in 1926. Mr. James Ramsay , who once worked in the pits and the brickworks, told me, "You had to live through it to know what it was like." There was no work for a year and the men organised soup kitchens with a bit of bone from a friendly butcher, some vegetables from the nurseries. The Co-op gave you bread and tatties on tick if you were a good customer and the jam works sometimes provided jam. Children searched the bings for scraps of coal.

Worse was to follow as one by one the last pits began to close. This was not due to lack of raw material. Indeed, Jimmy Ramsay maintains that the area is still full of coal within easy reach of the surface using modern excavators. The reasons for closure were mainly economic. The work was hard and you were bent double from seven in the morning till three in the afternoon with no tea or dinner breaks. There was always danger from the ever - present water so prevalent in the district.

Unemployment and poverty reigned and though some men like Jimmy Ramsay were fortunate to find work outside the district many others were forced to emigrate. There are few families in Baillieston today without relatives in the Americas. It may well have been the Second World War and the housing boom which followed that prevented the village from becoming just another derelict mining village. But as Jimmy Ramsay told me, " The community spirit was grand in those days. Folks helped each other out." Jimmy now devotes his life to the service of the community. As a member of the Community Council it is his ambition to make Baillieston community-minded.

Many Bailliestonians deeply resented being switched from Lanark County to come under the administration of Glasgow District Council in 1975. They don't like the idea of being just a suburb of the city, and the Community Council does its utmost to iron out problems, resentments and difficulties. In 1980 it revived for the first time in 25 years the Gala Day with queen and Procession in June and a Fireworks display at Christmas.

Like Mary Robertson, Jimmy Ramsay believes in fostering memories of the past and gratitude to those who have gone before. "Memory's  a thing you forget with," he cracked, but there is nothing wrong with his, and it was his collection of photos and memorabilia that inspired Pat woods, the librarian since 1977, to mount his display "Baillieston, A Community Remembered" in the library last year.

Raised in Shettleston, Pat Woods is a true Celt with a fascination for local history. He has interviewed many of the older generation and typed out their memoirs. "Although people don't always immediately respond, the more you encourage them to talk, the more they remember," he told me. Local reaction to the display has been tremendous, some highly emotional, as folk see photos of old friends, old homes. Pat feels that there is a longing in the people of Baillieston for the days of close community life and that part of a library's function is to preserve the past. In the old days Baillestonians’ were held together by hardship when everyone knew and supported each other. He feels that some of the community spirit is on the way back fostered by such organisations as the Community Council, Meals on Wheels, the Home Help Services and the library itself. "My idea is to make the library part of the essential fabric of the community," he told me. Judging by the notice boards in the entrance foyer displayed with advertisements for every sort of local organisation, this is evidently happening.


After the Second World War, Baillieston was to put on its third face. Such small industries as there were began to disappear. The Jam Works whose tempting smells proclaimed the season to the village is now the site of a supermarket. Springcroft Nuseries have become a trading centre. The Aluminium and Brickworks and Reid's Ginger Factory have all closed. so too has the cinema. Even the once famous Brass Band, founded in 1871, has vanished.

Baillieston was beginning to develop into a large commuter area with only the narrowest of green strips to separate it from the city. Swinton, Garrowhill and Barrachnie, Crosshill, Muirside and the Bauks - so called because the land was once farmed in narrow rigs separated by drainage hollows called bauks - are all now part of Baillieston though still maintaining their own characteristics, churches and primary schools.

Yet all come together either in the Main Street for shopping or, as young people, in Bannerman High School built in green and wooded parkland where Baillieston House once stood. Bannerman certainly put Baillieston on the map when it was opened under the headmastership of Mr. Ralph Wilson in 1973. It now has a roll of over 1500 pupils and a headmistress, Miss R.M. Watt, appointed in 1977, and a reputation for excellence in Strathclyde. Previously junior secondary pupils were taught at Baillieston Public School until it was damaged by fire in 1972. Senior pupils had to travel to Coatbridge to be educated.

Miss Mary Templeton well remembers the ride by tram, the dinner piece consisting of a slice of dry toast and an Oxo cube for which hot water was provided, and a third of a pint of milk from the school. She remembers, too, the day she got 5% for her science exam. Mr. Cochrane, the science teacher, saw her that morning waiting at the tram stop and offered her a lift. All the way he chided her for her poor result. worse was to follow. In the science room a certain Bill Reid, a brilliant scholar, lifted the diminutive Mary and set her on the work bench to tease her. Mr. Cochrane came in.  "Tell the class your mark, Mary" he ordered. "Five" she whispered. "Louder" said Mr. Cochrane, "Let everyone hear." Mary hung her head. "Five out of a hundred" cried Bill Reid, letting everyone into the secret. That was too much for Mary. Small she might have been, but she wasn't lacking in spirit. she lashed out at Bill with her foot. "Not everyone gets to kick a VC in the face," she grinned, for not long after, Acting Flight Lieutenant William Reid, RAF Volunteer Reserve of 61 Squadron, brought honour not only to himself, but to his hometown, Baillieston, by winning the Victoria Cross for outstanding gallantry in 1943.

Mary was to remind him of her act at a reception held for him in the Miner's Welfare Institute the following year. He had not forgotten. "And me who believes in humanity and non-violence," she smiled and thats true.  Mary's life has been devoted to service in her work as an industrial nurse to the men of Clyde Iron Works until she - like them - was made redundant in 1978. She was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to British Steel.

Her leisure hours since the war have been devoted to young people. One of the most successful childrens' organisations in Baillieston is the Corps of  St. Andrew's Ambulance Association which she started just after the war. to begin with there were about a dozen children specialising in First-Aid, Home Nursing and Child Care. Last year the numbers were in the seventies and the previous year the Baillieston Corps swept the board by winning all the available competitions in the country. "Miss Mary" as she is called by the children believes that competitions help young people to cope in crises. she also believes in discipline, humour and a genuine concern for every child. she's had plenty of naughty ones but she's never had to turn anyone away. The Baillieston Corps is very much a family affair with Mary as Commandant and her two sisters as assistant Commandant and Child Care Trainer.


William Reid VC was not Baillieston's only famous son. There was William Mack, the eminent surgeon and kidney specialist at the Glasgow Western Infirmary his father had a tailoring business in Main Street. There were the Wotherspoons, Jimmy, who with Archibald Leitch wrote an excellent account of The Rise of a Community, and his son Hugh who became Provost of Armadale. Sir William Thomson, founder of the SMT Bus Company, became Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1932 and John McGhee was Provost of clydebank.

There were many faithful ministers too numerous to name, but the man who really put Baillieston firmly in the public eye was Sir Patrick Dollan. Born in the town in 1885, he was a miner, a ropeworker, grocery assistant and finally a journalist when he entered Glasgow Town Council in 1913 as Labour representative for Govan ward. He held a series of convenerships before becoming City Treasurer and finally Lord Provost where his services to the city won him the first St.Mungo prize of £1000 in 1939 which, typical of the man, he gave to his mother.

He is particularly remembered for his fine leadership during the war when he represented the city at virtually international level. his goodness to Polish soldiers was acknowledged by a medal from the Polish goverment. Among his many interests were youth work, the poet Burns, and care of the blind. A quote of the day states "Where Dollan is, things are done." He died in 1963.

Now Baillieston boasts of James Hamilton MP, a local man serving the local community. nothing is too much for him and he is highly respected in his constituency. Russell Hunter, the very talented actor, spent much of his boyhood in West Maryston, while Garrowhill boasts of Allan Stewart, the young entertainer who has reached international stardom.

Social life in the early years revolved around the churches and though they are not so well attended as they used to be they still play an integral part in the life of the community. There are plenty of them now, but previous to 1833, worshippers attended a mission hall at the foot of Buchanan Street which ended its life as a pawnbroker's shop before being demolished to make way for houses.

Crosshill church was erected as the first church in Scotland under the church extension scheme and the £500 needed to build it was raised by weavers, miners, canal boatsmen, tradesmen, servants and gentry.  It was to become known as Baillieston Old Parish Kirk and dedicated to St.Andrew. A century and a quarter later, the parishoners were busy raising money again this time to build a handsome new church in the round, a marvelous feat of local generosity and organisation under the minister, the Rev. J.C.Owen.

The original Mure Memorial was an iron church in Swinton built by Mrs.Mure of Perceton in Ayrshire in memory of her two sons. The roof was blown off in the gale that destroyed the Tay Bridge. A new stone building was erected which carried the name "The Miner's Kirk" on its foundation stone. It was also called the Children's Church as a Free Church national appeal to children was used to finance it. In 1936 the congregation transferred to Garrowhill where a large new church was built under the Church Extension Scheme. Set on a hill, it is very much the centre of the local community with well supported services and organisations.

In 1939 the Gospel Hall  for the Association of Christian Brethern was opened in Garrowhill and in 1959 the Hope Hall was built round a disused army hut in Baillieston. both these organisations do wonderful work among the young.

In 1850, St.John's Episcopal Church - known as the "English Kirk" - was erected by coalmasters and public subscription to provide a place of worship for the incoming  miners from England and Ireland. Relationships with next door St.Bridget's have always been friendly since the Sunday - many years ago - when the Episcopal bishop threatened to close St.John's because of poor membership. The priest of St.Bridget's exhorted his congregation to "step next door". consequently St. John's was packed and the Bishop went away very impressed.

The year 1980 belongs to St.Bridget's. This is their centenary  and the congregation have been celebrating the event.

Today, Baillieston is a thriving modern community with excellent shops including supermarkets and friendly wee stores with Indian and Chinese "carry outs" opposite the "chippie".

A sports and social centre was opened in 1974 with facilities for every kind of sport, function and refreshment. Yoga, aikido and saunas are popular these days. Bowling at the Baillieston and Garrowhill clubs is always enjoyable and there are tennis courts and facilities for young children in the parks. There are several social clubs, including Baillieston Juniors Football and Social Club, which flourish.

Football has done particularly well this year. not only did the Scottish Junior Cup come to Station Park for the first time ever, but the national Dryborough Cup and the MacLeod Cup made it a triple win.

Calderpark Zoo is barely two miles down the road.

Building in the public and private sectors continues to expand, proving the popularity of the area. a fine new sheltered housing scheme with facilties for the handicapped and a warden was completed earlier in the year and a new health centre is due to be finished soon.

In the past six years I have particularly noticed a decline in litter and vandalism while the Parks Department have worked wonders with grass, trees and roses.

To find out what the young think of their community, I spoke to Brian Reid. Brian is 19. He has spent all his life in Baillieston and when he left Bannerman he commuted to the College of food in Glasgow to become a chef. After a spell at the albany Hotel he was lucky enough to find employment in McPhie home bakery in the Main Street where he is now a qualified baker. Brian teaches in sunday School, organises bingo, enjoys discos, watching football, holidays at Butlins and knows just about everyone. He gets blamed when the "crimpets" are tough and praised for his apple tarts. What does he think of Baillieston ?

"Some folk are aye complaining but its okay," he grinned. "Its home."

What turned Baillieston into home for me was one old lady. Dressed in shabby pink with a battered straw hat she climbed on to the bus one summer's day six years ago and sat down beside me. she opened her handbag and took out a rather squashed chocolate.  "Here, hen," she said beaming all over her wrinkled face. "I always gie a sweetie tae the first stranger I speak tae in the day."

She is one of the reasons why I don't miss the Black Isle too much. That's why Baillieston's beautiful to me, too. Its people after all that count.

Elizabeth Sutherland

copyright of Mrs.E.S. Marshall © 1980