Rawyards, Stanrigg and the Road Not Taken

Nothing from Robert today; I just want to use this space to capture some words and images I found relating to some of Robert’s and my ancestors.

Robert’s paternal grandparents were Robert Donald West (his namesake) and Ann Paterson. In 1841, Ann was a teenager living with her family in Rawyards – a place that always seemed creepy and/or horrible to me, just from the name. Ann’s father, John Paterson, was a miner, as were many of their neighbors.

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Here’s Rawyards as of 1860 or so:

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And this is from the Glasgow Herald in 1875; a reporter took a walking tour of the area and had this to say:

Let us now go to Rawyards, which may be said to be a suburb of Airdrie. Rawyards is a big and apparently flourishing village, with a mixed class of houses and a corresponding diversity of population. There is a large factory in the place, to which crowds of young women were trooping during the breakfast hour, when I happened to be there. At the end of the village is Baird Square, a mining settlement owned by various proprietors. Here there are two rows, belonging to Dr Robertson, which are quite as miserable as those already described. They are single apartments, lighted from one side only, with earthen floors patched with pieces of wood, and are all terribly out of repair. The earthen floors are broken up into a series of watery holes, some of which the tenants have filled up with clay and mud from the street Everything is untidy inside and outside. The ashpits and closets are filthy in the extreme, and the road in front of the houses is a dirty puddle. A good deal of overcrowding exists in these rows. In two of the single apartments which I entered there are eight of a family. The rent is 7s a-month. I was informed that Dr Robertson became the proprietor of the houses two years ago, and before that time they were held for 2s a-month, which, I take leave to say, is their full commercial value. In Black’s Place, also at Rawyards, I found single apartments rented at 5s a-month, which, relatively to Dr Robertson’s, are worth 12s a-month. The sanitary condition of Black’s Place, and indeed of all this portion of the village, is highly objectionable. 

And then there’s this disturbing coincidence. On July 9, 1918, while Robert and the 140th waited in Saulxures-sur-Moselotte for their turn in the trenches, 19 Scottish miners – some of them as young as 14 – were buried alive in a coal mine less than two miles from Rawyards. One of the victims was a 17-year-old boy who lived in Baird Square in Rawyards – potentially near where Robert’s grandmother lived 70 years earlier. It’s easy to imagine Robert in that mine, had his family not left Scotland for America.

Now known as the Stanrigg disaster, the tragedy is still well known in Scotland and was only one of many such mining accidents.

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Here’s Rawyards today; Black Street and Airdriehill Street are still there; most of the other roads have been renamed. And, fortunately for everyone involved, the old Baird Square apartments are long gone.

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Next: Letter to Dad

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