Forth District

The open air village

The History of the Village of Braehead

The village of Braehead is located 7 miles (10 km) north east of Lanark, 3 miles (5 km) north west of Carnwath in South Lanarkshire.

 One of its famous attractions is the local public house " The Last Shift "

Braehead sits on the summit of an elevated ridge between the Dippool Water on the east and the Mouse Water on the west.

The Braehead district lies within the Parish and Barony of Carnwath

At Woodend Farm are the grass covered remains of Couthally Castle, this was the ancestral home of the Somerville family.

 History of Braehead


At the re-union of natives, old scholars, villagers, and many of the present generation, held at braehead in 1931, I promised some of my old friends gathered there from all parts of the country to give at some future time a fairly complete list of the householders in the village, over sixty year* ago, with some of their characteristics, as far as I can rememeber them.

Your valuable paper, Mr Editor, which is read in almost every corner of the world as far and away the best means of letting some old friends and their successors see this light.

As I am blessed with a remarkably fried memory I can still see all those fine old folks, of 60 to 70 years ago, just as clearly and "distinctly as the folks I met yesterday. AS no records are available I must rely entirely on memory. Of course, this means there wil lbe a few omissions. 

Let us enter the village from Carnwath. At the first house on. the left I see David Smith standing at the gate. David came fromi the Skirling district to Braehead. He was a"fine "teller of stories." One of his daughters was married to Duncan Stewart, at one time the village schoolmaster. 

At the next house we find John Fairley,tailor, a fine, sterling, upright man. It was in Johr Fairley's house that all we rowantreehill children gathered together at mid-day (school dinner hour) to eat our ''pieces." When John and his family ,went to America, probably 63 or 64 years ago,! this same house became our home,and  is still in our family. I have very pleasant recollections of Willie Fairley (son), iliter, some years John Fairley jeturned to Braehead to pursue his business in a house down the village where, we rejoice to say, none of his daughters still resides.

At the next house John Bryce comes into view. John was a well-known, kind, cheery man. In the pursuit of his business he must have walked thousands upon thousands of miles. He was a fine conversationalist, had a great memory, and was always interesting, some of his family still reside in the village. Next house and "smiddy" was Smith Mair's. just remember him and that is all. In later years, in James Weir's time, the "smiddy" was a jolly, cheerful place on the winter ights; Some "tall" stories were related  with great glee.

Next house was Hugh Silence's, weaver. here are still some of Hugo's grandchildren-some parts of the country. Not sure if there are any about Braehead- at present. ' At that time James. Cranston's was the in the next house. If I remember aright, James had a, fruit business. Yes. I remember buying' :anston's "pears." His son, David, will  be kindly remembered by a few of the villagers. James Anderson lived about this part too.

Next house was John M'Ginn's. John was a drainer.

Next house was James Stark's, joiner and cartwnght. With him worked George and Robert Watson. It was a busy shop in those days. Numerous dressers, tables, chairs, carts, cart wheels, barrows, etc., were turned out here. Robert was an excellent whistler.  It was delightful to hear him on a summer's evening.

Then Mrs Calder and her daughter came* next. They kept cows and had a snug wee ' byre at,the corner. It was under the shelter of this byre that the young men of village (and some older ones too) used to congregate at nights. I often think "if that byre could talk

Turn to the left and at the first house dwelt John Veitch, father of the late John C. Veitch, of Darlington, whose rather sudden death last year we sadly mourn. John C. Veitch was the principal originator of the reunion, and, personally, I was looking forward to some fine schemes for the furtherance of the reunion from his fertile brain, ! when he was taken away. from us. In the Gilbertian words, I repeat,' "Where, O where, shall we find another!" John, the father, lived to a long age.

The next house was named "The Luggy," and there dwelt William Spence, son of Hugh Spence already referred to. I well remember Tom Spence, too, William's brother.

Next house I cannot at the moment remember the occupier, but next again was what I was termed locally, Janet Mann's shop (Mr and Mrs John Prentice). Mrs Prentice looked after the shop and John looked after the farm, which I will refer to later. John attended the Edinburgh markets regularly. He was a particularly nice,quiet, inoffensive man.

I am not very clear as to who lived in fhe next two or three houses which, a few years later, were named "James Weir's Row." So I pass on to the house where Nannie Chalmers lived. Nannie was a fine useful woman.

William Wilson, the weaver, Came next. Willie, as he was familiarly named, was a "fine type of a man. I am quite certain that he scarcely missed a Sunday from church service, walking to Carnwath Parish Church, three good miles and more there and back, for probably about forty years. Sandy, his son, also a weaver, was a most agreeable companion. He was well versed in all that pertained to the village and district.

Perhaps David Shaw's (the. policeman) was in the next house. (I have a faint idea that David lived further down the village in my earlier days.) I can still picture David walking his rounds "with measured step."We boys about Braehead always stood in awe at the appearance of the policeman. I don't know why. We were fairly good boys of course, we knew if we were not good David would get hold of us. 

 Next we come to the Russell family—James, John and M'Lean. I well remember their mother, who I always knew as Nannie; A nice. clean, tidy woman. John had few equals at telling tales. He , could hold a group of men or boys spellbound with his graphic description of stories of all kinds. He had a "way" of setting them off, which made them highly interesting and at times thrilling. M'Lean was a very likeable man.

Next we come to John Shaw, the engine-keeper. John emigrated to America.

Next door to John Shaw's there was a shop. My very earliest recollections of this shop are—it was Granny Mann's shop. Everybody called her in a homely Way, Granny Mann. When still in my school days Mr and Mrs Robert Blackley occupied this shop. They had a large, highly respected family. Personally, I had a very  delightful associations with this family, and. occasionally visit some of them. The father and mother were very kind, sympathetic folks.

Lizzie Howieson and her sister occupied the next house. It had an outside stone stair which long since was taken away. 

Before coming to John Forrest's, carrier and contractor, there were' some dwellers through the close. I remember James Fitzpatric! (drainer) and Willie Russell. I think Willie was a weaver. Then there was Joe M'Gill Joe kept pigs. I remember one Hallowe'er night, when pulling the tail stock some indulged in, some 'of the "boys" cleared a number of gardens of fine cabbages and kai stocks, huge ones, and sold them to Joe at Id each for his pigs. They would have been very cheap to Joe had it not been that he bought his own cabbages amongst the others. The session house and the dear little church come next. The session house reminds me ol the delightful choir practices we had, and the church—"Oh the grand soirees and concerts we had in the church under the presidency of the Rev. Alexander Banks. Further, there were jolly good church soirees in those- days. We now come to Jamie Mair's (or Muir's) Row, where dwelt Mrs Bryce, Hugh Steel (Hughie was a little- man). I have heard it  that Hughie could face any wild, kicking, biting horse. A wild animal which would frighten a dozen men had no fears for Hughie. He simply walked up to it and it became quite tame.

The Donalds lived in this row with their mother. I remember Jean, Lizzie, and 'Willie. Willie was in my class at school.  I was best man" at Willie's wedding. He married a fine woman, Agnes Frame.

The next row of houses at that time was locally named the "Saut Market." I, don't know why. Nanny McColl and Elizabeth Miller occupied houses in this row, and Thomas 'Hastie. Tammy, as he was familiarly named, was a "nice body." After I grew up, and as years flitted past, I had many pleasant associations with Thomas Hastie. He was clever and a keen observer. I had a special liking for Thomas Hastie.

John Robertson, weaver and newsagent, was another dweller in this row. At the back of this row, and facing West-mains, in a row, I think, of three houses lived John Davidson, weaver. For many years John was also church beadle. A quiet gentleman. This was often termed Nanny Purdie's Row. Erne Brownlee and her sister lived here, too. Farther down, and still facing Westmains, we find Johnnie Simpson, weaver. Johnnie was the first hand-loom weaver I saw at work. I remember the honeysuckle at Johnnie's door.

James Chapman, china merchant, lived at one time in a house a little farther north-east, near the '"Well," near where stood John Prentice's barn, the scene of many dance nights.

On the other side of the wall stood, and still stands, the manse, for more than half a century occupied by the late Rev. Alexander Banks and his happy family. Mr Banks was a wonderful man. He was an able preacher, a highly successful village and district doctor, and a farmer. Mr Banks had the farm down at the corner of the road going Scabgill way. One thing stands out very prominent in my memory at this point: Mr Banks had a little pony named "Sark." He was an extraordinarily clever man or boy who could sit ten seconds on Sark's back; I never saw the  feat accomplished. Mr Banks was a broad-minded man and had a large sympathetic heart. 1 shall always revere and cherish the memory of Mr Banks and family.

William Gray occupied the farm next to the manse, named Parkhead. I well remember a few weddings which were held in William's bars- Probably the only one remaining of the parkhead family of the olden time was Maggie (Mrs Wilson). She was a good singer. I had the pleasure of visiting her farm, near Elsrickle a few weeks ago. On that occasion she was lot in the best of health. I am sorry to say she has since passed away.

This is halfway through the list, and if you will allow ma, Mr Editor, I will resume and take up tie other half next week if all goes,


CORRECTIONS.—In our article on 6/1/34, "Mrs Calder" should have read Mrs Robertson and daughter. It was customary in those days to give married folks their maiden name always. Calder happened to be the maiden name

Last week I omitted to mention Wiiliam Voitch, tailor, who carried on a very successful business for many years, before naming David Shaw, policeman.



We cross the road and proceed up the street. John Prentice, jun., occupied the farm and shop, the first on the left entering from the "Maggie's Brae" road. At that time the farm was less than half the size it is now. I have already referred to Mr John Prentice, jun., who had a shop on the other side of the street. Young John's (he was often called Young John) "Barn" was often used for weddings and dances. The fiddler got perched up on the "feeding board." There were really some jolly times in John's Barn.

Next we have John Prentice, sen., also a shopkeeper, farmer and carrier. John was a regular attender of the Edinburgh markets, too.

Next door lived David Girdwood, boot and shoemaker, who in my schooldays, always made my boots. If I remember aright,, we used to get them after the "hairst" was over fine, strong "tackettys." Latterly, 1 worked with David for a little time. I think "music" got a stronger grip of me than leather, for by and by I forsook the leather part. David Girdwood was a keen, able politician; a great debater. (A Whig).

Miss Muir, dressmaker, lived next door. , Then comes Hope Cottage. Mr and Mrs John Forrest. John died a comparatively young man, and Mrs Forrest, locally and lovably named Marion Johnstone, carried on the little shop. It is worthy of note that a daughter still occupies the same cottage. It is such a pleasant name, "Hope Cottage.''

I must pass on to John Todd's, butcher. John had a fairly large family, some of whom took to the mason trade. Sorry I have lost connection with any of the family who may be living.

Next we come to Robert Dick's house, and next again James Veitch's, grocer and carrier. James also attended the Edinburgh markets regularly. His grandson, Robert, was one of my early companions. A great-grandson now occupies this same shop. James Veitch, sen., was John C. Veitch's grandfather. (I mean the late J. C. Veitch, of Darlington).

Next door used to be a scene of great activity, for there- lived John Veitch, a ' village doctor, "a vet." He killed pigs, too. John was a most useful member of the community, relieving sickness in the homes of the villagers and district and attending to the ailments of the farmers' cattle and horses. At least three things stand out prominently in my memory about John Veitch :His Highland cloak, his little pony, and his excellent bass voice.

Next we come to Robert Watson's, weaver. His daughter, Janet, was in my class at school.

Next door to Robert Watson's lived John Watson, weaver. John Watson was a delightfully sweet, efficient player on the-violin. In his "day" he stood unequalled in the district as a player of country dances. It was a great treat to hear him playing "Pease Strae," "The Flowers of Edinburgh," "Petronella," and other country dances. There is no doubt whatever about this, that John's artistic playing instilled in me a very deep love for the grand old Scottish airs which we played together sometimes. Two-years ago I had the pleasure of fondling, caressing, gazing at, and trying John's sweet, old violin, which his daughter, May, looks after with great earn and pride. This same lady is a poetess of no mean order.

I am a little lost as to who dwelt at that time between John Watson's and Tom Bryce's, shoemaker. Tom Bryce (like David Girdwood) had a good business in village and country.

John Robertson. who worked in the Limestone Quarry, comes looming up in my memorable view. John had a good big family. I particularly remember his son, Tom, a very nice chap. I also knew a number of the grandchildren very well. There was a pleasant charm about some of them that I liked.

George Tennant's houses came next. Of courses George occupied one himself and his mother the one at the east end of the building, Hugh Robertson occupied one next to Mrs Tennant's. Mrs Robertson was a dressmaker. George was a well-known man all round the district.

Turn to the left on the main Carnwath to Wilsontown road .there are two houses. I can remember Pat Travers living in one of them. Cross the road and there dwelt David Robertson, sen. weaver. His wife, better known, and mark you, kindly known, as Jean Ailson, was everybody's body a very useful person in the village with a doctor's knowledge. She had a wonderful memory.  The first person I can remember of living next door to Mr Robertson's was John Cunningham, carter and contractor. However, I can remember John being farmer of Black-hill Farm before he removed to Braehead, so it is evident some other person occupied that house during my early days at school.

 We now come to Mary Short's. I simply give the names as I heard them. With the greatest respect and kindness I give the maiden name when I don't remember any other name. Adam Lind lived here. All Ii remember about Adam is, he was a ventriloquist. Jenny Melvin lived next door to Mary's in the under flat, and Jamie Nicolson engineman, lived in the house 'up the stairs.

James Davidson, weaver, lived in the next! house. The house now known as the "Last Shift"

I was then a stable, and the next house at that time was a grocer's shop. The first occupants I remember were James and Mrs Todd.

A little further along was James Watson's, a brother of Robert Watson, the joiner. His son, James, a clever scholar, wes one of my classmates at school. 

We now come to George Watson's neat little cottage (George, the joiner). When well up in years he was as nimble and smart as a young man of twenty. George took a great interest in flowers. 

We now come to William Brown, weaver. Like John Russell, Willie Brown, as he was familiarly named, was a splendid teller of a story. He had the right knack of "setting them off." His eldest son, George, and I always played together in quoiting tournaments Braehead versus other clubs. George was a very exact "pitcher" and we were seldom defeated. It is a pity there are no records of those games. I notice a, son of George's takes a very important position in quoiting matches. The present village postman is also a son.

At the next house there lived Mrs Rennie and her daughter, Teenie. Very quiet,decent folks. 

Then we come to the school. Where the school and, schoolmaster's house was what is now the teacher's house only. (The major part of the school is all new). Peter Girdwood son of David I Girdwood, shoemaker) was, schoolmaster all the time I went to schooL. So he must have been about nine years (perhaps more) teacher at Braehead Before he left for America. Mr Girdwood was a splendid teacher and took a great interest in his scholars. A good disciplinarian, he was a man with a kind, sympathetic heart. I could write a lot on the school and things about the school but I must pass on.

 In the new houses between the school and james Simpson's. James Simpson's house was for many years (from the close of last century to the early years of this century) the police I headquarters. I faintly remember this new 1 row of houses being built.

Mary M'Gilvary had the shop next the school. Well do I remember Mary's Chester cakes, parleys and rice biscuits, got no doubt from the famous baker of Carnwath, George Smith, father of the present equally famous Carnwath baker. I used to think Mr Smith's rice biscuits wer'e unequalled. They were grand! John and Mrs Dick latterly, occupied this shop for many years.

Further along I well remember Mr David Robertson's (jun.) house. David had after wards the shop and house next to the present' "Last Shift," where he carried on a successful business. That was before he removed his business to George Tennant's row on the other side. When I was a Braehead school boy little did I imagine or dream that at this, same shop in later years was to begin a friendship that ripened into something greater. To return to my subject. I think David Robertson's mother lived in the new row in Carnwath Road.

Now we go to the last house on the left going Carnwath way. As I have already said this was James Simpson's house. James  was a mason, and I suppose he built his own i house. James was a splendid musician, a  kind of professional vocalist. He was for a long period of years precentor of Carnwath Parish Church. He had a powerful tenor voice. He used to hold singing classes in the farmhouse kitchens. , I was a member of Mr  Simpson's singing class held in Rowantreehill Farm kitchen exactly 68 years ago. Mr Simpson was an excellent fiddler. Another  lad and I used to visit Mr Simpson's in the evenings and there we learned to scrape through some fine strathspeys and listened to Simpson's playing. He had a great store of humour. Many a time I have seen him stop in the middle of a. tune—in the middle of a dance—if a good funny story came into his mind, and there he would relate it. Simpson purpose pf marriage. A big burly shepherd was in the gallery. This shepherd had a (great fancy for a lady who was being "cried" that day to another man. This enraged shepherd picked up his dog, Batty, and threw it at the poor unoffending precentor. Years afterwards James Simpson used to relate this story with great glee. At that period the other new row facing Tinto was built.

That concludes the householders' names of the village as I remember them.

This article is taken from an old newspaper clipping and the author seems to be W. T. PRENTICE. 

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