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You are here: Information & History | Social History - Recreation

Social History
Health Politics Fairs

Music Recreation Hamilton Park War Years
Social History - Recreation
Youth Organisations
Adult Organisations
Holm Farm Golf Course
Stonehouse and District Beekeepers Association
The Cinema

Youth Organisations
In general the Victorian working-class child had far less time for play than his twentieth century counterpart. Until 1863, young children could be employed up to twelve hours per day in factories. Even after the 1872 Education Act, many children continued to work part time, leaving little time for leisure. For the children of the more affluent families there would be long hours in the nursery playing with handmade toys. There were few of the prepackaged entertainments of today, with more scope for imagination and improvisation in children’s play whatever their class.

As a child I was fortunate enough to have an eventful and adventurous life, mixed with happy recollections of my early school years at Townhead. Class breaks were spent playing games, such as Statues, Under Arm Tig, British Bull Dog, What’s the Time Mr Wolf and my personal favourite Dead Man’s Fall; a game whereby participants had the opportunity to choose death by various weapons and make a spectacular plunge from a great height to their death. This game was the scene of many an Oscar winning performance, the most stupendous being death by hand grenade. Fortunately none of my wounds were fatal, though I did suffer the odd case of concussion.

There have been many youth organisations in Stonehouse, supporting a wide range of activities, including the Boys’ Brigade, the Girls’ Brigade, the Girl Guides and the 1st Stonehouse Scout Troop. A Scout Troop numbering 30 boys was first established in 1913 under scout master Andrew Paton (Larkhall) and re-established after the war in 1928. The Boys’ Brigade was established in April 1894 by Rev. James Wyper Wilson and their first captain was James Curr. In the 1950’s there was a small company of the Army Cadet Force in the village of approximately 26 boys, which formed part of the 4th Lanarkshire Battalion.

Today there are many youth organisations outwith the church run youth organisations including; TABS Drama Group, Karate Classes, Youth Club, Dance School, Rugby Club and several football teams.
Adult Organisations
In Stonehouse, as in so many villages throughout Scotland, social life and entertainments were organised almost entirely by voluntary organisations. Our rural location and limited recreational facilities within the village accounted for many and varied social activities. Leisure time for villagers was enjoyed by participating in minor sports such as bowling, curling, nine pins or fishing.

Curling was the great winter pastime in old Stonehouse, played by young and old, with a strong inter-parochial rivalry with neighbouring villages. The Millholm dam palyed host to the westward parish bonspiels, such as Strathaven, Sandford, Glassford, Chapelton, etc. The dam no longer exists on the Avon, except by name, and was situated just above the Horse Pool, previously supplying water power to the mill at Millholm. The Blackwood Loch was the favourite venue when playing parishes such as Blackwood, Lesmahagow, etc, and it was here that Mr Jeffries was busy playing a bonspiel when word was brought to him of the burning of the Black Bull Hotel (10th March 1855).

The Swinehill Loch was another meeting place of the curlers, when playing Swinehill, Larkhall, Dalserf, etc. It was situated almost at the junction of the Edinburgh-Ayr and Glasgow-Carlisle roads. The more commonly known curling venue of Tileworks ‘Loch’, does not seem to have been used at all until a much later period than the above locations. Freezing conditions could last for several weeks, allowing the formation of a league with regular fixtures, against neighbouring parishes. The system was formerly to play with eight persons on each side, one stone each, but then changed to four on each side with two stones each. In 1896 the president of the club was Archibald Shearer.

Another loch that saw many a fast and furious curling match, was that of the old quarry hole at Overwood. After the Franco-Prussian war a period of depression set in, and this combined, of course, with the natural difficulties encountered, had the quarry workers idle in the height of winter for sometimes as long as ten weeks. During these spells the farmers round about were in the habit of organising a kind of gala day, when all the unemployed workers met on the ice and played out a tournament for prizes, usually bags of potatoes, or cheeses, or other farm produce gifted by the farmers.

The origin on the game in Stonehouse, like the early origin of the game itself, is obscurred by antiquity, and there do not seem to be any records relating to the formation of the first Stonehouse Curling Club. A club was formed in connection with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club of Scotland. In 1820, however, we find Stonehouse playing Lesmahagow at Cander Moss; six rinks participated and were beaten by Lesmahagow by 30 points (score 187 to 157).

In the old weaving days there was always a supply of curling stones on hand, as the weavers used them for the purpose of weighting their webs when not engaged on the ice. This may in part account for the greater popularity of curling during this period. The passing of this fine old Scottish game in Stonehouse is to be much lamented. The Curling Clubhouse was said to be “staggering on its last legs, and will soon be a point of historical interest” in 1932; the game having only a handful of participants at that time.

While curling was a popular winter pursuit, quoits and kyles were summer pastimes. Kyles derives from the french word ‘quilles’, and was a favourite sport of James IV. In Stonehouse it was especially popular with the weavers; quoits more commonly associated with the miners. In his book ‘Hame’ George Wilson, quotes his grandfather George ‘Wheelie’ saying “We had a hawthorn hedge bordering our garden with Kirk Street, and , in the old, popular game of kyles played among men folk, this stretch with head and run from Greenside corner, made the best rink in the village centre”. The objective of the game was to attain a predetermined number of shots which was generally forty-one for competition matches, and thirty-one for local friendlies. The winner was usually the best of
five or seven sets. The pitch had to be a surfaced, well trodden, common or roadway with at least thirty yards in at least two directions from the ‘head‘ or centre where the kyles were set. Manse Road was a popular venue for these events.

The kyles were made of hardwood, fifteen inches in length and three inches in diameter. A set comprised of nine kyles, eight alike, the master kyle was named the ‘pape’ or ‘head’ and controlled the others. The nine kyles were set on their feet, in a three kyle square formation, with the ‘head’ in the centre. Shots were played by rolling or throwing a wooden ball of football proportions. The spacing of the kyles such that the ball could be thrown through the head without disturbing the set. The art lay in making the correct fall to suit the player’s score, which advanced one with each falling kyle. Opponents started from a marking in the vicinity of the head. The toss-winner took the ball, and gripping it with both hands, had the option of throwing at his discretion at any length, in any direction, away from the head, and where it rested was the starting mark. This point thereafter was called ‘the flittin’. From the ‘flittin’ each opponent, in turn, threw or rolled the ball towards the head, only one ball was used, the first objective being to reach the head, or as near as possible to it, and the resting place marked. The head was only occasionally disturbed by the first throw. From there the kyles were registered and replaced, and the player allowed his second throw from a three yards distance. Each player had two throws only, then returned to the ‘flittin’ to recommence.

George Wilson states that the rules varied from area to area but the above rules were generally accepted among the inter-parish challenge matches. With the increasing popularity of bowling, kyles soon gave way to the changing leisure pursuits of inhabitants. Tarmac and pavements were also responsible for the downfall of kyles. Stonehouse Bowling Club was formed in 1857. The original green was situated at Lochpark in Green Street (to the left of Masonic building) before moving to its present location in Vicars Road.

Quoiting was another favourite pastime in the parish played by many but now played mainly by children. The aim was to throw a 10lb band of steel with consistent accuracy on to a clay-embedded steel pin twenty one or eighteen yards distant, in a ‘sixty one’ shot game, of four hours duration. This sport was still popular in the 1920’s. There still exists a pitch at Birkenshaw, which is used regularly by a Quoiting Club in Larkhall.

Other recreational pursuits included cricket, played at Newfield as far back as 1858; and lawn tennis, introduced in the 1880’s. A ‘new’ cricket club was formed in 1883, called ‘The Royal Cricket Club’. Local man Tom Watson (b.1898, d.1974) played cricket for Scotland between 1928-1931. Tennis was played at Holm on a lawn belonging to a Mr Shearer. The first patron of the club was Mrs Dr. Jackson of Hill Cottage. A cycling club was established in the 19th century, sending representatives to the World Championships in 1897.

According to Robert Naismith, a highly respected heritor of the parish stated that annual horse racing events were held at Millholm; an area said to be well suited for such a sport. It was a local tradition to race for a ‘silver bell’, such was the case at Lanark. Naismith also states that there was a race course at one time from Woodlands out through the ‘half-acre’ and through the village.

In 1887, there was a team under the name of the Royal Football Club playing at Newfield. Pre first world war there were football teams called Violet and Albion, the latter never reformed after the great war. Violet however did reform, changing their name to Stonehouse United until their demise around 1924.

Stonehouse Violet entered the realms of Scottish Junior Football in 1924. Before joining the Central League, the ‘Violet’ played in the Lanarkshire Junior League. Taking up residence at the old Station Park they won their first honours in 1935/36, winning the Hozier Cup and the Central Cup in 1936.

On moving to Loch Park in 1938 (where they resided until 1956), they won the Hozier Cup, the Central Cup and the Lanarkshire League in their first season. These efforts were achieved greatly through the efforts of two local men; Logie Armstrong, the clubs first president and Steve Bunch the clubs match secretary from 1926 to 1956.

Though never attaining the heights of local rivals Larkhall Thistle (twice winners of the Junior Cup and once runners up), the Violet never the less enjoyed great success in the late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. This success drew the attention of many senior clubs and in the 1948/49 season the following players signed with senior clubs: Donald Gaw (Dunfermline), Dick McCue (Kilmarnock), Bobby Jarvie (Airdrie), Bobby Lambie (Cardiff City), Donald McKenzie (Rangers) and Tiny Nelson (Queen of the South).

Undoubtedly Stonehouse’s most famous footballer is local man, Tom Forsyth who played for Stonehouse Thistle as a young man. Nowadays Tom is more famed for his bowling feats and abilities as a flower grower. Tom was signed for Stonehouse Thistle in the mid 1960’s by the match secretary Jack Bunch. In 1967 Tom signed for Motherwell who were attracted by his strong defensive skills. At Motherwell Tom soon established himself and built up a strong reputation. Jock Wallace signed him for Glasgow Rangers in 1972, making his debut against his former club. Possibly the highlight of his career came in 1973, when he scored in the Scottish Cup final against Glasgow Celtic, as Rangers went on to win 3-2. Capped 22 times for Scotland, he made his debut against Denmark in 1971 and was a member of the famous Scotland squad which reached the World Cup Finals in Argentina in 1978.

Up until the now Stonehouse Violet’s greatest moment came in the season 1977-78, when they reached the Scottish Junior Cup Final, a remarkable achievement for one of the junior games smallest clubs.

The road to Hampden started with a 5-1 home win against Frazerburgh Juniors in the second round, having received a bye in the first round. Their passage to the final was long and tough, with only two more home ties at the Tilework Park. The results were as follows: Blantyre Vics 2-1 (Away), Broxburn Athletic 4-2 (Away); which was perhaps their most memorable win. Kilsyth Rangers 2-1 at Pollock’s Newlandsfield Park after two draws. A quarter final victory over East Kilbride Thistle 2-1 (Home), led to a semi-final appearance against Renfrew Juniors at Love Street, the home of St. Mirren. The game was practically a home tie for Renfrew, yet against all the odds the Violet defeated the more experienced Renfrew, with a 3-2 winning margin. Amazingly Stonehouse were now in the final of Junior football’s premier tournament. Their opponents were to be Bonnyrigg Rose, supported by 007, Sean Connery, a one time player of the ‘Rose’.

On a fine Summers day, in May 1978, the “Battle of the Flowers” commenced. The ‘Violet’ and the ‘Rose’ fought out a close encounter at Scotland’s famous Hampden Park. A crowd of around 7,000 viewed the final from the terraces, leaving the two small, former mining communities almost deserted. The two sides had much in common as both were initially massive outsiders to reach the final, never mind winning the tournament. Sadly the Violet’s finest hour (and a half!) ended in defeat. Robbed some would say by an atrocious refereeing decision, the Violet were beaten 1-0 by a dubious penalty. The Violet had only narrowly failed to lift Junior footballs most coveted trophy, returning to Stonehouse with their runners-up medals. However they were victorious in the hearts of the local community, in a year which remains as their most glorious season.

Holm Farm Golf Course
Stonehouse Golf Club on the lands of ‘Holm’ Farm was inaugrated in 1910. Opened officially in 1912, Robert Rule was the first president of the club, with David Stirling as the clubs first captain. At the AGM of the golf club in January 1914 local teacher Alexander McIntosh was elected president replacing retiring president Mr Sym. The other office bearers elected were William Mackenzie, vice president, John Millar, captain, Mr Macfie, treasurer and George Brown, secretary. It was agreed at the meeting that a leading lady golfer should participate in an exhibition match to officially open the seasons play in May of that year.

Holm farm was a nine hole course and its steep banks provided quite an obstacle for many. At the official opening of the green that year, the greenkeeper, Mr Biggar, stated the greens were in splendid order. Local ladies, Miss Sievewright, Miss Craig and Miss Jessie Millar all took part in the medal contests.

Prior to the turn of the 19th century the major impetus behind the development of education in Scotland was provided by the Church.
The history of the early Church shows the growth of formal education taking place after the landing of St. Columba in Iona in 563AD. The Celtic and Roman churches founded schools as an extension of their work and worship. The Reformers also saw the importance of education both in its own right, and as a means of strengthening Protestantism. Even into the nineteenth century parish schools were controlled by the Church of Scotland. Throughout this period learning depended much on the vision of the Church. The aim of education was primarily one of training those who would be participating in church services. The following year Daniel Sym presented the prizes at the opening ceremony, at which a mixed fourballs competition took place. Entry fees for the days play were donated to the ‘Serbian Flag Day’ fund. With William Mackenzie presiding at the AGM of January 1917, it was unanimously agreed to suspend play for the coming year. It was also agreed that members should pay a small levy to meet administration expenses and repairs to the club house. Members were also instructed to remove their clubs from the club lockers. Part of the course was said to have been cultivated during the Great War but sadly the course did not return to play.

Most locals know of the golf course which existed at the Holm Farm during the first world war but what many may not know is that our first golf course was at West Town farm, as far back as 1896. When the course closed is uncertain but I expect this was open for no more that a few years. The following is an extract from the Hamilton Advertiser reporting on the opening.

June 1896
The formation of a golf club in Stonehouse is now an accomplished fact, and considering the class of membership that have joined or signified their intention to do so, it is evident that the club has come to stay. A suitable course has been found near West Town Farm. Several holes have already been got, and others are in formation. Good play has been got, and in course of time we may be proud of the position Stonehouse Golf Club will hold in golfing circles.

Stonehouse and District Beekeepers Association
A popular pastime in the village during the late 19th and early twentieth century was beekeeping. On 4th December 1944 the Stonehouse and District Beekeepers Association was formed. The office bearers and committee were appointed as follows: President, Mr Joseph Brown; Vice President, Mr William Melvin; Secretary, Mr John Johnstone; Treasurer, Mr Robert Craig; Committee: Alexander Watson, Thomas Watt (Jnr), James Dobson, John Dick, and Thomas Johnston. Affiliated to the ‘Scottish Beekeepers Association’, the membership fee was 4/ per member, to be paid at the A.G.M. in January of each year. Each member would give a donation of 2/6 to establish a fund to meet expenses which the association may incur.

Meeting in the Dramatic Club Hall in King Street the club grew from strength to strength, competing against neighbouring clubs and exhibiting their produce. In 1951 the secretary of the Beekeeper Association was the ex-Station Master James Rattray. The clubs most notable success came in the years 1956 and 1957 when a team consisting of Messers Millar, Thomson, Rattray and Johnston won the McClymont Cup.

Beekeeping in Stonehouse was on the decline during the late 60’s, with poor harvest years and many of their older members dying. The organisation was finally wound up on 20th June 1973 with only five members in the association. It was decided that the remaining members should join up with Blackwood and District Association, as it was the only association remaining in this area.

From an extract of the Hamilton Advertiser it is clear to see the obvious attraction to beekeeping. October 1968 (by Hugh Burns)

“In the early hours of the morning, the hives were loaded onto the horse and cart for the long haul to the heather moors. Various stops were made on the way to refresh both man and horse. The arrival at the heather, with the resultant release of the bees, was a tricky job calling for an alertness of mind and body which had not been impaired by strong refreshment! In the ensuing battle the bees usually emerged as victors with the beekeepers in full retreat!

Then began the trek home with all the temptations of the roadside inns to attract the travellers. By this time the responsibility of getting the party home safely by the late evening, lay with the horses rather than the drivers.”
The Cinema
Directly across from the old parish church in New Street stands the village’s first picture house, built around December 1914, and now a commercial business. Known as ‘The Palace’, the cinema was designed by Victor Wilson, seating 600. The cinema was under the management of Harry Kimm, who organised not only the film shows but also a variety of entertainment such as Harman, the dancing musician and the local Silverband. Serials such as ‘Perils of Pauline’ and films including, ‘Red Circle’, ‘The Black Box’ and ‘The Master Key’ were said to have been among the first shown there. In October 1915, a 12 year old boy from Stonehouse was charged with breaking and entry. The judge in condemning the boy’s action, blamed the picture house, which the boy was said to frequent, stating; “He saw how it was done”. The Palace was sold at auction for £1060 in March 1918.

It wasn’t until January 1937 that the ‘Rex’ was opened in Argyle Street by the owner, John Edward Sheeran. The picture house was furnished with a chandelier and mahogany panel fittings, including a staircase, from the German ship ‘Homeric’. The newspaper extract below gives a report on the opening of the cinema.

January 23rd 1937
Full homage was done to what can be genuinely termed Lanarkshire’s King of picture houses, appropriately named ‘The Rex’, when it was opened on Thursday night, and a crowded house appreciated and admired this splendidly fitted up structure. Roomily seated to accommodate 750 persons, what was once the concert hall of the “Homeric”, has been transformed into on  of the finest cinemas for its size in and no doubt out of the county, and Mr Sheeran may indeed feel proud of the achievement. Film fans will find nothing left to be desired regarding sound equipment and the F.I. (Film Industry) outfit has to be heard to be appreciated. No doubt many will avail themselves at an early opportunity to go, to hear and see what has been a long felt want in the village, and which now having become such a splendid reality deserves every encouragement.

Launched as ‘Columbus’ on December 17th 1913, in Danzig, construction was held up during the first world war and was not completed until 1920. After the Second World War the town of Danzig was renamed Gdansk when it was reclaimed by Poland. The ‘Homeric’ is said to have been built for the Kaiser in the expectation of him winning the first world war. Ceded to Britain in 1919, she was sold to the White Star Line and renamed the ‘Homeric’. Weighing 34,351 tons she was refitted and completed by 1922 by Harland and Wolff. Her maiden voyage was on February 24th 1922, sailing from Southampton to New York as a cruise ship. The 'Homeric’ had the distinction of being the largest twin screw ship in the world at the time of her launch. Unfortunately she was too slow at 18 knots for Atlantic crossings and was refitted to improve her speed with her coal burners converted to oil. In 1924 it was decided that her third class passenger capacity was too large and deemed unprofitable. She was still too slow at 19.5 knots and the new liner the ‘Oceanic’ was announced as her replacement in 1928. In 1930 her passenger and crew capacity was 523 first, 841 second, 314 third class and 625 crew. In 1932 came her final Atlantic voyage, thereafter she cruised in the Mediterranean out of British ports, and in the winter operated West Indian cruises. In 1934 the ‘Homeric’ became part of the merger between Cunard and White Star. In 1935 she was withdrawn from service and laid up off Ryde, Isle of Wight. Sold for scrap in February 1936 for £74,000 she was broken up by Thomas W. Ward at Inverkeithing where her interior furnishings were dismantled and transported by 14 wagons to Stonehouse Railway Station.

John Sheeran was a showman by trade, originally dealing in slot machines before it was outlawed. He invested his savings in the Rex picture house, which cost £1400 to refurbish. The evolution of television, put an end to this era and the picture house was redeveloped, returning to dealing in slot machines and amusements when the trade was legalised once more.

The picture house proved very popular especially during the war years. The first picture shown was ‘It happened one night’ starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. At this time the seating prices were 6D for the front stalls, 9D for the back, 1/3D for the front balcony and 1/- for the rear balcony. During the war years the Rex was also used for war fund cabaret performances. Sir Harry Lauder was the chairman of this committee and was a ‘regular’ in entertaining audiences and wounded soldiers. Mr Sheeran was a founder member of the committee, raising over £1700 for local soldiers. He died in June 1967 at the age of 73. Many celebrities graced the Rex including Will Fyffe CBE on Sunday 21st February 1943. The Rex was the only stage on which Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe appeared together on the same bill.

Recently a cruise ship called the ‘Homeric’ was built, and now sails from Dover round the Arctic to Scandinavia. The Rex today is used as a store for the family business, but inside it still retains many of the features and character that made it one of the most attractive picture houses in the country.

Probably the first film to be screened in Stonehouse was ‘Quo Vadis’ in the Public Hall, as an educational feature. The first recording of ‘moving pictures’ in Stonehouse appears to be in April 1898, taken from the Hamilton Advertiser:

A large audience turned out on Tuesday night to witness a cinematograph exhibition in the Public Hall. A large number of views were thrown on the screen, but whether it was owing to defective films or the machine itself, a kineoptoscope. the living photographs were very indistinct, and failed to give satisfaction. Perhaps the most interesting pictures were some photographs taken by the x-rays, notably the skull of a living soldier, showing the position of bullets. The exhibition was under the management of Mr Wm. Grant, of Talgarth, South Wales, and the illuminant used was the Ethoro lime-light.

From 1896 to 1902 George Gray (The Cross) made a fine collection of glass slides depicting many scenes and characters of that time. In February 1898 there was a viewing of these slides in the Public Hall, advertised as a ‘Magic Lantern Exhibition’. The glass slides have been in many hands through the years but now the Heritage Group has secured them for preservation and exhibition purposes. Unfortunately, many of the 250 slides are either broken or damaged and apparently many have emigrated with the Gray family to America. John Melvin (Angle Street) was also a keen photographer in this era but alas few of his pictures survive in the village. John Melvin also emigrated with many of his slides going with him. Others are said to have been broken up and buried in the back garden of the late George Wilson’s house in Green Street.

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