Heaven and Hell

As I stated previously, the names my great-grandmother, Marion Reid Gartshore carried were very old and well-known in the Coatbridge area. The earliest relative in the Gartshore line I have currently was John Gartshore, born about 1650 . I assume this was in Kirkintilloch as he married there in 1673 to Elizabeth Wood. Below, a map showing where these places are in Scotland.

Muirkirk and Coatbridge

Muirkirk and Coatbridge

In the Smith line, I have only gotten as far back as John Smith born in Muirkirk, Ayrshire in 1813. He married Annabella McGhee in Muirkirk in 1836. Below, their marriage record :

John and Annabella Smith Marriage Reg muirkirk , ayr

In the 1861 census, they had 9 children.
John Gartshore and Janet Gray, my grandmother’s other grandparents were married in Glasgow in 1847. Below, their marriage record:

John Gartshore and Janet Gray OPR 1847

They too had 9 children.
My great grandparents, James Smith and Marion Reid Gartshore were married in New Monkland in 1879. They had 13 children, but only 9 survived, my grandmother Jane Gartshore Smith being one of them.
Below, a map of Coatbridge in the 19th century.



The stories of Muirkirk and Coatbridge are similar but perhaps on a different scale. Both were basically pastoral communities, though Muirkirk is described as being quite bleak, having been a forested area in ancient times and cleared just enough to allow grazing and some agriculture. Like Coatbridge, there was temporary prosperity during the time of the iron works which were established there. When they ran out, the place was left with few prospects.

Muirkirk, Ayrshire

              Muirkirk, Ayrshire

From the Undiscovered Scotland website:

“The 1799 Statistical Account for the thinly populated parish containing what became Coatbridge said: “Beside a vast quantity of natural wood, there are more than 1,000 acres planted. This beautifies the country and improves the climate. We have many extensive orchards. A stranger is struck with this view of the Parish. It has the appearance of an immense garden. Here are produced luxuriant crops of every grain, especially wheat. The rivers abound with salmon in the proper season and trout of every species. There is also plenty of pike and perch in the Monklands Canal.”

By the 1840s the view of Coatbridge had changed from the “immense garden” of 1799: “There is no worse place out of hell than that neighbourhood. At night, the groups of blast furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes at most of which smelting is continued on Sundays and weekdays, day and night, without intermission. From the town comes a continual row of heavy machinery: this and the pounding of many steam hammers seemed to make even the very ground vibrate under one’s feet. Fire, smoke and soot with the roar and rattle of machinery are its leading characteristics; the flames of its furnaces cast on the midnight sky a glow as if of some vast conflagration. Dense clouds of black smoke roll over it incessantly and impart to all the buildings a peculiarly dingy aspect. A coat of black dust overlies everything.”


         Summerlee Iron Works

By the time my grandmother was born in 1887, the waste heap for the iron works was a big as the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The Gartshores and Smiths had migrated down to Coatbridge, very likely to find work. All the men in my grandmother’s family worked at the iron works and one of her brothers, Samuel came over to New York to work in the rolling mills there.

The other side of the story would also be about how this employment brought prosperity to the area and to the family. We will talk about that next.

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