25 March 1873
A big day on my family tree – my grandfather Henry Strachan was born. Sadly, I know nothing about him apart from what I’ve been able to research, nor do I have any photos, as not only did he die before I was born but he died 3 days before my father’s second birthday so my father had no memories of him to pass on. Henry was a coal miner, born at Crookedholm, the eighth child of coal miner Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. He’s Henry in all the records but my father always said his name was actually Hendry. He was named after his uncle, the brother of his father, who did manage to get himself listed as Hendry in one census.
Fortunately, as Henry he’s fairly well documented in the records. In 1881 he’s an 8 year old living with his parents and siblings in Crookedholm, and he’s still there, with his parents at Lamont’s Land, Crookedholm, in 1891, a 19 year old coal miner. His older brother Robert had died the year before and, sadly, his older sister Flora was to die two years later.
Henry met local girl Helen McCrae, who lived in Hurlford and was the daughter of a coal miner, and she gave birth to their first child in September 1895. No marriage took place at the time, but that might have had something to do with the health of Henry’s father, who died in December 1895 of cardiac disease. But Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae did get married in March 1896, at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, and they went on to have a total of 11 children, my father being the youngest. In the 1901 census they were living at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, with three children.
In 1905 the Valuation Roll has, at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, Henry Strachan collier living next door to Henry Strachan pitheadman. This is my grandfather and his uncle but I don’t know which is which, though it’s more likely that the older Henry is the pitheadman as it was a job that usually went to older miners. They were both living in housing rented by Portland Colliery.
Some time between 1906 and 1908 the family moved to Lanarkshire, to an area that is now classed as Glasgow. They first settled at Tollcross, where their next child was born. Henry’s younger brother also moved to Tollcross and there were a number of other relations already in the area. No doubt the main reason for the move was better or more secure work in the coal mines. Then they moved to Cambuslang, but times must have been tough as in the 1911 census the family is in a two roomed tenement at 14 Mansion Street in a household comprising Henry and Helen, 9 children aged from 15 to 2 months, and two lodgers, both coal miners. A very crowded household indeed!
In 1912 Helen and Henry’s youngest child, William, died at the age 1 of measles and broncho-pneumonia. This must have been what prompted Henry to take out a title on a plot at Westburn Cemetery: I have the original title deed in my possession because my father ended up with it. Henry and family had moved by then and were living at 54 Gilbertfield Buildings. The address suggests Henry was working at the Gilbertfield Mine near Cambuslang, owned by United Collieries and which in 1910 employed 315 underground and 82 above ground. The mine owners’ houses for employees are described in a 1910 report as two storey, erected in 1884, with large rooms, wc in a close, and an inside sink with water. In the 1915 Valuation Roll Henry Strachan miner is the tenant of 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Overton Street, owned by United Collieries, and paying a yearly rent of £9 12s.
Henry Strachan died on 27 November 1918 at the age of 45, of pneumonia arteriosclerosis – a common cause of premature death in coal miners. He left behind a widow and 10 children, 5 of whom had not yet reached working age.