Carlukes Water Supply—Old Ways and New
[Reprinted from Carluke High School Magazine 1956 This year’s Local Study has met with an amazingly enthusiastic response, thanks in great measure to the encourage- ment and guidance steadily and generously given by members of Staff. We wish also to acknowledge most gratefully all other help received both in the way of information and the loan of rather rare books, maps and notes. The prize has been awarded, after careful consideration, to Ann Walker and Ian Reid jointly, of Class IIIA, while very high commendation is due to both Jessie Stratton and Ann Grieve, of Class III.B. We congratulate these pupils and thank Mr James Barr for his interest and encouragement each year of enquiries into Local History by awarding the prize. We print below an account of the Then and the Now, compiled from both of the prize-winning essays.]
In October of 1956 Her Majesty the Queen will open the huge Daer Reservoir near Elvanioot. This ambitious under- taking of the County Council will greatly augment the water supply for Lanarkshire, including that of our growing town of Carluke. *
The domestic water supply as it reaches us through taps in our homes of to-day is looked upon as just one other of the many public services. We are inclined to give little thought to the various stages of its development during the last one hundred and ﬁfty years. But amazing changes have taken place in Carluke, as elsewhere in Scotland, from the days of the Well Greens and stoups and galluses to the handy taps now in every home.
Up to 1875 Carluke was dependent on local springs and wells, and it has been interesting to read about the old ways. From historical record it may be concluded that Carluke has always been singularly favoured in having abundance of water. This comes to light in a specious placard of 1817, the purpose of which was to attract new settlers to the town. The introduction of new machines and the stagnation in trade after the Napoleonic Wars had struck a double blow at the Carluke hand-weavers, who had drifted elsewhere in search of work, so that the Parish was under-populated. Long leases and the promise of common ground with numerous springs and wells of water were among the attractions now offered; and gradually, thanks to mining operations begun in 1837, the population rose again from the low ﬁgure of 1,500 to 4,000. By 1875 the growth in population had reached 7,000, and piped water had to be introduced with hand- wells at convenient places, the old wells and springs being no longer adequate. With regard to that old time of wells and springs, some interesting facts emerge. And perhaps the ﬁrst of these is that in Carluke there were two Well Greens.
One of these was situated off Station Road, and there is doubt about where the actual well was: perhaps on the left hand side as we go towards the Junior School: The name must have come from some gate that led in to the well, for it was called Black Yett. The other Well Green was at the corner of Chapel Street and Cairneymount. Here was a pump well, very popular with the people in that little district. But many other wells existed; and for drawing water the town was divided into sections—indeed, anyone going to draw water from a well in some section not his own had to pay for the water. So it was, too, with private wells.
A bawbee a jug would be the charge. At Castlehill we ﬁnd that a spring ran into a box which was kept locked, and Tailor Lindsay’s Well by the Market Square boasted the convenience of a windlass. As for Greens, another one was the bleaching green in Rankin Street, which was known as the Needle Green, because the well there had many a needle dropped into it by the lassies who at the same time would secretly wish a wish.
The reference to that well and its location brings out two points worth mentioning. Rankin Street was then called North Lane; Cassels Street was South Lane; and Union Street, Pinkerton’s Close. Rankin Street was probably renamed after Dr David Reid Rankin, aptly described in the words on his tombstone: Surgeon, Geologist and Archaeologist of this Parish, who was born in a one-storeyed thatched house at the corner of Market Place and Rankin Street. We all know to-day the Memorial Hall. The other point of interest is that so many of the old wells had nicknames and were often noted for some special property. Among the nicknamed wells, every shepherd coming over the Bashaw Moor would look out for the stone slabs round the Coconut Well, where a shell or two served as drinking cups. The Stanistane Well, perhaps known, too, as the Roseneath Well, on the right hand side of the brae going up in the Cairneymount district, maybe got its name from some old standing stone that marked the place, and had stone steps out in the side to be used as steps down when the water was very low—and no hand-holds were there to help you! Perhaps at Brigend, one well, of several there, may have been distinguished by the whispered name of the Whisky Well, for illicit distilling seems to have been practised there, and some of the whisky actually was left and forgotten.
But potent qualities, without distillation, were claimed for the waters that ﬂowed in Carluke. On the outskirts of the Parish at the Tower of Halbar was a petrifying spring surely rich in lime, and at St. Oswald’s Chapel wells called Cameron’s Well and Duds or Rags Well date back to Monastic times and were known for the high proportion of iron in the waters. So soft was the ﬁne washing-green well water between Sandy Road and Belstane Road that a doctor is known to have taken the water to help his goitre patients.
Among the nicknamed wells with medicinal properties, the outstanding one was the Pheesio Well on the old Gaswork Brae, near an old quoiting green at the end of Orchard Street. O`Neill’s sad poem recalling its iron content has come to hand and is printed in this magazine. And these old wells recall other sad incidents that would be long talked about: a baby drowned in the bins while its mother was busy on the bleaching-green in Market Square, and a servant lass who drowned herself in the well at Shirlaw’s Entry. Would superstitious stories haunt Market Road at that Entry in the years that followed? Perhaps even the Chappin’ Well at Law Crossings, which gave a curious clanking sound when water was drawn, was not too comfortable a place to visit in the twilight.
Indeed the wells, as has been shown, were very numerous Three actually were under the site of the present National Bank. Every row of houses had good supply. A spring near the present gas works in a ﬁeld belonging to Whiteshaw Farm served the Hamburg Cottages. The Luggie Row or Clug Row, the Dyke Row, the Kale Row, the Furnace Row, the Heather Row and the Engine Row all had their own wells. Private houses often had a well in their own grounds. At Butterhole Farm a bore Well can still be used in time of drought; and in the O.S. Church Manse garden is a well of the sweetest cool water at this very day.
But, as was said at the outset, by 1875 the population of Carluke had grown to 7,000, and the wells were quite insufﬁcient. New ways had to be found. In that year the Parochial Board borrowed £500 in order to build a dam at Springﬁeld, in the Damhead area, which collected water from the Bashaw Moor and the surrounding district. Pipes were laid to all parts of the parish, and hand wells were erected in convenient places, such as the top of the Market Square. Six years later, at Damhead, improvements were effected which included the erection of a ﬁlter. To meet the demands of the still increasing population, two connections were made about 1904 to the Burgh of Wishaws trunk main from the Peden Reservoir at Elvanfoot. When the County Council began to build houses in 1920, after the ﬁrst World War, a further connection was made to the trunk main of Airdrie and Coatbridge Districts’ Water Board. from their Cow- gill Reservoir. This ensured the necessary increase in the towns water supply, and gradually hand wells were abolished. In 1940 the Happendon-Gair main was completed. From this Carluke now drew its supply of water, having closed the connections which it formerly used. The town’s water now comes, in consequence, from the reservoir at Camps, Crawford.
At the present time Carluke’s population stands at 11,415, and it is still growing. We regret indeed that our town is so much merely a dormitory for the great industrial centres, paticularly Motherwell. But industries may yet come back to Caluke, where, if long leases and land on which to fatten geese cannot be offered as in 1817, along with the attraction of numerous springs and wells, at least water in plenty is promised for years to come in the great new reservoir to be brought into service at Daer in the autumn of 1956.