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Dr Robert D McIntyre
Chapter 1 - Motherwell


What is the best way to approach Motherwell? There are many views on the worst route but few suggestions as to the best, and it may be that there is no good way to come to that town!

Motherwell, more than most towns, bears the blemishes of the industrialisation of West Central Scotland. What the visitor sees are the scars and ravages and costs of earning the title of steel capital of Scotland - "STEELOPOLIS".

As we approach the final years of our century. this claim has more than a hollow ring, but the exploitation of coal and the making of iron and steel brought about the great expansion of Motherwell in the 19th century, with all the problems of overcrowding and squalor. In a sixteen year period at the turn of the century, the population within the Burgh boundaries rose from 18,000 to 36,000 and Motherwell was "literally bursting at the seams". Religion and church expansion played its part in this period of growth. In 1900, the United Free Church of Scotland was created by the amalgamation of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. These two bodies were the offspring of previous schisms in the Church of Scotland; the United Presbyterian Church having broken away in the 18th century, and the United Free being the result of the split in 1843.

Being outside the established church, the congregations of the United Free Churches were left to rely on their own resources. Thus, when the Presbytery of Hamilton decided to expand in Motherwell and to build the Manse Road Church, the responsibility for costs, and the resultant debt, were put on the local body of worshippers.

To this situation, in 1911, came the Rev John Ebenezer Mcintyre to take his part as the first Minister of the Manse Road United Free Church. The new Minister came from the Parish of Hightae and Dalton in Dumfriesshire and, at thirty-seven years of age, he had considerable experience in the hazards of church and missionary life. Before going to the Parish in Dumfriesshire, he had been a missionary in China and had had to flee as

a consequence of the Boxer Rising. He experienced a severe bout of illness on his return to Scotland and his planned marriage to Catherine Campbell Morison was delayed until 1905.

By the time of the transfer to Motherwell, the McIntyre family had additions of two boys. John and William and a daughter, Anne. This threesome was to be increased to a quartet with the birth of Robert Douglas McIntyre on 15th December 1913.

Describing his experiences in getting established in Motherwell, the Rev McIntyre set out the nature of the challenge: "I was inducted ‘over the congregation to be gathered here’. There was no single member. Within three months, we gathered round the Lord’s table. Seventy adults had joined the fellowship ... there was a debt of £1,400 on the Hall - now the Church - and the Presbytery insisted that the new congregation should pay that debt".

Some explanation is required of these comments. The plan was initially to build a church hail and then to build the church. What happened was that. despite several attempts. the envisaged church was never built, so that today’s visitor to Manse Road Church sees the building, in all essentials, in which the McIntyre Family worshipped in the years immediately before and during the First World War.

Hindsight assists us in providing an explanation of this apparent failure to complete the planned expansion by the United Free Church. Organised religion had reached its peak in Scotland by the turn of the century and the future held little but steady decline. It was not long before moves were set in train to reunite with the Church of Scotland, a process which was achieved 1929. But this was in the future and did not immediately impinge on the McIntyre Family.

There can be little doubt that the children felt secure but they were not cosseted. The Rev John McIntyre was a man of considerable ability with a strong desire to express himself Fortunately, we are able to glean more than a sense of this from his own writings. He made it plain that, "It is of the greatest importance that parents should lead their children to take an interest in public affairs." and cautions, "Do not try to make your children of your party. Do not make them young Conservatives or young Socialists. but young thinkers".

Few could better his advice to budding politicians given in an essay on Abraham Lincoln. "The political life is apt to attract the worst and the best -the worst, because fame and money can be most cheaply obtained in it, the best, because all must know that he who would do good in that life must be prepared for misrepresentation, malice, envy, hatred, for strife and continuous conflict, for temptations more powerful, more seductive and less obvious than those of any other life and with no promise of success. There will be for the most successful, years of unrequited toil and not the most sanguine can have any firm hope that he will live to see the result of his toil".

This strong commitment to service and learning was to embrace the McIntyre household. John McIntyre was himself a son of the manse and his wife Catherine was a daughter of the manse who held strong opinions on woman’s rights.

Politics and political discussions were part of the normal household activities, and local political figures like Bill Ballinger, a leading Engineering Union personality and Secretary of the local Labour Party, and the Rev James Barr were within the McIntyre Family circle.

During the 1914-18 War, Motherwell experienced the benefits and strains of this period. There was considerable expansion of industrial activity in both coal and steel. Munitions production, led by Colville’s two steelworks, resulted, for example, in the increase in the labour force at the Dalzell Works from 2,800 in 1914 to 5,000 at the end of the War. One of the most notable events of the period was the employment of around ninety women in armaments work which included semi-skilled machinery.

The Rev McIntyre’s own politics were of the old style. He had spoken in favour of a variety of Liberal candidates during his time in Dumfriesshire but he had a strong pacifist bent and the horrors of war must have placed a great burden on his conscience.

Industrial strife in the town during the War years was the precursor to party political organisation and campaigning in the immediate post-war period. The startling result of this was the election of J. T. W. Newbold as a Communist candidate for Motherwell in 1922.

It is in this atmosphere of a supportive and stimulating home that Robert spent his early formative years in a house owned by his father in Adele Street, Motherwell.

Early schooling for him was at the Knowetop School which is under a mile from Adele Street and within walking distance. He spent a vety short time there and then, like his brothers and sister, attended the then Hairnilton Academy which, at the time, was fee paying. Despite the fact that the fees were small, £2-3 per term, the payment for a family of four must have placed some strain on the Rev McIntyre’s budget.

There is no doubt that the McIntyre quartet were all talented, with differing and independent interests. Although a close family and all going to the same school, there is little evidence of any concerted effort to journey together to and from school, which involved a considerable walk and tram car journey from the "Ha-penny" stop to Hamilton Cross and a further walk to the Academy.


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