Carluke Gas Works
Thomas Peacock and the Carluke Gas Works
By Richard A. Fifer
It is not known when my family, the Peacocks, came to Carluke, but it is believed to be in the early 1800's. I do know that my great-great-grandfather, Andrew Peacock, worked in the coal mines near Carluke all of his life.
Andrew married Elizabeth Ritchie on February 4, 1855. Of Andrew and Elizabeth's many children, my great-grandfather, Thomas Peacock, was born on January 11, 1860. At the age of ten, Thomas entered the "pits" to work alongside his father. Initially, he worked two days and went to school in Carluke for two days each week. His first job in the mines was to pick up the lumps of coal dug by his father and load them into the bogey. At the age of twelve, Thomas quit school and worked in the mines full time - ten hours per day, six days per week. He continued working in the mines for ten years.
In July 1879, Thomas Peacock married Mary Byers Kerr. By all accounts, Mary was quite strong-willed. She supposedly made two declarations on her wedding day. The first was that she and her Tam would have twelve children. (They almost made it. They had eleven children, eight of whom survived to adulthood.) The second declaration was that none of her sons would ever work down the "pits". This second vow was kept.
As a young couple, Thomas and Mary must have had few possessions. They started marriage with a total of nineteen shillings and sixpence, enough to furnish a one-roomed house. Thomas's wages as a miner were two and sixpence a day.
In early 1881, Thomas started working part-time as a stoker for the Carluke Gas Company. This was a Winter job only, three months of the year, and Thomas would return to the mines in the Summer.
Not long afterwards, Mr. Chambers, the manager of the Carluke Gas Works, offered my great-grandfather a full-time job. The gas company was expanding, laying down new mains, and it needed more labourers. At this time, Thomas was earning thirty shillings a week in the mines, and the job as labourer paid only eighteen shillings per week, a large difference. However, Mary persuaded Thomas to leave the mines. Thomas began working for the Carluke Gas Company full-time.
The job as labourer lasted six weeks. Thomas then started stoking again and received twenty shillings per week. He worked as stoker and general labourer for three years. During that time, he must have taken a strong interest in the operation of the gas works and learned all that he could.
The Holytown Gas Works advertised for a manager, and Thomas applied for the job. Out of forty-seven applicants, he was chosen for manager. His starting pay was twenty-five shillings per week. He also received a free house, gas, and coal --- a significant benefit. His pay was later raised to twenty-eight shillings per week.
In ca. 1887, the Carluke Gas Company was in need of a manager, and the directors of the company contacted my great-grandfather, offering him the job at thirty shillings per week. He quickly agreed and returned to Carluke, living in a house on Carnwath Road.
The Carluke Gas Company was founded in 1836, and the works site was located at Mount Pleasant, just off Lanark Road. However, while Thomas was manager, the operations were expanded and moved northwest of Carluke, near the railway, at the end of what is now Gasworks Road. By 1897, the company was producing 7.3 million cubic feet of gas and had 950 consumers. Alexander Pillans was the Chairman of the company, and James J. Wilson was Secretary.
When the gas works was relocated northwest of Carluke, a small red brick house was built for Thomas and his family. It still stands today, serving as an office for the Thomson Pettie Group. Shortly after moving into the house, my grandfather persuaded the directors of the company to build a greenhouse next to the residence. Thomas raised vegetables and grew flowers. He eventually became somewhat of an expert on flowers, serving as judge at local flower shows.
In October 1909, the photograph below was taken, possibly to commemorate the completion of the new gas storage tank. Written in chalk on the tank are two inscriptions - "Carluke Gas Works" and "R. Dempster & Sons, Ltd., Elland". R. Dempster & Sons, Ltd., was a large company, based in Elland, Yorkshire, which built industrial equipment, including gas manufacturing systems.
With the help of my cousin, Thomas Peacock (grandson of the Thomas Peacock discussed in this paper), I have been able to identify several people in the photograph. At the far left, middle row, is Thomas's son, Robert Peacock, age nineteen. The woman holding the dog is my great-grandmother, Mary Byers Kerr Peacock. To her left, is their daughter, Elizabeth ("Liz"). The young couple to Liz's left is Janet Black and Thomas's son, William Peacock, soon to be married. They are my grandparents. It is likely that both Robert and William Peacock were working at the gas works at this time.
The man on the ladder is Thomas Peacock, my great-grandfather, and manager of the Carluke Gas Works. The small boy on the front row is Thomas's son, James, age 10. The man in the center of the front row is unknown to me.
Thomas Peacock passed away on February 6, 1921, having served as gas works manager for thirty-four years. Approximately one week later, Mr. Pillans also passed away, having served as Chairman of the Carluke Gas Company for thirty years. The Carluke Gas Company continued to operate until the late 1940's, when it was nationalised and became part of the Scottish Gas Board.
1. Peacock, Mary Byers Kerr, letter dated July 5, 1921, Carluke, Scotland.
2. Peacock, Thomas, Mary, unpublished manuscript, January 2003, Matthews, North Carolina, USA.
3. Reports of Proceedings during 1895, Associations of Gas Engineers and Managers, United Kingdom, London: Walter King, 1896.
4. The Gas & Electric Lighting Companies' Directory and Statistics, 1897, London: Hazell, Watson and Viney, Ltd., 1897.
5. The Gas World, February 12, 1921, Benn Brothers, Ltd.
6. The Gas World, February 19, 1921, Benn Brothers, Ltd.
7. Correspondence with Thomas Peacock, December 2010-January 2011.
8. Email from George Russell, Carluke, Scotland, January 8, 2011.
Alexander Pillans was born in Motherwell circa 1841, to Richard Pillans and Jane Finnie and was educated at Carluke Parish School. About 1880, he founded the Caledonian Works at Motherwell, and later acquired the Albert Works. A combine was formed around 1900 which absorbed these works, in which he acted as a director for a short time. While engaged in business in Motherwell, he found time to enter the Town Council and was soon elected as a magistrate.
In Carluke, he was a trustee of the local Savings Bank, and soon after the inauguration of the School Boards, he was elected a member, and was appointed Chairman at the first meeting, a position he held up until around 1915. He also had a long connection with the Gas Company, and acted as Chairman for over 30 years. When the County Council system of local government was introduced in 1889, he was elected for the eastern division of the Parish, a position he held until his death. He was also a valued member of many committees, and frequently filled the post of convenor. He filled the office of convenor of the County Technical Education Committee for some years, and was also a member of the Lunacy Board.
About 1919, he was appointed Chairman of the Upper Ward County Council. He also held the convenorship of the local sub-committees dealing with Water, Drainage, Lighting and Scavenging. He was also President of Carluke Bowling Club from 1879 to 1881. He married Elizabeth Henderson Cadzow, the daughter of Mr William Cadzow, laird of Rosebank village, lived at Manseview, Chapel Street, and had 11 children, 8 of whom survived his death, viz., Richard, Margaret, Jane, Alexander, Martha, John, Elizabeth, and Mary. His wife predeceased him in 1910. Of his sons, Richard was also President of Carluke Bowling Club in 1891, and was the first President of Carluke Golf Club. The youngest son, John, was also President of the Bowling Club in 1901, 1906 and 1912. Sadly, he died just a month after his father in 1921.
John Pillans 1904