Willox Diary 1872 to 1886

Below is extracts from the diary of David Willox.  The diary covers mainly the time he was working in Parkhead Forge on the Furnaces.  He gained promotion to Foreman (Gaffer) and had a close relationship with William Beardmore.  Things went sour for Willox when William Beardmore died and his brother Isaac Beardmore took over.  The diary entries were quite repetitive and almost all started off with a comment on the weather and then daily progress of the events during his shifts, such as some criticisms of the workers and their general performance throughout the shifts.  Usual complaints were about Puddlers losing heats during shifts to abuse of alcohol during working hours.  Willox was an abstainer and abhorred those who partook of drinkThe entries became sparser due to the days all being much the same.  Willox gives his account of the events of the fire at his house in Burgher Street in 1882 which, tragically resulted in the loss of one of his children.


David Willox

Personal Diary

1872 to 1886


Monday 3 June 1872

This is my 27th birthday.  I have now been married 5 months; how short they seem!

Rose at 3 this morning; at my work by 3.30; left at 5.00pm.

Attended quarterly meeting of Parkhead Young Friendly Society

Tuesday 4 June 1872

Went to work at five; two rows in work today – in both cases one or both parties under the influence of strong drink

Got a “carte de visit” from my sister Elizabeth of herself; very well taken, and like her.

Wednesday 5 June 1872

Went to work at six and finished at seven thirty pm.

Went to meeting of the Great Eastern Division of the Sons of Temperance; being Worthy Associate, take the chair in the absence of the Worthy Patriarch.

Return home and find Daniel Riddell waiting for me – a fine fellow.  Go over two or three Latin exercises with him.

Thursday 6 June 1872

Went to work 6.30 and finished shortly after 7pm

My friends Neil Kinnieburgh and Daniel Riddell call in, according to appointment, to have some conversation regarding the condition of Scotland in the first five centuries A.D.  Meeting broke up a little before 1am.  Subject for next meeting night (which are held fortnightly) – King Duncan and his times

Friday 7 June 1872

At work from 8 till 7pm

Just going to resume my study when called upon by Messrs Henderson and McArthur – took a stroll with them and conversation on various subjects but mainly total abstinence.

Saturday 8 June 1872

At work 6 till 4pm

Shift myself and pay a visit to my old friend Janet Hamilton, Langloan – not nearly as lively as she used to be; John, her husband losing, his sight

Sunday 9 June 1872

Attended church in forenoon.  Took a walk in the country and was accompanied by Mr. Dawson and his wife.

Monday 10 June 1872

In house all day until I went to work at night.

Received a letter of invitation to attend the funeral of William Willox, late spirit merchant, Great Eastern Road, a distant relative of my own.  Funeral to take place on Wednesday.

Tuesday 11 June 1872

My father calls in the forenoon and wants me to buy his Militia boots; ask my mother’s advice; tells me I may as well purchase them as anyone else; purchase them, and congratulate myself on the bargain.

Wednesday 12 June 1872

Attend William Willox’s funeral; large attendance but few real mourners; overhear a publican discussing the chances of a grant of a licence at the next Licensing Court, and several other worldly and vain things – and all this while following the corpse to the grave, plainly showing that even death fails to make an impression on the hearts of some men.

Friday 14 June 1872

Take a walk with Mr Henderson to the Banks of the Clyde – a delightful evening; go over our lesson for Sabbath first.

Saturday 15 June 1872

After pay, go to town with my wife and purchase an album, and after doing a little business in Glassford Street, walk home.

Very much excitement at the Sheddens this evening through a few of the “drouths” quarrelling – drink the chief cause.

Poor men, to furnish sport for the gawping crowd, they abuse and disfigure the image of their Maker.

Sunday 16 June 1872

Hear of the Reverend Norman McLeod’s death; stunned by the intelligence, and wonder if it is true.

Returned home and find Mr James Scott and his daughter, Miss Mary Lavery and Mr Dawson and his wife in the house.

Monday 17 June 1872

Read an account of the late Dr. McLeod’s life and labours – an extraordinary man; will be much missed and deeply regretted.

Went to an entertainment of Mesmerism; wonderful affair; some laughable scenes.

Saturday 22 June 1872

Fine afternoon for our School Trip; go along with it to the place; Kenmuir Farm (Mr Barr’s).

Sunday 23 June 1872

Saw my old friend William Frame today; a long time since I saw him before.

Wednesday 3 July 1872

Went to a meeting of the “Sons” tonight, and was elected W.P.

Thursday 4 July 1872

Messrs Riddell and Kinnieburgh called tonight

Friday 5 July 1872

Take a walk in the evening with Messrs Henderson and Roy; go to Clyde, where I bathe myself – very refreshing.

Monday 8 July 1872

Went into town today to learn when the Belfast Boat sails during the Fair Holidays.

Wednesday 10 July 1872

Wrote a letter to my cousin David Dunn this morning.

Friday 12 July 1872

Left this morning for Belfast.  Our party consists of Miss Smith, my sister Agnes, my wife, and myself.

Get the train at Dunlop Street Station, and get on board the steamer “Buffalo” at Greenock; boat very full.  Have a very favourable passage: some fighting on board; but less than might have been expected on this. “The Twelfth” – a few of the most quarrelsome put in irons.

Saturday 27 July 1872

A fearful night last night – great floods, old work completely stopped.  Had a walk this morning with Roy by the Banks of the Clyde – river very much swollen.  Visit the Molendinar at the Havanah – water up a great height.

Sunday 28 July 1872

Went nowhere today; this is my fettling day.  Chaps threatening a strike.  Bad thing these strikes.

Monday 29 July 1872

Just as I expected; our under-hands refused to work this morning, asking what we consider too much of an advance: fore-hands wrought level-hands, and a fine mess they made of it – some getting drunk and others careless.

Wednesday 31 July 1872

Got an income Tax letter today; intend to try if I can to get rid of it.

Monday 5 August 1872

Went to town today with Mr Moon and McArthur about our Income Tax.  Get legal advice, and pay for it.

Visit the scene of the Tradeston catastrophe – still smouldering away.

Friday 16 August 1872

Paid William Robb 10/- for a cart of coals he sent yesterday – awful price!

Saturday 17 August 1872

Went to town in the evening and bought one pair of trousers and vest – 12/3

Tuesday 3 June 1873

This is my twenty eighth birthday.  On looking back on the last twelve months, I have little to regret, and much to be thankful for.  One thing I regret, however, and that is, that I did not follow my resolution of keeping an account of every day’s proceedings, as I had intended; but there is so much of a sameness in my daily experience that I tire in the recital of events today that are the mere repetition of those that took place yesterday.

One event has taken place since last August that I cannot pass over without reflecting upon with pleasure, and that is the birth of my daughter Jeanie on the 5th October last, and who gives every promise of being a fine child.

We have now removed from Burgher Street to 3 Chapel Terrace, New Road (Mr Barrie’s property) – a much better house than the one we left.

Our work is at a standstill at present, occasioned through the stupidity and stubbornness of the under-hands.  Our employers want to have a week’s lying time off of them, and to pay them out the office, and they (the under-hands) won’t have that, which I consider a very just demand made by our employers.  Still no sign of a settlement

Thursday 5 June 1873

Rose this morning about six, and had a fine walk along with McArthur to Carmyle, returning along the banks of the Clyde by way of Dalbeth.

Have a fine walk along the banks of the Clyde this evening with Mr Henderson, Mr McArthur, and our wives and families, and experience inexpressible delight.

This promises to be an eventful day in my life.

Meet with Mr Beardmore today, and have a long conversation with him anent the settlement made with the under-hands; he seems dissatisfied with his present foreman, and tells me that he has been thinking of me for that situation.

Friday 6 June 1873

Rose at 6.30 and had a fine walk with McArthur to Lightburn Glen.  After breakfast we have a sail down the water as far as Kilcreggan.

Monday 9 June 1873

I hear that Wedger and Dunbar both got their notice to leave last Saturday.

Tuesday 10 June 1873

McArthur got a shift last night for his first time since his return to Parkhead.

Wednesday 11 June 1873

I had a crack with Wedger last night concerning his having received his notice; seems to think there is little chance of him getting back.  I told him my prospects, and he seemed to be well pleased that I was so candid with him.  I could never have forgiven myself had I done otherwise; it would have looked so two-faced like, whether I get his job or not.  No! If I never get a situation until I act the part of the hypocrite, it will be long indeed ere I become a “gaffer.”

Friday 13 June 1873

Had a conversation with Mr Strafford today about the “gaffer” leaving.  He does not know yet whether they will get a reprieve or not, but if they don’t he said he would keep me in mind.

Sunday 15 June 1873Had a walk with my wife and sister through Janefield Burying Ground in the evening and afterwards fell in with my old friend Roy and had a walk with him.

Saturday 21 June 1873

I have made up my mind to accept the situation as “gaffer.”

Sunday 22 June 1873

Rose at six and went out to work; wearied very much – had nothing to do further than give direction to the bricklayers.  Mr Strafford told me there was no necessity for hanging about all day; all that is required is to look in occasionally and see that things are going alright.

Wednesday 25 June 1873

Got on very well today again.  Mr Beardmore seems very well pleased.

Friday 27 June 1873

Our child has now been weaned a week; she has been both ill and somewhat fashous, but has now recovered a good deal.

Monday 7 July 1873

Mr Beardmore spoke to me today about the house I have to get.  He wants Dunbar to remove as soon as possible.

Friday 11 July 1873

Today’s proceedings have just been a repetition of yesterdays with the exception the that the Master  asks the reason of the Puddlers losing so many heats; tell him that the furnaces are working, that the iron is bad, and that we had a bad start on Tuesday morning.  He leaves word for Wedger to meet him tomorrow at half-past ten.

Saturday 12 July 1873

Mr Beardmore, Strafford, Wedger and I have a conference today about the week’s proceedings.  The Master gets reconciled, and resolves upon changing the mixture of iron.

Have a promenade this evening with McArthur through the “Shows” at Crownpoint; visit the wild beasts, but don’t relish it very much.

Sunday 13 July 1873

This has been an idle day with me; went to no place of worship unless the Morning Class; hear an address from Mr Gardner, Pastor of Parkhead Congregational Church.

Thursday 17 July 1873

Had a visit last night from Uncle and Aunt Kerr; have not seen them in a number of years.

Thursday 21 August 1873

We are now in our new house, 18 Chapel Terrace.  I think it will be a fine house.  Came here about the commencement of the present month.

Friday 26 September 1873

I have just returned this evening from a visit to Mr. A. G. Murdoch.  I think a great deal of him.  He is something about my own age – a fine, intelligent-looking young man.  He has read a great deal, I think, and is evidently complete master of the Doric lyre.  He thinks a great deal of Janet Hamilton.  We had a long crack about several living poets, and my old friend J. Pettigrew, among the rest.

Sunday 5 October 1873

By the bye, this is my daughter Jeanie’s birthday.  May she be spared to see many more, and may they all find her as well as this.  A year old!  I’m certain she would have been walking alone by this time, had it not been for that “tout” she had lately; but I thank God she is getting on finely again.  She can stand and walk by grip of the chairs.

Monday 6 October 1873

Went up to Tom McLean’s this evening to let him see how to write out the Minutes of our Division.

Saturday 18 October 1873

This is a fine quiet evening, and I find myself in somewhat better spirits than I have been in all week.  It is strange how I get so unaccountably dull at times, and could almost quarrel with the wind, as the saying is.

I feel pretty comfortable just now, and I am truly happy to see my family, small as it is, enjoying the best of health.  There is every likelihood of being an increase in my family circle in a short time; God grant His blessing!  I may say that there is only one thing that annoys me at present, and that is to know that my father is so foolish, without showing any signs of growing wiser.

Saturday 1 November 1873

I was up at Langloan this evening to see the remains of my old friend Janet Hamilton.  She died on Thursday last, October 30 at 2pm.  I had notice of her death on Friday morning from her son James.  I feel as if I have lost more than a friend in her. She is to be interred on Tuesday first.

Monday 3 November 1873

Margaret Stephenson, a girl of ten years of age, has come to live with us – Mrs Middleton’s cousin; only four months in this country, from Spain.

Saturday 8 November 1873

I feel I have not been fairly dealt with either by Mr Beardmore or his clerks; but I intend to have an explanation of their conduct, or I will take a way of explaining it for myself – that is leaving it altogether.  Monday first will decide.

Monday 24 November 1873

This has been an eventful day in the history of my house.  I had a son born this morning about 8 o’clock.  God bless both mother and child.  They are both doing well.

Thursday 27 November 1873

I regret to see that Wedger is somewhat dry to me now.  I can assign no reason for it whatsoever, unless it be envy at my rising into favour with the Master.  No doubt it is galling to him to see me so often in consultation with the Master on matters of importance, while his advice is neither asked nor accepted, and this more especially as he is the senior foreman.  Several alterations have taken place late without his recognition; in fact, in direct opposition to his wishes, and all those alterations refer to the management of the works; hence the reason of his dryness is not far to seek.  But he had better watch himself; I can see as far through a millstone as he can, and, I do my duty as conscientiously as I have done, I have nothing to fear.

Thursday 4 December 1873

I earnestly desire enlightenment and truth, not foolishness and fables, which are utterly abhorrent to my reason.  God guide and direct me in the paths of virtue, honesty, and truth; – is my heartfelt prayer this evening.

Tuesday 16 December 1873

Attended a meeting of the Thistle Lodge 87 of Free Masons; enjoyed it very much; went along with William Williams, a man of colour, who is at present working in our work.

Wednesday 11 March 1874

It is a good while since I wrote in my diary last.  Poor Mr Strafford is dead and buried.  He died on the 3rd and was buried on the 8th.  He was a good man, if we may judge from his actions, and very highly respected.

Wednesday 18 March 1874

Have had a poor night’s work – three single and one double furnace standing for want of men – about a dozen under-hands and two fore-hands off.  Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day, and most of them, I suppose, were what is called “wetting their Shamrocks.”  I’ll give some of them a week to dry it.  It is a shame to see men so degrade themselves with drink.

Tuesday 30 June 1874

I was completely stunned to learn of young William Scott’s death; he was drowned on Sunday last while bathing.

Tuesday 20 July 1875

Janet was delivered of a son about three hours ago – namely, half past ten yesterday evening – Mrs Gorman in attendance.

Wednesday 28 July 1875

I witnessed a very disastrous fire this morning.  The cotton mill of Grant & Sons, Mile End, took fire shortly before eight, and before nine was a complete ruin – damage estimated at about £100,000.

Thursday 29 July 1875

I have some thoughts of going through to Whitburn on Saturday to see a Quoits game for £50 betwixt D Haddow and J Armour.

Wednesday 11 August 1875

I did go to Whitburn, and had a fine day of it.  It was an exceedingly good game; Haddow won by nine shots.  I won £3 10/- – the first I have ever bet anything on a game.

Thursday 7 September 1875

I had our youngest child, James christened on Sabbath last.

Of late I have taken an interest in quoit-playing, especially of a townsman of my own – D Haddow of Westmuir – who I have backed successfully, but he has to play a great Match in a few weeks with Grahame of London, when perhaps I will lose all I have won and more.

Wednesday 8 September 1875

I see my old friend J Dawson is still going ahead with the building; he is putting up other two tenements.  God knows where all the money comes from.

Friday 26 November 1875

I commenced a class yesterday morning for the purpose of teaching a few friends; it is composed of A Willox, John Willox, Hugh McCrorie, and Thomas Archer, the first two are my brothers and the other two are relatives.

I have learned this week that my brother Sandy and his wife have parted; she seems to be a little vixen; she left of her own accord, and in his absence stripped the house of almost everything.

Tuesday 21 December 1875

This is the morning of Wainright’s execution for the murder of Harriet Lane.  A few minutes more and he will be beyond the reach of human vengeance and human retribution.  It was a fearful crime, and he is paying a fearful penalty.

Wednesday 9 February 1876

Old Mrs Sorbie died today

Tuesday 29 February 1876

I consulted with Robert Gardner, House Factor yesterday, about trying to get the £5 which I lent Robert Paton, of whom I have heard nothing since he failed.  I consider that had his intentions been honourable, he would have made some acknowledgement of the debt before this.  I have left the case entirely in the hands of Gardner, to whom I have promised £1 if he succeeds in getting the whole sum.

Tuesday 28 March 1876

I had a long walk on Sunday past, along with my brother Alexander, and Thomas Archer.  We walked fully 40 miles, having travelled from here Parkhead) and back.  We walked the first half of the journey in 5 hours, which was at the rate of 4 miles an hour for five consecutive hours – not bad for novices.

Wednesday 12 April 1876

My brother Alexander and his wife took up together again last Saturday after being parted for some time.

Thursday 28 April 1876

Our Minister, the Reverend David Gardner has to be buried today.  His death is very much regretted by all who knew him.  He was a fine man, although a poor preacher.

Monday 1 May 1876

I have been very much troubled in my mind these last few days past.  Just on the evening of last Thursday I had a dispute with the gateman at the works, and he gave me a deal of impudence and used some very indecent language towards me; so much so that it has pressed upon my mind ever since – all about taking a man into the works.  He wanted to stop me and I would not be stopped by him.  The Master and I have had it all turned over, and he admits the man exceeded the bounds of his duty, but he is not wanting to put him away, as he is, well adapted for the position he holds.  I told him that I must have satisfaction for the insult, and he said that I will get such; but he has deferred his decision until tomorrow; in fact he wants Mr Moore to settle it.  I don’t know what the result will be.  Last Friday, when the insult was fresh on my mind, I spoke very hotly to the Master, and told him that I would rather give up my job altogether than be insulted in such a manner; but he put me off until Mr Moore should return, and today told me that he purposely put it off so as to let my indignation cool down a bit; he has succeeded to some point.

Tuesday 2 May 1876

I expected to have got that disagreeable affair about the gateman sorted today, but Mr Moore told me he was powerless in the matter; that the Master wanted it to blow past; and he (Mr Moore) would advise me to just let it do so.   I said n0; that I would rather work for 15/- a week than submit to be insulted in such a manner; and that they could please themselves about it, but my mind was made up; and although not willing to be as extreme as I was at first, nevertheless I must have satisfaction.  “Think not” said I “that I have come to this resolution without due deliberation.  I know that it will put me somewhat about, and that it is a great sacrifice I’m making, but it is my principle that is at stake; and the man who is not willing to sacrifice something for his principle has little principle to lose.”

We had a great deal more of it to the same effect, and he sympathised very much with me, but would not hear tell of me leaving; he told me at the very least not to be hasty, and to wait until he had another consultation with the Master.  I said I would, and that as I wished to leave honourably, I would work any length of notice they required, either a day or a fortnight, and to send whoever was to succeed me, and, during my notice, I would do what I could to initiate him.

Thursday 4 May 1876

Had a long discussion with the Master today about my grievance; but he is very stiff, he won’t yield a point; neither did I.  I told him I had made up my mind to leave then.  He said I was foolish to do so.  I said no, I was asking nothing unreasonable – only the privilege of taking a man into the works when I thought proper, which happened very seldom.  We parted without coming to any arrangement, but still in good friendship.  I told him it was my desire to leave honourably, and so I will.

Friday 5 May 1876

I will give in my notice tomorrow, let follow what will.

Wednesday 10 May 1876

I did give in my notice last Saturday as I had determined.  I have not been looking for work anywhere yet, but as soon as my notice has expired I shall lose no time.

Thursday 11 May 1876

My “butty” (W McArthur) told me last night that Mr Beardmore was in yesterday morning about 6am, just after I had gone home; he had been asking for me; and gave McArthur an exceedingly good character of me; but he remarked – “David need not think that I am going to go down on my knees to him.”  This leads me to think he misunderstands the whole subject of dispute.

Friday 19 May 1876

I am glad that I can now say that my dispute with the Master (Beardmore) is all but settled; he came to me today, and, after some little discussion, we went into the office, where the gateman was brought, Mr Moore being also present; and, after some further discussion too trifling to mention, the following agreement was come to:-

That the rule remains as at present, namely, that no stranger be allowed into the works without permission from the office; but in the event of me bringing any stranger in, I have not to be called into question by the gateman; all he has got to do is report to Mr Moore or the Master.

This is nearly if not all that I wanted, and it might have been granted long ago without all the fuss being made about it.  It will keep me from coming into contact with the gateman.

Sunday 28 May 1876

We had a very pleasant day of it yesterday at Helensburgh.  George Patterson, my brother-in-law, was with me, along with his wife and child, also my sister Agnes.

Sunday 4 June 1876

Yesterday was my 31st birthday.

I had a telegram yesterday telling me of my Uncle David’s death.  He has to be interred today.

Wednesday 14 June 1876

This is Janet’s birthday; she is thirty two today.  We are both wearing up the hill.

Tuesday 20 June 1876

My half-cousin T. Archer is very ill with bowel complaint; took it rather suddenly.

Tuesday 4 July 1876

I called upon Robert Paton yesterday to see if he intended to pay me my £5; he said he would, as soon as he got his feet cleared in other quarters.

My father went away yesterday to his annual training with the Militia at Lanark.

Tuesday 25 July 1876

A very serious accident took place in our works on the 14th – the morning after I went away.  A little boy of the name of Brown was instantaneously killed by the locomotive.

Wednesday 2 August 1876

What looks at present like a very foolish thing has happened with G. Lawson, an acquaintance of mine.  He has not been seen nor heard of since last Saturday night.  It is rumoured that he and D. McLean, who came here a short time to teach me, have gone together, the latter with upwards of £20 belonging to his employer.  The detectives, I believe, have been looking after both of them.  I cannot believe it of Guy.

Thursday 3 August 1876

Brother Alexander’s second child died this morning (about six weeks old); has to be interred tomorrow.

Monday 14 August 1876

My brother Sandy and his wife have parted again; they seem to be badly matched.

Tuesday 15 August 1876

I have had a few words with my “butty” McArthur today; it will likely lead to more.  I have found him out trying to injure me on two or three occasions.  I would rather be t variance with such an individual.  I shall know the in what respect to look upon him.

Thursday 15 February 1877

R. Paton was here tonight and paid me £3 of the money he owes me.  I had his wages arrested, and have agreed to stop further proceedings in the meantime.

There is a Company of Volunteers being formed in Parkhead just now, to be connected with the 31st.  I don’t know whether to join or not yet.

Wednesday 28 February 1877

I had another addition to my family yesterday morning about ten minutes past twelve am – another son.  Both mother and child are doing well.  I hope they may continue to do well.

Tuesday 20 March 1877

Janet is on her feet again, and the youngest child is thriving finely; I registered him yesterday.  I have called him after my old friend in Sydney – Charles Middleton; his name in full is Charles Middleton Willox.

Monday 16 April 1877

Joined the N.S.S and Secular Institute last night; have been very busy for some time in connection with the L.R.V.

Monday 14 May 1877

Lent my cousin A. Stanley, £300 today for the purpose of paying off the cottage he bought some time ago; have to get 4% on it.

Tuesday 15 May 1877

My cousin Stanley was here this evening, and gave me a document in acknowledgement of the £300 I lent him.  Robert Henderson and James Robertson witnessed him signing the deed.

Sunday 10 June 1877

I have had a narrow escape of my life.  Last Thursday, while at work, a tap burst, and literally covered me with fire.  Strange to say, I only got one side of my face slightly burned.

Friday 12 October 1877

My employer, William Beardmore (who has been ailing for some time) died yesterday at 11.30.  I am deeply sorry, as in him I have lost a good Master, with all his faults, and he had many – but they were more of the head than the heart; his heart was in the right place after all.  His family, to which he seemed much attached, will miss him greatly.  I hope the works will be carried on; because if they stop it will put many a poor family much about.

Wednesday 17 October 1877

This was the day our late employer was to be interred in London; he died in Brighton.

Tuesday 30 October 1877

Went last Saturday to visit the scene of the Colliery Calamity at Blantyre which occurred on the 22nd instant; deeply impressed with what I saw.

Have been busy with the muse these last eight days; have written three different pieces – an Epistle to My Friends in Sydney, Lines on the Calamity; and a song entitled “Daybreak” – in all fully 100 single verses.

Thursday 1 November 1877

Had a long and confidential crack with young Mr. William Beardmore yesterday.  The partnership has to exist as formerly for other two years yet.  His Uncle Isaac has driven what I would call a very hard bargain with him.

Sunday 16 December 1877

I had a slight turn-up with Mr. Isaac Beardmore yesterday; and nearly got “sacked” for taking the Shinglers’ part.  He is a tyrant of the deepest die.  There is as much difference between him and his late brother William as there is betwixt good and evil.

Sunday 3 February 1877

In fourteen days hence I shall have left my present situation.  Isaac Beardmore seems to have a dislike to me; I have the same for him.

Last Thursday night (my night shift) the Manager, Mr. Moore, told me he had to inform me that on Saturday I should receive notice (fourteen days), and the reason was – I had been “long enough” there.  I replied that if such was the case, it must just be; but as for the reason, I considered it very unsatisfactory, to say the least of it.

The following day I gave notice, stating I was ready to leave either in one or fourteen days.  I received notice yesterday, nevertheless.  Will require to be active and make the best of the circumstances.  Nothing definite settled upon yet.  Think I shall open a small shop; will not speculate largely at first; must be cautious.

Thursday 7 February 1878

Had a long conversation with Mr. William Beardmore this morning.  On Monday morning he told me he wanted to have a talk with me, but not then.  He said he would come out early some morning, when there were “no spies about.”  This morning he told me he was heartily sorry for me leaving the works, but at present he was powerless to help me.  I insisted that he should not try, as it would only get ill will to himself by Isaac.  He told me to be on my guard against McArthur and McWilliam, as he suspected them of carrying tales to Moore, and Moore to Isaac.

I told him that I could hardly believe that McArthur would betray me, as he and I had always been very confidential with one and other.  As for McWilliam I could say not so much, but I would take his advice and say nothing.

He has promised to give me a character in the event of Isaac refusing me one, and, before he left me, he said – “never mind David; you shall be back here again, if I am spared; and I shall keep mind of those who are time servers just now.”

Friday 8 February 1878

Had a crack with W. Beardmore this morning; he wants me to visit him at his house, Oakley Terrace, Dennistoun after I leave.  I promised I would.  His conduct to me is very condescending, indeed.

I shall remember what Mr. William said about McArthur, and I shall watch him.  If McArthur is guilty (as I have been led to suspect) of having a hand in getting me dismissed, he must be black-hearted indeed.

Saturday 16 February 1878

I spoke to Moore on Thursday about a character.  He said he had nothing to do with my dismissal; would see Isaac about it, and let me know on Friday.  Saw him then; he told me that Isaac would give no character, but would give reference.  On the Thursday night I penned the following in Moore’s Report Book:-

Mr. Moore.


As I have only another shift to work I take this opportunity to remind you that I shall expect a character, either from yourself or, through you from the company.  I ask it not as a favour, after about somewhere about 16 years’ service.  Should it be denied as is possible, it will cast a suspicion upon my conduct hitherto, which seems to be the object aimed at by the present course of events, but which must surely be a poor satisfaction, even to the meanest mind.

I shall not say anything in relation to my dismissal, further than if there be any charge against me, let it bear the light of day; or put it upon the character that I expect.  You say that you have had nothing to do with it; I’m glad of that, as, otherwise, I should have to alter my opinion of you.  As for Isaac, his conduct has been too contemptible, to be worthy of notice.

For the purpose of bringing the events that followed up to the hour of leaving the works, I cannot do better than copy part of  the report I wrote on Friday night, and which I submitted to R. Henderson, my “butty” pro-tem:-

On speaking with Mr. Moore tonight, he told me that Isaac had said I was to get no character; but he would give reference, if required;  he (Mr. Moore) also said that I should not have written yon report for him last night, as it could do no good.  He said that he had destroyed it.  I told him there was nothing in it but the truth, and that I was quite prepared to stand on the head of anything I had ever said.

We had a long about one thing and another, each of us comparing notes from the time he came to the works.  He told me that he had always looked upon me with jealousy from the very first, owing to my intimacy with the late Mr. Beardmore; not that he could ever say I had done him an injury, but because he could not bear to see me so much in the Master’s confidence.

What think you of this admission, Robert?

I thought it was honest, and admired the spirit in which the confession was made.  I told him he had no ground for being jealous, and, since he had been so candid with me, it was only right that I should be that same with him.  I told him that I suspected him of having a hand in my dismissal, but I was glad to learn that he had not.

Our conversation was of the most friendly kind, he hinted at stories being told, but would not speak out.  I said it was shocking to think that people could be so mean.  I said if the stories related to me, there was nothing I would so much like as to be confronted with the story tellers.  I had said nothing that I was not prepared to say over again, and that I had been as confidential with McArthur as anybody, and I had his own written testimony to prove that he considered my actions as being honest and straightforward.

This is my last shift, and this thought awakens reflections both of sorrow and satisfaction – sorrow from the thought that associations that were formed long, long ago – I might say in my boyhood – must now be broken up; and satisfaction  that during all those years up till the present moment my conduct has been such that no one can point to a single dishonest action.  I have hasty at times, and in my anger may have said and done things which injured the feelings of my fellowmen; but I never did so wantonly, and many a time I have been pricked in my conscience for some unguarded word or hasty act.  I have endeavoured, so far as I could, to be impartial to both man and Master.  How far I have succeeded, I leave others to judge.

I ought to say a word about my butty McArthur.

Hitherto, I have never had any reason to complain about him.  We have always been very confidential with one and other.  I am sorry to hear that he has been playing a double game at this turn – sorry for himself, and yet, even yet, I shall give him the benefit of the doubt.  Nothing has been proved against him, and I shall not believe evil of him until I have proof; although I cannot disguise, even from myself, that I have been hurt in the tenderest part, by the bare suspicion of his duplicity.  I have been very dry with him all week; I can’t help it; I cannot make my face smile, while my heart frowns – Goodbye!

I have been very busy all this week – have a great deal to do.  Commencing a Chemical Work in partnership with G. Lawson and D. Cunningham – great risk.  I am providing the money to start with, and Cunningham the knowledge; Lawson throws his business in along with ours.  Wonder how we shall succeed.

Monday 18 February 1878

Have been very busy all day, getting my new business started.  Commencing a Chemical Work at 52 Commercial Road, South Side in partnership with G. Lawson and D. Cunningham.  Can’t tell how we shall succeed.  It’s a bold step.  Must be energetic and strictly sober.

Wednesday 20 February 1878

Have been very busy all day with my new place.  Have got things nearly ready for a start.

Thursday 21 February 1878

Have been very busy today again; got a start made.

Had one boiler of Grease and one boiler of Soap powder.  Powder looks well but can’t say how  it will sell.

A gentleman (McGrigor), who lives opposite our works, looked in and said our grease would not do.  This has damped me greatly, but I must hide it at present.  The beautiful “castles” I had built are dissolving.  What a terrible thing failure must be to those who have their all at stake.  Even the little I have is weighing upon my mind like a millstone, and, what is worse there are so many eyes upon me.  Betwixt physical and mental labour, I am tired tonight.  What will tomorrow bring forth?  Lawson is more hopeful than I tonight; I envy him his hope.  I doubt Cunningham doesn’t know as much about the grease boiling as he led us to believe.  At this moment the outlook is anything but cheerful, and yet I must hide it.

Friday 22 February 1878

This has been another day of anxious care and thought.  Got a few trifling orders for Soap Powder; tried a few more but without success.  Have left a sample of grease with a firm; will call tomorrow and learn the result.  I fear I won’t make a good traveller – too backward; haven’t seen enough of the world.  Must get Lawson to try his hand.

Wednesday 27 February 1878

This is Charles’ birthday.

Engaged a house today.  Had Janet over looking at the new house today; she was in my work.

Sunday 31 March 1878

Lawson withdrew from the business.  I was informed by Cunningham that he was acting foully with me – at any rate, plotting against me; despite getting money discounted when paying accounts and “sticking” to it.  Cunningham’s troublesome – takes the beer.  Have expectations of A. Smith coming into partnership with me; has no capital though; but has good connections; has been a traveller a long time.

Sunday 7 April 1878

Cannot say yet how things are likely to do.  The stuff is going out not so badly, but the money is long of coming in.  Have fallen acquainted with Mr. A.C. Smith, a commercial traveller; has given me a good hand with the books, and in getting orders he seems a capital hand; think I shall take him into the business; he has every confidence that it will do.  Old D. Cunningham is behaving better.

Sunday 21 April 1878

Had a regular row with Cunningham last week; gave him a shaking.

Mr. Smith comes into partnership with me tomorrow.

Sunday 5 May 1878

Had a walk with Mr. Smith this morning;  Signed deed of Co Partnery on May1st.  Trade increasing, but still tight for money; will require great caution to keep afloat.

Sunday 16 June 1878

Business still dragging – money very scarce – much anxiety.  Don’t know what to think of Smith.  Old D. Cunningham has shaken my faith in Smith.

Sunday 7 July 1878

My Business is still in a satisfactory condition.  Old Cunningham is away – getting on better without him.

Sunday 1 September 1878

Was out at Company Competition yesterday; won second prize.  Business looking well.  Started another traveller last week (J. Jamieson).

Thinking of looking out for a cheaper rent for both workshop and house.

Tuesday 10 September 1878

Had a few words with Smith tonight.  One of our customers has been a long time overdue in paying his account.  I called to see about it, and discovered that Smith had signed for money which I never received – only what I suspected.  Challenged Smith about it – denied it.  Shall summon the party and have it cleared up somehow.  This has set my brain on fire.  How far has Smith been carrying this game on?  How much have I been defrauded out of?

Wednesday 18 September 1878

Had a funeral letter today, asking my attendance at the funeral of James Sutherland, 14 Chapel Terrace, my old neighbour – stunned by the information; never heard of his illness.

Sunday 13 October 1878

Have views of a place in Parkhead; don’t know whether I shall rent or buy it.

Sunday 1 December 1878

Have been negotiating for the purchase of a property at Parkhead – paid first instalment of £50 last week.

Wednesday 4 December 1878

Janet was delivered of a son today about half-past eleven; both mother and child are doing well.  We shall soon have a large family.  This is now five – four sons and one daughter – and all thriving finely, I am happy to say.

Friday 20 December 1878

I intend calling my youngest son – Alexander Stanley Willox – for my brother Alexander and my cousin, A. Stanley, for many obligations they have both rendered me.

Put away Joe Jamieson; he was travelling for me.  I find he has been appropriating a good deal of my money.

Tuesday 5 January 1879

I have been taking stock over the holidays, but have not completed it yet.  From what I have seen, I fear I have lost about £80 or £90 since I commenced business – enough this to break the heart of most men.  Terribly trying it is to one who has gathered what he has as carefully as I have.

Thursday 7 January 1879

Have just finished stock taking.  Find I have lost about £50.

Sunday 19 January 1879

Last week was a terrible one of mental anxiety.  My partner in business, A.C. Smith, has not been acting honestly by me.  He has been lifting money, I don’t know yet to what extent, and keeping it – not accounting for it.  Things have reached such a stage that I have got to sign a paper stating that he is no longer a partner of mine; but, not to be so hard upon him, I have agreed to let him work until he finds a situation.  Meanwhile he receives such wages as I can afford to give him.

Sunday 2 February 1879

I am in a terrible mess just now – nearly distracted.  My affairs are in a dreadful state.  A.C. Smith has been a villain – nearly ruined me.  Tomorrow the other £50 falls due for the property at Parkhead; don’t know what to do.

Sunday 16 February 1879

Never had such a fortnight’s at trouble in my life.  Smith (my late partner) has turned out a villain of the blackest dye; he has ruined me.  I was out all last week amongst my customers, especially against whom there is an account standing, and only got 8/-, Smith having lifted and signed for every penny that was owing me.  Shall try and make a case of it.  I am ruined and without hope.  Life never looked blacker than now.  What am I to do for my family?  God only knows!

Wednesday 19 March 1879

Can hardly say how I am getting on.  Think I am doing better since I put Smith away.  I can hardly express in language how bad he has been; he has been a thief, a liar, a hypocrite, and am imposter of the very worst type.

My family are all well, so are the people at Parkhead.  John has had his albert stolen out of the house.  Work very dull at Parkhead; Forge never was so slack.

My own prospects are none of the brightest, always doing a little though.  Had a letter tonight from my writers stating that Hunter is willing to let the second £50 go to the payment of the bond.  Have replied saying that, by trusting Hunter, I have lost £60 already; think I shall have nothing further to do with him.  I wish from my heart that I saw everybody paid.  The little I do owe is making me gray headed.

Saturday 12 April 1879

Saw Smith today; has promised £10 to a/c of bill; gave him a lecture; he was completely cut up.  Trade still dull.  Parkhead very bad – rolling mills never were so slack.  Had a long crack with Mr. Beardmore last Monday night.  Says they are going to experiment on the manufacture of steel; very anxious that I should learn the steel trade; – prospects – though distant – of being back at Parkhead yet.

Sunday 18 May 1879

Will be flitting to Parkhead at the term; will feel more at home there.

Sunday 6 July 1879 (Parkhead)

Have got properly settled here; like it well.  David has been a month at school.

Sunday 8 August 1879

46 Burgher Street

Mr. and Mrs. Middleton came home from Sydney; he came into partnership with me, but, after three months trial, saw that it would not pay the two of us, so withdrew.  They have been very dry with us since.

Sunday 19 December 1880

My business doing fully better but still much room for improvement.

I am learning the fiddle, and making some progress with it.

My brother Sandy has had a lot of trouble in his family lately; had a child, James died on 20th November, buried on 22nd; and little David his eldest boy, is still very ill, but likely to get better.

Sunday 9 January 1881

The New Year holidays are past, and we must turn our thoughts seriously to work again.

Had one good night with Tom McLean and Walter Martin.  Fell in with William McArthur during the holidays, and went to see him last night.  Our meeting was social and friendly in the extreme.  My heart warmed towards him, as his evidently did towards me.  The subject of my leaving the Forge was touched upon, and my dryness towards him.  I gave him my reason for being so, but owing to a promise not to tell who my informant was, I could not tell him who it was that told me he was principally to blame for me getting my leave.  However, we had a very pleasant evening, and I have little reason to regret leaving the Forge.  My own business is looking better than ever.  Took stock last week, and found I had made substantial during the year.

Since the entry of Sunday 9 January 1881 there are no further entries for almost six years with the next entry being Sunday 26th December 1886.

49 Dalmarnock Street, Parkhead

Sunday 26 December 1886

I see from the foregoing entry, that it is nearly six years since I made an entry in this book.  What a world of care and anxiety has been crowded into those few years – more, in fact, than I will ever be able to tell.  I have often intended to recommence the writing of my diary, but as often postponed it – sometimes through pressure of other matters, and sometimes from a feeling of indolence.In commencing now, I have no expectation of being able to fill in the different events that have taken place in the interval in connected form, but I shall endeavour too recall from memory some of the most important, and such as have a bearing upon myself and family, without any regard to the order in which they took place.  In fact, what I intend writing here is more of the nature of a reminiscence than of a diary.Tonight my family circle is one less than it was when I wrote here.  Wee Alec is no more; he has been resting these last four years where neither care nor cold can trouble him.  My “Wee Man” as we used to call him, was torn from us under circumstances the most painful can afflict a family.  The following are the circumstances attending his death.On Monday morning, November 6th, 1882, I asked Janet, my wife, to make a little furniture polish for me in the house, as I had no time to do so myself.  Ever willing to assist me, she readily agreed to do so, and, for that purpose, got the different articles from me – chiefly turpentine and beeswax.  I was busy in the work at the time, and paid no further attention, until someone shouted – “Oi Davie, your house is on fire!”  Our house at that time was adjoining my work, up one stair, at 46 Burgher Street.  I at once rushed round to the house, and, on entering, saw the pot in which Janet had been making the polish, standing about a yard from the kitchen door blazing, and the house nearly full of smoke.  I leaped over the burning pot, and made towards the window where the water was, for the purpose of lifting the window to let the smoke clear away; but a chopin can lying in the jawbox full of water caught my eye, and lifting it, I dashed the water on the floor where some of the liquid had been spilt and was still burning.

At that moment Robert Watson, who had been assisting Mr. Stewart to build a shed for me in the work, came rushing in the lobby, and, seeing the great blaze at the door, leaped upon it for the purpose, I presume, of extinguishing the flame.  The result was like a flash of lightning.“My God! Robert, you have done it now!” I exclaimed, and I instantly dashed open the window.  The house was instantly filled with flames and smoke, the flames rushing out the window in a solid sheet.My Wife and some of my children had come running to me on my first entering, and at that time there was not one of them burned, so far as I could see; but when the pot was spilt it was impossible to escape being burned; in fact, I wonder still now one of escaped with our lives.  The doorway, so far as I could see, was barred by a solid sheet of flame.  What was I to do?  Not one second did I lose to consider.  I instantly seized my wife, and, lifting her, I dropped her over the window, her fall being partially broken by the neighbours.  I then dropped over three of my family, but in the smoke and confusion I can hardly say who they were.  I afterwards heard they were Jeanie, Charles, and Alex.During this time I was suffering terribly, so much so That I was compelled to get outside.I entreated someone to go in and hand out the rest of my family, as I felt certain that there were some still in yet, but the flame and smoke were so dense that they could not get in.  Seeing this, I rushed up the ladder again and into the house, keeping low as I saw the flames inclined to the roof.  I called amidst the smoke – “weans are there any o’ ye there,” and David and James came running to me.  I immediately put them over the window, and followed them myself.  On reaching the ground, I asked my wife if all the children were out, and she thought they were.  I asked “where is the wee man?” – meaning Alex.  She could not tell me.  Fearing he was still in the house, I again went into the house by the window, and, keeping on my hands and knees to save me from being suffocated by the smoke, I crawled through the house, to feel if I could find anyone.  I think by this time the liquid had burned itself out, but the gas pipe near the meter had taken fire as well as the door and other woodwork near, which were extinguished by some of the neighbours.I shall never forget the horror of that morning.  I need not mention my bodily sufferings; my mental torture was extreme.  My family were all conveyed to the Royal Infirmary, except Charles, who I afterwards learned had not been so severely burned as the others.  My “Wee Man” and I were taken in the same cab, and I remember when I put my hand to my head in the agony of the pain, he said “O! Father, don’t do that.”  The dear little thing seemed to forget his own pain in his sympathy for me.  If ever a child was attached to a parent, it was Alex to me.  Methinks I see him still; and well I remember him sitting on my knee, which he did for full two hours on the night preceding the accident.

I cannot speak to highly of the kindness and consideration shown us at the Infirmary, one portion of the ward being set aside exclusively for the use of my family; but all the kindness and skill of that glorious Institution could not save my “Wee Mans” life.  He died that night, and the Nurses, in their kindness, brought his dead body to me that I may look upon it for the last time.  I had requested this indulgence, as I myself was in a different ward.  I verily thought my heart would burst while I held him to my bosom, and kissed his already cold lips.  How reluctantly I handed him back to the nurse, I need not tell.My other children had also been severely burned, and, betwixt the knowledge of having already lost one, and the thought that I might possibly lose them all, I felt as if I could willingly have given up life myself.

To say which of them had been most severely burned is impossible; but the difference of constitution and temperament seemed to operate differently, and enable some of them to withstand the shock better than others.  James particularly, who is very much like Alex in his disposition, was very ill; in fact, both Doctors and Nurses thought he would never survive.  David, poor wee fellow, was patience itself under all his sufferings, so was Jeanie.  Janet won golden opinions from both Doctors and Nurses for the manner in which she bore them up, for, although she was not very severely burned herself, she was witness of all the sufferings of our dear children – a very much harder lot than mine, as I only got the report of their progress for some time, until I was permitted to visit them.

I can never repay all of the kindness shown by all who knew us.  There never was a day passed without a visit from someone, and, as an indication of the indulgence shown us, I may mention that, although there are stated periods for admission of visitors, our friends were admitted at all times.

I think I have said enough on this subject; it is painful to me.  Being stronger, and perhaps not so severely burned, I left the Infirmary about a fortnight before my family.  I went to live with my mother until Janet and the children came home, and even then, home did not seem home.

During my confinement in the Infirmary, things had been going very badly at my work.  At that time I had two travellers – Alexander Park and David Walker – and from reports furnished me by Walker I had to send word for Park to cease travelling, owing to his misbehaviour.  What was my surprise when I came home to find that Walker had been the worse offender of the two, he having uplifted numerous small accounts without accounting for them.  Of course I dispensed with him also, and once more set myself to be the “architect” of my own fortune.  This was not entirely new to me.  I have had some experience in this line before.  How far I succeeded, I will not say, as it may appear egotistical.  Suffice it to say that I have always got on best when I trusted most to my own exertions.

Since then I have been making steady progress with my business, and, although the progress is not so rapid as one could wish, yet is has been sufficient to cause one to persevere.

“Persevere!” – What a meaning is in that word when fully understood!  I take some credit for having understood it and acted upon it,  Were my struggles of the last eight or nine years fully detailed it would read more like a romance than a chapter in real life.

49 Dalmarnock Street, Parkhead.

Tuesday 28 December 1886

This has been a dull kind of day with occasional showers of sleet.

Have felt rather depressed in spirits today.  Got the Doctor’s account for attendance on David, who was very ill a few weeks ago – total £8 4s 3d.  There is always something to keep a fellow down.

The children are all busy with their school exercises, except Jeanie, of course; she has been attending the night school this while.  She is learning the dressmaking with Mary Cooper these last six months.  Don’t know what to make her – Dressmaker or Teacher.

Mr. William Dalglish, who has been travelling for me these last two years fully, is in Dumbarton today.  I have been inside all day.  Nothing eventful to record.

2 thoughts on “Willox Diary 1872 to 1886

  1. Karen Creighton

    My grandmother Agnes Williamson has a younger sister Isabella killed when her dress caught fire circa 1905 living in Parkhead at the time. trying to find reports if it?

  2. alice soper

    Re entry of 6 June 1872, meeting Daniel Riddell and Neil Kinniburgh:
    Daniel was my great grandfather born 31 July 1853
    Neil Kinniburgh married his sister Agnes Riddell,born 2 Sept 1851, on 25 June 1875.

    Daniel’s daughter Agnes Riddell born 1885, married my grandfather Robert Roy (born 1877 in Errol) in 1909 in Glasgow.
    Their son, and my late father, Robert Roy, born later that year, became known as The Piper of Tobruk. (Pipe Major Rpbert Roy MBE, DCM The Black Watch). He also had a brother named Neil Kinniburgh Roy who was also in the Regiment. I would love to hear from anyone who knew my late father.


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