Help put names to Lanark Market’s first customers 150 years ago

One of the photos of the early farmers at the market.
One of the photos of the early farmers at the market.

It’s all too rare these days to have a business that has survived for 150 years and is still going strong.

What is rarer – unique probably – is that business still having a photograph of their very first customers from a century and a half ago!

That is the proud boast of Lanark Agricultural Centre operators Lawrie and Symington whose events manager Willie McCulloch has uncovered a treasure trove of old photographs and artefacts dating back to the very week the company began its livestock trading business.

It is a fascinating insight into the early days of the company just after it first opened the gates of the then-brand new Lanark Market on Hyndford Road in 1867, its base until the move to the new centre on the outskirts of Lanark a decade ago.

The images Willie came across even include a photo of a breed of sheep that is now extinct!

The cache also includes photographs of other livestock, customers and the earliest in a long, long line of market auctioneers.

Amazingly, someone in 1867 had the notion to take a photo of the farmers to be the first of hundreds to follow in the decades ahead in using Lawrie and Symington to sell their stock.

Other surviving artefacts of that first year of the firm include sales reports of these first livestock sales and a report on them from the area’s then local paper.

The auctioneers are now looking to the tight-knit Clydesdale farming community and wider public to see if anyone is able to help identify who the people in the photographs might be. It is thought that some of the great-great-grandchildren of these first customers might be clients of the market firm today.

Said Willie: “Lawrie & Symington has been at the centre of Scotland’s livestock trade for 150 years and as this fascinating collection of photos illustrates a lot has changed during that time.

“We have a proud, storied legacy of auctioneering in the country and we’re very pleased to be able to share these pictures with the public and the farming community.

“This archive offers us a fascinating glimpse of what the trade was like in 1867 and how it has evolved in the decades since. The animals shown here, such as a blackface ram, have changed massively during this period as a result of selective breeding so they are of real interest to anyone with a hand in agriculture or a general interest in history.

“What is of particular significance is that a number of the pictures we discovered have the names of farms and farmers on them, so we have a good idea of who some people might be related to all these years later. If any members of the public are able to help us work out who the people are that we don’t have names for we’d be hugely grateful.

“We’ll be posting the photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages in the hope that local families and the agricultural community might be able to help us find out who they are.”

This historical detective work has now become part of the firm’s celebration of its 150th anniversary, the date the first Lanark market – now the site of the Braidfute 
Retail Park – was built. The one surviving old market building there, the landmark auction ring, is currently awaiting conversion to a restaurant.

The year 1867 was a significant one for Lanark, also seeing the opening of its railway station and the building of the Royal Oak Hotel, the latter also awaiting renovation.