Updated: Mar 29, 2021
Look around the town of Carluke and you will see the surname Rankin commemorated in various ways – Rankin Street, Rankin Gait, Rankin Plaza, Rankin Court. Examine the edgings of the grassed areas in Rankin Plaza and you will spot fossils identified as Gyrolepis Rankinii engraved into one of them. The Town Hall that stood at the bottom of the High Street from 1884 until 1979 was named the Rankin Memorial Hall. Many of you will know that all of these were named in honour of Dr Daniel Reid Rankin, one of the town’s most well-known figures from the 19th century.
Daniel Reid Rankin was born in Market Place, Carluke in the spring of 1805, the ninth child and fifth son of the boot and shoemaker James Rankin and his wife Isobel Reid.
At the age of 16 years, Daniel began to attend classes in Scots Law at the Andersonian University in Glasgow ( Today this is the University of Strathclyde. ) but, in 1824, he changed course instead focusing on the study of medicine. He pursued these studies in Glasgow, being admitted as a member of the Glasgow Medical Society and obtaining his degree ( L.F.P.S., Glasgow ) in 1829.
Despite protestations from his scientific friends that he was meant for ‘a field more worthy of you’, Daniel soon returned to his home town and here he practised medicine for the next 50 years, becoming a much loved and respected figure in the local community.
Photos show Daniel was a man easily recognised by his height, his shoulder-length reddish-yellow hair and flamboyant dress. He was usually to be seen in a tightfitting surtout coat with flowing skirt, tight knee breeches, hessian boots and a silk top hat.
In many ways, Dr Rankin was ahead of his time in his medical opinions especially when it came to smoking and drinking. He strongly opposed both and was often heard pronouncing to those he saw smoking that ‘If God had meant man to smoke he would have placed a lum on the crown of his head.’
More concerned with the health of his patients rather than money, he gave his services to the poor for free. It is also said that, even when his patients were better off, Dr Rankin was not that good at sending bills.
It was not just for health matters that people turned to Dr Rankin. He was seen as a wise man willing to give help and advice no matter the problem. He was also heavily involved in initiatives linked to ‘the moral and intellectual advancement of the people of Carluke’ and had a special interest in both the Parish Savings Bank and the Useful Knowledge Society.
Daniel’s interests were not limited to medicine. Regarded as one of the country’s most eminent geologists, he was a corresponding member of the Glasgow Geological Society and contributed several palaeontological papers of interest to the Society. One such paper entitled ‘A Sketch of the Geology of Carluke was published in the ‘Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society’ in 1843. His wide collection of fossils gathered over the years consisted almost entirely of local specimens, many of which were very rare indeed. So much so that when Agassiz, the celebrated Swiss geologist, visited Scotland he came to Carluke to examine these, naming at least one of them after Dr Rankin. In the years preceding his death, Daniel presented his collection of geological specimens to Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum.
Archaeology and history also featured among Daniel’s interests, the latter prompting him to write a very interesting history of the community in which he lived. Titled ‘Notices Historical, Statistical and Biographical relating to the Parish of Carluke from 1288 to 1874’, the book contains much useful information both about the development of the town and several of the people who lived there. Sadly, very few copies now exist.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories about Dr Rankin is that of his pet crocodile, gifted to him by a friend and raised in his back garden. There are tales of it frequently breaking out of its confinement and ‘terrorising the neighbours’. In later years, apparently,
to satisfy his studious mind, Dr Rankin took his ‘friend’ to the Cadger’s Dub ( This seems to be where the children’s playground is on the Moor. ) where he released him into the wild. Unfortunately, the crocodile returned to his natural instincts and had to be shot for safety reasons. Dr Rankin was not yet ready to let go of his unique pet and had him stuffed before placing him in the vestibule at the foot of the stairs leading to his rooms at the corner of Market Place and the High Street.
On 21st March 1882, Dr Rankin passed away in his home in Market Place. He was just a few days away from his 77th birthday. Never a man for pomp and ceremony, he left very clear instructions for his funeral :
‘… my funeral to be conducted as was that of my sister perfectly private with no display or ostentation – plain coffin simply covered with black cloth, no mounting or gilded gear, no gingerbread. All parade prevented in every way. All these things I disapproved of. Afterwards let the place of rest of the dead be undisturbed by headstone or monument the graveyard being distinction enough.’
One wonders what his reaction would be to the stone that now stands over his grave and the many ways he is still remembered in the town almost 140 years after his passing.