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The Rankin Memorial Town Hall & Library (1884 – 1979): Another Lost Building

For almost 100 years the Rankin Memorial Town Hall stood at the bottom of the High Street in the town. Opened in July 1884, this easily recognised building was demolished along with many others in 1979 as part of a road improvement scheme.

While the idea of Carluke having its own town hall had been mooted as far back as 1864, it was not until the months following the death of Dr Daniel Rankin in March 1882 that the idea really took hold. The people of the town thought it would be a fitting way to remember this much loved and respected man.

It was estimated that the cost of this new building would be about £2000, a hefty sum.

Raising it did not prove to be too much of an issue however. £1000 as well as a suitable site at the corner of the High Street and John Street was gifted by Mr James Brownlie of the City Saw Mills, Glasgow, a native of Carluke, while a further £463 was provided by the trustees of the former Parish Savings Bank, an institution supported by Dr Rankin. This left just over £500 to be raised by the local community. In reality, a further £1000 was raised by public subscription.

By June 1883 the contracts for the work had been agreed. The actual building of the town hall was to be carried out by Martin & Symington of Carluke while Bryce & Brown of Lanark would take on the joinery work. The other contractors were A & J Black, slaters, of Carluke, Thomas Lithgow, plasterer, of Lanark and McDonald & McEwan, plumbers, of Wishaw. The actual construction work began in July and in September 1883 the foundation stone was laid by Mr Alexander Pillans.

On 18th July 1884, a year from the work commencing, the Rankin Memorial Library and Town Hall was officially opened, a two-day bazaar marking the occasion. This was a grand building of the Scotch Baronial style. At the centre was the large public hall which could seat up to 700 people but, of equal importance and reflecting Dr Rankin’s civic interests, there was also a library and a savings bank office. The entrance to this new community facility was through the clock tower which stood 73 feet high and faced on to the High Street. On the day of the opening, however, there was no clock in the tower. It was hoped that the bazaar would raise the necessary £400 for this timepiece. In fact, the sum raised exceeded expectations and, by the end of October 1884, Messrs H and R Millar of Edinburgh had installed the timepiece. It had four illuminated skeleton dials, each of which was four feet six inches in diameter, and the hours were struck by a bell which measured two feet eight inches in diameter.

Interestingly, in 1900, the clock tower was heightened by seventeen feet. Over the intervening fifteen years, people’s view of the clock faces had become restricted by the erection of some two-storey buildings near the hall so it was deemed important to rectify this especially as the town hall clock was the only public timepiece in the town and played a vital role in the community’s daily routines.

It was not only the clock which provided a valuable service to the local people so too did the bell that hung in its tower. Importantly, it was frequently used to alert the fire brigade to an outbreak of fire. On a happier note, it was also used to welcome in the New Year and to mark special occasions such as the signing of the armistice on 11th November 1918 and the announcement of VE Day on 8th May 1945. Only twice has the tolling of the bell for celebratory reasons been officially cancelled. Both of these occasions were during the two world wars.

Over its 95 years of life, this important building was at the heart of many of the town’s social events. Hundreds of adverts have appeared in ‘The Carluke Gazette’ announcing the Rankin Memorial Hall as the venue for a wide range of occasions – concerts, pantomimes, plays, dances, parties, dinners, exhibitions, educational lectures, public auctions as well as town and political meetings. Micky Burns even used it as a cinema venue for a short period after the Alhambra burned down in 1936.

Given the above, the decision to improve the road layout in the town in the 1970s must have saddened many of the locals as it meant the demolition of the town hall and clock tower. Dr Rankin was not forgotten, however, and a clock with a plaque dedicated to him was erected in what was then called Rankin Gait. Unfortunately, this too has now gone.

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