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Rutherglen - history in the making

Rutherglen was granted its charter in 1126, only two years after David I ascended to the throne of Scotland, making it one of Scotland's oldest Royal Burghs. The accolade helped make Rutherglen an important centre for trade.

The derivation of the name of the town is unclear but one theory is that the area was once a settlement of Reuther, an ancient king of the Scots, who ruled between 213 and 187 BC.

Rutherglen Castle, one of the countries great fortresses, was built in the 13th century. With several towers and five-foot thick walls it became an important stronghold during the Wars of Independence. The English held the castle for a time but it was recaptured in 1309 where a sitting of parliament was held before it was again taken by English forces. The castle was retaken in 1313 by Edward, brother of Robert the Bruce, who became king of Ireland three years later. By the 16th century the castle was in the hands of the Hamiltons, the lairds of Shawfield but all that remained was the great tower. It was burned to the ground by the Regent Murray in 1569, a year after the defeat of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the Battle of Langside, the Hamiltons having supported the wrong side. The last remnants of the castle disappeared in the middle of the 18th century to make way for a vegetable garden close to what is now the junction of Castle Street and King Street.

During the 19th century Rutherglen changed from a weaving and mining village to a more industrialised area, with its own shipyard, established by Thomas Bollen Seath in 1856. Seath built many of the paddle steamers and the famous little Clutha ferry boats that transported commuters up and down the Clyde.

The statistician William Gemmell Cochran was born in Rutherglen in 1909. Educated at Glasgow and Cambridge universities, he worked initially in agricultural statistics, before emigrating to America in 1939. There he carried out research in medical statistics finally working at Harvard University where he set up many courses in statistics in American universities. He died in Orleans, Massachusetts in 1980.

Poet and playwright Tom McGrath was born in Rutherglen in 1940. His first poems were published in 1962 and he was the founding editor of the 1960s underground magazine International Times. His plays include Laurel and Hardy and The Hardman, about the gangster and murderer Jimmy Boyle. He was also musical director of The Great Northern Welly Boot Show which starred comedian Billy Connolly.

Janet Brown was born in Rutherglen in 1924 and comedian and actor Robbie Coltrane was born there in 1950.

In the 1900s, Arthur Stanley Jefferson (who would be known to the world some years later as Stan Laurel) was a pupil at Rutherglen Academy (now Stonelaw High) when his father was in charge of a local theatre.