Janet Thomson or Hamilton 1795-1873
Janet Thomson was born in Shotts parish in 1795, the daughter of James Thomson and Mary Brownlee. At the age of seven her family moved to Langloan in Old Monkland parish and she remained there the rest of her life. In 1809 at the age of just 13 she married John Hamilton and raised a large family with him. Though literate as a girl, Janet had little means or opportunity to write and publish until she was middle aged.
During the 1860’s Janet published a number of works – under her married name - consisting of reminiscences of Scottish rural life, the changes brought by industrialisation, and poetry in both English and Scots. In her 1865 Poems of Purpose and Sketches in Prose, Janet Thomson imagined that people’s minds had been poisoned against government and authority by scurrilous pamphlets and ‘rabid speeches’ made by Radicals. She recalled Radicals frequently marching through Langloan with banners bearing political statements that alarmed the inhabitants. She makes specific mention of a local weaver, Will Lightbody, and his son, making ammunition, while ex-soldier Jemmy Gardner of that ilk was out drilling Radicals. But it was a more personal situation that made Janet anti-Radical. In 1820 they were living in a cottage her husband had bought from a widow whose brother in law’s family had said they would seize it back when the revolution came, or at least that was the rumour. The prospect that the Radicals intended to seize and redistribute property made them profoundly uneasy. When the Radical proclamation was posted in Langloan, Will Lightbody, she said, came swaggering by the house where Janet’s father and husband were working and said:
“Noo’s yer time, Jamie, to tak’ yer side; if ye turn oot wi’ us ye’ll get yer share o’ what’s gaun, but if ye wunna, ye’ll rue’t, min’ I tell ye.”
Neither took Lightbody on, but the following night came the rumour that the Radicals intended to come and press men into service for an attack on Airdrie. Janet describes how the men had to sneak away and hide that night in the woods of Drumpellier to avoid being taken, her husband included, while the women waited at home with the houses barred, fearful at every approaching sound. The next day several of the Radicals fled the area and soldiers appeared in Langloan to search houses for weapons. While this was happening, their neighbour, whom she calls an old Radical, stood with an innocent expression and declared:
“Keep us a’, John! ken ye what the sodgers are after in the Back Raw this mornin’? I’m sure they’ll fin’ naething but what’s richt amang quiet bodies like you an’ me, John.”
After the soldiers found nothing the news came that the rising had failed. Janet recounts that a weaver named Will Marshall, who was meant to have led the Langloan Radicals, had faltered at the last minute and not turned up to the appointed meeting. When Will Lightbody came to his door and asked what was to be “done”, Marshall replied:
“Done”, said he, holding the door in his hand, with Will outside; “gang hame wi’ ye; war baith the cause an’ the kintra to be lost, I canna cum oot the nicht, I ha’e sic a sair grip in my side.”
Will Lightbody, she tells us, came to her father’s shoemaking shop the second day of the rising and with some cheek asked:
“Jamie, wull ye trust me wi’ a pair o’ shoon for a month or twa, till this blast blaw by? I’m gaun oot the gate for a weeock, an’ thae bauchles wull no carry me far.”
Janet’s father then got him a pair of shoes to which Will promised:
“Gude e’en to ye Jamie, I’ll min’ the shoon whan I win on the loom again.”
Will Lightbody soon after this gave up his Radical views for the loom again, or so Janet claimed, but was for years chased through the village by children as ‘Radical Will’. But he died an old and respected member of the community. For many years afterwards it is said that mothers would frighten children by telling them the Radicals would get them.