The History of
Coatbridge Co-operative Society
Coatbridge Co-operative - the early days
Thomas Gilchrist J.P. was the
driving force behind the formation
of the Coatbridge Cooperative
Society. Tom was a native of Lanark
town who had come to Coatbridge as a
young man to further his career as a
journeyman mason. He eventually
started his own business. He took a
lively interest in public affairs.
Although he was a businessman for many years as builder and quarrymaster, he still clung closely to his working class roots and he laboured earnestly towards the betterment of the conditions of the working class. By way of encouraging them to habits of thrift he took a deep interest in the Co-operative movement which was beginning to be noticed in the district.
Thomas Gilchrist J.P.
Thomas and Dougie McLellan, who was
a storekeeper in the iron industry,
were appalled at the prices that
were being charged in the local
shops. They had attended meetings
held under the auspices of the
recently formed Scottish
Co-operative Wholesale Society and
had become convinced that having a
local co-op would improve the lives
of the workers and management alike.
They believed that this would give
them and their fellow townspeople
more control of food quality and
They tossed the idea around with some friends and held many meetings before the Pioneers of the Coatbridge Co-operative held their first official meeting in 1871.
They arranged a public meeting in a hall in Ellis Street for November 10 th . This meeting was well attended, mostly by miners and iron workers. The meeting unanimously agreed to form a Society. They elected a working party a provisional committee.
The first general meeting of members was called on 7 th January 1872 when it was decided to start up the business of a Retail Co-operative. The provisional committee was confirmed in office.
This committee comprised:
Thomas Gilchrist, President.
Mr. Alex. Cunningham, Treasurer.
Mr. Dugald M'Lellan, Secretary.
Mr. James Waddell, Director.
Mr. John Williams,
Mr. Archibald Brown,
Mr. William Allan,
Mr. Thos. Summerville,
Mr. David Strang,
Mr. William Gall,
Mr. Thomas Kelloch,
Mr. Hugh Wilson,
Mr. Thos. Eaglesham,
Mr. David Bell,
Mr. David Brown,
At this first general meeting it was agreed to become members of the SCWS and to adopt the principles of the Rochdale Pioneers. However the meeting decided to depart from these principles to create their own rule that members be allowed credit to the extent of of their share capital.
was appointed to make arrangements
to start the business
James Waddell, David Bell, Thos. Eaglesham, Arch. Brown, David Strang, Thos. Gilchrist.
First Salesman Appointed
The sub-committee decided that it was of prime importance that a salesman was required to help spread the word about the co-operative. The salesman would also manage the shop. James Haddow was employed at a wage of 25s (1.25) per week and commenced work on January 19 th 1872.
The sub-committee and James were looking for suitable premises and decided that a vacant house in Baird Street would suffice for the early days. The shop was officially opened for business on 3 rd February 1872. The first days trading amounted to 6 4s 8d.
The Society held their first quarterly meeting on 1 st April in the Lesser Temperance Hall in Sunnyside Road. It was decided that members would subscribe one penny in the pound of profits to defend the principles of Co-operation.
The committee felt it was time to expand and on October 28 th they took out a feu (fee) on land in Muiryhall Street with a frontage of 150feet at 2s per pole (16.5 feet) this was equal to approximately 18s.
At end of
December 1872 Edward M. Bell was
appointed Honorary Chairman. Edward
owned a manufacturing business
involved in the iron industry.
Dougie Mclellan had resigned due to ill health and James Hall was appointed Secretary in his place. David Bell was appointed treasurer. They finished the year with 126 members. Total sales amounted to 3460 8s 8d and profits were 240 0s 1d. Capital including Share capital and loan funds amounted to 361 10s 3d. They paid out an average dividend of 1s 6.5d (approx. 7.5p) What an extraordinary first year!
On January 17 th 1873 the committee decided to build 3 blocks on the Muiryhall Street feu at an estimated cost of 1,900 19s 1d. and agreed to take out loan capital at 5%.
They decided to erect a bakery at an estimated cost of 5596 6s 11d.
They opened a Drapery shop in December but decided that members would not be allowed credit for drapery purchases. The following year they decided that the drapery shop would now close early at 7pm.
Over the next few months they moved their main place of business to Muiryhall Street and started to run down the Baird Street premises.
They drew up new set of Society rules which were then agreed. At same time the committee canvassed the members for more funds to erect a new building. They took out an additional feu for property adjoining Muiryhall Street at 3/ per pole (5.5 yards).
In 1874 they purchased their first horse! This could be used by staff to use when uplifting purchases from suppliers.
At this time they decided to buy all their bread supplies from the Old Monkland Baking Society.
In the first 10 years up to 1881 they:
Built new shops and offices on Muiryhall Street
built 5 blocks of houses on Muiryhall Street
Opened branches, No. 1 Branch Langloan, No. 2 Branch Coatdyke, No. 3 Branch Whifflet,
started the Bakery and introduced machinery
started a drapery department
started the Coal trade
started a Penny Savings Bank
started a Furniture trade.
built stables and vanmans house
appointed a General Manager
held annual soirees from 1875
Thomas' friend Dugald McLellan sadly passed away in 1875.
Thomas Gilchrist, their main driving force, moved to a new challenge as a Director of the SCWS in 1878. He was also a Dean of Guild in the new Coatbridge Burgh council.
He passed away in 1892 and his funeral was the largest and most influentially attended that has ever been witnessed in Coatbridge
Coatbridge Cooperative Society had a spectacular growth in the first ten years, considering that it had limited finance and was managed by a committee.
By the year 1897 they had 3,388 members and had accrued 71,000 in capital. Their total profit to date was over 200,000. Their average dividend was 3/- (15p)
The End of the Beginning
The research continues -
Still to come - The Coatbridge
Co-operative Society set up over 30
branches in most parts of
Coatbridge, Airdrie, Gartcosh,
Annathill, Chryston, Bargeddie,
Glenboig, Glenmavis ......see list
at co-op branches.htm link
NOTE We are aware of the location of 29 Branches but need info on the remaining branches.
If you can offer any information - photographs of shops, people, carts,
We need details of all events but particularly after 1939