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Here you will find blogs by our staff, volunteers and from volunteers of Friends of Provan Hall. If you would like to find out more about a certain topic, please get in touch by using the details in our Contact Us page. 

Mary Holmes - Caretaker and Campaigner

By Katrina Murphy, Friends of Provan Hall

Housekeeper to the Mather brothers of Provan Hall, and passionate preserver of this heritage gem. 

Mary was born Mary Muir on 23 April 1894, at 36 Hayfield Street, Gorbals, Glasgow. Her parents were John Muir and Janet Graham, and she had six brothers and four sisters. At the time that she was born, her father was employed as a Carter (cart driver). He also laboured as a farm worker and ploughman. He worked in a number of different places but for many years worked for Professor McCall, founder of the Veterinary College of Blairtummock, on land which was very near to Provan Hall and where he met William Mather through a shared love of horses. William Mather was then resident at Provan Hall.

Mary was living with her parents on a farm at West Greenrig, Slamannan. William and his brother Reston visited the Muirs at the farm in autumn 1919,  and two weeks later Reston Mather wrote to Mary asking her to come and work at Provan Hall as their elderly housekeeper had died.

The winter of 1919, when she was twenty-five years’ old, was the start of Mary’s Provan Hall journey, a journey which did not end until she left Provan Hall in 1955. Mary’s older sister Margaret had tried to persuade Mary not to go to Provan Hall, as she thought it was too large a job for such a young girl. 

Mary’s role was housekeeper to William and Reston Mather until they both died in 1934. After the Mather brothers died, she took over as caretaker of Provan Hall along with her husband Adam Holmes. Mary had grown very close to the Mather brothers and was very fond of them both. She was well known to visitors for the teas she provided at Provan Hall when she was the caretaker. 

In 1920, Mary’s brother John, who resided in Canada and was in the 1st Canadians, was seriously injured in battle in France. He decided to come home to Scotland. A year later, both Mary’s parents were ageing and her father infirm. Mr Henderson, Provan Hall’s gardener, had died and his cottage at Provan Hall was vacant, so Mary persuaded her parents and brother to move into the cottage along with their dog Paddy. They resided at Provan Hall cottage until the three of them died in 1931. 

Then Mary met Adam Holmes, a talc miller by trade, and they married on the 18th of  November 1933, in Glasgow. Adam moved into Provan Hall with Mary. He died there  in 1954. Adam and Mary had one son, also named Adam, who was born in 1934. Sadly he died at the age of three weeks on 13 February 1934. He is buried in the Mather plot in Sandymount graveyard along with William and Reston Mather. 

Mary got to meet many visitors to Provan Hall. In the time of William and Reston Mather she got to meet visitors such as politician Cunninghame Graham, artists George Houston and Sir David Young Cameron, and cousin Dr. George Ritchie Mather, Principle of the Royal Infirmary, who wrote the “Two Great Scotsmen”, who were all related to the Mathers. She also met Rev. Dr. Norman McLeod, author George Eyre Todd, the Wylies of Garthamlock, iron industrialists the Bairds of Gartsherry, and Dr. Hill B.L. of Barlanark House. 

After the death of the last Lairds of Provan Hall, William and Reston Mather, Mary  conceived the idea of turning her beloved Provan Hall into a tea room. At this time the house badly needed restoration. Mary contacted members of the Old Glasgow Club in which Miss Dreda Boyd, author of the "Scarlet Clock" was a member. They raised funds and Provan Hall was restored back to its former glory in 1936. 

Visitors to Provan Hall tearoom signed the visitors book and some of these visitors included T.C.F. Brotchie, Miss Dreda Boyd, the Rev. Neville Davidson and his wife Mrs. Margaret Davidson of Glasgow Cathedral, Sir John and Lady Stirling Maxwell of Pollok House who wrote "Shrines of Scotland" with Provan Hall on the cover, Dr. Violet Robertson and artist Mary Gossman.

Mary finally left Provan Hall in 1955. She passed away at the age of 78 in Wishaw Hospital, Lanarkshire.


Scotland’s People (Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates)

Speculative Sketch by Pavo Interpretation.

Former visitors to Provan Hall. 

Tearoom visitor book. 


Todd's Well

By Annemarie Pattison, Friends of Provan Hall

Local landmark Todds Well, situated in the open ground below Conisburgh Rd has been known to locals for generations…but who or what was Todd? 

Research by Anne Marie of Friends of Provan Hall has discovered a local family named Todd who lived for over 100 years in a small farm which was part of the Provan Hall estate, in the Parish of Barony.

The residents of the ‘Big House’ are well known, with many books mentioning the Buchanans and Mathers who lived in Provan Hall from 1779 to 1934. Little has been discussed about the Wilsons who lived at North Mains and the Todds who lived at South Mains at the same time. 

Records show that Janet Wilson married John Buchanan in 1816 at her home at North Mains, they then moved to the Big House and their family lived there until 1934. Three generations of Andrew Wilsons continued to live at North Mains until at least 1901. In fact, the Wilsons can be traced back for 4 generations living in the parish of Barony before Janet’s generation.

A third family lived in the area at the same time. The Todds lived at South Mains from at least 1776 when George Todd was born there. In 1841 Richard Todd (grandson of George) married Helen Wilson, niece of Janet Wilson.

Three sons of Richard and Helen are recorded on the 1901 census…but what about Todd’s Well?

An inscription at the location, erected in 1857, by R Todd is detailed in Scotland’s Places. 

The 1888 Ordnance Survey map shows this area as being called Todd’s well. An earlier map (1882) shows this as Back o’Braes Well. 

Was this change in name due to the 110+ years that the Todd family had used this well? 


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