The son of a Wishaw woman is hoping former colleagues at a former Cleland brickworks can help him shed some light on the root cause of her death.
Isabella Boyd was born on Orchard Street in Overtown in 1935. She worked for the Auchinlea Quarries and Brickworks Company after leaving school aged 15 before marrying on Valentine’s Day 1959 and moving to Cumbria where she raised her family.
Isabella passed away in November 2020 at the age of 85. In the months leading up to her death, she suddenly became seriously ill. An autopsy later confirmed that she had mesothelioma. The condition is caused by exposure to asbestos.
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There are no obvious symptoms for mesothelioma for decades after exposure to asbestos, it develops slowly and then becomes very aggressive in its later stages. Even if caught early, it is incurable.
Her son Tom Farrer, 53, is looking for his mother’s former colleagues to connect with him so he can better understand the conditions workers endured at the Cleland brick plant, which closed 45 years ago.
Asbestos has been widely used in brick manufacture since the 1950s, adding heat resistance and strength while being lightweight. Many kilns in which the bricks were fired also contained the material either in their own brickwork or behind it.
He said: “In 2020 my mum started having trouble breathing, became very short of breath and it sounded like she was trying to breathe through water. Her GP referred her to the local hospital, which drained a lot of fluid from her lungs.
“The procedure immediately cured my mother’s shortness of breath, but that didn’t last long, less than two weeks later she had to have another one and a half liters drained from her lungs. It’s terrifying to know the suffering my mother went through.”
Isabella Boyd from Overtown worked at Auchinlea Brickworks in Cleland (Image: UGC)
The mother of five and grandmother of nine was then fitted with a chest drain and district nurses were ordered to call and drain the fluid, but unfortunately this only happened once before the pensioner died.
Tom hopes to speak to anyone, former employees or the relatives of those who worked at Auchinlea Brickworks. He discovered a poem on old, yellowed paper that his mother had written while she was still working about the Cleland company and its employees, and which quite a few mentions.
There were the ‘gaffers’ and foremen, McAlpine and Jock Trodden in the masons’ yard; Currans, Lamont and Lewis at the brickworks; Jimmy Rennie and Paw Nolan at the quarry; Jock Elder in the Construction Workshop, assisted by Thomson, Gray, Fraser, and Allardice; and warehouse clerk John Cleland of Newmains.
A number of other craftsmen are mentioned in an addendum to the poem: Jimmy Cummings, a Bellshill carpenter, fellow worker Pat Carr and her apprentice Willie Hill; electricians John Reilly, John Boyd, Jimmy Brown and Bert Easton; and Smiths John Farrell and Sanny Gray. Canteen workers Mary Currie and Nan Murray also receive honorable mentions.
Tom hopes the names mean something to someone who can help him and wonders if anyone else who worked at the brick kiln developed mesothelioma later in life.
The grandmother fell seriously ill with the aggressive mesothelioma (Image: UGC)
Doctors suspected Isabella had the disease before she died, but initial tests proved inconclusive, but the autopsy confirmed the disease.
He added: “I did a family tree not long ago and it’s possible we’re related to Foreman Jock Elder, one of my great-great-grandparents was a John Elder.
“My mother never smoked and died of mesothelioma. She was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 80, which was probably the start of her symptoms and had nothing to do with asthma. Thinking back, she complained about a ‘stupid cough’ much earlier.”
Tom isn’t sure what Isabella’s work role at Auchinlea entailed, but believes it could have to do with wages or clerical work collecting timesheets from different departments.
Anyone with relevant information about Auchinlea Brickworks can email: [email protected]
Or you can contact Tom directly at: [email protected] or by phone on 07422 531981
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