Hidden beneath the ruins of Blantyre Priory and not far from famous explorer David Livingstone’s birthplace lies a series of religious carvings that were once thought to have been made in a more primitive age but are in fact the work of a shy local.
Located on the natural rock face behind the remains of an ancient priory, the crude figures known as the Blantyre carvings were actually etched by local eccentric Tommy Hawkins. While no one is sure exactly why Hawkins was compelled to create the simple reliefs, but sometime during the 1950’s and 60’s he began sneaking down to the waterside rock wall in the early mornings and evenings to work on his carvings. It is said that if any passersby came across him, Hawkins would simply pick up his tools and leave without a word. In the end, Hawkins managed to carve three distinct stations of the cross at different intervals on the wall. Included in the carvings are images of Jesus taking the cross, Jesus on the cross, and Jesus being interred. In addition there are also smaller carvings of a Roman soldier and other figures that may represent Mary Magdelene and possibly even David Livingstone himself.
Hawkins’ carvings have eroded and faded over the years, losing many of their sharper features and making them look much older than they actually are. This was so convincing that some local news outlets, upon discovering the carvings, stated that they dated back to medieval times. Despite the truth of the carvings’ origins many locals still like to maintain that the illustrations are thousands of years old. Its possible that Hawkins would have liked this as well.
Know Before You Go
Walk along the path from the entrance of the park and look carefully along the river Clyde for remains of Blantyre priory walls. the carvings are on the rocks below. It can be really slippy in wet weather and good footwear is advised. Alternatively, one can take a 20 - 30 minute walk along the River Clyde from the David Livingston Birthplace. Take the first left towards the river before crossing the pedestrian bridge. This is only advised if one feels comfortable following a deer trail, (muddy holes, tree branches, flying insects, ad nausea). Google maps directs one to the shore beneath Bothwell Castle. The Priory Ruins are located on the other side. From here, it is an equal distance, (20-minute walk) to a bridge in either direction