For weekend visitors to Strathclyde Country Park, the calm loch and woodlands that cling to its fringes provide refreshing respite and a place to escape.

There are watersports for thrill seekers, coarse angling for those who prefer a slower pace, spots to camp, park a caravan, trails to explore and playgrounds for little ones to let off steam.

But for a dwindling group of pensioners it is a place to reunite at a small stone cairn at the loch’s edge, the area’s attractions are bittersweet, igniting distant memories of a faded way of life at the long-lost pit village they once called home.

The former villagers of Bothwellhaugh were uprooted from their family homes in the early 1960s so the village, its two schools, shops, churches, well-tended gardens and dozens of houses could be demolished.

The Herald: Villagers of Bothwellhaugh were uprooted from their family homes in the early 1960s so the villageVillagers of Bothwellhaugh were uprooted from their family homes in the early 1960s so the village (Image: Newsquest)

This weekend's reunion is particularly poignant for the aging group: it is 50 years since work first began to create the new country park – a move that would completely obliterate the site where the village and colliery once stood.

It prompted the arrival of an army of bulldozers, diggers and mechanical machines to level bings and coups, remove any remaining signs of the village and create a long, winding loop in the River Clyde for the new manmade loch.

By 1975, just two years later, the first drips of what would be 400 million gallons of water were diverted from Clyde tributary South Calder Water, to fill the gap where the village once stood.

One of the biggest construction challenges of the times, the £7 million scheme to create the loch and park was hailed as visionary for turning a 1,600 acres industrial wasteland into a leisure oasis, with a national rowing centre at its heart.

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But for locals, the start of the work in 1973 heralded the beginning of the end for any trace of where Bothwellhaugh once stood.

The Lanarkshire village was built in the 1880s to provide accommodation for Hamilton Palace Colliery miners employed by the Bent Colliery Company and their families.

Once one of the country’s most productive pits, it had faded and died by the late 1950s, and the village with its hundreds of out of date homes, was doomed.

By the early 1960s, as the last families left the village, councillors were already discussing plans to turn the industrial wasteland into a recreation centre, wildlife reserve and boating lake.

The Herald: Gone but not forgotten - BothwellhaughGone but not forgotten - Bothwellhaugh (Image: Newsquest)

Marion Thomson, now 84 and who was born in the village, remembers the slow death of a bustling community, where locals worked hard but also enjoyed busy social lives, with all they needed on the doorstep, from fresh eggs from allotment chickens to healthcare from a small GP surgery and midwife, a prize-winning silver band and acres of space for children to play.

She says former residents remain determined not to let Bothwellhall die even though every year there are fewer villagers left to pay their respects at the cairn.

“Our numbers are getting fewer and fewer,” she says. “I’m one of the oldest ones left.

“But if anything, we are finding people are more interested in the village now than they’ve ever been.

“We have had people coming to Bothwellhaugh reunions from all over the country and even Australia and America; people who want to know about where their relations once lived.

“There’s nothing of the village left, it’s a myth that it’s underneath the water, it’s completely away.

“But people still feel they want to come back and remember it.”

In 1903, Hamilton Palace Colliery, known as The Palais, was one of Scotland’s most productive, with 2000 tons of coal excavated every day, more than 1120 workers underground and a further 280 at the pit head and offices.

The Herald: Mary Ann Mollon and William Mollon with their baby daughter MarionThomson Mary Ann Mollon and William Mollon with their baby daughter MarionThomson (Image: Marion Thomson)

At the time, more than 950 colliery workers and their families occupied 458 of the village homes, most of which had just two rooms, paying rent depending on whether they had a dry toilet, scullery or water closet.

Others crammed into 79 older, one-room homes, some with no inside water supply.

By 1911, the village had swelled to a close knit community of 2,500 people.

The coal produced by the pit was said to be of particularly high quality, sought after for steam trains and so good that huge amounts were exported to Argentina for use by railway companies.

Indeed, one of The Flying Scotman’s record runs was said to have been powered by Pailis coal.

However, the pit was also known for dreadful working conditions with miners underground having to wade through flood water, without even the ‘luxury’ of pit head washrooms.

While the mine workings are said to have contributed to the demise in the 1920s of one of the country’s most magnificent grand houses, Hamilton Palace.

The Herald: Marion Thomson at a Bothwellhaugh reunionMarion Thomson at a Bothwellhaugh reunion (Image: Newsquest)

Conditions were also harsh for those above ground: women worked long hours picking stones from the coal. At least one died when the clothes she was wearing became entangled in machinery, and there was a constant risk of fire and horrific accidents.

Marion, now of Bellshill, recalls cramped conditions in her grandmother’s two-room Raith Place home where at one point around 16 members of the family shared the tiny space.

“It sounds bad, but it was all we knew,” she adds. “My grandmother moved there in 1904 just after the house was built.

“We had two rooms, with a back and front door, a wee kitchenette and an inside toilet.

“Because we were in newer houses, people said we were at the posh end of the village. They called it Fresh Butter Row.”

At the other end were older, even smaller homes, where families shared outside toilets and miners had to wash in communal laundry areas.

But, says George McPhee, who like Marion is a member of Bothwellhaugh Ex-Residents Committee and helps organise the annual reunion, there are mainly fond memories.

“It was a self-sufficient village – we lived in our own wee bubble with everything we needed,” he says.

“One of the houses was made into a GP surgery, there was the Co-operative, a butchers, drapers and grocery shop. Everyone knew each other.

“The wash house had four tubs and the women took turns to use it for their laundry. When they finished, they’d fling us children in, so we had a bath too.

“When the mine shut in 1959, the village declined,” adds George, 78, whose parents, George and Margaret ran the village newsagent from their room and kitchen.

“Families moved out, some left to go abroad on assisted passage schemes to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and the whole community was broken up.”

Some ex-villagers gathered at a community centre in Lanarkshire last week to watch a grainy early 1960s film made by a local man, Joe Griffiths, which caught daily life in the village as it entered its final years.

It shows carefree children at play, the bustle of the village main street and women washing coal dust from window ledges and stairs unaware that soon their homes would vanish and the land become a haven for watersports enthusiasts.

Today’s reflective gathering at the cairn will be followed by a more upbeat social gathering tonight, which traditionally ends with the linking of arms and singing of the village song.

“We have a wee dance and get in a circle and sing,” says Marion. “’Good old Bothwellhaugh, that’s where I reside, happy shall I be there, to live and be in that wee place near the river Clyde.

“’A’ the folk are friendly, each with yin and a’, All together sing, let your voices ring, good old Bothwellhaugh’.”