Have you heard of the Jouker's Johnnie?
Generations of Lanarkians still refer to St Patrick’s Lane, off Westport, as the Jouker’s Johnnie. Who was ‘joukin’ what? Likely culprits through the nineteenth century would have been boys avoiding school for their own mischief or sport. It was a linking path from Westport towards Clydesholm and the river, for fishing, or sneaking into Castlebank’s grounds for fruit and fun.
The Westport then area had several schools. Close to Lanark House (where there is a garage today) there was a subscription school, and nearby, a Ragged School. The Broomgate Institute was also in the area. Pupils paid weekly, unlike the termly rate at the Grammar School. The Jouker’s Johnnie was a temptation for those skiving off with pals on a sunny day. Those attending other schools at the east end of the town had their own diversionary routes.
The opening of the Burgh School in 1881, at Lilybank (Mousebank Road), introduced free, compulsory elementary education for all. Most of the other schools were closed down. The few decades of the Burgh School’s existence probably saw the heyday of the Jouker’s Johnnie as an ‘escape’ route for the disenchanted or mischievous, with the ‘Whipper in’, the Attendance Officer, chasing them up or chapping the family’ door. The lane remains today but former adjacent fields have now been developed, making a jouk a much less picturesque experience.