A Schoolboy’s Visit to the MIne
During the 1950s, whilst visiting my grandmother at Bellgrove with my parents, my father arranged for us to visit the mine at Machrihanish. I was probably aged about 10 or 12 at the time. I well remember the trip in the wagon down the slope and into the mine. I have in my mind the darkness of the tunnels and workings, the hot, cramped and dirty conditions, the limited lighting, the workers stripped to their waists and covered in coal dust. Would such a visit be allowed these days, I wonder? Everyone was very friendly and attentive. Later in my schooldays in England I was also to visit a deep coal mine served by a vertical shaft. This sort of visit was undertaken regularly to acquaint us with various aspects of Industry. For example, we also visited a carpet factory, a chocolate factory, a car plant and a pottery. From the coal mine visits, I remember the inhospitable working conditions and the strong sense of solidarity amongst those working there. I was to experience a similar sense of camaraderie when I later joined the Royal Navy and served in submarines – in my experience, it is particularly prevalent in professions requiring strong teamwork in potentially dangerous environments.
Coal From Machrihanish
Our home Bellgrove, has been in the family for some years. When visiting my grandmother Christina Colvill in the 1950s [her husband John (Jack) Colvill had died in 1926 – well before my appearance on the scene], I remember Mary Milroy who worked in the tobacconist’s shop in Main Street, and lived in the Laundry Cottage adjacent to the main house. I frequently used to pop up to her upstairs living room for a chat over a cup of tea. Mary’s parents had previously lived in the cottage when they were looking after the house and grounds for my grandparents. When the new Council Houses were built in the town (late 50s/early 60s?), which were considerably better-appointed and more comfortable, she moved into one of them.
The Laundry Cottage remained empty thereafter and was used as a store until we started renovating it in about 2010, some 50 years later! Whilst clearing out prior to the contractors starting work, I found a small pile of coal in the ‘Coal Hole’ under the stairs which had lain there for all those intervening years. Realising that this had probably come from the local mine, I showed a sample to George MacMillan, and he confirmed from the look and quality that this was indeed the ‘Real McCoy’!
David Mayo ©