J.K.B. McMillan, known as Kenny, was born in 1926 in Campbeltown and as a young man was called up for the the army and served with the Royal Engineers. His first job after serving in the army was at the Argyll Colliery. In 1948 he went to be trained in Doncaster and returned to work at Argyll Colliery for the next 20 years, until the pit closure in 1967. In 1950 he married Agnes Girvan, whose father was one of the hall-keepers of the Miners’ Welfare in Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. They had five children and their lives were consumed by the various activities organised by the wider mining community.
Mum, Agnes, was the prompter for the successful miners’ drama group and Dad, Kenny, played and later managed the football teams. The miners’ football team was formed in July 1951 and according to records kept by my father, they were a fairly successful team playing in the Scottish Junior Cup. Dad was a Motherwill supporter which is why the Argyll Colliery Team played in “Amber and Claret”.
Kenny became the union steward for the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and was very involved in settling disputes and ensuring his colleagues were treated fairly. He eventually went on to serve as a local Labour councillor in South Kintyre.
Unfortunately in the latter stages of the pit before its closure he was unwell and died in 1970 of kidney disease. He left behind a number of diaries which sometimes detailed the dangers the miners encountered in their daily lives. That said, Kenny enjoyed the camaraderie of his colleagues and the everyday challenges.
Here are some excerpts from Kenny’s diary which relate to the time running up to the closure of Argyll Colliery:
Pit flooded. Manager, Mr Welsh, arrives to discuss closure.
Given one month’s notice
Discussed cases with manager and arranged the withdrawal of welfare fund
Majority of miners left the pit today
Divided benevolent and welfare fund to contributors
Drawing girders in the mine.
Last day of work at Argyll Colliery.
and going back to the fire of at Argyll Colliery 1958:
Production was halted because of the fire for nine weeks and T McFarlane was gassed.
Morag McLean (nee McMillan) ©