Willie Durance, Electrician at Argyll Colliery.

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Willie Durance during his National Service with RAF in Cyprus. 1955-56. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

Willie Durance was born in in Edinburgh and moved to Bishopton when he was about 11 years old. His first visits to Campbeltown were on cycling trips as a youngster. He moved to Campbeltown in 1957 when he got a job working at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish. Willie went to train at Muircock Hall Colliery, near Dunfermline in Fife. He was there for three weeks. Whilst there, Willie remembers sharing a hostel with other mining trainees, one of them John McGown, from Campbeltown, and with Hungarian refugees who had come to Scotland and who had fled from Hungarian Uprising the year before.

Willie came back to Argyll Colliery and worked as an electrician. His other jobs included attending to drilling equipment, extractor fans, conveyor belts and the telephone system. Argyll Colliery was a very wet mine so pumps were in operation 24 hours a day.

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Willie Durance in the winding house at Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

He worked alongside other electricians; Willie Morris, who was the charge hand, Jackie Hall, who was the foreman, Andy Hall, Donald Mustarde, Ian McMillan (“Omelette”), Gavin Sinclair, Campbell McAllister, Tommy McIntyre, Bill Adams and Jimmy Stark.

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Willie Durance c. 1955/56. Electrical workshop, at Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

In 1963, Willie lost an eye in a freak accident at the coal loading plant at the Old Quay, Campbeltown, when he was hit by a piece of metal.

During the three months in 1958, when Argyll Colliery was on fire, Willie and other employees worked alongside the special rescue team who had come from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, to help put the fire out.

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Sandy Smith, (winding engine-man) Willie Durance (electrician) and Gus McDonald (Deputy Shotfirer), Argyll Colliery. Machrihanish. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

Willie worked at Argyll Colliery till the mine closed in 1967 and then moved to work in Monktonhall Colliery in Midlothian. Just after his interview, about 6 months after Argyll Colliery had closed, David Seaman, the manager at Machrihanish asked Willie to come back to Kintyre to disable the electricity (this was housed in one of the two buildings that still remains at the site). Willie  wasn’t too keen to go back but was offered £100 “settling-in” money for his new job at Monktonhall so he agreed to do the job. Willie was the last NCB employee to work at Argyll Colliery.

Working life was different at Monktonhall Colliery as each electrician was detailed to do a specific job – in Argyll Colliery, electricians were expected to multi-task, as it was a much smaller scale operation at Machrihanish. Willie became Assistant Colliery Chief Electrical Engineer at Monktonhall and worked there until he retired in 1984.When Willie retired he moved back to Kintyre and now lives in Stewarton, South Kintyre.

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Willie Durance. Photo: jan Nimmo ©

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3 thoughts on “Willie Durance, Electrician at Argyll Colliery.

  1. Pingback: A trade union banner for Argyll Colliery | The Road to Drumleman

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