On the 21/22 November 2016 I spent two days working with third year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School. As part of SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman project. We felt it was important to work with local schools to raise awareness of Kintyre’s coal mining history, and especially the existence of the last mine, Argyll Colliery. I realised when I made the documentary, The Road to Drumleman, that younger generations in the area knew little or nothing about Argyll Colliery or South Kintyre’s mining past. This project aims to go some way to changing that.
With the pupils of Campbeltown Grammar School, my idea was to recreate a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery, which could be exhibited at the TRTD exhibition in April 2017 and go on to be publicly displayed at other venues in the town and in Machrihanish. Through this the pupils would learn about the mine at Machrihanish and also the important role that the National Union of Mineworkers played in improving health and safety and working conditions throughout coal mines in Britain.
We started our first session with a presentation by former Argyll Colliery electrician, Willie Durance, who spoke to the pupils about his working life at the mine, conditions underground and about how he lost his eye in an accident at the loading plant at the Old Quay in Campbeltown, where the coal was transported by sea to Northern Ireland, to Ballylumford’s coal fired power station. Only one pupil knew that there had been a mine at Machrihanish.
I followed Willie’s talk with a slide show of trade union banners from the Woodhorn Mining Museum at Ashington, Northumberland, and images from the collection at the Peoples’ History MuseumPeoples’ History Museum, Manchester. It was interesting to note that none of the pupils knew what a trade union was when we started the session. We also looked at a series of images of Argyll Colliery and mining artefacts.
After discussing the components of the banner we were going to make, the pupils were divided into small groups and pairs. The pupils worked on paper and then used the paper designs as templates from which they constructed fabric collages which were applied to the banner. Some of the students worked on the lettering, some on creating mining related images, and a small group worked with acrylic paints on canvas to create images of Machrihanish and of Argyll Colliery.
In addition to the banner we also made 10 metres of bunting for the exhibition.
As the banner was double sided I took it to my studio to sew up and finish but I visited the school the following month to show the pupils the finished banner.
SKDT’s TRDT project would like to thank the pupils and staff of Campbeltown Grammar School for all the hard work. We hope, that after the exhibition, we will be able to display the banner at other venues in South Kintyre.
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