A trade union banner for Argyll Colliery

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The sign for Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, Kintyre. A still from the film “Kintyre” by Iain Dunnachie c 1955 (National Library of Scotland).

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.

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Willie Durance, former mine electrician at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish talks to the 3 rd year art class at Campbeltown Grammar, about his experiences working at the mine. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

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.

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Seghill Branch banner, 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: jan Nimmo ©

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NUM banner celebrating the nationalisation of the British coal mining industry in 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Woodhorn Branch Banner, ” A Century of Coal – 1925 – 1975″, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

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.

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School plan a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School working in fabric to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Artist, Jan Nimmo, working with the 3rd year Art Class at Campbeltown Grammar School to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Peter Lewis ©

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Some of the 3rd year girls at Campbeltown Grammar School worked with acrylic paints on canvas for the banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Some of the fabric images created by 3rd year pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School for the Argyll Colliery trade union banner. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3 year pupils and art teacher, Peter Lewis, Campbeltown Grammar School reviewing the progress of the banner they were making for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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.

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner and bunting they made for the SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner they made for SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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.

Jan Nimmo

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One thought on “A trade union banner for Argyll Colliery

  1. Pingback: SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition at Glen Scotia Distillery | The Road to Drumleman

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