Donnie McLellan was born in Campbeltown and brought up in the Glenside area of the town. Donnie started work at Argyll Colliery in Machrihanish in 1954. He completed three weeks of underground training at the Muircock Hall Colliery, near Dunfermline. He worked at Argyll Colliery as an oncost worker, shifting mining machinery, “trees” and girders underground. He often worked night shifts. His brothers John and Hughie also worked at the mine. He married Sheena Mitchell of Kilkivan, Drumlemble, in 1958 and they moved to the “Steel Houses“, a scheme of houses on the south side of Campbeltown which were built for miners and other key workers. Two of Donnie’s brothers-in-law also worked at Argyll Colliery, Dan Stalker and Willie Colville.
On his first day at the mine Donnie met John Anderson (Snr.), John McAllister and Bob Todd – his other contemporaries at the mine were: Andy McShannon, Andy and Maxie Brodie, Dick Brown, a union delegate, Ian Duncan, Hector Thomson, “Joardie” Thomson, “Seterday Sannie“, a Glaswegian, Bobby Hamilton, the Woodcocks, Donnie McArthur, Sandy Munro, who later left for Corby, John McVicar and Archie Crossan. The manager at the time was Ian Thom.
Donnie remembers the colliery fire, which broke out in 1958 and described it as “Amazing to look at… it was like heather on fire. I can remember it to this day”. Donnie worked full time at the time of the fire, alongside the Mines Rescue Team which had come down to Machrihanish from their base in Coatbridge. He also witnessed the effects of total extraction at Argyll Colliery and what was known by the miners as “The Big Crush” – where the coal walls were all removed to extract more coal and which led to coal falls and parts of the mine literally imploding. “The arched girders that supported the roads, which should have be curved, became “V” shaped – you could hear the trees and the roof cracking”.
Donnie like, like many of the miners, was a keen golfer and recalls golfing outings with Malcolm Hamilton and Neil Munro.
When Donnie left the mine in 1961 he went to work for Tarmac and then Melville. Donnie misses his days at the mine “There was great camaraderie – I would go back there today if it was open”. He now lives in Machrihanish.
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