Jack MacCallum – mining engineer, Argyll Colliery

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Jack MacCallum in Norway in 1965, just a year before he tragically lost his life in the Quesada disaster. Photo courtesy of Willie MacCallum ©

Jack MacCallum worked at Argyll Colliery as a mining engineer. He started there around 1957 and left in 1964 to start up his own marine engineering business. He married Vina (nee McMillan) and they had a family of three; Lorna, John and Willie. The family lived Crosshill Avenue, Campbeltown, in a scheme of houses known as the “steel houses” which were built to house miners and their families.

The MacCallums were friendly with the Lee family who lived round the corner on Ralston Road and Hugh Lee also worked at “the pit”.

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Back L – R  John MacCallum, Vina MacCallum (nee McMillan), Lorna MacCallum, Margaret Lee, Hugh Lee, Stuart Lee (kneeling) Front L-R Willie MacCallum, cousin Ann Laurie (nee Morrison) and Ewan Lee. c. 1960/61. Photo courtesy of Willie MacCallum ©.

Willie, Jack’s son remembers that, at the age of 5 or 6, his father took he and his brother, John, for a trip down the mine on the trolleys. Willie describes this as “a great adventure”. Willie also recalls Miners Gala days “I remember the mining gala days very well, going away on the bus full of streamers, just brilliant. – I remember they held sack races, egg & spoon races, etc. I also vividly remember each child received their own “Goody bag” with sandwiches, sweets and lemonade”.

In one of Jack’s pay slips from 1964 we can see that miners at that time were paying 6 shillings a week toward the gala days as well as paying into a fund for Campbeltown Old Pensioners Association, and Argyll Benevolent Fund.

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Jack MacCallum’s pay slip from Argyll Colliery, 1964. Courtesy of Willie MacCallum ©

Sadly, tragedy struck in 1966 when on Monday 23rd May, Jack and seven other men were drowned whilst on a trip on the pleasure boat, MV.Quesada. She sank in the Kilbrannan Sound on the east coast of Kintyre, not far from Davaar Island.

The names of men lost in the disaster are as follows:

Jack MacCallum 40,
John McMillan 48,
Archibald Gillies 49, (Archie also worked at Argyll Colliery).
Kenneth Copping 16,
John Paterson 24,
James Wallace 28,
Anthony Kennedy 42,
Angus McGeachy 16.

For the full wreck report on the Quesada click here

Though Jack was no longer an employee at Argyll Colliery, on hearing of his untimely death, the NCB sent the following letter of condolence.

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Letter of condolence from NCB to the MacCallum family on the death of Jack MacCallum who lost his life in the Quesada disaster. 5 August 1966. Courtesy of Willie MacCallum.

Although the sinking of the Quesada had a profound effect on the families and the wider community there was no monument to honour the lives lost until, after a two year campaign, Willie succeeded in having a commemorative cairn built which was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of the disaster. The cairn was built by local craftsman, Will Ross. Here is an article about the memorial cairn on the BBC website.

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The memorial cairn honouring the victims of the Quesada disaster, Campbeltown. The cairn was made by local craftsman, Will Ross. The cairn is pictured here with the McCallum family L-R Willie, Catriona, Lauren & Kirsten. Photo courtesy of Willie MacCallum ©

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