Donnie McLellan oncost worker, Argyll Colliery

P1170388.JPG

Donnie McLellan’s mining training certificate for, amongst other things, the use of coal cutting machinery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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.

p1170440

L-R Donnie McLellan and his brothers, John and Hugh, Glenside, Campbeltown. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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.

donnie

Donnie McLellan with the carbide lamp he used whilst working at Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Charles Armour – Fatal Accident at the Coalpit

On browsing through the Scottish Mining Website I came across the following extract relating to the death of Charles Armour, who was killed on 10th November 1875, at the  Drumlemble pit, aged 30.

“Fatal Coal Pit Accident At Campbeltown – Charles Armour, a collier, residing at Macarananish [sic], died on Wednesday from injuries received in Trodigall [sic] Coal Pit, Campbeltown, the day previous. It appeared that while at work a mass of coal became detached above him, which crushed him against the edge of a hutch before he could get out of the way. His injuries were very severe. Dr Cunningham attended him, but he never rallied. [The Dundee Courier & Argus and Northern Warder 12 November 1875]”. 

Here follows a report from the Argyllshire Herald relating to the same accident.

FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE COALPIT

A pitman named Charles Armour, Employed by the Argyll Coal and canal Company, Drumlemble, sustained an injury on last Tuesday, which resulted in his death the next day. He was engaged in the pit on Tuesday, and was standing before a hitch when a heavy piece of coal fell from one of the supports upon his back, crushing him against the hitch. When found he was in a very weakly condition, an’ was immediately removed to his home when medical aid was procured. Little, however, could be done for the sufferer and he expired on Wednesday. Curiously enough there were no external marks of injury on the body. The deceased leaves a wife and a family.

CharlesArmourAH.jpg

Report from the Argyllshire Herald on the death of Charles Armour on 10th November 1875. Thanks to Angus Martin for looking through the archives at Campbeltown Library and finding this for us. Courtesy of Campbeltown Library.

There are still Armours living in the area so I’d be interested to know if any of them were relations of Charles and if so, if they could shed any light on Charles and the family he left behind.

Jan Nimmo

Fatal accident at Drumlemble – the death of Donald Kerr

I was looking through the records on the Scottish Mining website to see if there was anything of interest that related to South Kintyre when I came across the following entry.

1859 July 25th – Drumlemble, Campbeltown (Duke of Argyll) Donald Kerr died aged 40 by getting entangled with the signal wire in the shaft“.

I mentioned this incident to Campbeltown historian and writer, Angus Martin, and he very kindly found this account of the death of Donald Kerr in the Campbeltown Library – this article is from the Argyllshire Herald from August 5th, 1859 and reads as follows:

FATAL ACCIDENT AT DRUMLEMBLE

On the morning of Monday the 25th ult., a fatal accident occurred at the coal-pit at Drumlemble. As three of the colliers were ascending the pit, one of them named Donald Kerr happened to look out of the basket, when unfortunately the recoil of the signal wire which had previously been broken, caught him by the chin and dragged him out of the basket. Before he could be rescued from this perilous position, he lost hold of the wire, fell to the distance of 90 feet, and was killed on the spot. His remains were taken up in a very mangled state. One of the two two workmen who were in the the basket at the time was the son of the deceased. We understand that the men at the bottom of the pit hallooed to the man at the head of it, informing him of the condition in which the signal wire was. Immediately on receiving this intelligence, he communicated it to the person in charge of the engine, at the same time urging upon him to be very cautious, as it was men who were coming up. A widow and seven children survive to mourn the loss of the deceased. It is now 25 years since any fatal accident occurred at this colliery. 

donaldkerr_ah

Article about the death of Donald Kerr, collier at Drumlemble Pit. Argyllshire Herald, 5th August 1885. From the collection at Campbeltown Library.

This account makes harrowing reading – that Donald’s son, Alexander, should witness his father die in such a way is quite horrific. I am left wondering how the family survived after Donald’s death and if the Duke of Argyll ever compensated them in any way…

Jan Nimmo

Kilkivan – Inundation from an old abandoned working – July 1878

The following information is from the Scottish Mining website and regards the deaths of Neil Smith (collier), Daniel McPhail, (collier) and James Todd (bottomer) at the Kilkivan Pit, Drumlemble, near Campbeltown. We previously published a blog entry about this incident, Lines on an Accident at Coalhill. (It seems that the names Donald/Daniel and James/John were interchangeable). According to the information on the Scottish Mining website, James/John Todd was 64 when he was killed. There isn’t an age given for either Daniel or Neil – we will add these when we have that information.

The report makes for chilling reading…

dsc05298

Kilkivan Cemetery, between the villages of Drumlemble and Machrihanish, where Daniel McPhail is buried. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Inundation from an old abandoned working

Argyle Coal & Cannel Co.

From Main body of report:

The pit at which the irruption took place is 27 fathoms deep, and was suddenly filled to within 12 fathoms of the surface. The old workings, from which the water flowed, are of considerable extent, but have been abandoned for upwards of 50 years. Referring to plan which exhibits the workings of two seams of coal, the first six-feet seam lies at 18 fathoms from the surface, and the lower or nine-feet seam, at 27 fathoms. At the time of the accident the working was confined to the lower seam. The depth of surface overlying the stratified rocks, lying not far above the sea level, averages 54 feet, of which 40 is principally composed of sand. Several dislocations traverse this part of the coalfield, and the fracture, or ”veise” is generally found filled with sand. In mining up to these fractures, or barring them, there is frequently a partial discharge of water, which is looked upon as quite an ordinary, occurrence. In May last the place marked x on plan, when extended to the dislocation a a, relieved some pent-up water, to check which supports were immediately put to the roof, and a rough darn constructed, backed by a loose building. This had the desired effect of shutting off the water, and the place was supposed to be left in a secure state. Nothing further was done until the 5th of July, when the manager had occasion to be in or to pass near to the mine x, when he discovered water and sand passing from the front of the dam. On observing this, precautionary measures were taken, which were completed before night. No further discharge was observed up to the time of the disaster, which happened on the afternoon of the following day, 6th, when the water which lay in the six feet seam found its way into the mine x by the “veise” of the dislocation a a. The pressure of the water, probably equal to 100 feet or thereby, forced away the , obstruction at X , and made an opening down the veise of the dislocation 25 feet and 4′ X 10′, in which it must have rushed with considerable force. The bottomer, who was employed at the bottom, was so suddenly overtaken that he did not escape, and two of the miners, working at B, the dipmost part of the mine were, I presume, instantly closed in, their bodies being afterwards found near to their working-place. Fortunately the work was nearly over for the day, and five workman, engaged at different parts of the mine escaped by the “blind” pit.
The appliances for pumping, the water and unwatering the mine were kept in constant operation, but the bottom was not reached until the 2nd of September when the body of the bottomer was found, and nearly four weeks elapsed before the bodies of the others were reached. The works were conducted or guided by an old plan, which is now found to be in error at least 46 fathoms, or rather the workings have been extended 46 fathoms beyond the limit shown upon the plan.
The existence of water in the old workings was well known, but it was equally well known that it lay from 25 to 30 feet above the seam being worked. Since the accident a mine has been driven to prove the actual position of the old waste. This is a very unusual accident, the displacement of at least 25 feet of material, 4′ x 10′, more or less consolidated, and could only have happened under special conditions. The salutary provisions contained in section 42 of the statute, which provided that plans of abandoned mines shall be be lodged with the Secretary of State within three months after the abandonment will in future tend to prevent such misfortunes.

And there is another entry regarding the deaths – an article from the Scotsman…

Campbeltown – Colliery Accident – Three Men Drowned – Shortly after three o’clock on Saturday afternoon a mining accident occurred at the Drumlembie Colliery, belonging to the Argyle Coal and canal Company Ltd, situated on the estate Kilkevin, in the parish of Campbeltown, by which three of the miners lost their lives. It appear that the water broke into the mine in some unexplained way from an old disused working. There were a number of men in different parts of the pit at the time, but on water being discovered to be flooding the workings they rushed to the bottom of the shaft, and succeeded in getting safely to the top, with the exception of three men named John Todd, Daniel McPhail and Neil Smith, who were unable to escape from the pit in time and were drowned. Todd and McPhail were both married, but Smith was unmarried. The bodies have not been recovered. The pit, which was flooded within about 100 feet of the surface, is being pumped as fast as possible, but it will take some time before it is cleared. One of the miners named Munro, who was among the last to leave the pit, states that he remained with Todd, one of the drowned men, waiting for the cage to descend, and that he (Munro) jumped and caught the rope as soon as the cage came down, expecting Todd to follow, but he heard the latter calling out, “Jamie, I am done; I can’t get on.” Todd was about 60 years of age. The others were young men. [Scotsman 8 July 1878]

From Scottish Mining

Hugh Sinclair, Surface Foreman.

I received the following information, photo and painting from Hugh Sinclair, about his grandfather, whom Hugh is named after. It’s great to see the painting of Hugh’s grandfather by the well known landscape artist, Maude Parker and to know a bit about his connection with mining in Drumlemble and Machrihanish.

Jan Nimmo

maudeparker

Painting of Hugh Sinclair, as a boy at Machrihanish. The painting is by landscape artist, Maude Parker. Courtesy of Hugh Sinclair ©

My grandfather, Hugh Sinclair, lived all his life in Drumlemble, a near neighbour of your great uncle Neily Brown and your grandmother Bella. When he left school in the early 1900’s I believe he worked at Coalhill mine above Drumlemble until he served in the Argyll’s during World War I and beyond. When he retired from the army he worked as golf professional and Greenkeeper at Machrihanish Ladies Golf Club. He and my grandmother, Elizabeth (nee Thomson) had five daughters: Margaret, Jean, Betty Maureen and Elsie (my mother).

When the Argyll Colliery opened in the late 40’s he worked there as Surface Foreman until he retired in 1963. Times must have been good working at Machrihanish Colliery as he was 69 years old when he retired. He died in 1971 aged 77 years and 7 months.

Hugh Sinclair

image1

Hugh Sinclair starting a golf competition at the Ladies’ Golf Club, Machrihanish, Kintyre. Photo courtesy of Machrihanish Golf Club ©

miners_0002_sml-adjust

Hugh Sinclair, centre, at Kilvivan. Photo courtesy of Helen Bapty, Hugh’s granddaughter ©

miners_0001_sml_clean

Hugh Sinclair, standing, top left. This photo is was taken at “Lone Creek’ High Tirfergus Farm, Drumlemble. Photo courtesy of Helen Babty (neé Hamilton) ©