The Campbeltown to Machrihanish Light Railway.

Machrihanish Express

The Machrihanish Express. Postcard courtesy of Charlie McMillan.

When the Campbeltown – Machrihanish coal canal eventually fell into disrepair in 1856, the Argyll Coal and Canal Co., who took over in 1875, decided to transport the coal from Machrihanish to Campbeltown by train. The construction of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway began in November 1905 and the line was built by the Association of Argyll Railway Co. Ltd. The track was completed the following year and mainly followed the route of the old coal canal.  It was a narrow gauge railway – 2 ft 3 in (686 mm). The line was used to transport both passengers and coal. The last train ran in 1934.

For more on the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway visit Machrihanish Online.

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“Chevalier” working at the Colliery. Image courtesy of Will Ross, Campbeltown.

On the Opening of the “Kintyre Railway”

Like voice of springtime to the glen,
Like summer to the vale,
So is the news to Campbeltown
That I’m just gaun to tell;
For gloomy winter, bleak and cold,
Nae mair we’ll need to fear;
We’ll get our fuel cheap and good,
Brought by the “Pioneer”.

Hark! there’s she’s coming down the brae,
Along by Crossel Hill,
A train o’ wagons close behind –
I hear the whistle shrill;
Go spread the news a through the town,
Wi’ joy and news they’ll hear;
Our Heilan’ line is open now –
There comes the “Pioneer”.

Her coals will bless the poorest home,
And cheer the humblest hearth,
Although in other parts they’re dear,
No more we’ll dread their dearth.
The coals that come frae other lands
Let them be cheap or dear,
We’ll rather hae our Heilan’ coals,
Brought by the “Pioneer”.

The Frenchman and the Prussian too
Will smile when they are told
As soon’s their cargo they discharge
Wi’ coals we’ll stow the hold.
And when they reach their native hame,
And friends begin to speer
Where did they get their coals, they’ll say –
“Twas by the Pioneer”.

The coals that come frae “Auld Coalhill”
Are cheap as coals can be,
They’re just eight shillings for the ton,
When left in at the ree.
Twill make the Laggan flourish yet,
We’ll gie a hearty cheer –
Success attend our Heilan’ line.
Good speed the “Pioneer”.

James MacMurchy

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The Wimbledon Pit at Machrihanish. (Campbeltown Coal Company). The coal was transported by train from Machrihanish to Campbeltown. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

 

Old Machrihanish

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A photographic image of old Machrihanish. Courtesy of Charlie McMillan ©

This photograph of Machrihanish was brought in to one of our drop-in sessions at Campbeltown Library by Charlie McMillan, a former mechanic at Argyll Colliery. We’re not sure when it dates back to but it’s certainly the oldest photographic image I have seen of Machrihanish. The salt pans would have been just off camera to the left. I wonder if the Wimbledon Pit existed at the is time (close the where the Argyll Colliery was later to be situated) or whether there were still workings open at Kilkivan? I think it’s more probably to be pre- Wimbledon.Cameron McLellan from Machrihanish Online thinks that the photo had to be taken before 1869 as the Mission Hall had not yet been built so the photo could date from early/mid 1800’s. If anyone has any information to add contact me.

Jan Nimmo

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L-R Dougie McArthur, Charlie McMillan and Rankin MGown. 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.

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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

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

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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

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

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

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