Nannette Campbell (née Martin) remembers her father, Robert Bell Martin

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Robert Martin. Cross stitch embroidery by Karen Forbes (née Hunter). Courtesy of Nanette Campbell.

I remember Dad going away early in the morning to his work at the mine.  He seemed to enjoy his work and got on well with the men he worked with. He was a coalface worker at Argyll Colliery and worked there until it closed. His employee number was 65.

I remember that in the winter of 1963 he had to walk in from the pit with lots of other miners, because the Machrihanish road was blocked after a heavy snowfall. When he came home he was was still black as he hadn’t had a shower and there were icicles in his hair.

My Dad met my Mum, Mary Scott, at Crossiebeg Farm, near Campbeltown, on the east coast of Kintyre. Dad was a farm labourer at that time and Mum was a dairy maid.

They married and had six of a family: Margaret, Charles, Katrina, Nanette, Douglas and Patricia. My Mum and Dad also had a wee baby girl who was still born after Charles, but she was a big part of our family and Mum and Dad often talked about her. We just knew her as Baby Martin.

We lived in Davaar Avenue, Campbeltown, in one of the miners’ houses, and had lots of neighbours who were also miners; George McMillan, Neil Nimmo, Kynamp – John Anderson, Gus McDonald, Mucca’phee – Donald McPhee.

We had good times at Miners’ Gala Days… good times – I went to two or three.  We went on the bus to Southend – there were races, and rounders and we played games on the beach and had a picnic.

Nannette Campbell

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Nannette with Robert’s great grandsons, Alexander, Robert, Kelvin and Riley with a portrait of Robert Martin. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Miners and Football in South Kintyre – Alex McKinven

The Road to Drumleman archive blog is delighted to publish this article by Alex McKinven, once an employee of Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish and author of the the book Kit and Caboodle, The Story of Football in Campbeltown. As a follow on to Alex’s article we’ll post some newspaper cuttings from the Campbeltown Courier which were collected by Kenny McMillan, once the manager of Argyll Colliery FC. You can visit the Kit and Caboodle Facebook page here.

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The Story of Miners and Football in South Kintyre – Alex McKinven

Although now in my early seventies, the memory of working as part of the surface team at Argyll Colliery still holds a very special place in my heart. Yes, the work was physical and demanding, but the hard daily graft paled into insignificance when compared to the light-hearted camaraderie that was always available at the drop of a hat. The end of shift encounters with a sea of blackened faces soon made me aware that underground workers were a special breed of men, a race apart when it came to making light of the everyday dangers that surround them. However; apart from assisting the engineers to renew the haulage cable system, for the most part my experience underground was non-existent. Nevertheless; even a small glimpse of the conditions the miners endured filled me with admiration for my fellow man. As often heard – life ‘down under’ was like entering another world.

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The approach to Argyll Colliery from the Campbeltown road to Machrihanish. Still from the 1955 film Kintyre by Iain Donnachie, NLS/Scottish Screen.

Away from daily toil, it never ceased to amaze me how organised the miners were when it came to spending their leisure time, whether it was in sport, the arts or other forms of recreation. However; in all of these activities this group of ‘Titans’ had a secret weapon – the assistance of the wonderful Miners Welfare Association. A small deduction from wages helped to fund a multitude of local activities, culminating in the annual Gala Day in which every child – colliery related or not – was treated to day out thanks to the kindness of the miners. The Miners’ Welfare Hall – Old Courthouse in Bolgam Street – doubled as the nerve centre for social activities, and it was here as a youth that I sat watching live football beamed onto a large screen via a contraption called a television set – unbelievably, this some sixty plus years ago.

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The Old Courthouse, once the Miners’ Welfare Hall, Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The mention of sport, in particular the wonderful game of football, has helped to draw back the veil of time. Back then the miners of Argyll Colliery, like their fellow workers throughout the industry, had a special relationship with the ‘beautiful game’. Nevertheless; it came as a surprise to find an Argyll Colliery team had existed as far back as 1926, a period in which the club won the Ainsworth Cup – an Argyll-wide                       competition organised by the Mid-Argyll Football Association. Sadly, this sporting success was earned during a catastrophic period for the town’s traditional industries. The local shipyard at Trench Point was first to close its doors in 1922, a disaster for the local economy that was followed by the collapse of the whisky industry. The town’s unprecedented collection of distilleries failed due to Government capitulation to the temperance movement, this coupled with high taxation and the advent of prohibition in the USA. Of course, local distillers used Machrihanish coal as the main source of fuel, resulting in a chain-reaction that led to the closure of the colliery itself in 1929. The collapse of local industry preceded the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in history – a period known to history as the Great Depression (1929 – 1939).

As the economic crises receded another human disaster was about to unfold – the rise of Nazi Germany. Between 1939 and 1945 the world was plunged into a destructive war; nevertheless, the cessation of hostilities brought hope with a new Labour Government and a policy to reopen a nationalised Argyll Colliery at Machrihanish in 1946. It was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of mining in Kintyre, a period superseded by an influx of experienced key workers to educate the next generation of miners and give the town immediate relief from the threat of post-war unemployment.

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Argyll Colliery Workers, 1965. Left to Right – Unidentified, Archie McKerral, Robert Brown, Neil Munro, Angus McKinlay, Sandy Smith, Unidentified, David Mitchell, Robert Martin, ? Livingston, and Tommy Woodford. Front, Left to Right Hamish McNeil, Jock Kerr, Jackie Galbraith, Malcolm Milloy, Kenny McMillan and Jock McGeachy. – Photo Courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan)

The lack of fit and proper housing was a major post-war problem, a shortcoming partially alleviated by the creation between 1946 and 1948 of a new housing estate at Meadows – known locally and colloquially as the Steel or Miners’ Hooses. It would take a few years for the ‘Pit’ to reach full production, but between times the thoughts of miners turned to a ‘real’ priority of life – the game of football and creation of two new sides to represent the colliery workforce. Early summer of 1951 saw NCB Strollers and NCB Athletic join the ranks of the newly formed Artisans League, an amateur administration named after the skilled working classes who promoted the game during the Victorian era; however, this was a ploy and merely a ‘Sprat to catch a Mackerel.’ Grandiose plans were already in place to create a junior side and apply for membership of the town’s football elite – the historic Campbeltown and District Junior Association.

So was born Argyll Colliery Junior Football Club, a team that would have a novel beginning to life in the ranks of semi-professional non-league football. At this level players could receive remuneration for their services – but I’m sure very few did in the local game. Embarrassment would reign during the first round of matches, as the players were asked to wear old-fashioned black and white jerseys with tie cord collars. Where on earth did they come from? The answer to the question can be found in an earlier reference. The jerseys were a legacy – somewhat unwanted – of the team of 1926, a relic from the last time a miner’s team had taken to the field of play.

The new management team of Kenny McMillan and John Docherty were quick off the mark to purchase a brand new football strip – although knowing glances were exchanged when confronted with their choice of colours. Both men were die-hard Motherwell supporters, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the famous ‘claret and amber’ emerged from the wicker hamper at Kintyre Park. It would prove a memorable beginning, as within a few weeks of starting the miners claimed their first trophy – the McCallum Cup. In a competitive final, two long range efforts from Donald Paterson and a solo effort from Sam Batey were enough to see off the ‘mighty’ Glenside – one of Campbeltown’s legendary junior football clubs.

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Challenge Match – Argyll Colliery FC versus Shotts Bon Accord (Lanarkshire League Leaders) 2nd May 1953, KIntyre Park, Campbeltown. – Campbeltown Courier, 19th March 1953

For the best part of a decade Argyll Colliery FC was a ‘magnificent obsession’ for the management team, so much that Kenny McMillan was inspired to keep a diary of the team’s performances and results. Little did he know his humble archive would become extremely important, a precious record of the club’s exploits in all matches – including ‘blue ribbon’ Scottish Junior Cup ties. Meetings with the famous junior club Shotts Bon Accord were also included, a side Kenny simply referred to as ‘our Shotts friends.’ Against such exalted opposition the results weren’t half bad either. The ‘Miners’ drew 1-1 draw with Shotts at Kintyre Park in May 1953, before losing the return match in September that year by 3 goals to 1. From these results alone we are immediately made aware that Argyll Colliery FC was more than capable of holding its own against teams from the much vaunted Central Scottish League, at this time the best junior league in the country.

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Argyll Colliery FC at Kintyre Park, Campbeltown c. 1952. (Amber and Claret strip) Back row – from left to right: ‘Donnie’ Paterson, Coventry Paton, ‘Chas’ McKechnie, David Anderson, Malcolm Hamilton and James /Jimmy Thompson. Front row – Left -Right: Neil McLaughlan, Willie Colville, Sam Batey, Stewart Hamilton and Charlie Farmer. Photo courtesy of Maggie Allen (nee Paton) ©

Argyll Colliery reached its peak as a team in season 1953-54, winning the league championship and three of the four cups available. A quote from Kenny’s memoirs is unmistakable in its praise of the ‘claret and amber’. Having beaten Campbeltown United by 5 goals to 1 in the final of the Sutherland Cup, he goes on to say ‘ We scored five fine goals and George Cook – the scorer of four – has never scored as many goals in his life’. He then goes on to qualify his statement. ‘Of course, he has never played in such a good team. Mr Sutherland would be proud to know his cup couldn’t go to a better team’. In football terms, the miners of Argyll Colliery had struck gold!

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Argyll Colliery FC pictured here at the back of the Miners’ Welfare Hall, Campbeltown. Photo from Coal magazine courtesy of the McMillan family. (We’ll add names shortly).

Like in every other walk of Campbeltown life, the characters involved in local football were sometimes better known by their nicknames. ‘The Miners’ team was no different in this respect, and Kenny’s mischievous entries included a number of affectionate by-names that could have graced a Walt Disney film script. The team list occasionally digressed from the ‘norm’ to include references to ‘Orra’, ‘Sleepy’ and ‘Happy’, or when the opposition was mentioned – ‘Feeny’, ‘Tucker’ ‘Roabie’ or such like. There was no malice in this whatsoever – quite the opposite, only good humour and a sense of place and time. Campbeltown revelled in its vast collection of nicknames, in such numbers that set it apart from many other communities on the west coast of Scotland.

As the 1950s rolled on, ‘the Miners’ flew the flag for Campbeltown football in far-flung places; exotic venues like Armadale, Inverurie and Rutherglen were visited. They even created a youth league to protect the future of football in the town, and, I’m delighted to report that the efforts of Bill Adams, Jimmy Stark, Charlie Duffy and Sandy Cunningham achieved this goal. ‘The Miners’ last effort to embrace football was as an amateur side for a two year period in the Kintyre Amateur Football League – 1958 to 1960. Ironically, it ended as it began, with the club wearing black and white striped jerseys, although this time, thankfully, the garments were brand new.

Argyll Colliery may have passed into memory; however, ‘the Pit’ will be remembered as much more than a place of work. Yes, it brought much needed jobs and financial stability to the community, but the National Coal Board also had the welfare of people at its core, values that are very hard to find in modern industrialism. Togetherness and camaraderie was the key to everything that was achieved; a message that echoes loudly through the decades as we take a figurative, if nostalgic journey along the well- loved road to ‘Drumleman’.

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Cup Tie Day at Kintyre Park. Colliery Triumph in Rough-and-Tumble Decider: an article from Campbeltown Courier – 8th December, 1955. Cutting from the late Kenny McMillan’s collection, courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan) .

Argyll Colliery – Grand Dance and Challenge Match

These announcements from Campbeltown Courier, which date back to 19th of March 1953, give us an insight into the important role that Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, once played in everyday Campbeltown life. Miners contributed hugely to the community in the 1950’s and 1960’s and here we see how they organised children’s Gala Days each year for not just miners’ but for all local children. Dances were held at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Bolgam Street (formerly the Old Courthouse), at the Victoria Hall, The White Hart Hotel and the Templar Hall.  Football matches, like this one, where the Argyll Colliery team played against Shotts Bon Accord, Lanarkshire, were used as opportunities to raise funds for local good causes, in this instance for the Cottage Hospital  TV Scheme. Football was an integral part of miners’ leisure time, whether as a spectator or as a player.

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Argyll Colliery and Children’s Gala Day Association Grand Dance at the Templar Hall. Challenge Match – Argyll Colliery F.C. versus Shotts Bon Accord. Campbeltown Courier, 19th March 1953. Courtesy of the Campbeltown Library collection.

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The former Miners’ Welfare Hall, Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. Photo: 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) ©

Kenny McMillan

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Argyll Colliery F.C. card which belonged to the late Kenny McMillan. Courtesy of Morag McMillan

J.K.B. McMillan, known as Kenny, was born in 1926 in Campbeltown and as a young man was called up for the the army and served with the Royal Engineers. His first job after serving in the army was at the Argyll Colliery. In 1948 he went to be trained in Doncaster and returned to work at Argyll Colliery for the next 20 years, until the pit closure in 1967. In 1950 he married Agnes Girvan, whose father was one of the hall-keepers of the Miners’ Welfare in Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. They had five children and their lives were consumed by the various activities organised by the wider mining community.

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Kenny McMillan. Photo courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan)

Mum, Agnes, was the prompter for the successful miners’ drama group and Dad, Kenny, played and later managed the football teams. The miners’ football team was formed in July 1951 and according to records kept by my father, they were a fairly successful team playing in the Scottish Junior Cup. Dad was a Motherwill supporter which is why the Argyll Colliery Team played in “Amber and Claret”.

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Argyll Colliery F.C. This photo was first published in Coal Magazine and was taken at the back of the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Campbeltown. This is where the team held their tactical meetings. Kenny is pictured here at the far right. Photo Courtesy of  Morag McLean (Nee McMillan).

Kenny became the union steward for the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and was very involved in settling disputes and ensuring his colleagues were treated fairly. He eventually went on to serve as a local Labour councillor in South Kintyre.

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Photos of a group of Argyll Colliery workers which was taken in 1965.  Top row L-R: Unidentified, Archie McKerral, Robert Brown, Neil Munro, Angus McKinlay, Sandy Smith, Unidentified, David Mitchell, Robert Martin, ? Livingston, Tommy Woodford. Bottom row: L-R: Hamish McNeil, John Kerr, Jackie Galbraith, Malcolm Milloy, Kenny McMillan, Jock McGeachy. Photo: Courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan).

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Labour Party Councillors, Campbeltown. Top L-R: Duncan McMillan, Alistair McKinlay, Kenny McMillan. Bottom L-R: Neil McCallum, unidentified,  John B. Anderson. Photo courtesy of Morag Mclean (nee McMillan) and thanks to Hamish McMillan for providing the other names.

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Leaver’s certificate from 1966, which belonged to the late Kenny McMillan. Courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan).

Unfortunately in the latter stages of the pit before its closure  he was unwell and died in 1970 of kidney disease. He left behind a number of diaries which sometimes detailed the dangers the miners encountered in their daily lives. That said, Kenny enjoyed the camaraderie of his colleagues and the everyday challenges.

Here are some excerpts  from Kenny’s diary which relate to the time running up to the closure of Argyll Colliery:

15/2/1967

Pit flooded. Manager, Mr Welsh, arrives to discuss closure.

3/3/67

Given one month’s notice 

8/3/67

Discussed cases with manager and arranged the withdrawal of welfare fund

24/3/67

Majority of  miners left the pit today

25/3/67

Divided benevolent and welfare fund to contributors

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Drawing girders in the mine.

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Last day of work at Argyll Colliery. 

and going back to the fire of at Argyll Colliery 1958:

Production was halted because of the fire for nine weeks and T McFarlane was gassed.

Morag McLean (nee McMillan) ©

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We are currently trying to identify the men in this photo so will update this caption when we have some verification… Photo courtesy of Morag McLean (Nee McMillan).

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Morag McLean (nee McMillan) and her granddaughter, Hollie and Kenny McMillan’s Argyll Colliery diaries. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Supper and dance at the White Hart Hotel

Thanks to curator at Campbeltown Museum, Elaine McChesney, for the photograph below. The ticket was given to the Museum by Donald Irwin of Drumlemble. This would have been one of many social events organised by the Miners’ Social Club in Campbeltown. The Club was situated in Bolgam Street, in what was originally the Court House, which is thought to be one of the oldest buildings in Campbeltown. The White Hart Hotel is situated on the corner of Main Street and Argyll Street. I’d  be interested to hear more about these supper dances and am wondering what “Informal Dress” would have looked like in 1949! If you have any information please contact me here.

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Miners’ Social Club Supper and Dance ticket from 1947. The ticket was given to Campbeltown Museum by Donald Irwin. Photo courtesy of Campbeltown Museum.

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The Old Courthouse, Campbeltown, was used as the Miners’ Welfare Hall and served the employees of Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish. This photo was taken in 2007. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©