Memories of my father, Jimmy Fowler – Elaine Haines (née Fowler)

James William Fowler (Jimmy) my father was born in Soberton in Hampshire on 22 April 1927. He was only son to Fred and Winnie Fowler and had an elder sister, Beryl.

At the age of 17 he left England bound for Scotland where he had enlisted himself to the Black Watch regiment and was based in Elgin, from there he was posted to Douglas (Lanark) where he met my mother, Grace Anderson and they married in 1948. My brother Eric was born in 1949 followed by me in 1958.

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Mum and Dad’s weeding in Glespin, 1948, South Lanarkshire. Photo Courtesy of Elaine Haines ©

When he was demobbed, he turned his hand to mining along with my grandfather John MB Anderson and my uncle James McBride Anderson, and later in years my uncle David Gibb Anderson. I believe it was around 1950 that all the Anderson/Fowler families moved to Campbeltown where the three families lived at 97, 99 and 101 Ralston Road. The menfolk were all transferred to work in Argyll Colliery.

My earliest memory of my dad working in the mine was of him going out on the night shift as I was going to bed and on day shift coming home and us having cosy nights round the fire.

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Dad with me as a baby in 1959. Photo courtesy of Elaine Haines ©

I did not know much about my father’s job as a child but I do remember all the fun we had going on miners picnics, the buses were alive with excited families all heading to Westport, Macharioch or Machrihanish beach. We had great fun together as a family and with all our mining family running races, swimming, watching the tug of war and lots more.

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Myself and some of my cousins at miners picnic (if anyone has any idea where this was taken I would love to know). Photo courtesy of Elaine Haines ©

Dad was also in the Miners football team and played in goal. He often told us about the chance he had to become a Rangers FC player but he turned down the offer as he could make far more money working in the pit as he had a family to look after and there was no money to be made in football.

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Dad once mentioned that three of the men standing at the sides had died and he was the last one standing so by process of elimination, he was next. But he survived long after his friends had passed away. (Jimmy Fowler, second left).

Another memory I have is the drama group, NCB Players. My grandfather was producer, director and sometimes acted in the plays. My mother became a pretty good actress and won a few acting awards. I loved to go to the rehearsals in Broom Brae hall. The best part was going to Victoria Hall in February for the drama festival and watching everyone dress in character and have their makeup done. It was quite a transformation. One play which I fail to remember the name of, my mother played a witch and at the end of the scene the character my grandfather played, he stabbed her through the heart with a spear, the hall fell silent as she lay dying and I as a young child shouted out from the audience, “Grandad, you killed my mummy”. I don’t think I was very popular that night.

My dad was a member of the Miners Rescue Team and was very much in the fore front dealing with the big fire, he was given special permission to leave the mine to travel to Glasgow when my mother was giving birth to me. He also looked after the canaries that were a vital part of a miner’s working day and sadly he lost quite a few over the years. But glad to say they helped save many miners lives.

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Argyll Colliery Rescue Team. Jimmy Fowler, second left. Photo form COAL Magazine.

On the closure of the mine, dad was offered jobs in Corby and Sheffield. He deliberated long and hard over this and his deciding factor to stay in the town was when a young girl was murdered on Cannock Chase which was very near to where we would have been living.

He was a very proud English man but he was also a very proud adopted Scotsman and never returned to live over the border. He loved life in Campbeltown where he had made many life- long friends through mining, football, fishing and working on building sites in and around the West Coast and beyond. He took great pride in talking about the times he worked in the mine and was honoured when Jan Nimmo asked him to take part in the making of The Road to Drumleman and always had a tear in his eye as he reminisced. Sadly he never saw the completed documentary. He lived his life in Ralston Road, Campbeltown right up until he died in February 2008.

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Jimmy Fowler 2003. Photo courtesy of Elaine Haines ©

Eliane Haines April 2017

 

Neil Munro at the Backs Water

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Neil Munro, miner at Argyll Colliery, fishing at the Backs Water (Machrihanish Water), a burn that runs along the north march of where the mine was once situated – now the Machrihanish Holiday Park. Photo courtesy of Dianne Brodie (née Munro) ©

COAL magazine – an extract from a feature about Argyll Colliery and Campbeltown

Another interesting extract from COAL magazine which relates to Campbeltown and to Argyll Colliery. It was published August 1950. We are grateful to George McMillan, Campbeltown for letting us scan and publish these cuttings. You can read the PDF version here.

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COAL magazine, August 1955. Courtesy of George McMillan, Campbeltown.

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COAL magazine, August 1955. Courtesy of George McMillan, Campbeltown.

“Coal” Magazine – Scotland’s Atlantic Outpost

Here is a very interesting article from “Coal”, a magazine published by NCB – this article, Scotland’s Atlantic Outpost, is from October 1954. Thanks to Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) for sending this to us. The magazine originally belonged to Kay’s father, Jack Henderson, who was at the baths manager at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish  You can also view the magazine as a PDF here

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Neil Munro and some memories from his daughter, Dianne Brodie

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Neil Munro – top row, fourth from the left. Photo courtesy of Dianne Brodie

My Dad (Neil Munro) worked as a coal miner from the day the pit [Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish] opened until the day it closed.

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Neil Munro and his wife, Mary Polly McGown. Photo courtesy of Dianne Brodie (nee Munro).

He was married in June 1927 to my mother Mary Polly McGown who lived at Stewarton at that time. My grandparents lived in Drumlemble.

We lived at Ashbank, right next to the pit in Machrihanish. I remember that my mum used to go down the pit to visit my dad while he was on night shift and have a cup of tea with him. We moved to Campbeltown, to the miners’ houses in Crosshill Avenue in 1950.

My father, Neil, was a golfer and was asked to represent the National Coal Board at a competition that was held in Musselburgh (I think this may have been around the late 50s). I remember he and my mother had a wonderful break and the highlight for both of them was visiting Edinburgh and seeing the floral clock!

In the winter of 1963 into the spring of 1964 my Dad was due to come off the back shift but none of the miners could get home as no buses were able to leave the town because of a heavy snowfall. As it was before the days of every home having a telephone and certainly there were no mobiles, we were at home waiting anxiously on news! My Dad ended up staying with the Gilchrist’s at Trodigal Farm, Machrihanish, as my mother had worked as the milkmaid when Mr Gilchrist Sr. had the farm. He ended up having to stay there for a whole week! I will never forget walking down Ralston Road by the Green Huts when I overheard Jackie Galbraith telling his companion the some of the miners had set off to walk the 5 miles into town but “old” Neily Munro had to stay put. I suddenly thought “My Dad is old!”. He was 60 years at the time. He was lucky that the farmer and his wife knew him well and so took good care of him.

I recall that I had to go to the Miner’s Welfare Hall one year to collect a Christmas present and I was given a wonderful turquoise and yellow sewing box full of threads etc! I can still see it in my minds eye – this beautiful cardboard box full of needles, threads of all colours and embroidery threads too!

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Neil Munro, his wife, Polly and their daughter, Dianne. Photo courtesy of Dianne Brodie ©

I wanted to tell you about the miners when they stopped having Christmas Parties and instead we were all given passes to go to the Rex Cinema to see Vanishing Prairie, a documentary which was released by Walt Disney productions in 1954 (I think I may have been about 10 when I went to see it). It was marvellous – we were given a bag of sweets, lemonade and crisps and could go back for more sweets if we needed them! I remember the cinema was packed with kids, not all miners’ children, such was the generosity of the miners and it was a case of “the more the merrier!”. Looking back, it is amazing to think that the Rex Cinema was hired for an afternoon by the miners and taken over by all those kids!

Dianne Brodie ©

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Mr Jamieson, Neil Munro, Diane Brodie (nee Munro) , Jimmy Huie and Duncan McGown. Photo: Courtesy of Dianne Brodie. ©

A photo from Davina Sandler

Many thanks to Andrina Sandler for letting us publish this photo on the blog… It’s a fantastic image. There has been a lot of toing and froing about who the men in the photo are so I’d welcome any clarification on the identity of these men… Are they in the right order? Can you help?  If so let me know.

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Back row kneeling Joe Barr, Malcolm Milloy, standing – Gus Morrison, John Girvan, kneeling Jock Givan and Charlie Smith. Front row. Andrew Caisley?, Danny Mitchell, John Brown, Unknown, Stuart Hamilton, Coventry Paton and Kenny McMillan. Argyll Colliery Machrihanish. Photo courtesy of Andrina Sandler ©

Campbeltown Heritage Centre (1) – Mining Images

The following images can be viewed at Campbeltown Heritage Centre – for full details visit their website here. Many thanks to C.H.C. for allowing us to publish these images on the TRTD blog.

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The Wimbledon Pit at Machrihanish. (Campbeltown Coal Company). Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

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Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre

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Miners sawing a timer “tree” or support – early days of Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

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Miners at “Lone Creek”, an illegal mine at Tirfergus Farm above Drumlemble. C. late 1920s. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

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Miners at “Lone Creek”, an illegal mine at Tirfergus Farm above Drumlemble. C. late 1920s. Photo courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

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We are unclear whether this is a photo of James McArthur, whose death at the mine in Drumlemble was written about by John Lambie, or whether this is a photo is, in fact, of John Lambie. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

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Miners at Kilkivan. Donald Irwin, Drumlemble, thinks the man in the centre is Hugh Sinclair. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.