Donnie McLellan oncost worker, Argyll Colliery

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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.

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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.

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

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The Miners’ Boys Team, 1959

Whilst we await an article by author of Kit and Caboodle: The Story of Football in Campbeltown, Alex McKinven, about the story the Argyll Colliery miners’ teams I’ll post this photo from Calum McLean, Campbeltown. There have been quite a few football related photos submitted to the project so I’ll add them when and as we can.

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The Miners’ Boys Team, 1959 (Argyll Colliery). Photo courtesy of Callum McLean, Campbeltown ©

Miners’ Boys Team, Glenside 1959 – Champions.

Back row
Charles Duffy (Manager) R. Rafferty, Sandy McPherson, W. McCormack ?

2nd Row
H. Colville, W. Hume, J Cochrane, L. Gilchrist, D. Thomson.

3rd Row
Lindsey Brown and davy Graham

Front Row
M. Mc Gougan, R Campbell, D. McMillan, A.M.  McEachran, R MacLean, D. McLean.

Bobby McNaughton – Apprentice Electrician

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Robert “Bobby” McNaughton c. 1962, Kilkerran Road, Campbeltown, with Davaar Island in the background. Photo courtesy of Bobby McNaughton.

Robert “Bobby” McNaughton was born at Craigard, Campbeltown on 28/10/45. Bobby served as an apprentice electrician at the Argyll Colliery from 1961- 1964 until he was sent to Glasgow for further education. He worked alongside the colleagues who appear on the employee list here

There was another apprentice electrician working there too, who was senior to Bobby and whose name was Andrew Hall. Andrew was the son of the senior electrician. Bobby also worked alongside apprentice engineers, David Livingstone (whom Bobby thinks moved to Livingston) and Alastair McLaughlan. The three young men did their training together in Dunfermline. Bobby was then 16/17 years old.

The NCB sent Bobby to Glasgow to complete his education whilst finishing his apprenticeship at Cardowan Colliery. When he qualified and completed his apprenticeship he left the industry and never practiced his trade. He then went on to work for Phillips Electrical as a Lighting Engineer but realised that this was not for him either. He joined Lewis’s in Argyle Street (now Debenhams), in Glasgow, as a temp. but ended up staying there. Lewis’s sent Bobby to Keble College, Oxford and he became Personnel Manager in the store, a job he thoroughly enjoyed.

Bobby’s Uncle David appears on the Argyll Colliery employee list (no. 8). He was a fireman. He passed away 31 years ago on New Years Day. He lost a leg in an accident in the mine, from which he never recovered.

Bobby, now retired in Blackpool, still recalls Miners’ Gala Days, “All the kids loaded into buses and taken up the west road to a field where fun, games, competitions and eating was the order of the day”.

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Bobby McNaughton. Photo courtesy of Bobby McNaughton ©

SKDT’s TRTD Drop-in Session (4)

This will be our last public drop-in session at Campbeltown Library so please, anyone with an Argyll Colliery/mining connection come along. You will be more than welcome. If you miss the session you can still continue to contribute stories and images to the project until August 2017. How to do that here. Looking forward to seeing you all!

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Willie Durance, Electrician at Argyll Colliery.

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Willie Durance during his National Service with RAF in Cyprus. 1955-56. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

Willie Durance was born in in Edinburgh and moved to Bishopton when he was about 11 years old. His first visits to Campbeltown were on cycling trips as a youngster. He moved to Campbeltown in 1957 when he got a job working at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish. Willie went to train at Muircock Hall Colliery, near Dunfermline in Fife. He was there for three weeks. Whilst there, Willie remembers sharing a hostel with other mining trainees, one of them John McGown, from Campbeltown, and with Hungarian refugees who had come to Scotland and who had fled from Hungarian Uprising the year before.

Willie came back to Argyll Colliery and worked as an electrician. His other jobs included attending to drilling equipment, extractor fans, conveyor belts and the telephone system. Argyll Colliery was a very wet mine so pumps were in operation 24 hours a day.

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Willie Durance in the winding house at Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

He worked alongside other electricians; Willie Morris, who was the charge hand, Jackie Hall, who was the foreman, Andy Hall, Donald Mustarde, Ian McMillan (“Omelette”), Gavin Sinclair, Campbell McAllister, Tommy McIntyre, Bill Adams and Jimmy Stark.

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Willie Durance c. 1955/56. Electrical workshop, at Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

In 1963, Willie lost an eye in a freak accident at the coal loading plant at the Old Quay, Campbeltown, when he was hit by a piece of metal.

During the three months in 1958, when Argyll Colliery was on fire, Willie and other employees worked alongside the special rescue team who had come from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, to help put the fire out.

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Sandy Smith, (winding engine-man) Willie Durance (electrician) and Gus McDonald (Deputy Shotfirer), Argyll Colliery. Machrihanish. Photo courtesy of Willie Durance ©

Willie worked at Argyll Colliery till the mine closed in 1967 and then moved to work in Monktonhall Colliery in Midlothian. Just after his interview, about 6 months after Argyll Colliery had closed, David Seaman, the manager at Machrihanish asked Willie to come back to Kintyre to disable the electricity (this was housed in one of the two buildings that still remains at the site). Willie  wasn’t too keen to go back but was offered £100 “settling-in” money for his new job at Monktonhall so he agreed to do the job. Willie was the last NCB employee to work at Argyll Colliery.

Working life was different at Monktonhall Colliery as each electrician was detailed to do a specific job – in Argyll Colliery, electricians were expected to multi-task, as it was a much smaller scale operation at Machrihanish. Willie became Assistant Colliery Chief Electrical Engineer at Monktonhall and worked there until he retired in 1984.When Willie retired he moved back to Kintyre and now lives in Stewarton, South Kintyre.

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Willie Durance. Photo: jan Nimmo ©

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 ©