A trade union banner for Argyll Colliery

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The sign for Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, Kintyre. A still from the film “Kintyre” by Iain Dunnachie c 1955 (National Library of Scotland).

On the 21/22 November 2016 I spent two days working with third year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School. As part of SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman project. We felt it was important to work with local schools to raise awareness of Kintyre’s coal mining history, and especially the existence of the last mine, Argyll Colliery. I realised when I made the documentary, The Road to Drumleman, that younger generations in the area knew little or nothing about Argyll Colliery or South Kintyre’s mining past. This project aims to go some way to changing that.

With the pupils of Campbeltown Grammar School, my idea was to recreate a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery, which could be exhibited at the TRTD exhibition in April 2017 and go on to be publicly displayed at other venues in the town and in Machrihanish. Through this the pupils would learn about the mine at Machrihanish and also the important role that the National Union of Mineworkers played in improving health and safety and working conditions throughout coal mines in Britain.

We started our first session with a presentation by former Argyll Colliery electrician, Willie Durance, who spoke to the pupils about his working life at the mine, conditions underground and about how he lost his eye in an accident at the loading plant at the Old Quay in Campbeltown, where the coal was transported by sea to Northern Ireland, to Ballylumford’s coal fired power station. Only one pupil knew that there had been a mine at Machrihanish.

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Willie Durance, former mine electrician at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish talks to the 3 rd year art class at Campbeltown Grammar, about his experiences working at the mine. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

I followed Willie’s talk with a slide show of trade union banners from the Woodhorn Mining Museum at Ashington, Northumberland, and images from the collection at the Peoples’ History MuseumPeoples’ History Museum, Manchester. It was interesting to note that none of the pupils knew what a trade union was when we started the session. We also looked at a series of images of Argyll Colliery and mining artefacts.

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Seghill Branch banner, 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: jan Nimmo ©

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NUM banner celebrating the nationalisation of the British coal mining industry in 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Woodhorn Branch Banner, ” A Century of Coal – 1925 – 1975″, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

After discussing the components of the banner we were going to make, the pupils were divided into small groups and pairs. The pupils worked on paper and then used the paper designs as templates from which they constructed fabric collages which were applied to the banner. Some of the students worked on the lettering, some on creating mining related images, and a small group worked with acrylic paints on canvas to create images of Machrihanish and of Argyll Colliery.

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School plan a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School working in fabric to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Artist, Jan Nimmo, working with the 3rd year Art Class at Campbeltown Grammar School to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Peter Lewis ©

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Some of the 3rd year girls at Campbeltown Grammar School worked with acrylic paints on canvas for the banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Some of the fabric images created by 3rd year pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School for the Argyll Colliery trade union banner. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3 year pupils and art teacher, Peter Lewis, Campbeltown Grammar School reviewing the progress of the banner they were making for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

In addition to the banner we also made 10 metres of bunting for the exhibition.

As the banner was double sided I took it to my studio to sew up and finish but I visited the school the following month to show the pupils the finished banner.

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner and bunting they made for the SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner they made for SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

SKDT’s TRDT project would like to thank the pupils and staff of Campbeltown Grammar School for all the hard work. We hope, that after the exhibition, we will be able to display the banner at other venues in South Kintyre.

Jan Nimmo

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Coal Mining comes to Dalintober Primary School

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George McMIllan, a former collier at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish visited Dalintober Primary School, Campbeltown as part of SKDT‘s The Road to Drumleman project to talk to the children in Primary 6 about his experiences from when he worked as a miner. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

On November 14th November George McMIllan, a former collier at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish visited Dalintober Primary as part of SKDT‘s The Road to Drumleman project to talk to the children of Dalintober Primary School about Argyll Colliery, Kintyre’s last coal mine.

Of the 33 children we worked with from Primary 6, only one knew that there had once been a coal mine underneath what is now the Machrihanish Holiday Park. George talked to them about his life as a miner and we showed the children a slideshow of images related to Argyll Colliery and mining. The children were also able to handle mining artefacts, such as helmets and lamps, from Campbeltown Heritage Centre. The children were very attentive and had lots of questions for George. One interesting fact that came up was that coal from Argyll Colliery was once used to heat the school.

Afterwards I showed the class some images of tools and other objects associated with mining and the children and I worked along with the teachers to help the children draw some images which they then turned into fabric collages. These were applied to “Gala Day” bunting which will be a part of The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition in April 2017.

The children did really well and produced 5 metres of bunting – each flag with a different mining image. I’d like to thank George for giving us all a first-hand insight into life at the colliery. Thanks also to teachers, Julie Brown and Pat Healey, as well as the other staff at Dalintober Primary School  for all their help and for letting us bring the project to them – and of course, many thanks to the children who worked very hard to produce some lovely work!

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The children from P6, Dalintober Primary School, Campbeltown, with mining themed bunting they made with artist, Jan Nimmo, for SKDT The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The children from P6, Dalintober Primary School, Campbeltown, with the mining themed bunting they made with artist, Jan Nimmo, for SKDT The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

(And it was very nice to be back in my old primary school!)

Jan Nimmo

 

 

 

 

The Road to Drumleman Primary School…

On the 15th of November 2016 myself and former collier, Willie McMillan, and I paid a visit to Drumlemble Primary School as part of SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman project. Willie, a Drumlemble born man, remembered going to the previous Drumlemble School which was situated in Coalhill, which was originally a separate parish from Drumlemble. The school that Willie attended educated the children of the village between 1857 and 1975.

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The postcard above of Drumlemble and Coalhill shows the three schools which once existed in the village: on the left, the State School, just behind the two storey building, and up on the hill, just left of centre we can see the Free Church School which was attended by the sons of tenant farmers. The third school, the Colliers’ School, also known as the “Slate School” is the building with the pointed gable amongst the miners’ houses on the right-hand side. Our visit was to the current school which is situated at Dalivaddy, east of Drumlemble, on the on the road between Campbeltown and Machrihanish. We will be posting another article about how the school came to be there in the course of the project.

AWillie talked to all the school pupils (28) about his life as a miner and we showed the children a slideshow of images related to Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, and mining. The children were also able to handle mining artefacts, such as helmets lamps and batteries, from Campbeltown Heritage Centre. The children were very attentive and had lots of questions for Willie. Some of the children were especially interested when they heard that explosives were used to blast the coalface!

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Willie McMillan, former Argyll Colliery worker talking to the children at Drumlemble Primary School. Here Willie is showing the pupils the pick that he used more than 50 years before. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Willie McMillan, former Argyll Colliery worker, brought in the knee pads he wore to work underground when he was at the coalface. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Willie McMillan, former Argyll Colliery worker telling the children at Drumlemble Primary School about how he had an accident down the mine and how his hand was so badly damaged that he was off work for 3 months. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The children at Drumlemble Primary School were able to handle some mining artefacts which former miner, Willie McMillan, had brought in as well as some objects from Campbeltown Heritage Centre. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

After Willie’s talk, I showed the class some images of tools and other objects associated with mining and the children and I worked along with the teachers to help the children draw some images to make templates which they then used to make fabric collages. These were applied to “Miners’ Gala Day” bunting which will be a part of The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition in April 2017.

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The children from Drumlemble Primary School making templates for mining themed fabric collages which were applied to bunting. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Some excellent research and drawings into coal mining done by the children at Drumlemble Primary School with their class teacher. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The children  had already done a lot of excellent research with their teachers into coalmining in the area and what it would have been like to work in some of the older mines near Drumlemble, the history of the coal canal and the salt pans at Machrihanish – but they learned some new things from listening to Willie’s personal stories.

Christopher:

We learned they used tokens and if at the end of the day if a token was still there then someone was missing…

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Detail of mining themed bunting made by pupils at Drumlemble Primary School – a “piece” box, a miner’s token and a spade. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Thomas

The miners kept their sandwiches in “piece” boxes.

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Detail of mining themed bunting made by the pupils at Drumlemble Primary School – a hammer, miner’s helmet with battery and lamp and a water bottle. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Sam:

The miners used batteries for their helmets.

Amy

They brought birds down the mine to warn about gas. If there was gas it would fall off its perch.

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Detail of mining themed bunting made by the pupils of Drumlemble Primary School – Canaries in cages. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Jack

The shotfirers made holes in the coal for the explosives.

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They used dynamite to blast tunnels.

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Mining themed bunting made by the children of Drumlemble Primary School: Explosives company logo, some coal and a miner’s “piece” box. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Detail of mining themed bunting made by the pupils at Drumlemble Primary School – coal, shovel and pick, miner’s lamp battery and miners’ safety tokens. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The pupils at Drumlemble Primary school with their mining themed bunting with artist, Jan Nimmo, and the staff at the school. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Every pupil at the school contributed an image to the 5 metres of bunting  produced – each flag with a different mining image. It was a busy but successful day.

I’d like to thank Willie for giving us all a first-hand insight into life at the colliery. Thanks also to all the teachers and other staff at Drumlemble Primary School for all their help and for letting us bring the project to them – and of course, many thanks to the children who worked very hard to produce some lovely work! A few weeks after his visit to the school, Willie was delighted to receive some letters from the pupils. I think it fair to say that he was “in great order”.

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Willie McMillan with a letter from a Drumlemble Primary School pupil. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Here is a selection of the letters from the children.

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Jan Nimmo ©